Can you smell the logic?

I was petting a cat this week. She was smiling and arching her back and obviously enjoying being alive. Then she suddenly turned and started licking herself, after which she repositioned her neck back under my hand. I realized then that cats don’t “decide” to clean themselves. How do they keep track of which spot needs cleaning? Now? A cat’s skin must have some distributed chemical mechanism that causes particular areas to itch on some approximate schedule.

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What's the Matter?

My daughter has been studying “matter” in science. This is the unit that discusses physical changes between phases (arrangements of molecules,) versus chemical changes between compounds (arrangements of atoms). It also discusses electrons, protons, and neutrons.

She wasn’t getting it. It was all just so many meaningless words, and symbolic coding isn’t her forte. Not everyone learns the same way, and everyone can benefit from working with the same material presented in different ways. In dealing with this, it is necessary to use not just different words, but different input entirely, which are processed by different parts of the brain. My daughter thinks very geometrically, so we were able to construct a series of visual scenes portraying the material. Napoleon said, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and Mindard’s famous map of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia shows that a diagram can sometimes be worth a thousand pictures.

In the phase-change scene, we draw a bucket of water in the middle, a tea-pot on one side, and tray of ice cubes on the other. We drew labeled arrows from solid to liquid and liquid to gas, and back again. (“Melting,” “Evaporation,” “Condensation,” and “Freezing.”)

We also drew the classic old 1950’s nuclear energy picture, with angry-faced (negative) electrons in an elliptical orbit around smiling (positive) protons and neutral neutrons.

It worked.

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