Mars? Again? Why?

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I was driving my 6-year-old to school a few days ago, and we had the following conversation:

– Hey, I’ve just learned that NASA is sending yet another spacecraft to Mars. And we can put your name on it! How cool is that?
– Mars?
– Yes.
– Why is it always Mars? Aren’t they bored already? Mars, Mars, Mars… but there are so many other planets, dad!
– Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because close to us, and not that hot. And logistics, you know. So many things to discover.
– Always Mars. Why? I don’t understand!

Apparently he was a bit disappointed that it’s not another planet to which we’ll be sending his name. Sorry kid, but for now, we’ll have to make do with Mars. So here we go:

For the curious reader, this is about the the Insight Mars Lander mission of NASA, and “Another Chance to Put Your Name on Mars“. If you want to send your name, or your child’s, you can visit https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight.  There are already more than 1 million names registered! According to Frequently Asked Questions, you can see the photograph of the microchip on which your name will be etched at the following web addresses: https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight/learn/.

According to NASA: More

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numBaby++; /* welcome, my precious! */

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The long wait is over. Welcome to the family, my precious! It’s good to finally see you face-to-face. I hope we’ll have a great time, and learn many new things together.

Let me salute you in the languages that are natively spoken in your geo-distributed family: Hoşgeldin! Welcome! Welkom! Bienvenue! Mirë se vini! Добродошли!

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A kid has to know his radio telescope

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A few weeks ago, in August of 2017, we made a short trip to Germany to visit Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Bad Münstereifel for a few days. There were two highlights of our short visit: The first one was a great culinary experience at Brasserie “1806” at Düsseldorf (thanks to a recommendation by Vedat Milor, see his Turkish article here, and an automatic English translation here). The second one was a scientific inspiration that led to this blog entry, a visit to the second largest radio telescope in the world, the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope. The only downside was that we didn’t have time to visit the other, smaller radio telescope nearby, that is the historical Stockert Radio Telescope, nowadays used for educational purpose.

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I can easily recommend to science enthusiasts, geeks, and nerds a visit to Effelsberg radio telescope, not only because of the awe-inspiring view, as well as its scientific and engineering value, but also because of the wonderful nature surrounding it. We were also glad to see a lot of people, young and old, visiting the telescope even on that rainy day (well, they were mostly Germans, and we weren’t surprised). I tried to explain my six-year-old son the meaning of a radio telescope, but I don’t know how successful I was (how would you describe electromagnetic waves and radio telescopes to a 6-year-old, any useful ideas? Feel free to comment!). Nevertheless, I was able to arouse a bit of enthusiasm in him, enough to motivate him to take a rather long walk for him on a rainy day. I think the result and his excited cries were worth our efforts. I hope that one day he will learn more about electromagnetism, radio telescopes, and the fascinating world of human ingenuity that enabled us to ‘see and hear’ parts of the universe that we couldn’t perceive normally otherwise. Until that day, I’ll try to kindle his curiosity, even on a rainy day!

 

A kid has to start the 1st grade

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I still remember the first days of excitement and challenges when he started preschool 3.5 years ago, just when he was about 2.5 years old. It was not easy at all, both for him and us. The time flied, he became six years old a few months ago, and he started the first grade on 1st of September, 2017.

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It is impossible to miss the behavioral changes after his experience with his new teacher and classroom (and luckily same old and good friends from his preschool days). He seems more exhausted in the evenings, talks much more about what they did during the school day, and more relaxed in a sense. He also started to speak a lot of Turkish, his weaker second language, and I appreciate all of his efforts. I can still hear the stress patterns as well as grammatical inheritance of Dutch in his Turkish, but compared to six months ago, his performance improved a lot and everyone else started to notice (check out “Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide” if you want to read about some entertaining examples). Another change, maybe more subtle started to become visible in his drawings: his focus is still on violent and very big dinosaurs and all sorts of Godzilla figures, but he started to draw other animals (still violently killing each other) but in more detail and with more complex compositions and patterns. One such pattern is, almost recursive and space-filling, if I may say so: almost the same dinosaur, repeated in smaller sizes and placed in the remaining empty spaces on the paper, filling it in intricate patterns. (I can remember what I drew when I was six: crude stick figures, the simplest house, a few clouds, and the simplest sun; he certainly didn’t get his drawing skills from me 🙂

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After five years and six Middelheim jazz festivals

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Our son turned five years old a few months ago, and we attended the Middelheim Jazz Festival 2016 shortly after that, for the sixth time.  This is slowly becoming our little family tradition, and it is interesting to see how he is perceiving the festival differently each year.

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This is how it all got started back in 2011, and continued one year later.

Having such a nice festival in one of the most beautiful parks in the city is something I find invaluable. It being so child-friendly is another huge plus for us. I will remember his fifth birthday together with Avishai Cohen (one of the coolest trumpet players ever), David Murray, Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, the living legend Pharoah Sanders, Joachim Kühn, and Zakir Hussain with fingers that can put you into trance (see 2016 line-up for more details).

A kid has to start somewhere (before going full 3D printing)

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A few weeks before my son turned five, we were sitting at home, I enjoying some technical stuff on my laptop, he playing with his toys. You know when your kid is very silent, either something bad is happening, or, in rare cases, he’s up to something not so bad at all.

The cause of silence turned out to be the following representation of his favorite topic nowadays: dinosaurs.

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It reminded me of the days I had so much playing with similar material (though of definitely lower quality): Observing the physical universe around you, making generalizations, creating abstractions, forming concepts in your mind, then using those to create something physical, using your hands, guided by your brain. The joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction that follows it. Shaping a piece of elastic material, with not many constraints other than imposed by the molecular structure of it coupled with the one of your brain. More

A kid has to know his musical clocks and automata: Museum Speelklok in Utrecht

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A few years ago, I was in Utrecht for a project meeting, and I’ve seen signs of a “Museum Speelklok” (see its official web site in English). Even though I was curious about it, I didn’t have much time and had to head back to Belgium. Fast forward a few years: few weeks ago, April, 2016, we planned a short trip to the Netherlands, and Utrecht was part of the plan. So I said to my 4-year-old: Time to explore kiddo! More

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