A kid has to know his particle accelerator: our family visit to CERN

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About six years ago, when I visited CERN for the first time, I found it a very inspirational place and promised myself to bring my son here. Fast forward six years, and this summer I had the opportunity to bring the whole family, including my son who’s now 7-year-old, and his brother, a 10-month-old, to this unique scientific center that found so many answers about the microcosmos, as well as serving as the birthplace of many technologies that we take for granted today, such as the World Wide Web.

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It was a pleasure to visit the current exhibitions at CERN, and get away a little from the scorching hot weather of Geneva in July, 2018. My 7-year-old was duly impressed and ran from one place to another, asking me something like 100 questions/minute, exhausting me a little more than the Sun outside 🙂 I tried to quench his thirst for knowledge with my poor understanding of particle physics, and tried to divest the topic to big data processing on which I could talk more comfortably.

Maybe in 6-7 year later, I’ll have another excuse to visit CERN: our baby will be about 7 years old, and the older son will be about 13-14 years old. Next time, I’ll try to reserve a guided tour, so that their questions will be answered better. And who knows, maybe we’ll come across a Nobel laureate or two while wandering the long corridors of this temple of science.

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A kid has to know his Plateosaurus

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When I read the following piece of news about a brand new Plateosaurus skeleton that’s more than 200 million years old, I knew our fate had been sealed: we had to pay our obligatory visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, our third visit so far:

A new dinosaur skeleton is now on view at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels. “Ben the Plateosaurus” was unveiled on Friday in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the museum’s Dinosaur Gallery.

Ben the Plateosaurus was found in Switzerland and is 80% intact, making him an exceptional dinosaur fossil. Because he is in such good condition, he is being exhibited without a glass case.

Plateosaurus is one of the earliest of the large dinosaurs to roam the earth. Previous to this genus, dinosaurs were no more than 1.5 meters long. Ben is some 210 million years old.

Ben is named after the paleontologist who discovered him at a quarry in Frick, Switzerland. The site is known for its excellent preservation of dinosaur bones: More than 30 Plateosaurus skeletons in various stages of completeness have been unearthed there in the last 40 years.

My 6-year-old was as enthusiastic as he’d been in his first visit. We both admired the skeleton and tried to imagine how the Earth looked like when Plateosaurus walked around freely. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that were into dinosaur discoveries during that last week of December, 2017; the museum was pretty crowded!

I will always cherish those moments, not only because I can spend good time with my kids there, but also because it never fails to provide us human beings with a perspective on matters relating to what “long term” and “extinction” mean.

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A kid has to start with some electronic circuits

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I was curious about how my 6-year-old would react when he saw the gift package of Snap Circuits. I told him that his uncle sent this box full of electronic projects, so that we could spend time together building interesting things. Lucky for me, he was thrilled at the sight of it. This evening we decided it was time to build some circuits, and finished the first three projects.

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We had great time together, and I tried to explain each circuit. I had some difficulties in explaining the concept of electricity, the flow of electrons, and atoms (“no dear, atoms are everywhere, not only in atomic bombs… yes, they also exist in atomic bombs… no, we’re not building anything dangerous, yes, please be careful with that spinning fan!”). Overall it was a great experience, and we’ll continue to build the remaining 97 projects, as well as try to come up with our designs.

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/.

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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!

 

Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide

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It is one thing reading academic papers and books about multilingual children, and a very different thing experiencing it yourself when having a conversation with your 4-year-old son.

For example, after a few years of exposure to Turkish and Dutch, he comes up with a sentence such as

Dinozor is nog büyüker dan kamyon.

Thinking about how he combines Dutch and Turkish grammar, it is not difficult at all to see how he arrives at such a funny-sounding but constrained-by-both-languages-therefore-predictable result:

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Space Expo @ Brussels

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We had a great time at Space Expo in Brussels this weekend. I wish I was a kid again and run from one space artifact and simulator to another for hours (though I’ll never understand his being scared of Space Shuttle landing simulator (I had so much fun 🙂 )). We also considered going to German Aerospace Day at Cologne, but considering the tempo of a 4-year-old, decided to postpone it to his 6th year, that is 2017. But taking into account his enthusiasm, maybe our next stop will be Euro Space Center.

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