A kid has to know European Space Research and Technology Centre

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European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, Netherlands, or as the ESA people like to call it simply, ESTEC, is a very special place. I’ve been there a few times for professional reasons, and I’ve enjoyed an Open Door Day event a few years ago, but the this year’s event on 6th of October, 2019, was special for me as a father. Not only because it was the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing (the theme of 2019 Open Day was “ESA to the Moon”), but also because it was the first time I took my 8-year-old son to ESTEC to show him around, and introduce him to ex-colleagues. We had been to the nearby Space Expo before, but of course without special permission or a public day, it wasn’t possible to visit the main ESTEC site.

We went there one day before the event, because I wanted my son to enjoy the beautiful and serene Noordwijk beach and coastline, one of my favorite places in the Netherlands. Because ESTEC is only a few kilometers away from the coast, we stayed there and before setting on our way we explored the area a little. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t rainy, and we even enjoyed a little Sun:

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A kid has to follow the footprints of Einstein

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This summer we had a short holiday in one of the loveliest coastal regions of Belgium: De Haan. One of the interesting facts of that place is its connection with Einstein. Back in 1933, the famous scientist came to De Haan and live in villa “Savoyarde” for six months, after leaving Nazi Germany. We took the kids there to visit the places where Einstein lived, and visited the sculpture in the nearby park to commemorate this part of history.

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This also brought back a lot of memories, because during this summer holiday of 2019, I read an interesting book about Soviet Russia, translated into Turkish by a dear friend of mine. That same friend of mine gave me a book back in 2006, and it was about Einstein. Coincidentally, the sculpture of Einstein in De Haan was placed in the park in 2006! Of course, 13 years ago I didn’t know anything about De Haan, and neither could I imagine being a father of two sons and taking them there, telling my 8-year-old some stories about Einstein.

As our time perception continues to be shaped by the experiences we live, people we come across, books we read, places we visit and art we experience, I wonder what kind of stories I’ll be sharing with my kids 13 years from now. But one thing for sure, I want to continue to follow the footprints of Einstein, and explore the history of science together with my children, enriching our collective memories.

Explain it like I’m 7.5: Does the space have an “outside”? Does it even have a “surface”?

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A while ago, my 7.5 year old son asked a seemingly simple question that had no easy answers at all. Instead of struggling with the question alone, I decided to tap into the collective intelligence of the whole world. Internet, after all, is supposed to be used for more than sharing cat videos, right? Right?

So, I asked:

One of the Internet denizens suggested that I ask the same question on Reddit’s ELI5 channel, that is, “Explain it Like I’m 5” channel. Being a casual Redditor for the last 14 years, I said “why not?” More

A kid has to know his Euro Space Center

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For a long time, I wanted to take my older son to the Euro Space Center in Transinne, Belgium. Finally, last Sunday we had a small window of opportunity for a few hours and we went there. Both of us enjoyed the event, even though we didn’t have time left for some of the attractions such as Moon and Marswalking experience. I can recommend Euro Space Center to all space and science enthusiasts, especially to the kids. But be aware that you’ll be bombarded with information, exhilarating demonstrations, and a lot of surprises in an intensive atmosphere. I’m already getting impatient for my younger toddler to grow up a little more, so that I’ll have another excuse to revisit the center. 😉


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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.

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.

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