Science is not a subject, it is a perspective, a philosophy – a framework for understanding the world. Contrary to cultural trivializations, a scientific approach can make the world seem more fabulous and more bewitching – as fantastical as any great fiction.
Noah and I were playing with some seeds from a large maple tree that I spent some time under this weekend. The seeds of this maple were particularly graceful helicopters as they drifted down in the afternoon breeze. I filled a cup and brought them to the school, and it wasn’t until after-care that I remember to bring them out. Noah and I tried launching them from various places around the school until we found the perfect spot upstairs in his band space. After dropping a few, we discovered that some fell slower than others – “they’re better at flying,” said Noah. Much careful observation followed as we slowly emptied the cup, one pair of flying seeds at a time.
Noah evolved a set of useful terms for describing each flight test; “spin-y”, “drop-y”, and “diver.” These terms, unconsciously developed, helped us codify our observations. Perhaps later we will start sorting the seeds into categories using these terms as labels, then we might try to see what characteristics the members of each category has in common, perhaps even going so far as to make a taxonomy of morphologies, published as a field guide to maple seeds, with a beautiful frontispiece and marbled covers. But for today, we were happy to watch them float down, spinning, dropping, or diving as they were wont to do.