We Need To Talk About…. Scientific Research. Or not.

10 Nov

We live with a man who frequently rants about the uselessness of most academic studies.

When he isn’t shrieking at those poor beleaguered clever-sorts who are ushered into the media spotlight, on the telly or on the radio (i.e. “Your rising inflection is killing me!”, “Why the hell do these so-called experts always have to begin every sentence with ‘So…’?”, “Does someone really PAY these people to contemplate their navels all bloody-day long?”) he can be heard to be chunnering away about the amount of taxpayers money wasted on “tosh research – just so that the most impractical people on God’s earth can sit in their ivory towers and never do a decent day’s work like the rest of us.”

Now, some of you might be thinking that because afore-mentioned fella didn’t do the University-teenager thing himself, that hmmm yes – he might be ever-so slightly bitter and twisted. Vinegar for the chip on his shoulder, perhaps? But this ain’t the case. Because the bloke who walked away from school with only 3 CSE’s (and none in an ‘ology’, I might add) actually got accepted onto a Masters course just a few years back – sans qualification – and waltzed away with a first. Damn him.

Turning our backs on academia?

Turning our backs on academia?

So perhaps he’s entitled to act like a smartarse every now and then.

But in a wonderful twist of irony, this chap has ended up spawning a smaller  version of himself who – from year one (if not day one) – has been displaying an inherent desire to REBEL against his father’s legendary hatred of all-things research-led and other-wordly.  Not that this 7 year old kid is interested in being academic per se (just take a look at his handwriting, or witness his attitude to maths) – no, our little lad is surely as smart-as-a-dart – but he couldn’t give a monkey’s about SATS attainment levels or high-falutin’ careers. Of whether his disregard for schoolwork will secure him with either a cardboard box under the railway arches in Waterloo or a place at HMP Strangeways by the time that he’s 18.

No. The kid is convinced that he can sail through his school years, without bothering to master his 3 times tables, because he is destined to become “the world’s bestist inventor. Or an engineer. But one what only makes dead good inventions.”

About 6 years ago, I thought that the reason nearly every item in my home had been smashed, dismantled, burned, torn, waterlogged, crucified etc – was because I had produced a boy – after having had a girl (the female offspring has only ever messed with my head, as opposed to my material possessions). But then after an afternoon or two of the lad being invited to play at other people’s’ homes I finally began to realise that this wasn’t simply a result of boy-genes. I finally began to deduct the hidden code behind the words of other parents “Well – he erm… really likes experimenting with the toys – doesn’t he?” (Read: “your kids a bloody little vandal and please don’t bring him round here again.”)

Having fun. In the usual way.

Having fun. In the usual way.

And if I’m going to be honest, it’s been getting on my wick a bit recently. The only conversation that he seems to be interested in, invariably begins with; “Hey! Just imagine if….”. Followed by his ‘ideas’. Which it seems to me, tend to fall into several categories:

 

The ‘Lazy-Lad’ Category:

“Hey! Just imagine if – you could make a machine what carries you to the toilet so that you don’t have to get out of bed to go or a wee.” And “Hey, just imagine if – I could duplicate myself so I can do all of my homework for me.”

The ‘Just Bizarre’ Category:

Hey! Just imagine if I could invent a little man who lives in my shoe to stop me from getting bored at school.” And “Hey! Just imagine if we could flood the house entirely with water so the stairs can be like, one big water slide.”

The ‘Attempting Manipulation’ Category

“Hey! Just imagine if I could invent a robot what takes me to the swimming baths. ‘Cause no one ever takes me there anymore.” And “Hey! Just imagine if I could make a machine what takes me forward in time to Christmases and birthdays – so I can see what you’re going to get me. And then I can come back and tell you that it wasn’t really what I wanted. And you would have time to calm down and not be angry or upset and then to buy me what I really want.”

An early experiment by the boy. Even then he seemed to have radical views on race.

An early experiment by the boy with a radiator. Radical view on race?

The ‘Morally Dubious’ Category

“Hey! Just imagine if we could invent a clicker thing – that you click at old people in shops full of people – so that they walk faster and aren’t as annoying.” Which is perhaps not even as dubious as “Hey! Just imagine if I could make a device what makes ugly people to be more beautiful. So I don’t feel sick when I look at them anymore” (he *did* redeem himself afterwards by adding “And it would cheer them up too.”) And then there was a whiff of eugenics, “Hey! Just imagine if I could make an injection to give to all mums having babies so that every baby comes out the same racial colour thing and soon all the world is the same colour and no one falls out and gets stupid and makes wars about that kind of thing.”

The ‘Kind Heart Really’ Category

“Hey! Just imagine if I created an enormous catapult that we could catapult Grandad across the hills with. So he doesn’t have to get all stressed about traffic anymore when he comes to see us” and finally “Hey! Just imagine if I could make a special ingredient to cool down the chilli con carne what you spent ages making. So you don’t look like you’re going to cry when we all say that Mum….it’s too hot again.”

Pointless wibblings of an overactive imagination? I think not. In fact, I know now that my son is in fact, destined for a star-studded career; one that will win him both academic and practical accolades. Yes, I recently heard about the Ig Noble awards. The celebration of science that ‘makes you laugh, then think,’ organised by the scientific humour magazine ‘Annals of Improbable Research.’

A brilliant magazine!

A brilliant magazine to subscribe to! A Chrismas pressie that the kid will definitely want…

Total and utter gems!  Here we have; ‘Pain Over Speed Bumps in the Diagnosis of Acute Appendicitis’, ‘Seeing Jesus in Toast; Neural and Behavioural Correlates,’ ‘Treating Uncontrollable Nosebleeds, Using Nasal-Packing-With-Strips-Of-Cured-Pork’, ‘Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beer Holder; People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive.’

And so far, I’ve managed to keep this very exclusive club a secret from the boy because I wouldn’t be happy with him trying to follow the examples of some of the scientists and attempting to replicate their experiments in our own back garden (the ‘Levitating Frogs With Magnets’ and the ‘Teaching Pigeons to Discern Between Monet and Picasso’ projects spring to mind) and neither in the future, would I want him trying to avoid unwanted teenage pregnancies via ‘Experimenting with Coca Cola as a Spermicide.’

So anyway, the next time his dad starts getting all hysterical about the futility of academia, at least I can remind him that his own nearest and dearest might well one day, achieve the lofty heights of the Ignoble Awards. Or at the very least, may be receiving much admiration from Cell Block KZ at HMP Strangeways for devising yet another cunning way to escape.

Preferably without the use of large-scale catapults. And Grandad.

 

 

 

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