Thomas Dolby

This’ll make you laugh. This morning LMS and I had a conversation whilst I was making us porridge that simply reaffirmed both our beliefs not only in the correctness of our opinions, but concern that the other was being deliberately annoying.

I was watching the porridge, stirring it occasionally lest it stick and LMS was watching me watching it when out of the blue she asked,

“Do you know how much a nucleus weighs?”*

“No,” I replied distractedly, “do you?”

“Yes, it weighs as much as if you crushed all the cars in the world”


“There are eight billion cars in the world and if you crushed them really really small they’d weigh the same a nucleus.”

“One car weighs an awful lot so I can’t even imagine how many a billion weighs. How do you know this?”

A look of patient indulgence greeted this one.

“Because scientists proved it. They looked inside a nucleus-“

“No, what I mean is, how do you know this”

“Because scientists-“

“No, no, no, you misunderstand me, why do you believe it to be true? A nucleus is invisible to the naked eye. They could say whatever they liked actually. Who could prove them wrong?”

“Because scientists proved it”

“ Says who? Other than scientists?”

And here we have the great conundrum of science. Provability. The amount of times I’ve heard on the news that scientists have discovered this or found that and thought ‘That’s unverifiable, no-one with an active social life is going to check that.’

And I thought back to a few weeks ago, when Joe was patiently explaining how a light bulb works, for LMS’s homework about filaments and currents in great detail. And being the sort of adult who should never be responsible for teaching a child anything, I thought when her teacher asked how a light bulb worked, she could reply, “I don’t know. Do I need to know? I just flick a switch and it does.” Or “I think it’s all thanks to magic, actually. This whole electricity thing just nonsense.”

Back to this morning. Sensing that I didn’t believe her she fixed me with a look of sorrowful exasperation and said, “Well you can have your opinions, I’ll have the truth”

*It turns out if a nucleus was the same size as an orange, it would weigh the same as eight billion cars. According to Joe, who got it from scientists. So it must be true. Hang was it eight billion or eight million? And was it an orange? Maybe a large satsuma…..