Discoverments #4 and #5: Into the Danger Zone

Great idea and all, but does the iTunes "Science Lab" app provide the thrill of freefall?

Discoverment #4

Hypothesis: Since Mbot learned that Alexander Fleming went on vacation in 1928 and came back to his laboratory to find that one of his experiments had gotten moldy, thus resulting in the discovery of penicillin, Mbot is under the impression that he can make medicine for himself and Gbot, who has had a drippy nose for two weeks, if he only had some moldy bread.

Procedure: Place a piece of bread in an old spice jar and set it on the kitchen window sill. Check it every day.

Results: After six days, there is still no mold.

Conclusion: 1. Moisture needs to be added to the bread. 2. We need to go on vacation?

Discoverment #5

Hypothesis: A bridge can be built from the kitchen table to the sofa  using a sofa cushion.

Procedure: Proceed while your mother is emptying the dishwasher, with her back turned to the table, the sofa, the cushions, and the possibilities. Span the distance of about three feet with a cushion. Climb onto the kitchen table and prepare to crawl across the new bridge.

Cry, “Look Mom! We’re making a bridge!” Then proceed onto the bridge. Exclaim with surprise when your mother moves faster than you’ve ever seen her move before–faster than either you or she believed she could move, faster than it seems physically possible for a mother to move, as though she’s wearing one of those special suits Olympic swimmers wear that mimic the behavior of a dolphin’s skin, which forms, at high speeds, microscopic creases that allow a better flow of water–and catches your arm just as gravity kicks in, allowing you to, instead of land on your head on the tiles three feet below, come to rest softly on the failed cushion bridge, instead.

Conclusion: 1. Cushions do not make good bridges. 2. Try tiptoeing next time?

What have you learned from your latest discoverments?

Waiter, There’s a Butterfly in My Cocoon

I have been disturbed for several days by the sneaking suspicion that Eric Carle didn’t know what he was talking about. Eric Carle is the legend who created The Very Hungry Caterpillar, about the binge-eating Lepidoptera who finally, bloated and exhausted and probably with very low self-esteem, built a cocoon and emerged a beautiful butterfly.

Children find this book and about fifty of Mr. Carle’s other collage-illustrated books inexplicably fascinating. Witnessing the Midgets’ delight in them has given me a greater appreciation them, but I admit, my faith faltered while reading another book the Midgets adore, Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers About All Kinds of Animals  (Random House, 1976. In the name of finally clearing out her attic, my mother sent me about a hundred pounds of children’s books, circa 1965-75, when Mbot was born. Some claim that I bore children for the sole purpose of getting these books.)

Moths come out of a cocoon, Charlie Brown informs us. Butterflies come out of a chrysalis.

Well, I thought, what about Eric Carle’s butterfly? It came out of a cocoon. It seems reasonable to believe that Charlie Brown is right: moth is to cocoon as butterfly is to chrysalis. So has Eric Carle been wrong all these years?

Tonight I finally got around to checking. Obviously I wasn’t the first Doubting Mom to inquire. Because on his website,, Mr. Carle addresses the issue directly.

“Here’s the scientific explanation” he writes. “…There is a rare genus called Parnassian, that pupates in a cocoon. These butterflies live in the Pacific Northwest, in Siberia, and as far away as North Korea and Japan….And here’s my unscientific explanation: ….when I was a small boy, my father would say, ‘Eric, come out of your cocoon.’ He meant I should open up and be receptive to the world around me. For me, it would not sound right to say, ‘Come out of your chrysalis.’ And so poetry won over science!”

I was so thrilled to read this. Charlie Brown’s inaccuracy doesn’t seem so bad. I never really thought he was the last word on All Kinds of Animals, anyway. On the other hand, If Eric Carle had gotten a simple term wrong, it would be as if Michelangelo had carved The David holding a water pistol instead of a slingshot.

There are roads of thought in all directions I could go down from here: the authority we want from our authors, the cocoons we all dwell in, the magic that occurs at the convergence of poetry and science. But one of the frustrations and the beauties of a daily blog is that it exists at the convergence of living and writing, and in my cocoon, that point is no bigger than a raisin.

Why was I so thrilled Eric Carle was bailed out by a bug in Siberia? We all need things to believe in. Even if one of them is a rare two-dimensional insect that eats salami.

When’s the last time you were relieved to discover you were wrong?

*caterpillar image from