President Obama wants to add 100,000 science and math teachers over the next ten years. I tend to agree it's a good idea. The store clerks who can't seem to make change when there's a power outage make a good case for the math.
And I find that I make a good case for the science. I'm always running into scientific things that I don't know. Like why do bananas turn black in the refrigerater while celery doesn't? Can I eat my yogurt after the expiration date? Can you shock yourself by spilling coffee on your mouse?
I wanted to use that last question as my title here, but decided it was open to a bit of misinterpretation and a little too much like an "Open Call." I didn't want to put ideas in anyone's head that might cause harm.
Even though it probably would have been fine to put out the idea, because I already did it, and the answer is, "No." The mouse just keeps on working through the slush of the coffee, with plenty of time to get paper towels. This seems to be the case even if the computer is connected directly to an electrical source and not running solely on battery power. I've done it both ways.
I make no claims about the safety of spilling coffee on a whole computer though, as I vaguely remember a Law and Order program where someone threw a computer in a bathtub. And, although I don't remember the ending, there are rarely good outcomes on Law and Order.
I think a more solid science background might have given me the answer.
I went rhough 19 years of school, took the required number of science classes, and even vaguely remember making some contraptions with batteries and doing something that created arcs of electricity. But for the life of me I can't remember if batteries pose any real danger.
Which is why I was a little concerned when I bought my grandson a battery powered bathtub toy not long ago.
A part of me knew that the toy, which was specifically advertised as a bathtub toy and was manufactured in the U.S. and not China, was in all likelihood safe. But there was this single sentence in the instructions about making sure the battery compartment was closed tightly that concerned me. Because what if it wasn't closed tightly?
It's that "worst case scenario" thing that made me conjure cars in ditches every time a daughters'curfew was missed. That keeps me from eating my expired yogurt for fear that I might not make it through the night.
But, which curiously, my parents seemed unaffected by since they were perfectly comfortable with sending me out into the world with no helmets or knee pads, and with a safety net consisting of little more than the direction to "look both ways." Other parents of that same generation even bought chemistry sets and sent their kids down to basements unsupervised.
I can't help but wonder if the lack of a sound science background has made me overly cautious and stifled my curiosity? Causing me to throw out yogurt way before I need to? To spend extra money on organic vegetables because...well....actually there doesn't seem to be any good reason.
"Is this expired milk bad?" I used to ask.
"Take a drink and see." Mom would say.
It was that memory of Mom's scientific curiosity that found me putting batteries into that bathtub toy, filling up the tub, and gingerly putting both the bathtub toy and my hand into the water. Nothing. Not even a tingle. I put more mass (two feet and legs up to the calves) in the water. Still good. I loosened the screws to the battery compartment to see if the possibility of seeping water made a difference. Still nothing. I was almost ready to believe the Consumer Product Safety Commission had gotten this one right.
But just to be safe, and because this is the 21st century where we have ready access to experts, I also googled "batteries in the bathtub."
It was my second science search of the day. Just hours earlier I had discovered that my five day expired yogurt was safe to eat for another day or so.
There was a clear consensus that my grandson was safe with his battery powered bathtub boat too.
Although I did find one caution. "If you put something in the bath that uses a car battery, then you might get quite a shock."
For all those science challenged parents and grandparents out there who are thinking ahead toward the holidays, if you see a cute bathtub toy requiring a car battery, walk on by. I've already checked that one out.