Baby Physics Part Two

Three High-Momentum Bodies in Motion

Also observed, in the world of baby physics, is the infants’ ability to create action at a distance. Only a few examples will be offered to illustrate this principle as exemplified by the young Abbster. Take a sturdy box (or flimsy) or a steady piece of furniture (or unsteady, it doesn’t matter). Watch the small toddler climb expertly to stand up on the said box or coffee table.

Now watch as the toddler leans backward, stiff as a board, headed to the floor and every adult in the room launches out of his or her seat to keep said toddler from smacking the floor (most of the time, and mostly in time). Such control over adults at a distance is a principle of baby physics that is most delightful to the toddler, the more so if two of the fast moving adults bump heads in their Stooge-like efforts to save a baby from him-or-herself.

Unfortunately, the Backward Fall of Doom may soon lose its effect on adults-at-a-distance, who after some while seem content to let the well-padded baby bounce off the carpet a few times, and toddler will thus lose interest in the Save the Falling Baby Game.

But all is not lost, and there are other methods to achieve said action at a distance. From the gathering at the dinner table on Christmas night, the father of the toddling unit notices that across the room “She’s taken off her jeans”. No action is taken. Moments later, in a slightly higher pitch, father notes “Now she’s taking off her diaper”. Still no action, although the threshold of response is lowered and baby has succeeded in capturing the rapt attention of at least one of the assembly.

Finally, the father, unable to articulate his urgent concerns beyond a “Oh No! Oh No” frantically leaps over one or more dining room chairs upon noting a dark shadow from the recesses of the diaper on its way to the light colored carpet. Mission accomplished, the wily toddler having demonstrated that small objects can exert great force across a distance, with little diminution or fatigue of the grown-up startle reflex.

And now, it is time for bed, whereby grandpa (Dumpa Dumpy) hopes to demonstrate the physics principle stating that an object at rest tends to go quickly and soundly to sleep. Good night!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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