Baby Physics Part One

Grandchildren: A Force of Nature

Found most accidentally in the blog archives, I had to stop what I was doing and read through this post from almost exactly eight years ago, and decided to re-post it. The laws of small bodies have not changed since.

Having been within the gravitational field our 23 month old granddaughter Abby again for the first time in a few months, I am reminded of the grace by which God gives small children to young parents. I had mercifully forgotten, since my own children’s babyhood, that small human persons are the embodiment of the physics principle of entropy, are the personification of the passage from order to disorder, from organization to chaos.

Like the gradient followed inexorably by electron states and heat energy in the Greater Cosmos, young Abby too can only move from the high energy state to the low, from the paternal grandparents’ house at the top of the hill down the steep sidewalk three blocks to the low energy state at the park at the bottom. But not vice versa, for which she requires an extrinsic source of energy to return the body to its original state.

Were it not for this External Source (that she calls Dumpa), the low energy object would remain in the swing, at the park at the bottom of the hill until well after dark, swinging happily. Fortunately, two External Sources were available for the return to the high energy position, for the gradient was of great steepness and the tiny body did gain density and become more liquid to the grasp as it moved further away from the desired state (park, swing, outdoors) to the less desired state (home, inside, boring).

Little Abbster, in further demonstration of her entropic qualities, is capable of imparting maximum disorder to a deck of cards or stack of paper napkins, and this can be accomplished in just under 4.3 nanoseconds. However, she is demonstrably not capable of putting order back in, requiring this same external energy sources to recreate the original complexity.

These constant requirements for energy and order throughput help explain why parental units (and especially but only briefly grandparentals) are exhausted at the end of a day of Abby. Parents, and very occasionally grandparents, are the sun to that tiny disorderly world of the child, the source of perpetual energy influx without which all would decay to chaos.

Also observed, in the world of baby physics, is the infants’ ability to create action at a distance…[to be continued]

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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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  1. Very fun science. I sent this entry to my stepson and his wife, who have a 15 month old daughter. I hope they get a big kick out of it.