Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Things I Used to Know

Prompt Tuesday wants me to wax eloquent on "I never knew" but I'm not in a very negative mood.

I do have a similar prompt in my journal, though. I've titled a page "Things I Used to Know" and I bet a lot of you used to know them, too. So, let's play:

Question #1: Can you name this dinosaur? (Scoring is arbitrary and explained below.)

Arbitrary Scoring: Award yourself 3 extra points if you referenced the Flintstones' quarry, and 4 extra points for remembering the Sinclair Dinosaur.

But lose two points if you called it a brontosaurus.

Apparently, sometime between my childhood and the birth of the Big Cuter, the correct answer became apatasaurus. Not that the mis-nomer was a recent discovery. Nope, according to Mike Taylor, the change was made in 1903. But the popular press had been pretty impressed with the thunder lizard and turned up its collective printing presses at the thought of calling the long necked vegetarian a deceptive lizard instead. Brontosaurus he was, and brontosaurus he remained.... certainly through the 1950's and '60's when I might have noticed him on one of my many trips to the American Museum of Natural History.

So, given that he has been Apatasaurus for a very long time, what was it about the early 1980's that had children's books changing his name? My memories are hazy with the smog of diapers and pre-schools and babysitters. I know disco was dead, but Raffi is about all the popular music I can conjure from that time. There were elections and disasters and of those I have a vague recollection, but somewhere around the time that I was setting fire to the stove by letting the water evaporate from the pan containing the boiling/sterilizing baby bottle nipples which left them in a pile of goo which became increasingly hotter and melted and then burst into flames just as I was paying the pizza delivery guy and the fire extinguisher was on the other side of the fire under the sink....... anyway, sometime between my childhood and the Big Cuter's emerging interest in the Mesozoic Era, the publishing world seemed to have gotten a conscience. Or else a copy of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature's latest Bulletin, because suddenly I couldn't find a book that validated Bronty.

No one told me about it. It just happened. Of course, the Big Cuter had fallen victim to my ignorance, and now he, too, shares my disdain for what turns out to be our favorite sauropod's proper name.

This was a fact in the Science category to which I knew the answer. What happened to certainty, I ask you?

OK, end of Rant 1.... how many points did you give yourself?
Ready to play again????

Question #2 Name the parts of the atom.

Arbitrary Scoring: If you graduated from high school before 1973 and have named more than 3 parts, give yourself a pat on the back and as many points as you feel you deserve. If you are My Very Own Private Hell High School Class of 1977 or any class since then, call your school board and ask for a refund. Those of you a little bit in the middle can read the explanation and decide for yourselves what you deserve.

Apparently, once again, what I thought I knew as fact had changed without telling me. I always liked the electrons and the protons revolving around the neutrons. I understood how they were related to the Periodic Table, and I liked feeling smart about that.

All of a sudden, years after I felt the need to read scientific monographs for fun or credit, the word quark began to appear in the New York Times crossword puzzle. What the blazes was a quark???? Or a muon? The The Atomic Energy Commission uses what I knew to be true as its logo.... if they aren't up-to-date on it why in the world should I be?

I think that's a valid question.

There are more questions to come.........


  1. question one - yes, you tell a better story, but are we sure it's not a Brachiosaurus? I only ask to be obnoxious, but it had to be asked.

    question two - ambiguously asked. I was tempted to say nucleus and electron cloud, because "parts" suggests that to me, rather than proton, neutron, electron. I mean, I know you, so I knew you were going for quarks, but I was enough thrown off by the language of the question. Also, in the classic model, the electrons revolved around the protons and the neutrons. Ps and Ns hung out in the nucleus, and the electrons had their orbitals. Anyway, that's your $umpteensquillions at work.

  2. I debated between this one and a similar one in the BIG box of dinosaurs.... at least we can agree that he's not a meat eater????

  3. Oh oh. I named the dinosaur, "Baxter," clearly indicating that I am too stupid for you. :)

  4. Oh, SDM, Baxter is a Great Name.... not a stoopid one!

    We usually default to "Fred" when asked "what's that called?" to just about anything :-)


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