Never attempt to explain relativity to a 5 year-old

12 Nov


It’s all relative …

We can’t remember what possessed us to do this, but some years back we took it upon ourselves to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to our offspring (this was a curious choice, as we don’t really understand the theory ourselves.) We explained that if she could board a spaceship and travel at nearly the speed of light, when she returned, she would find that we, her parental units, had become very old and her little sister had become an adult. She however, would be only, say, eight years old.

We watched this information sink in and we saw her become agitated. Did she find the idea frightening? No, it wasn’t that. Did her parental units becoming wizened faze her? It wasn’t that either. The thing that stuck in her craw was ceding ground to her younger sister. She was the eldest child, and for us to suggest that a spaceship ride could subvert the moral order to the point that she became the younger sibling was just too much. She rejected the entire concept as preposterous.

So, if you happened to be thinking to yourself “Wow, it’s time that I introduced my child to the concept of relativity,” our own experience suggests that it might be better to hold off for a few years (earthbound years, not years at near-light speed.)


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