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Scientifically speaking

  • Posted by Giraffe-a-licious
  • 14 Apr 08, 12:21 PM

Not to start things off on too much of a downer, but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve missed out on quite a bit of what life has to offer thanks to this blinkin’ M.E. Listing them all is not going to do any of us any good but suffice to say, I think that I have certain deficiencies in my experience of the world. Most of them don’t matter a jot; the fact that I’m unable to go out clubbing or partying until the early hours certainly doesn’t worry me unduly. But every so often I’m reminded that I’ve missed something and in my case it’s often something education related. I’ve been pondering on this recently because I’m considering getting back to some studying and doing an Open University course. I’m still mulling it over but I’m rather tempted by the idea of a short science course. I became ill at the age of 13 and had to drop out of school. I gained English and Maths GCSE via home tuition and eventually an A-level in Economics thanks to some part-time 6th form attendance and helpful teachers. However, science eludes me. With my not having formally studied anything science related for 10 years it can’t be too difficult for you to imagine the rather gaping hole in my general knowledge. Allow me to illustrate by relating quite possibly the most ridiculous thing that I have ever done in my entire 23 years. And that’s saying something.

It was in the gallant pursuit of scientific understanding that I made my blunder. As many a teenage girl will substantiate, we nearly all go through a ‘candle phase’. We get them for birthdays and Christmas. We have them in the bathroom and the bedroom. We burn glittery ones and scented ones. If it’s not a candle then it’s an oil burner. It may not be full on pyromania but it’s not far off. At the age of 16 I was one such girl. But crucially, a candle obsessed girl with exactly the wrong amount of scientific knowledge – not as much as I should have had, but enough to make me think that I understood what it was that extinguished a flame. I would like to point out here that my theory was sound; it was my execution and choice of weapon that was flawed.

One evening I found myself about to blow out a candle (one of the sort that are inside a glass) when a thought occurred to me: “Fire needs oxygen to stay alight… oxygen is in the air… if I cut off the air from the candle then it will extinguish the flame… well that sounds more exciting than just blowing it out.” See? Perfectly scientific. So what did I choose to cut off the air from the flame? A tissue. Yes. In all seriousness, I used a tissue. Well, I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. Suddenly I’m holding a flaming tissue and screaming just a little bit. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to have an eagle-eared mother with a slipper to hand. Soon enough the only signs of the incident were my embarrassed face and a burn on the carpet (now cunningly hidden by a rug).

I’ve pretty much avoided scientific thinking since then and in doing so thankfully prevented any more such happenings (I won’t tell you about my ‘water in the Sea of Tranquillity’ gaffe – this despite the fact that I knew that it was on the moon!). But you know what? I’m an adult now and I should know about this sort of stuff. Perhaps it’s time for me to get scientific again. Watch out world!

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