I was inspired by Neil de Grasse Tyson to look at my daughter’s bath toys with new eyes. In one of his essays in Death By Black Hole – “On Density”, I believe – he writes eloquently about how a cupful of the planet Saturn would actually float in a tub of bathwater. That’s because it’s less dense than water. Since you can’t go out and get a cupful of Saturn, Tyson playfully suggested we introduce rubber Saturn toys in place of yellow duckies in our children’s baths. It would be a good way to promote science early on. I loved the idea.
But where to find such a toy? I was thinking such thoughts when my wife came home with a bag full of little yellow rubber duckies for the bath. “We needed some bath toys,” she said. Well, I thought, why not transform the omnipresent yellow duckie into an educational bath toy (keep in mind our daughter is eight months old)? And since it’s already the symbol par excellence of quackery, why not riff on that? Presto! The skepducks were hatched.
I never forget James Randi’s phrase for the resilience of credulity and pseudoscience, “unsinkable rubber ducks.” I’m making a commitment to my daughter to raise her to think for herself and question received ideas. There’s no better time to start.