Vn48.1 Tenable Explanations 7/23 & 25/77

7/23 We drove to town late in the afternoon. In the clear sky, Miriam
could see a bright half moon (I could not from my seat). “If you were
on the moon, Daddy, what would happen when it got skinnier and skinnier?
Would you get bumped off?” I couldn’t understand her question. Miriam
referred to the half moon in the sky, then restated her question: “Would
you get bumped off. . . or does part of the moon become invisible?” When
I returned the question to her, she decided that part of the moon becomes
invisible. I believe her use of the term is such that she conceives of
a part of the moon as becoming transparent in contrast with the (now)
standard view that it is not able to be seen because of our perspective.
When I asked her later, Miriam did not confirm this speculation. I
asked, “When part of the moon becomes invisible, can you see through
it?” She replied, “No.” When asked how it becomes invisible, Miriam
replied, “I don’t know.”

7/25 Miriam found a golf ball in the basement a day or two ago. I was
surprised to hear her complain of Scurry that she had put a lot of
“holes” in it by chomping on the ball. This suggests that she may not
yet divide all small white balls into two classes: ping pong (hollow,
of smooth surface) and golf (solid, with concave ‘bumps’ on the surface).

This ball entered play in a familiar way. I returned from other
engagements to find Miriam showing Gretchen how to make a ball go for-
ward and return. She said, “You do it like this,” and attempted to
backspin the ball. She was not able to control the ball effectively
(I speculate that she was unable to compensate for the differences of
weight and friction both). When I asked Miriam how backspinning had
worked with the ping pong ball, she offered to show me and cautioned:
“But, Daddy, don’t think about it.” I believe this showed no admission
on her part of my (false!) explanation of backspinning during the
experiment recorded in Miriam at 6, but had a more complicated purpose:
Miriam, confident of her ability to backspin and intending to disabuse
me of my incorrect notion, warned me not to “think about it” so I could
not offer that explanation of the phenomenon. Backspinning failed.
Miriam rolled the ball to Gretchen, who kicked it back to her. She
noted of the golf ball, “This doesn’t work too good,” then continued
the explanation with an excuse, “because the ball’s too heavy.” Miriam
tried again with a different ball, one she described as ‘lighter’: the
ball is solid rubber foam 2 1/2 ” in diameter; it is heavier than the golf
ball but smooth and compressible. When her attempt to backspin the
rubber ball failed, Miriam’s interest waned and she went off to some
other activity.

The two incidents cite a class of explanations or descriptions
which most adults would think silly but which Miriam still accepts as
serious, albeit mistaken, explanations.

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