Dear Daughter: About Patterns and Science
I’m back with the 24th quilt block and 21st letter for your Dear Daughter Quilt. I’ve chosen the Broken Sugar Bowl block, this time. I like the pattern, but I struggle to see why it’s a sugar bowl. Is it just me? I guess I can see a break, but if you showed me this quilt block, I’d be unlikely to guess the name in a million years. It could be the fabric I chose, making me see a different pattern in the finished block.
Maybe it’s like looking up in the sky and seeing a cloud in the shape of a snapping crocodile, while the person next to you sees the same cloud as a person lying down in a hammock. As humans, we are set up to search for patterns and try to make sense of them, which brings me almost too neatly to the subject of this letter. Science and patterns.
Made up language
Science is about recognizing the patterns in the world around us and within, and wondering.
Numbers, equations and scientific terms are our way to express, manage the understanding and communicate these patterns. It is a made up language. The number 3 is made up. Two horse shoes, one sat on the other. Another symbol could easily be universally substituted and it would not change the value. So long as we’re all using the same symbol, we can communicate.
We use the language to explain the rules of the universe, or, in other words, the patterns they make. The patterns are already there.
Do you remember when you were younger and you used to add glitter to your Christmas cards? First you would add glue to the card. Arranging it carefully. Depending on the type of glue you used, you might find it difficult to see where you had already glued. Then you would sprinkle the glitter on and shake off the excess. Almost by magic your pattern would appear.
That is the same with science. It is already there. More than we can see yet. Using our made up language, experiments and observation, we can reveal it.
Learn the language and patterns/rules
Science, at your stage, is learning the language (and wondering).
You are unlikely to make big scientific breakthroughs at this stage, in exactly the same way that you were unlikely to write a best-selling novel while learning to read and write. Not impossible. Just unlikely, but maybe one day.
You are learning the basics and beginning to wonder. You need this knowledge. You need to know the patterns so that later you will notice when something doesn’t fit. It may seem to break the rules. Also you’ll need the basic rules so that you can use them to their full potential and apply them. Maybe putting different patterns together, to make something amazing. (Thinks aeroplanes)
You will have moments when the penny will drop and those will be wonderful moments. Savour them. There will be plenty more of them, given time.
You love science. You always have. You always loved joining in the experiments that we have tried at home. Leading the others and helping to explain it to your younger siblings. Teaching me a new way to express it, in some cases. I really liked that. I know that you are finding one of your science lessons boring. A bit dry.
May I suggest that you look at this subject slightly differently? It involves the use of maths. Maths is a useful language for expressing a pattern. Don’t believe me? Let me try and explain.
Imagine an algebra equation. A mixture of numbers, letters and signs. The letters represent numbers that are either unknown or could be a whole range of numbers. If you were to repetitively substitute numbers into the equation, and work it out, you would begin to create a pattern. (Think graph.) That is a formula. All it is, is a few (hopefully!) well placed letters, numbers and signs that represent a bigger picture, or pattern.
Maths allows this science subject to be expressed. It makes/reveals the patterns. The patterns help you to solve the puzzle. If you approach this subject as if it was a series of puzzles to be solved, would that make it more interesting? Your teacher, unknowingly, has become the clue giver.
I hope I’ve offered you a different way to look at science. I hope it inspires you to tackle your studies with fresh insight.
Look for the patterns.
Your loving mother
There are more quilt blocks and letters to read here. Some funny. Some serious. You can also read about why I started the Dear Daughter quilt for my daughter.