Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fairy Tales in the Classroom Week: More Science

As promised, some links to discussions about fairy tales and science. I've always loved showy physics demonstrations in which movies physics are debunked, for example. These articles take a different tact, discussing how what we assume in fairy tales is impossible might be credible in the realms of science. Or at least how real world science may have inspired fairy tale magic.

The Science of Fairy Tales by Chris Gorski, American Institute of Physics

Kids of any age love to read fairy tales because the storyline never limits the possibility that anything could happen. Curses, spells, and handsome princes reign in worlds beyond the reader’s imagination.

But are the most magical moments from some of our favorite stories actually possible? Basic physical principles and recent scientific research suggest that what readers might mistake for fantasies and exaggeration could be rooted in reality.

So suspend your imagination for a moment, and look at the following fairy tales as a hard-core scientist might.
The article discusses Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, and 1,001 Arabian Nights.

Fairy Tale Physics: Myths and Legends Explained by Stephanie Peatling in for National Geographic News

Poor Rapunzel. Not only did she get locked up in a tall tower, but she literally risked her neck by allowing a prince to climb up her hair.

Such dilemmas had long bothered Sue Stocklmayer, director of the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Stocklmayer resolved to do something about it, so she and fellow CPAS staff member Mike Gore, a retired professor, channeled their frustrations over fairy tale physics into a traveling science show.

Rapunzel's conundrum is one of the highlights of the show.

"We ask how it is that Rapunzel didn't lose her skull, given the weight of what she's [supporting]," Stocklmayer said.

"You might notice some of the enlightened [storybook] artists have cottoned on to this and show her wrapping her hair around something, like a bedpost, first.

"A small object"—such as a cooped-up princess—"can bear a lot of weight if the connecting device [her hair] is wrapped around something."

The prince is then technically hanging on to the bedpost rather than Rapunzel's scalp.

"So long as Rapunzel wraps her hair first, then the prince and she are Ok," Stocklmayer said. "So in her case, yes, it could happen."
This one discusses Jack and the Beanstalk, too.

Finally, Once Upon a Blog has an ongoing series of The Science of Fairy Tales, gleaning articles that apply to fairy tale phenomena. It's a great series and I can't wait for Gypsy to add more at a future date...

No comments:

Post a Comment