A “Doolittle” Experience

Junior High Was Fun

Night Sky StarsThere are many reasons why I enjoyed school, and probably as many reasons why I disliked it so much. This is probably true about everyone of us. Give me shop class, science, literature and history. Keep English, math, gym … Hmmn…. Is that all there was?

In the 8th grade, Mr Doolittle’s science class was enjoyable. He focused just enough on the “doing” of science to keep it enticing.


Now, a definition of science might be in order:

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.


So, we study the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. That’s exactly what we did in this interesting science class!

When we were learning about astronomy he had us conduct an experiment.

  • Get a medium size card board box and cut out one side.
  • Get on top of the house long after sun sets and on a clear night.
  • Lay down with your head in the cut out side of the box and look at the stars. The box will hopefully block the periphery and let you focus just on the stars.
  • Now, let your mind run!

Having grown up in those early years of the space program, and with enough of Tom Swift novels thrown in the mix, and living close to and experiencing life around those early astronauts and engineering families, well, anything that had to do with space travel was a fixation of sorts.

Science Fiction novels did not contain the mix of Fantasy as many of them do today. In fact, if you read those early writers like Clark, Asimov, Heinlein (just to name a few), then many of their stories contained futuristic science that became reality – tablet computers, mobile communicators, communication satellites… Just to name a few.

So, a Doolittle experiment made tremendous sense to me because we were allowed to think about the depth and breadth of space, what could possibly be out there, and, my favorite question: Does Space End? If so, what’s on the other side of the end?

Calvin and Hobbes - I am significantI do not remember any classroom results of the experience, but I do remember that I felt so small in the scope of what I could see. Knowing that the visible starlight was light years in coming our way, there is really no way of knowing what was happening in those distant places in the present tense. Why? That beam of light that you see is traveling your way at 186,000 feet per second. That’s 671 million miles per hour.

That’s a huge distance!

Our sun is far enough away that it takes around 8 minutes and 19 seconds for the light photons to strike planet Earth. If the sun were to blink out of existence right now, you could probably finish reading this blog and still not know it…

That’s Amazing!

As I think back to my experience on the roof of our house, I grasped the idea of how unrealistic it would be to think that everything I could sense was strictly an accident and we were simply in the right place at the right time for some action to lead us from “nothing” to “something”…

We are too complex to simply have happened. There was purpose behind the world and the entire solar system and universe as we could grasp it. We have made too many complex migrations of knowledge to simply be an accident.

Surely there’s reason and purpose to who we are and why we are here.

AtomIt was also Mr Doolittle that made us look at the microscopic view of the miniature. Consider an atom with all the electrons circling it. What does it remind you of?

Of course, you probably said it looked like our sun with the planets in orbit.

Similar yes, but not exactly. But just assume the similarity is correct.

How many atoms are on a pin head?

If it’s a hydrogen atom, scientist calculate that 5 million million (yes, a huge number with lots of zeroes) atoms would exist.

So, Mr Doolittle asks us to consider how many atoms exist in the palms of our hands? Gazillions! With every clap of our hands we are destroying solar systems and all the potential representation of life that could exist on each atom – much like our own solar system and the life that exists on Planet Earth.

Who, bigger than we are, is standing ready to clap their hands and we are resting in their palms? About to be wiped out of existence!

Microscopic and Macroscopic… Study of near and far. We are part of a really huge picture that we cannot possibly understand the depth and breadth of our existence.

Can this seasonal event of Christmas help me to understand the plan behind what we know? Perhaps. For me there is no doubt, but it still does not bother me to think this through…



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