A science experiment: crash test dummies
Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, is not only a scientific theorist, but also The Great Experimenter. He engages daily in experimentation: devising ways of his own to test the world, then he will consider the results, producing his theory of why the result is so.
In his daily life, he behaves very much like a working scientist: looking at the world with a view to understanding it - and always testing it.
Yesterday he took two teddy bears owned by his little brother Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3. He made the choice with reason in mind: one had more flexible sections on its limbs, the other was more inflexible. "One is jointed, one is not." he pointed out.
He then placed a cushion on the floor at the base of the stairs and placed a baseball cap on the head of the first teddy bear.
"The hat is an indicator of brain damage." He declared, "The further from the teddy bear that the cap flies when the bear strikes the cushion, the greater would be the damage to the brain, since it shows the force on the head."
Ainan had designed a crash test dummy situation.
He then explained further: "I am going to drop the teddy bear in different positions and see which position is the best, that is the safest to fall in."
He then explained the positions to be taken by the bears. "One is sitting down, like this." He showed me how it would be, as it fell. "Another is lying down this way." He lay down the floor, arms parallel to his body. "Then this way." He turned so as to be perpendicular to the first way. He was checking if orientation had an effect on fall. "Then standing." He stood up straight. "Finally, a ball position." He then sat down and hugged his knees to his body.
He let the bear fall. It was the jointed one first. When it landed, he observed its position and attitude on the floor, before picking it up and rearranging it for the next test.
After he had done so, he gave his observations: "Sitting down is the worst, because on impact the head of the bear is forced into the butt." He showed me the position that had resulted.
"Lying down is the next worst, because this happens." He showed me the position that had resulted.
"Standing is the next worst, because you are thrown to the side, like this." He showed me the position the doll had adopted.
"The ball position is the best, because in this one, the cap did not come off - meaning no significant force on the head."
He then showed me where the forces were acting on the falling bear on striking and why for the ball position this was good.
What strikes me about his approach to experimentation, is the completeness of his approach. He tested the "crast test dummies" in all attitudes, to see if that had any influence on the result. He didn't just throw the bear: he looked at all the possibilities first.
It is interesting to note that on airlines they advise something very similar to Ainan's "ball position", in the event of a likely crash down. It seems that he had independently rediscovered an optimal position to adopt in the event of an impending impact.
Ainan Celeste Cawley has always been an experimenter, since his earliest days. It is curious to observe that he has also always been systematic about it, as an adult scientist would be. He tries to examine all the variations - and he uses controls, too. I believe that he independently came up with the idea of a control, before he knew the word, understanding by logic that he needed to see what happened in the absense of his particular intervention.
In this child at least, scientific reasoning is innate: not something to be acquired. He grasps the scientific method naturally, and proceeds to use it daily in his life. It is not something which he has had to be taught: it was, in effect, invented by him. It seems likely that this exploratory attitude will lead him to discover, one day, something that is genuinely new: something that has never been done before. All he needs is the opportunity to continue his scientific explorations.
(If you would like to learn about Ainan Celeste Cawley's scientific prodigy, go to: