For me it was a photograph, I think it was in a coffee table copy of Cosmos my mom bought. http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/images/saturn/saturn.gif
35 years later still gives me chills.
I grew up during the space race, and nobody ever tried to convince me that I shouldn’t love science. I think that’s all it takes, really; kids naturally want to understand how the world works, and that’s what science is about.
‘I want to know God’s thoughts - the rest are mere details.’ – Attributed to Einstein.
I grew up during the end of the space race (would have been about 1.5a for the Apollo 11 mission), but the space stuff is what got me too… In grade school, I was the freak that wanted to be an astronomer when I grew up rather than the standard policeman/fireman that every other boy seemed to gravitate to. I think that it was Sagan’s Cosmos that helped to cement my interest in science.
Mr. Wizard cooking a hot dog with 120V wall power:
Ohhhhh, I thought you said Cosmo, which I found very scientifically enlightening when I was about ten.
1977, sixth grade, I saw a show that briefly highlighted forensic sculpting, where they would apply clay to a skull to reveal the face that once hung from it. I was so taken with this idea that I found a skeleton model, pulled the skull off and started applying modeling clay to the right side, leaving the skull exposed on the left, just like I had seen on TV. To my amazement, it was working, there was a face, a believable face! So in my excitement, I brought it with me to school the next day to show my science teacher. I thought she would think it was cool too. When I got to class I walked up to her desk, held the skull out in my hand and said, “I saw this show last night where they-” and she snatched the skull from my hand, pulled open a drawer, threw it inside and slammed it shut with her knee. She leaned in, looked me in the eye and angrily whispered “you’re too old to be playing with toys. Sit down.” My first burst of science love crushed by a science teacher. It wouldn’t be the last time. Now I’m a woodworker.
For me, transcribing some BASIC code from the back pages of a 3-2-1 Contact magazine into a Commodore 64.
DUDE(ETTE?) I came here to say Mr Wizard also. And, ironically, the episode where he uses a solar collector to cook a hot dog. I still remember it.
I don’t remember a science specific aha! moment, but some of my earliest memories are spinning in circles with a line controlled airplane and also my first model airplane- an F-18 hornet. I guess throw Star Wars in there too… I will want my own astromech for the entirety of my life!
But it seems like science related activities and interests have always been a part of my life, and I’m sure it is like any other interest anyone has: you either get it or you don’t. I can explain how a rocket attains orbit, and how a jet engine works, but I have no idea what ingredients are in the delicious korma I had for lunch… potatoes, cream, ughhh derrr…
Oh wow, Louis Pasteur, The Value of Believing in Yourself… I just got overtaken by the biggest wave of nostalgia. I haven’t thought about it in years, but I read that book over and over as a kid.
Along with that nostalgia came a very vivid memory of another book that I pored over. It was an illustrated kids book that described the internal workings of the human body as a series of discrete machines. For example the digestive system started with a series of knives and grinding wheels to represents the different types of teeth, then a conveyor belt for the throat, through a trap door (the lower oesophageal sphincter) leading to a large vat representing the stomach, where acid and enzymes are added, and so on and so forth. I also distinctly remember the pages on human reproduction that had two perambulatory robots (boxes on wheels) with no distinguishing features apart from a mechanical penis on one, and a matching vagina on the other. I have no memory of what the book was called, and I have failed at google-fu, but would dearly like to know what it was called as it had a massive impact on me and I have nieces and nephews who are coming up on the perfect age for it.
I’ve been trying to think what got my attention when I was really young… I think that it was mostly nature shows and books e.g Marlin Perkins - Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I had a giant field guide on birds that I would take with me to 1st grade – I would draw the birds during my free time. I also would take every “discarded” science text book that I could get my hands on from school and would try the experiments – I recall doing “chromatography” of grass on my own at ~ age 6/7 (boiling grass in a water/alcohol mixture and letting it get drawn up a hunk of paper-towel). I would also just sit and read stuff out of the encyclopedia.
Edit: Just came across this post…
Forget Carl Sagan, Give Me Marlin Perkins | Mike the Mad Biologist
I forgot about poor ol’ Jim…
I was lucky enough to have scientist parents. One day (I was 8 or 9 maybe) we made up a copper sulphate solution in a beaker, and dipped a steel nail into it. Faint copper coating, ho hum, stuff sticks to stuff, no big deal. But then we connected a battery to the nail, and it actually mattered which battery terminal was connected to the nail, and which was connected to the solution. One way (nail negative) the copper coating got brighter and more firmly attached. The other way, nothing at all.
In all my previous experience with batteries, (flashlight bulbs and switches, pretty much; I had not yet seen a diode) the choice of positive or negative was purely arbitrary, and now the world was telling me that there was more going on than I had first realized.
It was probably earlier, as I was always a curious child, but for sure I remember the moment the teacher wheeled in the b/w TV into the classroom so we could watch the first moonwalk.
Cosmos with Carl Sagan. A large coffee table book titled “Our Universe”. A small thick book on evolution that showed me cambrian life, the changes in horses hoofs and teeth over time, many fantastic things before I could properly read.
I’ve tried to make sure my daughters have access to the same sources no matter how dated. I have never been able to find the small thick book on evolution but I have given them more updated things as well.
For me it was definitely the time I set the contents on the kitchen table on fire and instead of being horrified and panicked tried to figure out WHY paper was so flammable. That set off a fateful series of events that led to me puncturing my ear drum within a month.
I had completely forgotten about that book (Our Universe) until just now! Thanks for the potent nostagia
Looking up at the stars and imagining travelling to infinity at age 6. Took about three weeks for me to come right again.
For me, a combination of Mister Wizard, The Twenty First Century with Walter Cronkite (a TV show sponsored by Union Carbide) and the space race, from watching Sputnik pass overhead, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Plus a little book with dinosaur stickers that was a freebie from Sinclair Oil company, whose corporate logo was a brontosaurus.