Purple clouds, dad!
Life consists of stories. Science is part of life. Don’t deny that. Enjoy it. 🙂
On the way up to Mount Round Top or Big Top or something like that, somewhere up in the North of Norway, I stopped, panting. My son, literally a step behind me, stumbled, as Wodehouse would say, to a perplexed halt.
“Why? What?” he said.
“We lost our way.” I lied. My son raised himself up like a miniature God of Vengeance.
“Really? Big Top’s over there, dad. I can see it.”
“Ah, ok, son. Erm. Take in the landscape, son. You can’t just see Big Top but the whole island from up here—”
“Ok, almost. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Well, duh! That’s why we took the tour, right?”
“Alright. Is there any reason, your old man may want to stand right here, right now?”
My son threw me a glance as if to check whether an eagle had pecked at my cranium. Then he observed the landscape.
“Clouds?” he said. “Mom says, you like clouds.”
“What do you think about that fishbone over there?”
“Shall we go on, daddy?”
“Look, there’s lentils, too!”
“Why’s that one purple?! I’ve never seen a purple cloud, and it’s the only one, too. None of the others are purple.”
“Something’s wrong with that cloud, dad!”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s purple, dad.”
“Yes, but why is that wrong?”
He stared at me like I had swallowed a sailfish.
“It’s purple, dad!”
“Yes.” I said. “If you think about it, it makes sense, too. Look, the sun’s over—what was that?!”
My son grinned and did his grown-up voice.
“That was a stoat, dad. You shouldn’t just look up all the time, dad. Watch where you’re standing, dad.”
“There’s two things to this.” I said. “One is the color of the light that comes in, and the other is what a cloud, or anything really, does to that light.”
“The sun ain’t purple, dad.”
“No, but violet’s in there. All the other clouds are white, so clouds don’t do anything to change the color of the light.”
My son looked at me like I tried to put a mole through the grinder.
“What are the colors of the rainbow?” I asked.
After a brief, mumbling consideration he said:
“But there are things around us which do change the color of the light. What do you think those are?”
“I know you, dad.” my son said. “If you ask like that, it’s probably right in front of my nose.”
He started looking around and searching.
“The sun doesn’t just shine green there and brown over there, right? Look! The moss is – what is the color of that moss, dad?”
“Silver. Probably.” I said sitting down.
He sat down beside me, facing the sun. Time for a science talk. There was no chance of going on just right now. Why is grass green, moss silver and rock gray or brown? We sat and talked and talked. I will spare you all the details, but click on the link below called “Cloud physics”. Take a while and explore. It’s both simple and complex. In other words: intriguing.
“It’s getting darker, dad.” he said eventually.
“That’s just a cloud. But you’re right, we should probably get a move on.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Come on, let’s go.”
“You’re the one sitting, dad.”
As I stood up, my son started chasing a rabbit – I wish I was kidding, but he went off in the right direction, so there was that.