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World’s Coolest Science Fair

I went to the world’s coolest science fair yesterday.  I know what you’re thinking: trifold boards, model volcanos, and lethargic-looking mice being used in questionable projects — science fairs aren’t “cool.”  Uh, this one was.  It was at the White House, with 100% more President Obama, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Bobak Ferdowsi, NASA’s “Mohawk guy” from the Mars Rover project.

White House Science Fair 9

I wrote about it in greater detail over at Blogher yesterday when I got home — and pretty please go over there and look at the cool projects including a prosthetic leg made out of recycled bicycles and a “seeing” cane fashioned out of sensors and an Arduino.  One of my favourite projects didn’t make it into the post due to space, but it was Anne Merrill’s earthworm project, creating a natural method for suppressing soil-borne pathogens.  I know, I’m a little surprised at how much I liked it considering how much I dislike worms.  But it was fun talking to someone who could get that excited about soil.  The girl lit up talking about her buckets of worms.  She was funny and charming.  You can tell from a five minute talk that this is someone who is going to go far in life.

It made me wistful.

Isn’t it all about me?  It was the last time I checked.

So I’m now in my final week of my thirties.

I had a Scandinavian literature professor in college who spoke about the large bursts of reflection that came at the end of each century — the literary fin de siècle that gave rise to ideas such as Modernism.  The end of a century is usually a time of great unrest while looking toward a rebirth, and that energy propels the culture into new art forms and schools of thought.

But what sort of rebirth will come in my forties?  Age veers sharply from time periods in that regard.  From what I’ve heard, your forties are a settling in; finding comfort in your own skin and enjoying the fruits of your labours.  That doesn’t sound like rebirth at all.  But you see all these smart high school kids, at the cusp of doing something amazing, and you can’t help but feel a little wistful if you’re as self-centered as I am.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been so jealous if the event hadn’t occurred in the last week of being thirty.  But it did.  So I walked through there, both grooving on their energy and excitement and brilliance, and feeling a little wistful that I’m out of high school, out of college, with all of those exciting moments behind me.

It’s a rewriting of history.  I would never want to be in high school again.  I would never want to apply to college or try to figure out what I want to be or find someone to marry.  When I was young, I longed to be older and settled.  And now I am older and settled, and I long to be young.

Or maybe I just long to be the sort of kid who could invent a prosthetic limb while still below the age of twenty.

Well, that ship sailed.

So a very cool science fair, and a last time going to the White House as a thirty-year-old.

Indulge me in a few more fin de siècle thoughts this week.  I promise to have them all out of my system by next Tuesday.


1 a { 05.29.14 at 8:38 am }

First, how can you not like worms? They’re slimy and wriggly, but they don’t have any little feet so they can’t crawl all over you. Of everything I find in my back yard, worms are the least offensive!

Second, I think 40 is a time of feeling like you’re old, even though you’re not, really. I’ve experienced that feeling of being past all the exciting things…and then I found some new things to try out. Do your reflecting on how old you are, and how exciting it is to be young and creative, and then get a grip. You’re just as capable (or more so, even) now of creating new and exciting things as a high school kid with a science project. There’s a whole world to explore and not enough time for anyone to see and do it all.

2 Ana { 05.29.14 at 10:50 am }

Ugh on worms, but yes to all of this. I’ve been indulging in the same sort of thoughts about aging and wistfulness about youth this month (turned 38 this week). I think its not the absolute age, but the stage—I’ve been feeling very “settled”. All the milestones checked and the final decision on “no more babies” is making me feel old and done and wondering about paths that will never be taken.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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