I could have been a scientist. If I had been more focused, harder working, better at maths, a lot cleverer, better looking and had better hair, I could have been Professor Brian Cox.
If nothing else, I’ve got the enthusiasm. I read the articles, watch the documentaries, pretend to understand what Einstein was banging on about, go “wow” when I grasp something for a second then immediately forget it again.
What I really need, to full-fill my fantasy of being a scientist, is someone who doesn’t know what an idiot I am. Some one who actually believes that I know everything. Someone relying on me to explain the wonders and mysteries of life to them. That would be amazing. What an opportunity for a pretend scientist! And, frankly, what a responsibility.
Good job I practice. When I’m driving alone I imagine my kids asking me why the sky is blue, how an engine works, what electricity is. I explain to the steering wheel, gesticulating and extemporising. Some things I’m not entirely sure about, but who’s gonna know? My kids can fill in the details when they do their PhDs. I’m about the big picture.
“Daddy?” My son asks, gazing at his beaker.
“Where does water come from?”
I get chills. This is it. My time has come. Unleash the wonder. Right. Hang on. Where does water come from? It comes from comets, doesn’t it? Before that? Something to do with the big bang? H2O. What’s that again? One hydrogen to two Oxygen. What does that actually mean? Calm down. Focus. Keep it simple. Water on Earth. The water cycle. Right, here goes.
“Son… water is everywhere.” I pause dramatically. I am Professor Brian Cox. I’m standing on a cliff top gazing meaningfully out over a dramatic ocean. “And water is… amazing.” My perfect hair is tousled dramatically by the wind. “The water cycle is driven by the power of our Sun.” I say, “The sun evaporates water from the surface of the oceans creating clouds. The sun drives the winds, pushing the clouds over land, where they condense and release their vast cargo of rain. The rain gathers and becomes streams and rivers and finally flows back to the ocean. We take some of that rain water and clean it, and pump it to our houses, where we can drink it.”
My son is looking at me wide eyed, his mouth hanging open.
“Yes son?” I say excitedly. I am so ready for a follow up question.