There’s nothing quite like having a four year old in the house to make you realise how little you know.
‘Daddy, how does the microwave work?’ is a perfectly reasonable and on the surface of it very straightforward question to ask.
But after saying the words radiation and ping a lot I soon realise the answer is essentially beyond me.
As it is for the combustion engine, laptop and even the common or garden dimmer switch.
All too often I find myself restating what something is, as a poor substitute for how it actually achieves what it does. A technique which is always met with an exasperated response along the lines of:
‘Yes I know Daddy, but HOW does it make the light less bright? HOW?
I can’t remember my Dad not knowing how something worked. If he wasn’t sure he’d strip it down, lay it out and reassemble it. Nowadays I struggle to think of anything more complicated than a pair of scissors which I could explain the inner workings of.
As a child I distinctly remember being enthralled by the first car I got into which didn’t let an unused seat belt just dangle limply inside it, but somehow sucked it into a secret compartment, ready to be pulled down again when necessary.
As for the first automatic car window I encountered, or – drumroll please – TV remote control I had he joy of pressing, it all seemed like sorcery – and I’m 36 rather than the 63 year old I’m sounding like.
But when you are born into a world where pausing live TV is old hat and an IPad can allow you to investigate the surface of the moon, it takes a lot more than an disappearing seat belt to generate awe.
Just as for my mother the Prestige pressure cooker is and always will be at the very forefront of the technological revolution, so what I view with wonderment is being left behind as soon as its out of its box.
And as the rate of change gathers even more pace one thing alone is certain – children’s questions are set to get even harder to answer.