Scientific method (3-year-old style)

Anna’s grandparents bought her her latest prized possession, a Disney Bath Beauty Ariel Doll (yeah, the name sounds nonsensical to me, too. What exactly is a bath beauty?). The packaging promised miraculous transformations when Ariel was introduced to one’s bath, but after weeks of daily bathing we saw no changes (in the doll or the bath) and we decided to just accept Ariel as she came.

Then she spent a night outside in the grass, and when Anna burst to the rescue the next morning she found her looking rather purple. After checking repeatedly to assure ourselves that neither active imagination (her) nor aging memory (me) were causing us to see a color change that was not there, we determined we did indeed have purple and we were intrigued. I thought it the perfect time to introduce her to scientific inquiry, and she was game.

First, we pondered our question and our hypotheses. What had caused Ariel to go so violently violet? I was stuck between extended exposure to moisture and changing temperatures, but Anna landed firmly on King Triton waving his magic trident. I considered, for a moment, diving in to the difficulties associated with actually testing her idea, but explaining all of that seemed more difficult than just forging ahead, so ahead we forged.

With our bathroom sink serving as our lab, and our hair and make-up camera-ready, we immersed Ariel. We tried several approaches:  warm water, cold water, soapy water, rubbing her like a genie’s bottle. We held her up to the light, squinted, even dried her off between dunkings but she registered no measurable difference. Ariel resolutely stayed blue.

As with much scientific discovery, Anna stumbled on what would prove our solution quite accidentally. She was refilling her water cup from the automatic dispenser in the refrigerator door when a piece of ice fell out and she caught it in her hand. She ran into our bath/lab and immediately grabbed Ariel, leaving purple fingerprints. She grabbed another piece of ice and rubbed it furiously on Ariel’s tail and… it turned purple! We speculated that if ice would turn Ariel purple, then perhaps so would ice water, so we tested that. It worked!

We drew the conclusion that it was cold, not moisture, that activated Ariel’s tail. We were, of course, tremendously relieved to have discovered the answer. To boost our reliability, we spent the next hours repeating (ad nauseum) our experiment. Ariel obediently turned blue-and-purple-and-blue-and-purple-again and after we were satisfied that she’d continue to do so we allowed ourselves to declare success and set about writing up our conclusions.

Now all that is left to do is fight over who should be first author.  

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Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 10:01 PM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Now, Kendra… I think you have to give Ariel the rights to first author. If you don’t, she may bust you for not having done a human/mermaid subjects review… and if she wasn’t a mermaid, Ariel could use some of those pics as evidence of waterboarding! 😉

    • About half the things in my house are signed with a swirly Ariel signature. Could that be counted as informed consent? I’ll work on it…

  2. It seems you may have actually gotten a faulty Ariel. She’s supposed to START purple and turn the teal color with warmth. I’m glad you found a solution. Perhaps you could write to complain and get Ariel a friend out of it.


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