the boy is smarter than we are

Toronto, 2013.11.16

Tonight as we were setting up to do our recent-usual Saturday night shadow puppetry, Ken announced that he wanted to "Show us something."

He produced two Lego tops that he'd made earlier in the afternoon, and set them down in the light of the LED headlight I bought for my bike (and which we'd been using to illuminate a book of "picture riddles"). He said that his spinning top would look really interesting in the sole light. Stupidly thinking that the LED light was coming from a steadily electric current, I warned him that it might not look different. But he was right - the flicker of the headlight was obvious with the bumps of the Lego keeping up the right tempo.

And the tops were beautiful in that harsh light. The regular patterns of shape and color gave way to shifting forms that seemed to pulse. The apparent rings formed would seem to interact with each other as our brains connected the dots with each slowing spin of the tops.

Ken and I tried several top designs, and tried the strobe effect on the headlight with different spinning speeds and so on. It was a ball.

But I had to ask him; had someone showed him that trick with the light?

"No," he said, "I just thought of it in my head."

We were shown the way by a five-and-a-half-year-old (going on six).

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