Magic Circles and Experiments in Physics

We’ve been hiking on the weekends lately. Doesn’t always make for panoramic photos, but it’s lovely and familiar to be up in the mountains and woods again.

The other day on Linda Grimes blog, she listed lessons learned the hard way and encouraged us to share. I mentioned one of my most salient in the comments and thought I’d share here. A bit of a Friday cautionary tale.

Not that any of you would do this.

Back when I was a kid, I went to this open-space elementary school, meaning we didn’t have classrooms or desks. We had chairs and tables for some activities, otherwise we sat on the floor a lot. Every day started with Magic Circle. We sat on the floor in – you guessed it – a circle, and went around discussing the topic du jour.

One day, one of the girls was all scraped up and bruised. She’d wrecked on her bicycle. She didn’t give many details except to say that she’d been riding her bike back from the pool and her hair was wet, so she shook her head to try to dry it. She finished with “Believe me: never shake your head while you’re riding your bike!”

Now, you have to understand the kind of kid I was. Something would never let me take anything anyone told me at face value. I always had to know why. Or how the person knew.

Yes, I drove my mother crazy. She sent me to school a full year early so someone else would have to answer my questions.

Very shortly after that, I’m riding my bike back from the pool, my hair is wet and I remember this story. Why, I wonder, would shaking your head make you wreck your bike? It made no sense to me.

So, I tried it.

And I can tell you the answer: when you shake your head while riding a bike, you lose some of your balance and you twist the handlebars. This drives your bike into the concrete curb, launching you over said handlebars to faceplant on the sidewalk.

Now we all know.

I don’t know if I ever explained to my mom just how I came to wreck on my bike that day.

Really, I blame it all on Magic Circle. Damn sharing.