A Scientific Day

Becky Lynn was a mad scientist with wild eyes and a head of hair that was screaming to be brushed. "Soon my creation will be complete! And then I'll control a robot army that can conquer the world! Ha! Ha! Ha!" Oh yeah: she also had an evil laugh.

Powerful metal arms were attached to her robot, capable of making fists that could crush even the hardest rocks; the pair of legs were faster than a racecar; and the red light shining from its eyes came from a brilliant mind that was as insane as its creator. Electronic noises skirted about in the shadows, while flickers and flashes of white light shone on her evil work. As the fury of a thunderstorm raged outside, Becky Lynn began to add the final parts to her creature. She flipped on the switch. "Ha! Ha! Ha! Now ... live! ... live! ... live! ... li-ve!"

Let's try that beginning again.

Becky Lynn was a little girl with a bright mind and a big imagination. She looked at her robot. Its body was made of two old pieces of wood that her dad had nailed together while building shelves months before. The face had been drawn on with a blue crayon, paper arms and legs were attached with thumbtacks and transparent tape, and the creation was wrapped in old paint rags for clothes.

"What have you been doing out here in the garage all morning?" Becky Lynn's mom was as curious as her daughter.

"Can't you see? I'm making a friend!"

"So you are. And a mighty handsome friend he is, too!"

"No, he's not! He's just an old board that dad threw away! He doesn't move or say a thing. I just can't figure out how to make him work!"

"Hmm." Becky Lynn's mom took a few moments to think about her daughter's problem. "You know, there are some things in this world that a person isn't supposed to figure out--like how to make a friend. All sorts of scientists have had great curiosity--and solved a lot of interesting problems--but the greatest discoveries of all happen when someone stops trying to figure things out, leans back in their chair, and gazes at the wide world with a childish sense of wonder. Not to mention a nice cool drink!"

"But how am I supposed to make the robot work if I just sit and watch?"

"All I'm saying is that you'll never figure anything out by staring at a problem; a person's mind should be active--always thinking about new things so it can come up with fresh ideas." Her mom went back into the house to fix macaroni and cheese.

After lunch, Becky Lynn continued to work on her robot. "Maybe if I put another piece of tape here? Or a thumbtack there? But how will its mouth open? Oh, it's no use!" She became frustrated and stomped about the garage. "You're just an old board! You'll never be anything more than an old board! And you'll just lay there for years until you turn into ... whatever it is old boards turn into!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you upset."

Becky Lynn stopped in her tracks as her chin dropped and her eyes bugged out. "You can talk!"


"But you are!"


"But that doesn't make any sense!"


The two friends had a long conversation, smiling and laughing as they talked about everything under the sun. Becky Lynn had had no idea all the thoughts an old board might have.

At last, the little girl looked more closely at the robot's face, to satisfy her curiosity as to how it worked. "How can you ... I mean ... how does your mouth open?" But as she asked this question, it became clear that the mouth couldn't open at all, since it was only a crayon drawing on an old board. The robot stared lifelessly into space, with a smile drawn on its face.

Now Becky Lynn became really angry, because she knew the robot could talk, but wouldn't. "All right! If that's the way it's going to be, I'll just leave you alone to talk to yourself! I'm going outside to play!"

As Becky Lynn reached the middle of the driveway, she heard footsteps coming out of the garage. The little girl stopped in her tracks, hunched over, and slowly turned her head as if she were a cat about to pounce.

"You can walk!"


The robot looked up with a mischievous smile, slowly moved his right leg, then his left, and finished by shuffling a couple of very stylish dance steps. He looked back down and smiled.


The two friends played hide and seek, hopscotch, tag, and had so much fun that they even tired out poor Otis, who had to retreat to a hiding spot so he could take a nap.

Finally, it crossed Becky Lynn's mind that paper legs could never support such a heavy board, so she inspected the robot more closely. "How can you ... I mean ... how can paper legs hold up your body?" But as she asked this question, her friend went limp and collapsed. The robot smiled quietly at the sky, with blue crayon drawings for its eyes.

This time Becky Lynn wasn't angry at all, for she missed her friend. She picked up the robot, and carried him back in the garage. Sadly, he had to be put away on top of the other scraps of wood, after Becky Lynn had given him one final hug. She didn't really expect the robot to hug back, and he didn't. That kind of thing only happens in stories. He was, after all, just an old board.

Becky Lynn's mom poked her head out the back door. "Aren't you coming in to watch Rosco?"

A smile came to life on her face as Becky Lynn spun around and scampered toward the house.

"How is your friend coming along?"

Becky Lynn told her mom how the robot had come to life.

"Really?" Her mom sounded skeptical. "How was he able to open his mouth? And how did those paper legs hold up such a heavy board?"

"It's really quite simple," explained Becky Lynn. "Since the phenomenological structure of consciousness within experiential reality is nondemonstrable, your query lies beyond the proper line of demarcation that defines any justifiable inquiry into animation."

Becky Lynn's mom stopped in her tracks as her chin dropped. She stared at the little girl's face, trying to figure out where all those big words had come from. "How can you ... I mean ... how do you know ...?"

Becky Lynn stood still in place, with a smile drawn on her face.

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