Science Fair Emergency

Did I call you last night? Did I leave a plaintive message on your answering machine?

Here’s why:

My son’s science fair project is due today. He’s been working on it in his usual industrious way for quite some time now. He was busily putting the finishing touches on it when I called him down for dinner.

His plan was to have people listen to a recording he made of “Ode to Joy” in both its original major key and then in a transposed version in a minor key and to have them rate each version as “happy,” “sad,” or “neutral.” His very reasonable hypothesis was that more people would rate the minor key version as “sad.”

“The only thing I have left to do now is to figure out what my independent variable is,” he announced as he came down the stairs.

“Your independent variable is the two different keys you used for “Ode to Joy,” his older brother explained.

A pained expression came over my son’s face.

“But I only played it for everyone in the minor key,” he said as tears started welling in his eyes.

“That’s a survey, not an experiment,” his brother said with devastating nonchalance.

For a minute there the situation looked pretty bleak. My boy’s shoulders slumped and he looked like he was going to have a nervous breakdown. After choking down his dinner, he disappeared into the basement and reemerged with a new set of recordings. We got on the phone and started calling everyone we knew to play them the two versions of “Ode to Joy.” It’s 11:30 pm now and my boy, who is usually conked out well before 8, has just finished his project and has gone to bed. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in one night.

Number crunching

Thanks to all of you very kind friends and family members, who answered the phone and helped Teddy pull it off literally at the eleventh hour!


I’m thinking my girl should probably get started on her 5th grade science fair project now.

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