Some people are natural-born scientists. These are the people who probably made their parents re-enact every suicide scene from Airplane with their incessant “Whys” I have a son like that. I am probably a terrible parent but I created a wholly artificial limit of 3 nested whys. When you get to the third it is over. And by over I mean I will now give you the silent treatment, stare really hard at my computer screen, and ignore you. The capacity to “run silent” is, apparently, easier to me than my wife, but that is another matter altogether. The point being that this is a way to show him that the maximum number of iterations has been reached and the Answer Program has ended.
The idea of limiting the number of nested whys was an engineering solution to a problem of infinite loops. You can keep asking why forever – it’s turtles all the way the down. So an n=3 loop was a pragmatic solution.
I thought I was clever. Hah! The result of my loop has been to turn what was a simple flowchart into a very very complex one. His brain will now jump to a whole new fresh set of 3s when he reaches a limit. And, in fact, he is now clever enough that he will find related sets of 3 which allows him to skirt my rules and still continue to inquire…oh the joys of parenting. And providing him with suitable reading materials, like kid’s encyclopedias and nature magazines and what-have-you turned out to be worse. Because while before I would get questions like “What is the difference between smoke and fog?” I now have to deal with “what is the difference between copyright, patents and trademarks? And why do the Europeans think that Samsung copied Apple, when in fact Apple’s original symbol was a skull and cross-bones?” Well, ok I made this question up, but it is not far off the stuff I get.
But, to pat myself on the back here, I do think I have helped him – even if it did not help me that much. Learning that some lines of inquiry need to be tackled from many directions will (hopefully) teach him to be a creative problem-solver, a great scientist, engineer, artist…or a slick Congressman, and a successful con artist…who knows?
At any rate – some people just cannot help themselves but to ask questions and pursue answers. they will even find questions where there are none, like investigating all your cookie choices. Personally, I am one of the hated Milano people, but never in my wildest dreams did I think this a question worth pursuing.
You see, I did not ask why…maybe I should change n to be n=5?