Let me tell you the story of my first great scientific discovery. I was very young, but already, I felt the call of science.
Did you know that balloons aren’t hollow? I know. Shocking, right? You look at a balloon and you’d never know. I mean, look at them. You can look right through them. It looks like there’s nothing at all inside. And yet, they aren’t hollow.
Unfortunately, this is difficult to verify. You go to open it up and * pop * no more balloon. Every single time.
This was very frustrating for me as a little scientist.
And what’s more, did you know that little pieces of balloon are dangerous? That’s right, and not just because little babies or animals or starving people might try to eat them and choke on them.
If you handle them wrong, they can snap at you just like broken rubber bands. It’s really, really painful. Ask me how I know.
One snapped at me.
I know, I know. I need a better story. Give me some time and I’ll think of one. It will be full of danger and drama and all of that.
How long will that take, you might ask? Well… It depends on how good the story is.
Back to my discovery. When you are small and ask people what’s inside a balloon, they tell you nothing. But it’s obvious that something is there, because something escapes when the balloon pops. Something is stretching out all of that rubbery plasticky stuff.
If you keep asking, some one will finally tell you it’s just air. At least, that’s what happened to me. And that was confusing. Because balloons seem to be hollow.
Have you ever seen a hollow log? Air goes in and air goes out, but the log doesn’t pop. And if an animal moves in, the log is still hollow.
After incessant questions, I learned that hollow logs are hollow because there is usually more wood in the middle of a log. A hollow log is a wooden log without wood in the middle.
Air isn’t balloon, it’s air. So even a popped balloon that has nothing in the middle anymore isn’t hollow. It’s a regular balloon without air.
This led to the obvious question. Are balloons hollow bouncy balls? The connection seemed obvious. I’d cut open bouncy balls before. They’re solid bouncy-ball-material all the way through.
Balloons seem to be similarly bouncy, as long as they stay away from sharp things. They are brightly colored and shiny. They sort of seem to be made of the same things as bouncy balls.
However, after experimenting with the broken pieces of yet another bouncy ball, I learned that the little pieces of bouncy ball don’t stretch. Not even if you leave them out on a flat rock all afternoon on a sunny day.
Balloons are not hollow bouncy balls.
What are they? Rubbery plasticky bubbles, that’s what. Something that wraps around air for a little bit, but can’t hold its shape for long.
That was my first great scientific discovery. I think I’m the proudest of that one. It changed my life. The success led me to start investigating so many other things. It led to my career as a scientist.
Of course, the world knows me as the scientist who made time travel possible. But I think of myself as Victoria Bradley, the girl who discovered that balloons aren’t hollow.