Why is the sky blue?

Once, when I was maybe ten years old, I asked my dad, “Why is the sky blue?”

A pretty reasonable question for a little ten-year-old scientist. But he wasn’t in the mood.

He said, “Go ask your mother.”

And I thought: Great, she knows.

I turned from my dad, and headed toward the kitchen, knowing I was one step closer to having my answer.

And as I rounded the corner, I was experiencing the thrill of the Scientific Method. I was following in the footsteps of Galileo and Isaac Newton.

And, to a certain degree, I was correct. I was, indeed, one step closer to my answer. Not the answer, but an answer.

There she stood. I took a deep breath, and asked her, “Mom, why is the sky blue?”

And I’ll never forget her response:

“Because I said so.”

At first, I was in awe of my mother. Later, I learned not to trust her in matters of science.

(The real reason the sky is blue has to do with light scattering by oxygen and nitrogen molecules. The Usenet Physics FAQ of UC Riverside has a good explanation – including the role Albert Einstein played in proving it was the air molecules themselves that were responsible and not particles of dust or droplets of water vapor suspended in the air)

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