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Science in the Basement

September 12, 2013 , , ,

I spent a lot of time in the basement of this house in Oakmont, PA as a child.  It contained a player piano, a bar, a collection of dress up clothing, a record player with records, bottles of pigment, some prisms, a Teslacoil, and some fluorescent lights.  In the garage my dad kept bottles of crude oil he admired and chemicals he brought home from the lab to to experiments with me.   I had to practice on the piano daily and I often played with my friends in the playroom downstairs and out in the back yard.  We loved to play with the prisms, which my mom had made during WWII at an optics plant where she had worked.  We also enjoyed grabbing the electric end of the Teslacoil and lighting up the over head lights with our other hand.  How my parents decided that kids could play with the Teslacoil is a mystery, but they did not mind.

Before I left Oakmont I had a conversation with the doctor who presently lives in the house, Merrill D Bowan, O D who specializes in neurological optometry.  He told me about his studies with brain injury patients using prisms.  He has remarkable results helping people correct problems with proprioception and balance.  His work all made perfect sense to me, although I had just met him in the driveway and asked if he minded if I took a picture in the backyard of the basketball backboard my grandfather put up over 50 years ago.  When I looked around and stirred the memories I knew this was always a unique house in this neighborhood.  Our house was special and different because my father was a mad scientist who enjoyed teaching me to make hydrogen bombs for recreation.  The science energy is still there, alive in the brilliant and progressive mind of Dr. Bowan.  It is somehow very natural.  I am glad I had the chance to meet and talk to him.

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