Encourage kids to ask questions

I agree with Mr Syed Alwi Altahir that it is never too early to spark interest in learning for children, such that their own innate curiosity would take them to greater heights ("Tap rich potential in children"; Dec 2).

Children are by nature curious and like to ask questions that may appear silly. But it is exactly these seemingly silly questions that help open doors to understanding the secrets of the universe.

It seems that organisers of the 2016 Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize were on the right track in fostering creative thinking in our young by encouraging them to question science in a more extensive, insightful and probing way ("When asking the right questions is the answer"; Nov 18).

The young Albert Einstein once asked the question of what it would be like to ride upon a beam of light in a thought experiment. He then went on to contrive numerous famous theories of special and general relativity using these thought experiments only.

There exists precise methodology for the use of thought experiments in many fields, including philosophy, forensics and physics.

It might be worthwhile to study closely the methods used by Einstein in developing his breakthroughs in science and implement them whenever we can.

Thought experiments are not to be restricted to higher learning only; they could be used more often for younger children as well, as they are innately curious.

I once came upon a question that was posed to a primary school pupil: Two separate plants were submerged in two sealed containers filled with water and another container placed on top of the plants to collect gases. One container was filled with tap water while the other had boiled water. The question challenged pupils to think and investigate the facts, without conducting the experiment itself that would give away the answer as to which set-up would produce oxygen.

Questions like that encourage children to think deeper without being spoon-fed the answers all the time. And these children should persist in asking questions right up to adulthood. Perhaps, then, we may get our very own Nobel Prize winner in future.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)