How a 4 year old solves the Iceland ash cloud problem

Triggered by Seth Godin’s suggestion that one should teach our children to solve complicated problems, I recently wrote an article about how my 4 year old son solved the Greek debt crisis.

As I found that he did pretty well in the exercise, I started thinking about presenting him with a complicated issue on a regular basis.

As we surely all know someone who is stuck someplace due to the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, I thought it a good problem to be solved by my 4 year old.

I first had to explain to my son what a volcano is and where Iceland is (and no, I did not even attempt to pronounce the name of Eyjafjallajökull, but you can listen to that here).

Then I made a little drawing to explain the workings of an eruption and showed him pictures and explained that due to the big ash cloud, planes were not able to fly and thus people all over the world were stuck and couldn’t get home.

My main question to him was

“How can we find a solution for the people to get home?”

His answers are below in order to appearance:

1. Make the planes fly higher, over the cloud

I found I could neither accept nor refute that proposal as I had no clue as to how high a plane can fly. So I went and searched for the answer:

Generally, standard-flight commercial jets fly approximately 28,000 to 35,000 feet above mean sea level. Travelling at higher altitudes and speed levels limits oxygen supply. There is not a sufficient amount of oxygen in the air to accommodate the jet fuel required to burn to remain in the air. However, the Concorde commercial jet was designed to fly at an even higher height, reaching to about 45,000 feet. Many jets, however, can fly at even higher heights, but they are typically specialized and provided with a broad safety margin. (source)
So I guess we should just revive the Concorde flights and people would not only get home safely but also very quickly.

And why don’t they fly around the cloud? As simple as that when you’re 4.

2. People should take a boat.

Well, why not?
It’s not like we are still in the steamboat era where such a journey would take forever.

Nowadays Southampton- New York takes only seven days. Saves a lot of stress, hassle and you have time to read a few good books.

3. People should stay where they are and take a vacation.

This seems to be a recurring answer and shows that this little man loves being on holidays.
I suppose people who have just spent 2 weeks worth of off days and all their money on a holiday location would not consider this a valid nor funny answer…

4. We should redirect the wind to blow the cloud away.

It seems that the weather is changing at the end of the week which should send the disruptive ash cloud away (from Britain at least).
Or else we just have to invent giant fans. Maybe we could put the London Eye on its fastest setting to blow at the cloud?!

Alas, no magic solution this time.
I find the best time to ask him complicated questions is in the car when I have his undivided attention.
I promise to save the next question for a car ride to yield better results.

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One Response to How a 4 year old solves the Iceland ash cloud problem

  1. Lance says:

    Your son did a find job with these answers! I personally like the boat idea – relaxing and peaceful traveling across the sea!!


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