Tom Tits Experiment ?

What a strange sounding name for a science museum.

And yet, that is the name of a science center in Sodertalje Sweden, just south of Stockholm.

tomtits experiment
Tom Tits at Dawn, Tom Tits fils both 4 story buildings. Exhibits for sale is in the building to the left. The Museum is surrounded by a large outdoor exhibit garden.

The name came from a French book of hands-on experiments from the 19'th century. The author wrote under a pseudonym, "Tom Tit".

I had visited Tom Tits four times over the past decade, but this time I was going on sabbatical, to join the staff for February, March, and April, 2000.

My first day dawned with a deep red sky to the east, the clouds cleared away to reveal a deep blue sky, and the sun shown brightly, low in the sky. At noon the sun was a full 20 degrees, a handspan at arms length, lower than it would have been in San Francisco. The temperature never rose above freezing, I was definitely going to have to experiment with clothing to find the right mix to keep me warm enough outside yet cool enough in my office. The sun rose just before 8 AM and set just after 4 PM, a full two hours less sunlight than in San Francisco.

One of the reasons I am visiting Tom Tits is to work with the great teachers there. One teacher I admire a great deal is Marie Wallum. You can see why when you look at this picture of Marie's class of teachers who are working out how the seasons are created on earth. Marie is standing behind the "sun."

It is the job of the student holding the earth to orbit the sun while keeping the axis of the earth pointed at Polaris, a "star" on the distant corner of the ceiling. While dancing around the sun the students come to grips with the seasons.

Sewer Tour

As I was settling in to my office the electronics genius at Tom Tits, Claes, peeked in and asked me if I wanted to go see the Stockholm sewer? Well, I couldn't pass up that invitation, so I grabbed my coat and hat and we headed across the river that runs past Tom Tits.

There, in the middle of a 10 meter high granite cliff &endash; which, I noted for future reference, was perfect for climbing &endash; there was a steel door. Claes unlocked the door and in we went. A road lead down a granite tunnel sloping gently down into the darkness. A corrugated stainless steel pipe ran along one wall. It didn't smell too bad in here.

The door to the Stockholm sewer. Claes inside the sewer.

We hiked down the dry floored tunnel. I could here flowing water ahead. A pipe entered from one side and poured liquid into the tunnel, it flowed down a channel beside us. I had no temptation to touch that liquid. After what seemed like a hundred meters of walking the sound of water became louder. We came to a T intersection. A rather large stream filled the cross tunnel. We didn't want to wade so this marked the end of our walk. Claes said it was the main sewer from Stockholm. It flowed in this tunnel bored through bedrock 30 km to where we stood in Sodertalje and then 20 km more, passing through a modern sewerage treatment plant on its way out into the Baltic.

After the tour we walked back to the entrance where Claes picked up the malfunctioning seismograph and brought it back to Tom Tits for repair. The stainless steel pipe carried the waste from drug giant Astra Zeneca to their own treatment plant many kilometers away.

Leaving friends and family

Of course, to go someplace new I had to leave home, and work.
The last day was hard because I kept having to say good-bye to people I cared about.

The Teachers Institute had a surprise going away luncheon for me, so much of a surprise that they forgot to tell me about it! But, just in the nick of time, Eric found me and whisked me away to the restaurant. The "just-in-time arrival" at the restaurant fit right in with our philosophy of planning and giving workshops. We all laughed and laughed over how the guest of honor was invited last.

Here's a picture of the TI year 2000 gang:

In the back row: Paul,Karen, Linda, Eric, Modesto, Karen, and Tory
In the front row in the black fur coat: Niki.

It was harder still to leave my honey Ellen and our cats Christobel and Daisy.

Ellen and Christobel
Ellen and Christobel


Go to Week 2