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"I need a good explanation for a third grader, whose Mom tells me is deeply concerned, that the sun will blow up."

I don't normally write for third graders, but I think they deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and told the truth, but also to be treated with kindness and optimism about the world. Here's my attempt at what I would say to a third grader -- or perhaps anyone -- who suddenly had to wrestle with the coming death of our entire Solar System.
"Through that last dark cloud is a dying star... And when it explodes, it will be reborn. You will bloom... and I will live." -The Fountain I want to start off by letting you all know that I, myself, ...
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Ian Bosdet's profile photoJohn Reiher's profile photoMichael Gormly's profile photoSordatos Cáceres's profile photo
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We had a similar, albeit simpler chat when my son was around 4 or 5 years old and devouring every astronomy book he could lay his hands on. He was very concerned that the world was going to end and everything on it destroyed.

Telling him that 4-5 billion years was a very long time (as long as the earth has been around) didn't seem to help, perhaps because it's difficult for humans to comprehend just how long that is, I know I struggle with it!

What did help was letting him know we are all made of stars, a star had to die for us to be born, and that the death of our star may lead to other life being created. It took a while but he came to terms with that and doesn't seem phased now at age 6.

I wish I could've explained it as eloquently as you though. My only criticism would be "The stars of the past died so that you could be here" reads a little too much like some religious leanings, but that's probably my bias showing through :)
Ralph H
 
It's been "blowing up" for a few billion years, but in a controlled nuclear-fusion way that keeps us warm on the Earth. In another few billion years, it will run out of fuel - that's the real thing to worry about.
 
Nice way to put it, and I have reposted it on FB, most of my south american friends are on FB, and I keep on posting there things that I find here, I don't mind being "the link" between here and there, I actually enjoy it, and feel like I am doing something important, thanks for this and keep them coming,,,
 
+Simon McKenna Well times really something difficult to understand for a 5 year old, for them a month or even a with "tons" of times, and their birthdays and holidays are way to much apart; just remember the cartoon that had the gag of a box with a sticker that instruct to "open till Xtmas" since for a child Christmas is always something very distant.

We he gets older (or if he already has) will understand that worrying about the end of the universe is pointless...

I think if you use Moby´s single "We all are made of stars" could help with the chat...
 
Might include we (humanity) don't HAVE to be here when it does...
 
I love the concept of the article, but I feel like I'd lose all geek cred were I not to point out that the sun won't actually explode - it will turn into a red giant (the jury is still out on whether it would destroy the Earth that way), and then shrink into a white dwarf, but it won't actually explode at any stage.
 
+David Freiberg , it is ok to be a geek, I wish I was one ;), I believe and realize that "the truth" shall prevail, and when in doubt you should state so, but children are like religious people (no intent on offending anyone), meaning that if you say "theory" to a child he might interpret it like you don't know what you are talking about, and discredit all they heard from you, bite size chunks of information is the best when dealing with kids (myself a father of 2, and the older one 17 years old, loves chemistry, go figure) I think that +Ethan Siegel does a good enough job here, nobody is perfect, and sometimes we have to settle for less than perfect to be able to get to be asked the next question and the next one and the next... my kids stopped asking questions when they realized I was actually going to answer them in excruciating detail, only when I relaxed a bit they started enjoying the answers....
 
Probably a great time to instill some desire for space exploration.

"Yes, little Johnny, the earth will some day be unlivable. But it's up to you and your children and your children's children to make sure we find a new place to live..."
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