You might not believe me, but I was kind of a nerd when I was a kid. My family lived out in the mountains, miles away from anyone my age, so I spent my days buried in books and playing with my rock collection. Then, the summer before I started kindergarten, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids hit theaters and my world view changed forever.
We all remember that movie. Rick Moranis plays the world's coolest but possibly least responsible dad. He's a lovable, crackpot inventor who can never seem to get anything right—until he does and everything goes really wrong. Although it had previously just caused things to explode, the electromagnetic shrink ray that he was trying to invent magically and accidentally works, when his kids try to fetch a lost baseball out of the lab. Adventure ensues.
That shit blew my five-year-old mind. Sure, the giant bugs and house-sized Lego bricks were wild to think about, but I found myself returning to that shrink ray. Could it really work? How would it work? Why weren't more real-life scientists working on shrink rays? Seemed like a valuable opportunity for scientific research.
So, like many kids surely did in the aftermath of that movie, I suddenly became very interested in very small things. My dad gave me the microscope that he had when he was a kid. I peered at my hair under the lens and thought it looks like a rope I would climb if he accidentally shrunk me. I started reading the Magic School Bus series and wondered why my teachers weren't as crazy and cool as Ms. Frizzle. That's not to say my teachers weren't cool—they were awesome. Thanks teachers!
All of my questions and curiosities became tangled. The same year Honey, I Shrunk the Kids hit theaters, a computer scientist named Tim wrote the proposal that would soon become the World Wide Web. Of course, it would be several more years before my family would take the plunge and buy our first computer, a Packard Bell, and some time after that before we signed up for Prodigy (RIP) and took our first voyages into cyberspace. In the meantime, it was just my imagination, my books, and me trying to piece together what lasers were and how machines worked. I hoarded Eyewitness books and became obsessed with cutaway drawings that helped me figure out things out. But I still wanted to be tiny so that I could disappear into the world, explore everything on a spectacular scale.
That summer was two and a half decades ago. Tomorrow, I turn 30, and I still don't feel like a grown up—unless I try to do athletic activities. (Then I feel like an elderly man.) I'm incredibly lucky to work in a job that lets me keep reading and learning about how the world works. It's especially incredible, when I get to learn about technology that I dreamed about in those wistful days wondering about electromagnetic shrink rays. In a weird way, though, it was movies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and books like The Magic School Bus that taught me to imagine the infinite possibilities of technology and the profound rewards of curiosity and ingenuity. It was the absurdity of a wacky inventor dad shrinking his kids and forcing them to fight giant ants that helped me realize that the future is up to us.
So if it's been a while, give Honey, I Shrunk the Kids another watch. As of about a month ago, it's streaming on Netflix. And then, if you really want to bend your mind a little bit, catch up on the latest developments in nanotechnology. Everything is so amazing. [Netflix]