“We have found an unbelievable little errand genius!” explains the TV announcer. “He’s only two years and nine months old.”
That’s how the first episode of an unusual new reality show begins. It’s called Old Enough!. The premise: send toddlers out into the streets to run two- or three- or four-step errands. What could possibly go wrong?
Old Enough! has been a hit in Japan for 30 years, but it only recently got picked up by Netflix to stream to audiences in the U.S. and elsewhere, with English subtitles. (The show’s Japanese title, Hajimete no Otsukai, more directly translates as My First Errand.) Typically, the toddlers are asked to buy several items at a store, or maybe deliver something to someone and then pick up another thing somewhere else and bring it home.
Give the kids credit: the tasks might not seem all that difficult to you or to Air Mail Pilot, but we didn’t learn how to use the potty just last year.
In one typical episode, a mother sends her four-year-old girl off to a crowded fish market to buy four kinds of tempura, along with udon noodles, and shrimp. The little girl remembers to get the right tempura and noodles, but skips the shrimp, buying sea bream instead. It’s a choice, not a mistake: she likes the fish’s pink color and thinks it has a cute face. Plus, the shrimp are still alive.
Hiroki is the name of the two-year-and-nine-month-old boy from the first episode. His mom dispatches him to a not very nearby supermarket to buy curry and fishcakes for dinner, as well as flowers for the family shrine to their dead grandma. It’s a two-kilometer round trip (or, a little over a mile).
Walking alongside a busy road, Hiroki arrives at the market in 23 minutes. “That’s an average speed of 2.6 kilometers per hour,” the unseen announcer observes. “Good going!” Hiroki is momentarily distracted by some toy vending machines out front, but soon ventures inside, heading straight for the fish cake section, then bravely asking a worker where the flowers are. He selects a lovely bouquet of chrysanthemums. (Air Mail Pilot’s birth flower, in case you’re wondering.)
“That will be 587 yen, sir,” the cashier tells him. Hiroki gives her a 1,000-yen bill, deposits the change in his backpack like a pro, and heads for home. “Superb!” crows the announcer. “He forgot the curry, but this is more than enough!” We agree.
But wait! Plot twist! Hiroki stops and turns around. “I need to go again,” he says to himself. “The curry.” He returns to the store, gets the curry, then lugs it all back home, crossing a heavily-trafficked street in the process, with the help of a flag his mother made for him that says “STOP.”
Some viewers may be made anxious by the sight of unaccompanied toddlers in the near vicinity of fast-moving trucks and buses, but the kids are tailed by camera crews who make sure things don’t get too dangerous, and occasionally intervene when an errand runner gets in a jam.
Other viewers may be annoyed by the America’s Funniest Home Videos-style laugh track of grown-ups chuckling when, say, the kids dawdle or get something wrong. Air Mail Pilot would like to suggest a sequel: Too Old!, in which some of those smug adults are tasked with making a TikTok video, or simply turning on the Wi-Fi. —Bruce Handy
The story of dinosaurs’ extinction is well known: one day 66 million years ago, a huge asteroid hit Earth, killing—some immediately, some in the days and weeks and month following—most life on Earth. For the first time, researchers have found a fossil from that fateful day.
On April 6, paleontologists were working at the Tanis dig site, in North Dakota, when they came across a preserved Thescelosaurus leg. (The Thescelosaurus, an herbivore that could grow as long as 13 feet, looked like a huge lizard.) The leg was so well-preserved that it still had remnants of skin on it. Thanks to that “ultimate dinosaur drumstick,” as researchers described it, scientists could trace the animal’s death back to the day the asteroid struck Earth.
The fossil was discovered about 1,864 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, where the asteroid hit. The asteroid, which was the size of Mount Everest, didn’t actually kill the Thescelosaurus. Rather, scientists believe the asteroid caused a flash flood that wiped out the unsuspecting dinosaur.
When the asteroid slammed into the ground, the impact threw molten rocks into space. When those pieces cooled down they formed glass beads, which scientists call spherules, that came crashing back to Earth. At the dig site, paleontologists also found a spherule that might contain a microscopic fragment of the asteroid.
“We’ve got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment,” Robert DePalma, a graduate student at the University of Manchester who led the dig, told The Times of London.”It’s almost like watching it play out in the movies.”
Luckily, the discovery was caught on tape, because Sir David Attenborough happened to be filming a documentary about the dig. In May, Dinosaur Apocalypse, a three-part series, will premiere in the U.S. on PBS.
“When Sir David looked at [the leg], he smiled and said ‘that is an impossible fossil,’” Phillip Manning, a professor of natural history at the University of Manchester, told The Guardian. “And I agreed.” —Bridget Arsenault
Imagine doing a backflip. Hard, right? Now imagine doing one in a wheelchair. We can’t, but Benjamin Sleet, a 12-year-old from Oxfordshire, can. This month, Sleet landed his very first wheelchair backflip, earning him the title of youngest Brit, and first male, to ever do the trick.
Benjamin was born with spina bifida, which means his spine and spinal cord did not form properly, resulting in the paralysis of his legs. But his condition has not prevented him from excelling at motocross. He does wheelchair motocross (WCMX), a sport in which athletes use their wheelchairs to do tricks usually performed by skateboarders or BMX riders.
Benjamin was introduced to the sport when he was eight, by Richie Inskip, a WCMX skateboarder. “We met Richie and he stood Ben up on his skateboard and took him around the skatepark,” Angela Sleet, Benjamin’s mother, told The Daily Mail. “He suggested Ben bring his wheelchair to the skatepark so we did.” Benjamin’s been hooked ever since.
Richie also introduced Benjamin to Lily Rice, a WCMX legend. At 13, Lily was the first English woman to pull off a wheelchair backflip. Since then, she’s won many WCMX tournaments. When she’s not practicing tricks, she’s fighting to get wheelchair motocross in the Paralympics and introducing young athletes to the daunting sport.
Lily lent Benjamin his first skateboarding chair, a special wheelchair to execute motocross moves. Benjamin practiced his backflips for months, launching into a foam pit over and over again to get the projectile movement down.
On April 2, Benjamin was ready. “I didn’t know I was going to do it, I just decided I was going to have a go,” he told The Times of London. Luckily, Benjamin had friends standing by to film the flip. You can watch the whole feat—from his speeding down a ramp to his backflipping off its ledge to his friends cheering—on YouTube.
“I was shocked at first and then I felt excited,” Sleet said. “It wasn’t really scary.” (AIR MAIL Pilot would have been terrified.)
Now Benjamin has even bigger goals. He plans to compete internationally, just like Lily. “He’s just been getting better and better,” his mother said. —Clara Molot