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Men of Science


Don Herbert, better known as Mr. Wizard, has died. I watched the show he did in the 80’s on Nickelodeon. I learned from him that you can’t fold any piece of paper in half more than 8 times. I learned how to measure the speed of sound using a cap gun and two walkie-talkies, information I impressed my 5th grade science class with when our teacher, Mr. Dunn, posed the question (the one other answer I remember involved someone yelling and someone else jumping out a window). I watched as Mr. Wizard used some mysterious science-y powder on the surface of an aquarium full of water, enabling him to retrieve objects from the bottom of the aquarium without getting his hand wet because the powder kept the surface tension from being broken. I tried to re-enact this experiment in my bathroom using a Dixie cup and baby powder, with less successful results.

My 5th grade science teacher, Mr. Dunn, passed away a few years ago. I am occasionally struck by the fact that he taught us to balance chemical equations. In 5th grade. I never really caught onto it, but somehow managed to do ok in the class. When he would go through some equations in class on the overhead projector, he would usually finish each one by saying “It just falls into place.” It didn’t, for me, but I still hear him saying that sometimes when something does fall into place. And when we re-visited balancing equations in 8th grade, I finally got it.

When we were learning about electricity, Mr. Dunn had the whole class yell “Amps never change in a series circuit” loudly several times. He assured us that by doing that, we’d never forget it. I can’t tell you exactly what it means now, but I do still remember it.

  • http://tonymendoza.livejournal.com/rel=nofollow tony mendoza

    I have a tape of Don Herbert on the Letterman show from 1986. That powder is called Lychopodium.
    He was also one of the guests on the first Letterman show on NBC in 1982.

    I learned that you can walk through a standard piece of paper if you cut it properly.
    And when you squirt some lighter fluid into a paint can and light it, nothing will happen. But if you shake the can, it will explode.