Pharyngula

So here’s how I should teach science

Since we were just talking about those authoritarian science instructors, here’s an example from 1956 (even older than I am!). Although I’m going to have to say that the kid is a bit snotty.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Dick
    April 20, 2008

    Very funny :)

    I was a mite upset, though, how ‘Mr. Science’ never bothered to explain why the iron filings act as they do, or even the more detailed nature of how they act. The answer, of course, is that iron, being a magnetic material, lines up along the magnetic field lines.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    April 20, 2008

    OK. That made everything a little bit better.

  3. #3 Bride of Shrek
    April 20, 2008

    Mr.Science looks a little like Gomez Addams. Obviously no shortage of BrylCream in the 50′s. And I’m impressed he’s in a lab coat. You’re not a proper scientist unless you’re wearing lab coat….and fiddling with a Bunsen burner.

  4. #4 longstreet63
    April 20, 2008

    For a guy who was legendarily funny, we don’t get to see much of Ernie Kovacs these days. It’s a shame. That clip is pretty hilarious. Thanks.

    Steve “Just pay your taxes, Ernie!” James

  5. #5 tincture
    April 20, 2008

    When he folded his hands in front of his waist I thought the whole thing was about to go very wrong.

    Why is it so? on the ABC was awesome.
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/whyisitso/

  6. #6 Saint Gasoline
    April 20, 2008

    Hahaha, that magnet “experiment” that the scientist can’t explain reminds me of the “experiments” performed by creationists, in the absence of any explanatory framework!

  7. #7 BadeMart
    April 20, 2008

    The conifer that is older than the earth might give some cause for pause. Is it planted by the devil maybe, or was eden in Sweden?

  8. #8 JM Inc.
    April 20, 2008

    Oh god that was hilarious when the experiment with the egg worked! I wonder if they had a whole bit worked out about it not working for Mr. Science.

    As an aside, I wonder how many American adults today would be able to remember the principles behind these types of homemade experiments. Actually, I hated stuff like this when I was younger; all I wanted to do was read about the theory in the textbooks.

    “Mr. McClure, what does DNA stand for?”

  9. #9 Guido
    April 20, 2008

    #6:

    It reinforces my belief that Sweden is the closest thing to paradise that you can find on Earth. LOL

  10. #10 usagi
    April 20, 2008

    Ernie Kovacs, they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

  11. #11 UprightAlice
    April 20, 2008

    Ah, the Good Ol’ Days when comedy relied on humor. I’m so jaded now, I was sure I was about to get Rick Rolled. I have to say, that egg-in-the-bottle thing was nifty-keen. I wonder if it would work with a hamster?

  12. #12 True Bob
    April 20, 2008

    Damn you, Tincture, I went straight to that link after watching Ernie! Steal my Show and Tell topic, will you?

    Anyway, as said above, we see far too little of Mr Kovacs, who was a creative genius. Not enough room for him, what with the Next Greatest Attention Hound “reality shows” on TV.

  13. #13 DaveX
    April 20, 2008

    I remember my dad, who taught 4th grade, doing that egg experiment for his classes. I don’t recall him ever trying to suck the egg back OUT, though!

  14. #14 GumbyTheCat
    April 20, 2008

    Awesome. Sometimes old TV is the best.

  15. #15 Will K.
    April 20, 2008

    If I were an authoritative professor, I’d demand all of my students refer to me as “Mr. Science.”

    Or “Admiral Science.”

  16. #16 True Bob
    April 20, 2008

    Will K, how about “General Science”?

    /laughs at own bad joke

  17. #17 Quidam
    April 20, 2008

    Although I’m going to have to say that the kid is a bit snotty.

    Typical teacher – blaming the student :)

    I think the kid would make a good scientist, most scientists were snotty kids once. Why do some filings go to the north pole and some to the south? Why don’t they all go to the north pole? is it the same filings everytime? What experiment could I perform to test that?

    How does the pencil write on glass? Could I make a pencil that will write on glass? What would I use?

  18. #18 Dee
    April 20, 2008

    I used to do science demonstrations for my sons’ classes, and I’ve done that egg thing a couple of times. It’s fun when it works.

    My favorite demo was making some CO2 with baking soda and vinegar, and pouring the gas into one side of a paper bag scale. It was pretty neat to watch the kids’ faces as that side of the scale went down.

    And I’d be pretty snotty too, if I’d been burned the week before.

  19. #19 BobbyEarle
    April 20, 2008

    The kid would’ve been a great scientist…keep asking until you (hopefully) get an answer.

    OT, but “Laugh In” stole, borrowed, rediscovered, uh…you know, a lot of Ernie’s bits and ideas.

    Ernie Kovacs. I just wish I could have played poker with him. ;)

  20. #20 BobbyEarle
    April 20, 2008

    Which reminds me…

    I did a science demo for my little brother once. See, you take some Drano and dump a bunch into the toilet. Then, you mix in a goodly amount of bleach.

    Do not try this at home. “Sheesh, Dad, how was I supposed to know?”

  21. #21 Daniel
    April 20, 2008

    Aha! You see? There are questions that scientists can’t answer about magnets! This throws the whole ‘theory’ of magnetics into question.

    I propose a new theory called “Intelligent Pushing”, whereby some higher power (not sayin’ who, wink wink) pushes certain things toward magnets because they are so nice and shiny. Why isn’t aluminium magnetic? Cause he doesn’t like aluminium for some reason. QED.

  22. #22 Carlie
    April 20, 2008

    “How come that pencil writes on glass?”

    I love wax pencils. They rival Sharpies for usefulness.

  23. #23 ajani57
    April 20, 2008

    I tried a cool CO2 one with my class and they loved it…

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=ad1KuQlu4Fk
  24. #24 Onias
    April 20, 2008

    It’s amazing that folks in the 50′s could find time for such amusement. I mean, they all expected to die in the impending nuclear holocaust.

  25. #25 Ron Sullivan
    April 20, 2008

    Onias @ #24: Yeah we did expect that, sorta. That’s why we were all laughing our heads off. Cripes, I remember the whole school hiding under our desks and saying the Rosary by way of Civil Defense drill during the Cuban missile crisis, too; guess the ’50s lasted that long in some ways.

    But Ernie Kovacs! My early heartthrob! (One of several.) And on YouTube! Ah, the world is a wonderful place sometimes. {skip, whistle}

    Bride of Shrek, you must be young. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Insightful, too. I had a teenage crush on the first Gomez when he was still Dickens or was it Fenster? Maybe that’s why, the resemblance to Ernie. That was at least a decade later, tho’.

    And I never did smoke a White Owl cigar.

  26. #26 Ron Sullivan
    April 20, 2008

    And PZ, if you were to channel Ernie, I’d buy tickets to watch. A Mr. Science picket line at the next Elpexxed opening?

  27. #27 Luke
    April 20, 2008

    if you could put a link in your posts any time you put a YouTube video up that would be sweet – on my iPhone it wont play embeded videos but it will play YouTube videos if I click on a direct link to them.

    Thanks in advance PZ! ( and as they say in radio ‘long time reader, first time poster’ ha)

  28. #28 Etha Williams
    April 20, 2008

    Great video. I do think the lack of explanation with the iron filings reflects a real problem in American science education, though — “experiments” that are really just demonstrations of well-established principles without any explanatory content. It gives a mistaken impression of what science is….

  29. #29 chriss
    April 20, 2008

    Here’s a short docudrama on the very same topic…kids and their natural scientific curiosity…chuckle

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwVA698Hx2g

  30. #30 antaresrichard
    April 20, 2008

    Astin: he’s Dickens and… no, that’s not right. I’m Dickens he’s… that’s still not right. Oh, never mind.

  31. #31 chriss
    April 20, 2008

    Here’s some clips for those engineering and geological types too…chemists shouldn’t have all the fun…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtKQpMoplYk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0dtzQBuAlE

    I’ll be watching those Minnesota papers…

  32. #32 True Bob
    April 20, 2008

    Well it isn’t Mr. Science, but here’s a blend of mechanical destruction and chemical reaction:

    http://www.willitblend.com/videos.aspx?type=unsafe&video=glowsticks

  33. #33 themadlolscientist
    April 20, 2008

    Bet the kid grew up to be a top-notch scientist. Just look at those nerd glasses. 8-)

  34. #34 NoniMausa
    April 20, 2008

    “I propose a new theory called “Intelligent Pushing”, whereby some higher power (not sayin’ who, wink wink) pushes certain things toward magnets…”,/i>

    Nah, Pratchett beat you to it. It’s called the Love of Iron.

  35. #35 Daniel
    April 20, 2008

    Damnation! This is what I get for choosing Adams over Pratchett in my misspent youth.

  36. #36 David F.
    April 20, 2008

    I’m surprised nobody has followed up with this incarnation of Mr. Science yet.

  37. #37 David F.
    April 20, 2008

    re: #36 – oopsie – looks like the URL didn’t appear in the URL field…

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=GFPuo8s4Ywc

  38. #38 David F.
    April 20, 2008

    Can’t stop watching that Kovacs clip.

    The announcer in that clip is Bill Wendell, who was for many years the announcer for “Late Night With David Letterman” on NBC.

    But here’s the zinger…

    There is a rumor in the Youtube comments that “Johnny” may be a very young Christopher Walken.

    “Walken entered the planet Showbiz when he was a year old, by the time Christopher was 7, he did walk-ons, catalogue modeling. Between regular appearances at ‘Ernie Kovacs’, ‘Philco TV Playhouse’, ‘The Colgate Comedy Hour’, and a series called The Wonderful John Acton, as Kevin Actons.”

    http://www.netglimse.com/celebs/pages/christopher_walken/index.shtml

  39. #39 Yossarian
    April 20, 2008

    @UprightAlice #11

    I have to say, that egg-in-the-bottle thing was nifty-keen. I wonder if it would work with a hamster?

    Sure it’ll work. But you have to shave and grease it first.

    Science is FUN!

  40. #40 Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth
    April 21, 2008

    P.Z., I could not use reply to make the following:
    Do you dissent from Eugenies C.Scott’s assertion that when certain scientists maintain there is no cosmic teleology, that they are making a philosophical pointl rather than a scientific fact. I follow Weisz in “The Science of Biology,” that science finds causalism rather than teleology at work.” End states are consequences [ I say causal] not foregone conclusions of beginning states[ teleology."Otherwise, one " explains an end state by simply asserting it given at the beginning. And in thereby putting the future into the past, the effect before the cause,teleology negates time."
    I take this finding to find that causal natural selection thus contradicts teleological God and thus, theistic evolution is an oxymoron. Selection is its own boss,not needing Super Boss and at cross position with it. Otherwise, the new Omphalos argument ensues that there is deception, which is that selection merely follows out the it had to be plans of God at work.
    And furthermore, all teleology - fine-tuning, probability, from reason and design- beg the question that Super Boss had us in mind rather than we are the products of natural causes, the sufficient reason, contrary to Leibniz..
    Please,P.Z., set me straight on this! Thanks for all your work and any response to this.
    Thanks, Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth [ skeptic griggsy]

  41. #41 Daniel
    April 21, 2008

    Interesting point, griggsy.

    I get annoyed when believers try to sneak in god by using theistic evolution. I’ve been searching for the right way to knock that one down. Now I can say, “But evolution is atelic.”

    They’ll probably just look at me funny, but they do anyway.

  42. #42 CortxVortx
    April 21, 2008

    “We’re going to need another Timmy!”

  43. #43 Ron Sullivan
    April 21, 2008

    OK, it’s the whole next day and nobody’s stepped in to say, “It was Dutch Masters cigars, you stoopit biatch!”

    I Am Officially The Geezer Here.

  44. #44 gwyllion
    April 21, 2008

    kid looks like a young (very young) ben stein

  45. #45 Libby
    April 21, 2008

    Ernie was always quite the scientist – cf. his brilliantly insightful commentary on evolution:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Uw03hS_EMY

  46. #46 D
    April 21, 2008

    Huh… I just scanned all the comments, and am I the only person who thought of xkcd?

    Seriously great times.

    Also, “experiments in a can” are tasty.