When I was a little kid I was fascinated by science. It was cool to find out how nature worked, how machines worked, etc. We learned a lot in science class in school, but for my generation we had someone special to show us the wonders of science.
His name was “Mister Wizard.” Actually his real name was Don Herbert and his television show was called “Watch Mr. Wizard.” In each weekly live episode he would perform some kind of an experiment and he had a boy or girl or both help him show the audience an amazing fact of science. The show premiered on March 3, 1951 on WNBQ-TV in Chicago, Illinois and was carried on the NBC Television Network. The show ran from 1951 through 1965. According to Wikipedia more than five thousand Mister Wizard Clubs were formed throughout the United Stated by 1956.
I sort of remember some of his science experiments as I watched the show each week while growing up in Rochester, New York, but one particular episode really stands out in my mind. It’s really too bad that a picture is not available. He demonstrated Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion which is stated simply as “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Mr. Wizard had a way of demonstrating such complicated ideas in a way that children could easily understand. Just how did he demonstrate Newton’s Third Law? It was very simple. He had his young assistant sit in an office chair that was on wheels and he did the same. He then handed the youngster a CO2 fire extinguisher. Taking one in his hand also he instructed the youth to squeeze the trigger on that extinguisher and aim it straight ahead at the same time with him. The two of them raced across the stage backwards as the CO2 was discharged. Action and equal reaction. Understood! A Canadian produced revival aired in 1971, but the Nickelodeon Network for children revived the show calling it “Mr. Wizard’s World and it ran from 1983 to 1990.
Of course others have followed in Don Herbert’s footsteps. The most notable is Bil Nye “The Science Guy.” His modern science education show started on PBS and later was syndicated by Walt Disney Television. It ran from 1993 until 1998. Bill Nye is now the CEO and spokesman for the Planetary Society. Check it out at: http://www.planetary.org/.
What brought about this week’s column is a January 7, 2019 article in UCLA Newsroom.edu written by Stuart Wolpert titled “A $50 do-it-yourself device designed at UCLA makes science fun for students of all ages.” It’s called DIYnamics and was developed by students at UCLA. In the article, according to Jonathan Aurnou, a UCLA professor of Earth, planetary, and space sciences and founder of the project “There’s nothing intimidating about this system. We create what students see on a weather map. MIT offers a very nice laboratory model of atmosphere and ocean dynamics that costs about $6,000. Our goal was to lower the cost to below $100, and we got it down to 50 bucks, using Legos, a Lazy Susan and a $5 planter. Everyone can use the Lego table. It’s an incredible teaching tool.”
They put a tank of water containing various shades of food coloring on a tabletop and rotate it with the use of a Lego motor to show the motion of the atmosphere and the ocean. To show the importance of this project the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society journal also published a story about the “DIYnamics” project.
If you would like to see directions on how to build the fun project go to the DIYnamics You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnUHxOSVY4G4OFbF8XL1qUg
The idea, of course, is to make science not only interesting but also fun. The television shows were entertaining and fun, but this project really gives the students the hands-on-thrill of seeing how nature works. I’m sure the team will develop more educational projects in the future.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].