Science

Voting now open for the Mr. Wizard Moment of Science Contest!

Click here to vote after viewing the top ten entries, or use the ugly Flash poll in the sidebar at right! Polls close at 23:59 Sunday, July 22. Voting’s over! Check out the results here.

So I’ve finally managed to sort through the entries in the Mr. Wizard Moment of Science challenge and collect the cream of the crop for your viewing and voting pleasure. I am completely blown away by how much fun these are! We have fire, electricity, small explosions, cute kids, pickles, lemons, and a helluva lot of great science.

Not only are these entries amusing and educational, but they are also incredibly inspiring. I’m still marveling at the sight of so many people having such a good time learning about and teaching science. Best of all, it’s all out there on the Internet for free. This is definitely something we’ll be trying again, so if you didn’t get a chance to do a video for this round, stay tuned!

Here are the top ten, listed in order of when they were first uploaded. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

razela steps through paper

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stickings demonstrates Charles’ Law

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conjure42 blows up a balloon

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goodguyseatpie explains insulation

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oddduck shows thermal conduction

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kseieresen shows infrared light

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deetee09 shows the Bernoulli principle

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the skeptigators make a lemon battery

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house221b shows air pressure

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ptigmatic and the glowing pickle

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Runners up:

cody976 shows you how to extract DNA!

Chris Pirillo discusses hydroponics!

shanedk shows heat conduction with his tea!

wallabio uses inertial cavitation to make music — by cracking his knuckles! Um. Ow?

And Robert Krampf demonstrates thermal conduction with a water balloon — a great video, but relegated to runner-up status because it wasn’t made for the contest. But check it out, Robert is phenomenal!

Once you’ve seen all the entries, go vote for your favorite. The winner will receive:

One vote per customer please!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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15 Comments

  1. Damn, the insulation video doesn't load. The other ones were very good; as a budding teacher (German, English, Economics), I'm not sure how, but I will definitely use one or two of these. Once I've seen the last video, I'll also vote for the (non-science-)classroomiest of those.

    But really great work from all. I'm still fascinated by the "stepping through a sheet of paper" one.

  2. I'm with the others! It's tough to pick one, and I could make a case for pretty much ALL of them. I've narrowed it down to a shortlist, but I'm gonna have to sleep on it to decide!

    Way to go, Rebecca, for doing something interesting and informative to honor Mr. Wizard! Glad you got such good responses, and let's hope these videos get tons of views so they can help bring science to the public just like their namesake once did :)

  3. Gosh, I watched all of these and they're all great in their own way. In my mind I decided to eliminate those that went over 5 minutes and/or didn't mention Mr. Wizard in some way, but then ptigmatic redid his electric pickle and the lemon boys are fun…. I think I'll go for practicality – too hard otherwise. :-)

    Berandor said: I’m still fascinated by the “stepping through a sheet of paper” one.

    I liked that, too, but she goes so fast I don't think it's clear how the paper is cut.

  4. Many very nice videos!

    I liked the glowing pickle one a lot, but had to give my vote to "house221b" for two reasons:

    1) I thought her presentation style was much better than the pickle guy's (and just about everyone else's).

    2) Her experiment would be unlikely to KILL anyone if performed by a young child!

    safety rant on/

    Two nails and a bare-wire extension cord is a recipe for disaster! And hasn't ANYONE heard of safety glasses?! Try explaining to your eye doctor why he needs to fix your burned cornea, caused by pieces of flaming pickle!

    safety rant off/

  5. Melusine: I re-watched the video and stop-motioned at the cutting stage to reproduce it. You're right, it goes a little fast. That's why I went with "insulation" in the end – I expected the damn cup to burn up any moment, but it didn't.

  6. Steve T,

    Thanks for the safety concerns. As a high school science teacher, you can be sure that safety in my classroom is always paramount. Whenever I have done this demonstration in the classroom, it has been done with multiple safety systems and procedures in place.

    That said, since Rebecca charged us with capturing the spirit of Mr. Wizard, I tried to make my video as much like one of his demonstrations/experiments as possible. Take a look at the still in the beginning of my video. No safety glasses, no gloves, no aprons. Mr. Wizard is even wearing a tie. Both Mr. Wizard and the kid seem to have flinched backwards from what is obviously a very rapid reaction if not an actual explosion. This sort of innocent sense of amazement and excitement is what I tried to replicate.

    I am old enough to have been part of the first wave of his fans in the '50s and '60s and still have a couple of his books. I found his Nickelodeon shows to be just a bit too…shall we say "overproduced".

    Standing in somebody's kitchen, a tie, sleeves partially rolled up…that's how I remember Mr. Wizard. If I had spent more time in pre-production, it probably would have occurred to me to do the video in black and white.

  7. Berandor,

    The main thing that can go wrong is if the two nails attached to the two wires on the extension cord come in contact inside the pickle or wiggle loose and fall out and short out against something.

    That is why I used big, long pickles and relatively short nails and did my demo with the pickle resting on a plastic cutting board. I have seen more elaborate set-ups used (just search YouTube for "electric pickle"). You too can make use of more complicated demonstrations if you have the resources.

    Just watch it carefully and be ready to pull the plug if necessary. The times I have done this at school, my power source was variable and I slowly increased the voltage. However, if everything is set up correctly and monitored as it happens, it should work fine.

    An addendum to my demostration: after about the 50th time watching it, I noticed that the outside light in the background of my video is a sodium vapor light and its color matches the pickle's. These are sidewalk lights that line the sidewalks behind the houses in my neighborhood.

  8. Ptigmatic, it's good to hear you are a teacher! In trying to narrow it down I was ultimately torn between house221b, who I thought, as SteveT did, presented a very nice thought-out demonstration even if she said she was a little nervous, and goodguyseatspie (thermos/insulation), whose video was very well done in several ways. The clincher for me was that he said he was a teacher at a community college and the video set could be of good use (I guess I like the idea that the videos could be shared). Too, what better way to demonstrate the influence of Mr. Wizard than to be a science teacher.

    Berandor: Melusine: I re-watched the video and stop-motioned at the cutting stage to reproduce it. You’re right, it goes a little fast.

    In a way it's good in that if you hand a kid a piece of paper and ask "How do you think you might cut this into a loop that you could walk through?" it might be a good exercise to see how they tackle the problem. An idea might be to say "Stop the video here and see if you can do this yourself" then resume the video and show it in slow motion. (Easy to be an armchair critic when I'm not the one making a video!) Razela even commented that she didn't realize at first (many years ago) that it had to be cut from the folds.

  9. Another approach to the paper loop demonstration is to present it as a bet. I say to the class, "I bet I can cut a hole in this piece of paper big enough for me to step through without breaking it." Tally those who bet on my side, and those who don't and set a reasonable payoff (candy for the kids who win, classroom KP for those who lose).

    At least with my high school students, competition is a great way to get them involved.

  10. Well, to say that they are all creative just about sums-up the presentations fairly well. Some are better than others, but they are all done well.

    In the name of Mr. Wizard's memory, that as a former child who does recall with verve, the experiments extraordinaire, I would say one that truly presents their case for the memory in which The Science Master taught and explained things so well that a child could understand the many facets of the way that science works, I cast my vote for goodguyseatpie and his insulation demonstration. Well done ! Bravo, and kudos !!! Hope ya get the prize, guy.

  11. Okay, I finally got around to watching them all, and it was a toss-up between goodguyseatpie and house221b. I ended up voting for house221b because her video came across as a little less cluttered (the subtitles on goodguys' entry were a nice touch, but they were a bit prominent on occasion).

    All the videos were pretty darn good though.

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