Afternoon Inquisition

AI: The Catalyst

The latest episode of Point of Inquiry is with Steve Spangler.

Who’s he? He’s a science educator, an inventor of science toys, and yes, he’s “The Mentos Guy”.

He used to have science segments on the Ellen DeGeneres show, but he’s most famous for his viral video of the Diet Coke and Mentos geyser experiment.

He’s determined to increase science literacy for kids and adults by making science fun. His enthusiasm for science is infectious.

Many people could credit him as being ‘the catalyst’ for their interest in science.

How did you become interested in science and/or skepticism?

Who have been your inspirations?

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  1. I was always interested in science, and it started very early. I can’t pinpoint any one particular person as an inspiration. We had a 1972 edition of the world book encyclopedia that I paged through endlessly. My dad had some Time/Life books on early man, which I think were very basic and perhaps confusing, but had great illustrations of groups of hairy man things butchering wooly mammoths in gory detail. Television had a very small presence in our house, but I remember watching Mutual of Omaha’s wild kingdom on one of our 3 channels in black and white, and somewhere in there decided I wanted to be a biologist. This lasted through childhood, high school, and college, where something went terribly wrong and I wound up working in construction. oops.
    Now I’m a blue collar guy that reads science books. My mother has never recovered, and still thinks that I should be a research scientist because I can look things up on the internet.

  2. Skepticism as a formal entity and subculture? Easy. The SGU. When did I start questioning? I guess I was 8,9 or 10 years old, in Hebrew school, trying to rationalize the creation of the universe in 7 days thing. I remember thinking, ” they can’t mean that literally; it must be figuratively, representing millions of years.” The seeds of skepticism were planted then.

    Regarding science? I can’t remember a time when I was not interested in science. I really can’t.

  3. I grew up just as the two wonderful shows Beakman’s World and Bill Nye the Science Guy were running on air. They both started running at or around the time when I was born. As I grew up, I made my parents turn them on every week. I had a green Beakman’s World lab coat and used to mix soap with stuff in my house because I wanted to be a scientist. Although this might seem odd, I liked Beakman better. Probably because I was about 5 and he had zany hair and a female assistant. Also a guy in a bad rat suit.
    And here I am, 18 years or so after the episodes started airing, heading to school to fulfill a childhood dream of making science happen. One day I really want to meet Paul Zaloom and thank him for what he gave me.

  4. I can’t remember. As far as I can remember I have always been interested in science. It is kind of like reading, I don’t remember a time I couldn’t do it. Skepticism is fairly new to me as an organized philosophy. I guess it was Randi that started me down that road. Science inspirations. Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Star Trek TOS, Julius Sumner Miller, comic books.

  5. I have had an interest in science since I was a young child both for the inability of people, ie my parents, to answer questions such as:
    Why is the the sky blue.

    Also from an old TV show called Mister Wizard back in the 50s.

  6. I became interested in Skepticism just after my 40th birthday (4 yrs ago) when my then boyfriend introduced me to “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit”.

    My interest in Science followed.

    My inspirations are: Penn & Teller, Randi, Joe Nickell, Ben Radford, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Skeptoid, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, George Hrab.

  7. My dad. He was a scientist all the time I was growing up. More that this, however, he had a great curiosity for how things worked. The typical scene would be him during one of the rare occasions I saw him relaxed and watching a baseball game. He’d hold up a glass of beer, get a thoughtful look, and a couple of months later he’d be drinking his own beer. I’d ask tons of questions and he’d somehow make me figure out most of the answers.

  8. Nature and science shows on Disney, PBS documentaries, and reading old school SciFi like Asimov and encyclopedias in Middle School.

  9. I was always interested in all things science, such as my grandma’s book about the evolution of man with lots of handpainted pictures.

    Organized skeptisism and critical thinking I fell into when I discovered the JREF while looking for hard evidence after reading a piece on the miracles in Lourdes on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 2.

  10. I’ve been interested in science for as long as I can remember, but things didn’t really take off until my Aunt bought me a copy of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” for Christmas one year.

  11. I’m a lot like Gabriel Brawley in that I started reading at an advanced level very early and loved both science non-fiction and science-fiction. I questioned early and often until I learned how dangerous it was to do that in a Catholic school. They still had physical punishment…

    I learned a lot of science from Isaac Asimov’s science books, too. My grandfather was an engineer and let me have his old science magazines, too.

    It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that I slowly decided it might be safe for me to look for other skeptics publicly, like here.

    Inspirations: Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Star Trek TOS and the non-fiction section of my local library.

  12. I have always been interested in science. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in science. As a kid, I read Korean comics that had sciency topics and I was always fond of that large book on the solar system.

    As for skepticism, that is something which was introduced to me by reading Phil Plait and PZ Myer’s blog. Without them, I don’t even know if I would have stopped believing in creationism.

  13. Hi there!

    I was a true believer! I used to be into ALL of the New Age/Magic-with-a-k/Paranormal stuff. If you’d have asked me about James Randi, I’d have said: “Oh yeah, he’s that guy that disbelieves in everything paranormal, but then if you try to show him any proof, he analyzes the hell out of it until he can come up with some reason to disprove it. (I mean seriously, “ideomotor effect”?? wtf?)”

    Then I joined a ghost-hunting group and started looking for ghosts. I wanted to find some clear, concrete, iron-clad, no doubts about it PROOF that ghosts exist. I was going to show those skeptics, oh yes I was.

    Then I wound up looking through photos of “orbs”, listening to “EVP”, and even met some “light-trance-mediums”. I went on a few ghost hunts where we discovered … not much of anything.

    Suddenly skepticism didn’t seem quite so silly. :( I started reading Randi’s website, and the oh-so-strict-requirements to prove paranormal activity sounded … well, pretty reasonable, actually.

    So I guess if you want to know who REALLY got me into skepticism, I guess the truth is … Ed and Lorraine Warren*. If they hadn’t started the whole “ghost hunting” craze, I probably wouldn’t be a skeptic today! :D

    — Craig

    *Okay, truthfully, James Randi. But I woulndn’t have known who Randi was without the Warrens bad-mouthing him.

  14. @Imrryr: Oh my gods. “Pale Blue Dot.” Absolutely the best way to start it all.

    I guess since I’m on round two of comments, I should say who my inspirations were…

    It all started with Brian Greene, string physicist and writer fantastic. He doesn’t preach any side of the religion (or skepticism) battle, but his explanation of the universe got me thinking… how alone we are.

    3 months of aching nihilistic depression, 2 Richard Dawkins books, and a good bit of scotch later, we have ourselves an atheist and skeptic fatsplenda.

  15. Science: I had a really good 9th grade science teacher who ignited my interest. This was followed by an equally good honors chemistry class in 10th grade; one experiment that sticks with me to this day involved titrating competing brands of antacid (Rolaids and Tums) to see which actually absorbed more acid. Not even a difficult time with physics in 11th grade could shake my interest after that. I majored in biochemistry in college and have been working in the biotech industry ever since.

    Skepticism: I was already agnostic in high school and had become an Atheist by the time I graduated college (not that I had much of a religious upbringing to rebel against in the first place). However, I never knew anything about the Skeptic movement until I met my husband-to-be. He was a big Penn & Teller fan and had learned about Randi through them; Randi became my chief inspiration as well. I realized that Skepticism incorporated a lot of ideas that I already embraced as a scientist and an Atheist, so it was a natural fit for me.

  16. I was, fortunately, raised by people interested in science. My father had an engineering degree and, even though it took my mother many years to finish her degree, she now has one in psychology and may yet finish her degree in molecular bio. I was pretty much weaned on PBS. Though when I say Ben Affleck was responsible for my early interest in science, only those in-the-know won’t laugh at me. Because of this early involvement, I’ve always asked too many questions and refused to accept easy answers. But it did take some time for me to reach what qualifies as a Skeptic (and certainly to arrive at atheism). But I’m so thrilled to have finally found the skeptic world. Even though I’m definitely still a sideline character in it, I feel at home as I haven’t ever before. Thanks for existing :D

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