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Mr. Wizard is Dead, and We Are Killing Science

Don Herbert, best known as Mr. Wizard, passed away last week. Mr. Wizard taught and inspired two generations of children on his television shows Watch Mr. Wizard (1951-1965) and Mr. Wizard's World (1983-1990). [youtube]j_RJtkKGw4c[/youtube] More than just demonstrating how to measure the height of a tree from by its shadow, Mr. Wizard taught kids two very important lessons. First, he taught them that science is about how the world works, and the world doesn't always work the way you think it does. Second, he taught them that science was not just for old men in lab coats with millions of dollars of equipment, that a lot of interesting experiments and demonstrations could be done with household objects and a little adult supervision. This is a particularly bad time in our nation's history to lose Mr. Wizard, because science is being attacked on exactly those two points. First, you have the continuing saga of religious people trying to get creationism taught as if it were science. Dressing it up as "intelligent design" has been so effective because the public has such a tenuous grasp on how science works and what it is. Go back to your childhood and remember how Mr. Wizard would ask his youthful assistants what they thought was going to happen before each experiment. Sometimes they reasoned it out correctly, sometimes they didn't - the point is that Mr. Wizard would then test the hypothesis, and the results of the test trump any guessing, no matter how logical or earnest. To write creationism into science textbooks, we must rewrite Mr. Wizard's old episodes too. In the new version, the children make a guess, Mr. Wizard runs the experiment, and if the results disagree, we throw out the experiment and not the guess. Creationism and intelligent design might be interesting ideas, and many people might believe in them very strongly, but until they are willing to throw out their preconceived notions of the world based on new evidence, they cannot be called science. Second, you have various government efforts that have made it harder and harder for kids to actually do the kinds of experiments and demonstrations that Mr. Wizard was so adept at. For example, this post from Memepunks describes how the war on drugs and war on terror have made it almost impossible to get chemistry sets as good as the ones sold 20 years ago. It's not just the chemicals - in many states you must register to own common lab equipment. And you can forget about model rockets. Our efforts to protect the children are instead dumbing them down. No Child Left Behind required the addition of science standards by 2005-06. That's a good thing, right? Not if it means cutting money from high school labs and shifting science education toward the memorization of facts (which are much easier to test). America has lost Mr. Wizard when we need him most. For a little more insight into Mr. Wizard's show, watch the clip below from a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman. [youtube]TLRxVwRClRg[/youtube]

Jerry Falwell he Sure was Fat

Noted author and atheist Christopher Hitchens takes the opportunity to crap all over Jerry Falwell's warm corpse. His latest book God Is Not Great attacks all forms of religion so it is no surprise that he takes this position. Of course after listing all the crap Falwell did when he was alive it is hard to blame him. [youtube]YkAPaEMwyKU[/youtube] Just to show that he doesn't play favorites he also takes on Islam. [youtube]an7TaDQ5Yo0[/youtube]

What Wouldn’t Jesus Do? The Five Funniest Videos of the Son of God

In honor of the passing of Jerry Falwell, who made a mockery of Christ's teachings, we present the best mockeries of Jesus himself. Actually, that's a bit harsh - these aren't really mockeries, more like satire. 1. First off, in Passion of the Christ 2, Judgment Day, we see Hollywood logic extended to Mel Gibson's blockbuster. A box-office hit deserves a sequel, and any self-respecting sequel needs twice as many explosions. [youtube]EWuji6TADXM[/youtube] 2. Family Guy pairs Jesus with Chris Tucker. Finally, some recognition that Jackie Chan is equal to one-third of the holy trinity. [youtube]NqH2dGettBw[/youtube] 3. Monty Python's Life of Brian is, of course, the classic elseworlds version of Christ. Brian is almost, but not quite, Jesus. In this scene, Brian tells us that we're all different: [youtube]qANMjwLmo6Y[/youtube] 4. A modern-day Jesus feels strongly that he will survive. [youtube]fN1dPtEph2U[/youtube] 5. Finally, UltraChrist gives us the most probable scenario. Jesus, returned after nearly 2000 years, finds today's youth just don't relate to him. So he casts away his robes for spandex and becomes UltraChrist! This may also be the only movie depicting Jesus vs. Hitler, Jesus vs. Richard Nixon, and Jesus vs. Jim Morrison. [youtube]uWAkNr_gGh8[/youtube] Did I miss any? put a link to any other great Jesus-based comedies in the comments below. By the way, I disqualified at least one video for cheating - Yakety Sax makes anything funny.

Dowsing for Marijuana in High School Lockers

Imagine you are a high-school principal charged with keeping your students away from illegal drugs, at least during school hours. Trained dogs might be accurate, but they are too expensive. It takes too long to go through every single locker. What can you do? Buy a $900 dollar dowsing rod designed to find drugs! Pot heads, your days are numbered. This nugget of practical information comes from the video below (about a third of the way through). It turns out the dowsing rod will find drugs - if you keep opening lockers until you find them. ... The talk is by Skeptic Society founder Michael Shermer. Perhaps skeptics are just a source of resistance to new ideas, obsessed with ridding their lives from false positives. But I'll take $1 worth of skepticism over a $900 dowsing rod any day.

Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Water Bottle

This video is blowing up in the interweb, but if you haven't seen it, take a look. Mike Daisey, probably best known for his descriptions of working for Amazon.com during the dot-com bubble, is performing a pretty funny monologue. Unfortunately, a Christian group is there to protest, and there ain't nothing Jesus hates more than the F-bomb. [youtube]-IeMtQ-SZtA[/youtube]