Monday, September 17, 2007

In Memoriam

Last night I was very saddened by something I saw on the Emmys. And no, it wasn't just that The Sopranos being in their last season totally stole Best Drama from Heroes.

During the montage of industry folk who had passed on during the last year, I suddenly felt a lump in my throat. Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, had died.

How could this be? And how had I not heard of it until now?

Mr. Wizard was a big part of my childhood. Every morning throughout elementary school, I would watch his show while I ate breakfast; usually non-sugary-cereal and half a grapefruit--would that I ate so healthily now!

Mr. Wizard is the one who taught me that vinegar and baking soda create a volcano of foam. That if you're reaaaaally patient, you can cook a hot dog via solar energy using a skewer and a cone made of tin foil (I never could wait long enough). He demonstrated an exponential chain reaction with a bunch of ping pong balls and mousetraps, and showed me how to use lemon juice as invisible ink (do you know how to reveal the hidden message?).

And yes, without Mr. Wizard I would not have set the bathroom carpet on fire at the age of 6, trying to make toilet paper flare up like flash paper.

But in addition to all this, I think the most important thing I learned from Mr. Wizard was Curiosity. As he demonstrated Newton's First Law of Motion with a marble and half of a paper plate, he taught me to question the why of what I saw around me. To inquire as to how things worked, and what forces in the world caused them to work that way.

For that, Mr. Wizard, I thank you.

Though I must say that the "magician" who came to my class in the third grade probably does not. Without your guidance, I might not have figured out how he stuck a needle into that balloon without popping it. You'd have been proud, it was even slyer than your scotch tape trick! Sure, I may have "ruined" the "magic" of it for the class, but to me the real magic was knowing how it worked.

I'm sure you would agree with me, Mr. Wizard.

What I wouldn't have given to be one of the kids who got to drop by Mr. Wizard's house and learn how different chemicals burn different colours, and build telescopes out of cardboard tubes.

Thank you, Mr. Wizard, for making science interesting--far more interesting, I must say, than most of the science teachers I have known.

Thank you, Mr. Herbert, for inspiring a generation of children to look beyond the surface, to search out explanations, to seek out the Whys of everyday life. I can only hope that there is someone out there to follow in your footsteps.

But I've gotta say, those are an awfully big pair of saftey glasses to fill.

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