The Yucky Stuff

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Photograph by Anne Dupont of Aplysia dactylomela mating chain

These sea slugs, who Christopher referenced, are hermaphroditic, and can form full rings with each simultaneously getting and giving. The ones we find here in our local California Waters are Aplysia calfornica. The wonderful slimy, deep purple ink of this family was used by the Romans to dye their “Royal Purple” togas.

This purple, mucousy ink is among the coolest yucky stuffs I know. My former brother-in-law, Larry, suggested a kids’ book with this title, all about snot, puke and pus, and I think he was right on the mark. I have thought about the great popularity of MythBusters, and lamented a bit that it is often more about explosions and ick, but I see that this level of flash, humor and excitement is essential to their success.

My goal with Schmience is not solely to feed naturally curious kids with fascinating information, they will seek that out on their own; my goal is to take the kid who thinks science is boring and give them understanding and respect for the validity of the scientific process. So, we need to aim at a much broader target audience than our usual science program our STEM outreach is likely to address, i.e. people likely more like me and you. To reach this audience, I think we need to be more committed to entertainment value than to the ultimate rigor of the data.

Beakman tried, and succeeded in many ways, at this entertainment value with a zaniness of the container, making natural history data more palatable to this same audience. But it is the process we want to make more palatable, which is what MythBusters succeeds at even with a very bland container.

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