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The Late Movies: Mr. Wizard

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It doesn't matter how old you are—almost everyone has a memory of Mr. Wizard. Whether it was on NBC or Nickelodeon's, Don Herbert, the man behind the safety goggles, taught scientific lessons to children for nearly 50 years. There is a really amazing (but sadly not embed-able) series of interviews on YouTube that I can't recommend highly enough. But in the meantime, check out some of his greatest hits here.

Watch Mr. Wizard

In 1951, Don Herbert hit TV sets all across the country as Mr. Wizard, a friendly neighbor who would teach science to children in his home. The first episode aired on WMAQ, Chicago's NBC station. Twenty-eight episodes were taped that year, including this one, where he explains how gasoline engines work.

The Science of Heat

Mr. Wizard uses a $500 bill—fake, naturally—to explain how metal conducts heat faster than paper.

Optical Illusions

In 1964, NBC canceled Watch Mr. Wizard. But not before he was able to explain how our eyes play tricks on us.

Mr. Wizard's World

In 1983, Don Herbert returned to the mainstream airwaves on Nickelodeon's Mr. Wizard's World. (Though he'd spent many years making guest appearances on other shows and remained in the public spotlight.) Check out the intro!

Advertising Mr. Wizard's World

Nickelodeon knew how to hook kids. In fact, as an adult, I still want to know the answer to the question about when to use flash when taking photos!

And I distinctly recall this commercial from my childhood.

The Science of Siphons

Want to know how water can flow uphill? Mr. Wizard knows the answer!

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iStock
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The Delicious Chemistry of Sushi
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iStock

The secret to sushi's delicious taste is invisible to the human eye. Chefs spend years training to properly prepare the Japanese culinary staple, which consists of fresh fish and seasoned rice, either served together or wrapped in seaweed. At its most elemental, as the American Chemistry Society's latest Reactions video explains below, the bite-sized morsels contain an assortment of compounds that, together, combine to form a perfectly balanced mix of savory and sweet. They include mannitol, iodine, and bromophenol, all of which provide a distinctive tang; and glutamate, which adds a savory, rich umami flavor (and turns into MSG when it's combined with a sodium ion).

Take a bite of science, and learn more fun facts about the Japanese culinary staple's long history and unique preparation method by watching the video below.

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Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder
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Fossilized Poop Shows Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Loved a Good Crab Dinner
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Lead author Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder

Scientists can learn a lot about the prehistoric world through very, very old poop. Just recently, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Kent State University studying fossilized dinosaur poop discovered that some herbivores weren't as picky about their diets as we thought. Though they mostly ate plants, large dinosaurs living in Utah 75 million years ago also seem to have eaten prehistoric crustaceans, as Nature News reports.

The new study, published in Scientific Reports, finds that large dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period seem to have eaten crabs, along with rotting wood, based on the content of their coprolites (the more scientific term for prehistoric No. 2). The fossilized remains of dinos' bathroom activities were found in the Kaiparowits rock formation in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a known hotspot for pristine Late Cretaceous fossils.

"The large size and woody contents" of the poop suggest that they were created by dinosaurs that were well-equipped to process fiber in their diets, as the study puts it, leading the researchers to suggest that the poop came from big herbivores like hadrosaurs, whose remains have been found in the area before.

Close up scientific images of evidence of crustaceans in fossilized poop.
Chin et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

While scientists previously thought that plant-eating dinosaurs like hadrosaurs only ate vegetation, these findings suggest otherwise. "The diet represented by the Kaiparowits coprolites would have provided a woody stew of plant, fungal, and invertebrate tissues," the researchers write, including crabs (Yum.) These crustaceans would have provided a big source of calcium for the dinosaurs, and the other invertebrates that no doubt lived in the rotting logs would have provided a good source of protein.

But they probably didn't eat the rotting wood all year, instead munching on dead trees seasonally or during times when other food sources weren’t available. Another hypothesis is that these "ancient fecal producers," as the researchers call them, might have eaten the rotting wood, with its calcium-rich crustaceans and protein-laden invertebrates, during egg production, similar to the feeding patterns of modern birds during breeding season.

Regardless of the reason, these findings could change how we think about what big dinosaurs ate.

[h/t Nature News]

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