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How Did Nickelodeon Make Green Slime?

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Nickelodeon’s iconic slime made its first appearance on You Can't Do That on Television, the Canadian-made sketch comedy show that ran from 1979 to 1990. From there, it became a staple of almost everything the network did, with regular slimings on many programs, at the Kids' Choice Awards and at the Nickelodeon Studios attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

According to Bill Buchanan, a crew member on You Can't Do That on Television for its whole run, the slime was invented early in the show’s history. He was working in the props department one weekend when he got a rundown of items needed for an upcoming show. One of the sketches called for “this kinda disgusting slimy green stuff,” but there were no further details, or even an indication of how the stuff would be used.

Another propmaster, Paul Copping, was given the task of making the slime, and even after asking the director and the scriptwriter, he couldn’t get any more details on what the slime was suppose to be. So, he just went with his gut and mixed up a whole garbage can full of slime. Buchanan says he knows the color came from green latex paint, but didn’t know what else was in it. It smelled and looked foul. People avoided the can while walking through the studio. Bits of sausage may have been floating in it.

The day the slime scene was shot, the propmasters learned the slime’s purpose. It was supposed to be dumped on one of the actors. There was an argument. The producers wanted to go ahead and do the scene, but the prop guys were worried there was something in there that could hurt the actor or make them sick. The sketch got pulled until a new slime could be made. While the old stuff stayed in the garbage can and festered in a corner of the studio, Buchanan, Copping and company got started on a new formula that could get in someone’s eyes and mouth without causing any problems.

This second batch was made mostly from green Jell-O that had been set in the fridge, then pulled out the day before shooting to liquefy and get mixed with flour.

That slime recipe was used for a while, but it required too much preparation time. If the crew had to have the slime ready earlier than expected, it wasn’t fluid enough and had solid chunks of Jell-O in it. They needed a way to make lots of slime on short notice, and turned to Quaker Oats Crème of Wheat for the next generation of slime. They’d basically stir the cereal up cold on the spot in whatever amount they needed, and then dump in green food coloring. The problem with that recipe was that it turned pasty as it dried, and the actors found they couldn’t get it out of their hair. They countered that problem by adding a couple of drops of baby shampoo to the mixture, and stopping tape after a sliming so the actors could rush off the set and into the showers before the slime hardened.

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Slime evolved for other shows over the years. Cottage cheese and vegetable oil are sometimes mentioned as ingredients. As Double Dare host Marc Summers explained, most of the slime used on his shows was made of “vanilla pudding, applesauce, oatmeal, green food coloring, and by the third day, anything else that was on the obstacle course.” Yum.

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Big Questions
Are There Number 1 Pencils?
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Almost every syllabus, teacher, and standardized test points to the ubiquitous No. 2 pencil, but are there other choices out there?

Of course! Pencil makers manufacture No. 1, 2, 2.5, 3, and 4 pencils—and sometimes other intermediate numbers. The higher the number, the harder the core and lighter the markings. (No. 1 pencils produce darker markings, which are sometimes preferred by people working in publishing.)

The current style of production is profiled after pencils developed in 1794 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté. Before Conté, pencil hardness varied from location to location and maker to maker. The earliest pencils were made by filling a wood shaft with raw graphite, leading to the need for a trade-wide recognized method of production.

Conté’s method involved mixing powdered graphite with finely ground clay; that mixture was shaped into a long cylinder and then baked in an oven. The proportion of clay versus graphite added to a mixture determines the hardness of the lead. Although the method may be agreed upon, the way various companies categorize and label pencils isn't.

Today, many U.S.  companies use a numbering system for general-purpose, writing pencils that specifies how hard the lead is. For graphic and artist pencils and for companies outside the U.S., systems get a little complicated, using a combination of numbers and letters known as the HB Graphite Scale.

"H" indicates hardness and "B" indicates blackness. Lowest on the scale is 9H, indicating a pencil with extremely hard lead that produces a light mark. On the opposite end of the scale, 9B represents a pencil with extremely soft lead that produces a dark mark. ("F" also indicates a pencil that sharpens to a fine point.) The middle of the scale shows the letters and numbers that correspond to everyday writing utensils: B = No. 1 pencils, HB = No. 2, F = No. 2½, H = No. 3, and 2H = No. 4 (although exact conversions depend on the brand).

So why are testing centers such sticklers about using only No. 2 pencils? They cooperate better with technology because early machines used the electrical conductivity of the lead to read the pencil marks. Early scanning-and-scoring machines couldn't detect marks made by harder pencils, so No. 3 and No. 4 pencils usually resulted in erroneous results. Softer pencils like No. 1s smudge, so they're just impractical to use. So No. 2 pencils became the industry standard.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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