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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
What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell Funny?
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The asparagus has a long and storied history. It was mentioned in the myths and the scholarly writings of ancient Greece, and its cultivation was the subject of a detailed lesson in Cato the Elder's treatise, On Agriculture. But it wasn't until the turn of the 18th century that discussion of the link between asparagus and odorous urine emerged. In 1731, John Arbuthnot, physician to Queen Anne, noted in a book about food that asparagus "affects the urine with a foetid smell ... and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys." Benjamin Franklin also noticed that eating asparagus "shall give our urine a disagreeable odor."

Since then, there has been debate over what is responsible for the stinky pee phenomenon. Polish chemist and doctor Marceli Nencki identified a compound called methanethiol as the cause in 1891, after a study that involved four men eating about three and a half pounds of asparagus apiece. In 1975, Robert H. White, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego, used gas chromatography to pin down several compounds known as S-methyl thioesters as the culprits. Other researchers have blamed various "sulfur-containing compounds" and, simply, "metabolites."

More recently, a study demonstrated that asparagusic acid taken orally by subjects known to produce stinky asparagus pee produced odorous urine, which contained the same volatile compounds found in their asparagus-induced odorous urine. Other subjects, who normally didn't experience asparagus-induced odorous urine, likewise were spared stinky pee after taking asparagusic acid.

The researchers concluded that asparagusic acid and its derivatives are the precursors of urinary odor (compared, in different scientific papers, to the smell of "rotten cabbage," "boiling cabbage" and "vegetable soup"). The various compounds that contribute to the distinct smell—and were sometimes blamed as the sole cause in the past—are metabolized from asparagusic acid.

Exactly how these compounds are produced as we digest asparagus remains unclear, so let's turn to an equally compelling, but more answerable question:

WHY DOESN'T ASPARAGUS MAKE YOUR PEE SMELL FUNNY?

Remember when I said that some people don't produce stinky asparagus pee? Several studies have shown that only some of us experience stinky pee (ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the subjects taking part in the study, depending on which paper you read), while the majority have never had the pleasure.

For a while, the world was divided into those whose pee stank after eating asparagus and those whose didn't. Then in 1980, a study complicated matters: Subjects whose pee stank sniffed the urine of subjects whose pee didn't. Guess what? The pee stank. It turns out we're not only divided by the ability to produce odorous asparagus pee, but the ability to smell it.

An anosmia—an inability to perceive a smell—keeps certain people from smelling the compounds that make up even the most offensive asparagus pee, and like the stinky pee non-producers, they're in the majority.

Producing and perceiving asparagus pee don't go hand-in-hand, either. The 1980 study found that some people who don't produce stinky pee could detect the rotten cabbage smell in another person's urine. On the flip side, some stink producers aren't able to pick up the scent in their own urine or the urine of others.

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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