Friday, January 11, 2008

Watching Mr. Wizard

With all of today's matter-of-fact technological advances, it's humbling to remember back when science was a world of ooooo's and aaaaaah's.
The vintage TV "Watch Mr. Wizard," which began on NBC in 1951 and ran 15 years, was a lightning rod for curious kids in the '50s and early '60s. It showed young viewers (and older ones, too) how science was all around them in every day life.
Two new DVDs from Digiview "Watch Mr. Wizard - Everyday Illusions and More" and "Watch Mr. Wizard - Electricity and More" feature three rare episodes each from the vintage series.
Mr. Wizard himself, Don Herbert, was the kind of genial kind of guy everyone wished was his teacher. He had the magical knack of taking the mystery of science.
The first segment on "Watch Mr. Wizard - Electricity and More" has Herbert guiding young Alex to figure out six different methods of ways of producing electricity in a Rube Goldberg type of labyrinth. Among the objects: a slide projector, a balloon, a speaker, a motor, a hinge, a bicycle wheel, a moustrap, a medicine dropper and a measuring cup.
The answers aren't as easy as you might guess.
Herbert shows how electricity can be produced from ordinary objects. Some of the methods he uses are quite ingenious.
In "Everyday Illusions," he shows a wheel that looks like it's turning in different directions, but it really isn't. He takes a paper plate and cuts off around the middle, leaving the edge. Cut two sections out of the edge the same size, then lay them down side by side. The one on top looks smaller than the one on the bottom. Things like this make these shows fascinating. Adults will surely find themselves drawn to them, too.
For a show of this vintage, the quality is exceptionally good. All the shows, three on each DVD, are in black and white.
For anyone who grew up with "Bill Nye the Science Guy," these shows will be a revelation. For those of us who watched Mr. Wizard regularly, it will bring back some great memories.
"Watch Mr. Wizard - Everyday Illusions and More" features "Everyday Illusions," "Musical Instruments" and Puzzles in Geometry." "Watch Mr. Wizard - Electricity and More" features "Six Kinds of Electricity," "How Animals Move" and "Sticks and Stones."