Wednesday, January 03, 2007


If I was still a teenager, Brainiac would be my favourite program. It's sciencey and very destructive :o). It's almost good enough that it's worth losing Open University for!

Here are some clips...

Stuff in microwaves:

Various random experiments:

Some stuff you can try at home (or not):


Anonymous said...

Whilst I agree that the clips are rather amusing (in a rather low brow sort of way) don't you think that this sort of programming undermines classroom science teaching somewhat? It always seems to me that the kids would rather see explosions than listen to a teacher going on about the oxidation potential of hydrogen peroxide. The other great offender I think are the Royal Christmas Lectures. I like to see the kids faces as the lecturer does the hard, boring bits between the flashing lights and the "can I have a volunteer please" demonstrations.

John said...

Agreed they're low brow.

Do they undermine classroom science teaching? I don't think so. One of my close friends is a chemistry teacher at an all-girls school who uses the clips extensively in her lessons, partly to provoke interest, partly to show demonstrations which would be difficult within a classroom context.

Science teaching is fundamentally about helping kids to understand the world around them. So if they can get enthused that the stuff they're trying to understand has fun consequences, they might well be more motivated to understand it.

I didn't use any Brainiac clips in my lessons, mostly because I didn't have them, but the program certainly provoked discussion and interested learning about, for example, the real difference between solids and liquids (with reference to running across custard).

I do agree with respect to any boring bits of the syllabus, which is very different from the difficult bits. But if something is inherently boring and doesn't have any fun consequences, I don't really see the point of having it on the syllabus in the first place.

Oh, and the Royal Institute Christmas Lectures seem to have gone downhill a long way since I was younger. Bring back Faraday!

John said...

Oh, and my chemistry is a bit rusty, but isn't the oxidation potential of hydrogen peroxide essentially about which explodes better when mixed with glycerol and why - H2O2, KMnO4 or HNO3?

Anonymous said...

Dunno. A level was as far as the chemistry went. Engineering seemed a far more enticing option at the time.

I thnk I would have liked videos in science lessons at school. One of my chemistry teachers was always moaning about how loads of experiments weren't allowed anymore as they were considered too dangerous for public consumption.

AD (for I need a sig)

Anonymous said...

hi mr A , why do the Christmas lights start flashing?

John said...

Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation, so when they get absorbed by the wires, they create an alternating voltage in the wires with the same frequency as the radiaton.

Is that a quote from the GCSE syllabus? Or is it the A-level?

Anyhow, the Christmas tree lights are then probably the type that flash if you put any type of voltage across them (they'd do that using a bistable circuit, which I can discuss if you really want, but it's in old GCSE textbooks).