Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Science Fairs are dumb

Did I ever mention that I once got second place in the Science Fair?

Second place...sounds pretty good. After a long history of painful failure in any event that features tri-paneled foam core board, plastic letters, and some sort of preparation and follow through, 2nd place should be a revelation. Oh, if you only knew the truth.

To understand where I come from, some history might be helpful.

Let's look back, shall we?

3rd Grade Invention Contest:

We are supposed to come up with an idea for an invention and build it. Now that sounds like great fun! I get to built an invention from scratch, tell a story about why it would be useful, and then it would get displayed in the hallway and people would vote on who's invention is the best. This is better than a field trip!

The first part of the project was the building. This was to take place at home and then be brought in the next day. No problem, I'm the kid that loves to tinker (tinker means "break things," right?)! I was totally in my element. Totally. Totally, totally, totally.


unfortunately, life is rarely that simple. You see, I'm also the kid that likes to procrastinate. This trait, it seems, tends to dominate most any situation in my life. In my defense, it's not like I didn't *do* the project. Quite the opposite. I did the hell out of the project once I remembered it was due the next day...right before my bedtime. You'd be surprised how many kick-ass inventions are whipped out in 10 minutes.

The end result? "The Automatic Punching Machine," fashioned out of a Budweiser Box (my parents must have been bursting with pride), a barbell, and a boxing glove. The bar sticks through the box, the glove goes on one end, and you can push on the other end! Viola, you are punching! That, my friends, is an engineering marvel.

Sadly, the world wasn't ready for my invention and I lost the competition. Apparently, I was a victim of my own genius, much like Di Vinci before me, except that I don't share a name with a Ninja Turtle (and I'm not sure if he was exactly a victim, per se).

This was just the first case of me bringing shame down upon my family.

Fast forward to 4th grade...

Science Fair #1:

I had one of the all time classic experiments. You've got your sugar, you've got your salt, and you've probably got some other crap (what can I say, it's been awhile). Which one conducts electricity the best? Weee!

I've got to say, my Dad was right on with this one. He took me to Radio Shack, helped me build this whole circuit thing with a battery pack and wires on a board with a lightbulb, but he also let me do the work so I wouldn't be one of those kids. It was great and I was quite proud of the whole thing.

Then it was the special day. I packed up the foam core and the apparatus and headed off to school. The project was set up down in the Old Gym (it's official name. And yes, there was a New Gym) and when it was time to head down to be judged, I puffed up my chested and got ready to win a ribbon. Except I was missing one thing. Actually, I was missing several things, all related. It seems I had forgotten the distilled water, salt, sugar...anything that I had actually used in this grand experiment. I ran to the teacher; surely she could help! But alas, all she could suggest was that maybe there was something in the teachers lounge.

No! The teacher's lounge was barren and I had nothing to show the judge.

So when the judges came by, they just had to take my word for it that it was truly a magnificent experiment.

And then they purple ribboned me. The ribbon read "participation," but all I could see was "welcome to the ranks of the unwashed masses."

The family shame was building, but it would truly peak 3 years later...

Science Fair #2

It was 7th grade, or as I like to call it, the nadir of my existence. I'm reasonable certain that not one thing went well that year and the Science Fair was no exception.

I couldn't decide what sort of experiment would be the best to half-ass, so the teacher helped me out. She suggested I experiment with Paramecium, those little squiggly things that you have to look at through a microscope. Sounds easy, sign me up!

I don't remember much regarding the experiment itself. You see, I've blocked most of the 12th year of my life from my memory as is typical of survivors of traumatic experiences. The less I remember of my little mulletty haircut and too-short pants the better. But we aren't here to discuss the many ways I visually assaulted the community of Fort Wayne as a child, but rather to discuss my scientific shortcomings. The facts as I remember them:

I remember using those little glass slides, a microscope, and squirting some Paramecium water with a squirter thing. If I recall correctly, I was trying to gauge how the little squiggly things reacted to different environmental stimuli. Also, I remember that Vaseline either was one of those environmental stimuli, or I just used that to keep the Paramecium confined to their various environments. All I know is somehow I used Vaseline and Paramecium in the experiment (insert lubricant/paramecium joke here).

So anyway, back to environmental stimulation. I sat down the little Paramecium under the microscope, peeled back their little Paramecium eyes, and forced them to watch endless reruns of Full House all the while blaring the 1812 Overture over the loud-speakers.

...suffice to say, they all exploded (or "lysed", as it is knowing in the cellular world).

Okay, that didn't really happen, but I'm 90% sure I would have gotten first place if I had the wherewithal to try that out. Instead, I think I used some stupid chemicals and checked to see if they moved around in response. Whatever it was, I'm pretty sure it was lame.

And so the big day came and I made the big three-paneled board and waited to be judged. Somehow I was place in the "psychology" category. My results were presented and there were many nods and what-have-you, and then it was over. The end result? 2nd place.

I should be happy with that, right? I mean, only the total nerd-boys get first and so I was able to succeed while still remaining "cool."


(Sorry, I can't say that with a straight face. No amount of science fair could bring me within shouting distance of cool).

Sure, 2nd is generally good, but the problem with this is that I was the only person in my category. In essence, I lost to the absence of me. The contest was actually degradation by my presence. I was the original Billy Madison.

Now, that's tough to live down. Most people would be crushed by that sort of scientific failure, but not this kid. No, I took the high road and vowed revenge against scientific community (okay, so maybe "high road" is a stretch). I would prove my worth. I threw myself into the sciences, mastering the nuances of the physical world, earning my degree, and surpassing those who deemed me "unfit to do science."

After securing my degree, I began my work in High Energy Physics, the branch of physics that delves deeply into the fundamental forces of nature. I dug deeper and deeper into this world, and unlocked the secrets of life (you know, pretty much anyway). With this knowledge securely in hand, I have finally begun to implement my plan.

They think they're better than me? They think I'm a second rate scientist?

We'll see who's second rate once my army is complete.

Ever encounter a swarm of Flesh-Eating Paramecium?

It ain't pretty.

I love the "automatic" punching machine. Very Very clever. I was way cooler and had a science experiement which tested strength of magnets using staples. I don't know.

I hated the science fair because usually I would have some interesting experiment with graphs and whatever and then someone who made a plant grow won. Stupid. (just like the white sox)
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