Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why it Matters: Beakman's World

Was I born with special engineer genes? Genes that built my entire body and brain protein by protein to constantly wonder, "How does that work?" Did God himself plan from the beginning of time that I would build model rockets, learn chemistry in my spare time for fun, and work on my own car? Probably. There were other factors, however, that helped me along my path to becoming an enginnerd: my parents, my grandparents, and Legos, to name a few. One TV show in particular was hugely influential in shaping my future. 3-2-1 Contact? No, too boring. Bill Nye? Getting warmer, but still boring. Beakman's World? Abso-freakin-lutely.

If you've never seen Beakman's World, you missed out. Seriously. You might have become a scientist. Beakman made science more fun for me at age 7 than pretty much any program before or since (except maybe Radiolab). It had everything a 7-year-old could want: rockets, explosions, airplanes, 6-foot-tall rats, talking penguins, goofy sound effects literally every two seconds, a techno-accordion theme song by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and a host with a lime green lab coat and hair that sticks up a foot above his head.

Below is a segment about rockets from Beakman's World. This segment in particular shaped who I am today. Throughout the course of elementary school, I launched dozens of air and water powered rockets in my backyard. I designed and built new and better ones. One exploded with a near-deafening boom as I was pumping it up. That was maybe the most fun rocket I ever built. I designed (though never successfully tested) gyroscopic guidance systems with gimbaling nozzles for these water rockets. This six minutes of television provoked literally dozens, probably hundreds of hours of childhood R&D, which I believe has made me a better engineer and a better person.

A few more notes about Beakman's World:
  1. Josie (Alanna Ubach) was the best assistant by a long shot. Her replacements, Liza and Phoebe, were not nearly as fun.
  2. Air pressure was the scientific principle behind pretty much everything in the first couple seasons. Pressure and fluids have been a particular engineering interest of mine. I don't know whether this is directly because of Beakman's World, or if it's just a coincidence. Regardless, pressure is cool. It makes airplanes fly, rockets launch, and bombs explode.
  3. The relentless sound effects may have contributed subliminally to my love of sounds today.
  4. I did not understand at age 7 that the name "Professor I.M. Boring" was hilarious.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I LOVED BEAKMANS world right after bill nye. These shows also shaped my future love for all things science and nerdy. I feel you were made specially by God to do what you do. Because even though we share the same enjoyment from a man in a rat suit I can not will not try to accomplish even a fourth of what you or jefferson do.