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Mr. Wizard shows his dark side

A compilation of moments from Don Herbert's
A compilation of moments from Don Herbert'sNickelodeon via YouTube

The star of the "Mr. Wizard" science TV programs, Don Herbert, is usually thought of as a kindly old soul who guided kids through the intricacies of math, physics, chemistry and more. But science can be a tough taskmaster, and so could Herbert — as shown in a three-minute YouTube video compilation put together by Onion alums Diane Bullock and Mike Schuster. "Sounds logical, doesn't it? Well, that's wrong," Herbert tells one poor kid. Mr. Wizard also forces the boys and girls to listen to loud noises, strain against a ninja finger applied to the forehead, and stop spelling words out loud as they type them.

Herbert, who passed away in 2007 just shy of his 90th birthday, won the Peabody Award and a lab bench full of other honors. You can be sure he'd look kindlier (and smarter) if you saw the full shows in context. But who said video clips (or science, for that matter) had to be fair? And by the way, if Mr. Wizard were to try to do the things today that he did back then, he might be labeled a terrorist.

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Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.