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MAD PROFESSOR by mark frauenfelder

Updated on April 1, 2014

welcome to the laboratory

I won the book MAD PROFESSOR by Mark Frauenfelder in the Squidoo BoingBoing Lensmaster Challenge, which took place back way in the early days of Squidoo. This lens has some of my explorations of the experiments in the book, so if you're curious and like weird science projects, come check it out!

If you've got a budding mad scientist at home, or a junior Maker, this book is a Must-Have! It's full of all sorts of fun for a child who is in elementary school. Some middle schoolers might like it, some might want something more challenging. As an adult nerd who was the only girl she knew who had a chemistry set growing up, I loved it.

photo coutesy of Rae Schwarz/Relache
photo coutesy of Rae Schwarz/Relache

I'm So Qualified To Be A Mad Professor

some background on the mad lensmaster

As the daughter of an artist and a chemist, I got a lot of art with my science, and a lot of science with my art growing up. It's like having a Reese's peanut butter cup problem, but more aesthetic. Or more flammable, depending on what's really going on.

Here's my earliest proof of my mad professor tendencies. I'm sure it's not the earliest instance, it's just the earliest moment that has survived on film. I am the taller one, in the lab coat, with the heavily-darkened brows, antique glasses and hair that I just couldn't stick up enough. The shorter person is my younger sister, my "monster" that night, sort of part-vampire, part-I-don't-know-what.

My parents had gone out to a party or something, and we were old enough to be left home alone without a baby sitter, trusted to survive the night without killing each other, as it was phrased. I'm thinking I was about 13 in this pic, so that would make my sister 9. Yeah, that's about right for the level of spazziness going on.

So, Mom and Dad come home at like 1 AM, expecting the two kids to be asleep, as those were the directions left, and usually, we didn't do anything overtly out of line. (The secret shenanigans are an entirely different matter.)

However, upon walking through the front door, my parents were instead greeted by their eldest, in her mad professor ensemble, bursting out with "Gut Ef-fen-ning... Velcome to za La-bor-A-tory!" I recall how their mouths dropped open as my sister lurched "monster-like" from down the hallway, fangs half-falling out of her mouth. Man, we'd stunned 'em. I mean, sure, they'd come home to a crazy scene or two before, but this one was a truly original moment that came out of left field.

Bless 'em, my folks laughed their heads off, took the picture you see here with a Polaroid, threw us in the bath to scrub off way too much makeup, and put us to bed.

Anyway, that's my "Mad Professor" cred story, in case you were wondering.

The Book I Won Is... - MAD PROFESSOR by Mark Frauenfelder

So, this is that book I won. The subtitle on the cover reads "Concoct Extremely Weird Science Projects" then says "Robot Food, Saucer Slime, Martian Volcanoes and more."

Very cool.

According to the introduction, this book contains select experiments that were left behind in a notebook sealed inside an alloy egg, that was found on the island of Kia Ora, in the South Pacific. The experiments are the work of the scientists at Zoober Science Laboratories. It would seem the scientists and their lab have been shot forward in time due to one experiment which, in the interests of safety, has not been included.

Alien Professor Zoober, chemist Philo T. Funsworth, roboticist Helena Capek and a gorilla geologist named Tambuzi have left notes to guide budding mad professors through a series of experiments that demonstrate polymers, robotics, earth sciences, fringe science and the scientific method.

EXPERIMENT #1 --> GOON GOO - or, how I began at the beginning

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I figured I'd start right at the beginning and do the very first experiment in the book: Making Goon Goo.This uses Elmer's Glue-All, water and borax solution to make a material that I remember from when I was a kid that was just called "slime."Mix up the three ingredients and you'll start to notice the glue getting lumpy very quickly.When it gets thicker, you put it into a thick, zipping, plastic bag and knead it like dough.  This will make it even smooth.I didn't have regular food coloring in my house, I had natural food coloring. It's made from vegetable coloring, corn syrup, and glycerin.My goo #2, which used a bit less borax solution than goo #1, had the EXACT texture I remembered.Here you can see the difference between the two goos.  The thicker one is more like Silly Putty, the second one is more like "slime"
I figured I'd start right at the beginning and do the very first experiment in the book: Making Goon Goo.
I figured I'd start right at the beginning and do the very first experiment in the book: Making Goon Goo.
This uses Elmer's Glue-All, water and borax solution to make a material that I remember from when I was a kid that was just called "slime."
This uses Elmer's Glue-All, water and borax solution to make a material that I remember from when I was a kid that was just called "slime."
Mix up the three ingredients and you'll start to notice the glue getting lumpy very quickly.
Mix up the three ingredients and you'll start to notice the glue getting lumpy very quickly.
When it gets thicker, you put it into a thick, zipping, plastic bag and knead it like dough.  This will make it even smooth.
When it gets thicker, you put it into a thick, zipping, plastic bag and knead it like dough. This will make it even smooth.
I didn't have regular food coloring in my house, I had natural food coloring. It's made from vegetable coloring, corn syrup, and glycerin.
I didn't have regular food coloring in my house, I had natural food coloring. It's made from vegetable coloring, corn syrup, and glycerin.
My goo #2, which used a bit less borax solution than goo #1, had the EXACT texture I remembered.
My goo #2, which used a bit less borax solution than goo #1, had the EXACT texture I remembered.
Here you can see the difference between the two goos.  The thicker one is more like Silly Putty, the second one is more like "slime"
Here you can see the difference between the two goos. The thicker one is more like Silly Putty, the second one is more like "slime"

Mad Professor Inspiration

Thomas Edison once said invention was 98% inspiration and 2% perspiration.

Mad Professors know that the inspiration part of that equation often contains chocolate, goofing off, playing videos games, internet surfing and watching lots of movies.

Movie watching with popcorn is even more inspiring.

How To Walk Around Underwater

This is a movie I made during one of the Saint Stupid's Day parades in San Francisco. They are sort of wacky but then again, they do take place on April 1st. I just happened to get some film that shows a guy who is so smart, he's figured out how to walk around underwater without being in a swimming pool!

Mad Links for Mad Professors

Everything listed here is guaranteed to make you both smile and think. Bless those folks with too much time on their hands who think these things up and then actually go try them out!

EXPERIMENT #6 --> NIBBLE DOUGH - The yummiest experiment in the book!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I followed the instructions in the MAD PROFESSOR for making the basic nibble dough.I used some food/plant-based colorings for my dough.  Same flavor, with portions colored differently.Wrapping the second color around the center core.All rolled-up and sliced, you can see the cross-section of colors.  They'll stay just like that as they bake.I made my Nibble Dough into some alien eyes.  You see the finished pattern in the sliced and baked cookies.Even though these cookies look very strange, they taste delicious!I even made a Squidoo cookie!
I followed the instructions in the MAD PROFESSOR for making the basic nibble dough.
I followed the instructions in the MAD PROFESSOR for making the basic nibble dough.
I used some food/plant-based colorings for my dough.  Same flavor, with portions colored differently.
I used some food/plant-based colorings for my dough. Same flavor, with portions colored differently.
Wrapping the second color around the center core.
Wrapping the second color around the center core.
All rolled-up and sliced, you can see the cross-section of colors.  They'll stay just like that as they bake.
All rolled-up and sliced, you can see the cross-section of colors. They'll stay just like that as they bake.
I made my Nibble Dough into some alien eyes.  You see the finished pattern in the sliced and baked cookies.
I made my Nibble Dough into some alien eyes. You see the finished pattern in the sliced and baked cookies.
Even though these cookies look very strange, they taste delicious!
Even though these cookies look very strange, they taste delicious!
I even made a Squidoo cookie!
I even made a Squidoo cookie!

More Fun for Mad Professors - great kids science books for fun and learning

Here are some more great books that offer up equal doses of fun and learning for kids who are interested in science and doing experiments.

Tell me about your experiments and creations!

Lab Notes

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    • ssuthep profile image

      ssuthep 9 years ago

      This is an amazing lens. Great presentation. Great Personality and Fun Lens. I am always delighted and amazed to read your fun and useful lenses.

    • VBright profile image

      VBright 9 years ago

      LOVE the colors! Great job!

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 9 years ago

      How fun! I'm adding this to featured lenses at Edible Science Experiments.

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Susan, since the book is geared towards elementary school kids, I felt I'd keep other recommendations along that same age range. I mean, my idea of a mad scientist is Dr. Frankenfurter, you know?

    • Lewister profile image

      Susan 9 years ago from Texas

      Aw man! Where's Weird Science? Way better than Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. :-) I really need to try this book out and maybe a few others. Now that I'm allowed to play with fire, I'm sure I could have quite a bit of fun with them.

    • Barkely profile image

      Barkely 9 years ago

      I love the Squid cookies! Thanks for adding this to Fun For Kids!