Category Archives: Humor

The Science of the Musical Fruit (Beans)

I confess;  I often hesitate to fix and serve any kind of beans to my family because. . . well, you know why.

The more you eat, the more you . . . you know the rest.
The more you eat, the more you . . . okay,  you know the rest.

There are all kinds of jokes about, well, “this,” but what many people don’t realize is that there’s a reason why beans are so, um, chatty.  It’s science.  It’s biology.  And chemistry.

It doesn’t matter what kind of beans you’ve consumed, either.  There are many types of beans and they’re all guilty.

See?  Many different kinds of beans!
See? Many different kinds of beans!

But, guilty of what, you might ask?  You know the answer to that, but WHY do beans make us musical?  THAT’S the science of it.

Beans are carbs, and carbs are sugars.   The specific sugars in beans are called oligosaccharides, and there are several different kinds, all of them difficult.   Bean sugars are different from most other sugars because bean sugars are BIG.  They’re bulky.  Most people’s small intestines just can’t break these sugars down the way they can easily bully the sugar in that candy bar, so these bulky sugars usually make it through the small intestine intact.

That means that when they pass into the large intestine, the bacteria that live there (nearly a thousand different kinds!)  take a look at all those chewed-up oligasaccharides and do a group attack on them.  All those different kinds of bacteria devouring the almost intact evidence of your dinner is a pretty intense activity, and it produces gases, all kinds of gases, two of which are hydrogen and methane.  The methane is what produces most of the odors, pushed out by the hydrogen.   If you had some eggs along with the beans, the atmospheric results are even more pungent.

No baked beans left in the dish.  That means some pretty pungent activity later tonight.  I might need to go shopping then.
No baked beans left in the dish. That means some pretty pungent activity later tonight. I might need to go shopping then.

Don’t forgo beans entirely; they’re an excellent source of protein.  I would not, however, advise you to eat them before a date or any kind of important business or social function.  If you really have a problem with beans, there are several excellent products on the market that break down the oligosaccharides before they get to your large intestine.  These products are usually made of molds and fungi; hey, don’t knock it.  They work.  Soaking the beans in plain water for several hours before you cook them helps, too.  Soaking the beans releases yeast, and this yeast can eat the oligosaccharides before they have a chance to, well, light up the room.

People eat beans for many reasons, two of which are:  They’re good, and they’re cheap.  Poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote a poem called The Bean Eaters,  about two old people who ate beans because they were poor, but who still had their memories:

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering. . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twingers,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
Is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
Tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Painter Annibale Carracci painted a picture called The Bean Eater, which illustrates a similar point.

The Bean Eaters, by Annibale Carracci
The Bean Eaters, by Annibale Carracci

Did you ever even imagine that this topic was not only chemical, and biological, but also poetic, and artistic?  Well, most things are.  Nothing is just one thing.  Everything is a part of everything else.

Now, what’s for dinner?  What’s that?  Green beans?  They’re guilty, too.

They don't look like beans on the outside; the beans are on the INSIDE.
They don’t look like beans on the outside; the beans are on the INSIDE.

So what’s a person to do?  Beans are delicious!  The after-effects, while annoying and smelly, are pretty harmless.

Unless you’re one of those people who does experiments with, um, personal emissions and a lighter.  THEN you’ll have some interesting times.  Be sure to have 911 on speed dial if you’ve got a  pyroflatulence guy in the house.

In the meantime, what’s a picnic without baked beans?  Throw some ribs on the grill and make sure the Febreze is handy.


College Students & Screaming Balloons

I love to watch actual students doing actual experiments, and my college students and their screaming balloons turned an ordinary writing lab into a writing AND science lab!

Starting at the Stonegate Arts and Education Center in Bedford, Indiana, my Ivy Tech students and I ended our writing lab by discussing how writers sometimes have to describe something in an unusual way.  Mention was made of the South African vuvuzela of soccer World Cup infamy, and so my aspiring writers created this sound with balloons and hex nuts.

Melissa and Alisha with their screaming balloons!
Melissa and Alisha with their screaming balloons!
Kitch and his screaming balloon!
Kitch and his screaming balloon!

Incidentally, the Stonegate Arts & Education Center is an Ingress portal, in case you might be interested in that.  And I hope you are.

Stonegate Arts & Education Center in Bedford, Indiana - Ingress Portal!
Stonegate Arts & Education Center in Bedford, Indiana – Ingress Portal!

That was all on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday night my students at Ivy Tech at Springs Valley Learning Center in French Lick, Indiana had this same lesson.  Different town, different students, same concept.  Similar reactions.  Even the facial expressions were similar!

Pamela, Kendra, Raven, Chelsea, and Andre having fun with their Screaming Balloons in French Lick!
Pamela, Kendra, Raven, Chelsea, and Andre having fun with their Screaming Balloons in French Lick!

It’s not just little kids who love science, you know.  College students and adults love science, too!

Steve Spangler warned me to bring earplugs to class this past week.  I should have taken his advice!



Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

Hands-on Science at Home: Needless or Necessary?

Some of us grew up with fantastic science teachers. Mrs. Russell, Mr. Steward, and Mr. Landis are names that you won’t necessarily recognize, but they’re the three science teachers I’ve had in my entire lifetime. I will never forget them, because they were and are awesome science teachers. (Forget the fact that I graduated with less than 20 kids in my class and that the last of those teachers is my best friend’s dad, or that my sister married my best friend’s little brother… Hooray small towns!) But some kids will never have that, that’s why you need to get hands-on science at home.

Classroom Thumwar with DJ
I assume that not everyone had the beneficial science teacher experience that I did, but it blows my mind. How can that even be possible? Then I discovered that the “science teacher” is an endangered species.

Especially when it comes to elementary-aged chitlens, there aren’t teachers dedicated to educating 6- to 12-year-olds on the FREAKING AMAZING WORLD OF SCIENCE! If you were to remove science education from my elementary education, I can personally guarantee that I would not have graduated. Math never made sense unless there was a scientific application. Science is the answer to “when will I ever use this?”

Tomorrow. You'll use this tomorrow... what's the squiggly line mean, again?
Tomorrow. You’ll use this tomorrow… what’s the squiggly line mean, again?                            (Source)

I’m definitely NOT saying that the current teachers being tasked with educating the youth on science are incompetent. They’re already stretched beyond their means, for Bill Nye’s sake. I’m saying that science deserves its own special time, teacher, and even room in the school. I want to scream, because it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

When I worked in customer service here at Steve Spangler Science, I cannot count on all of my fingers and toes how many times I heard that there’s no budget for science, or that it is being cut, or that teachers had to squeeze it into after-school programs. DEAR SCHOOL BOARDS: Science is the reason that there is a school in the first place, that your children aren’t dropping dead from small pox, and is the basis of all advancement for our planet.

Math = important. Language = important. History = important. Science = meh.

Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.
Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.

That just doesn’t add up. And again, I’m not arguing importance of anything except science, here. Without language, how could results be replicated? Without math, how would we understand measurements necessary to science? And history… well, there’s the whole saying about it repeating itself. Then there’s science, down at the bottom of the budget list below the coffee expenses.

But, as we’ve seen in recent history, schools take for-eh-ver to change their ways, and the government takes even longer. So how do you inject science into your children’s education? YOU have to do it. You don’t need to home school your kids, but I’ve got all kinds of props for parent/teacher hybrids that I like to call Parajucators. But, take some time out after dinner, before bed, or when the kids get home from school to do some hands-on science.

I'm partial, but may I kindly suggest...
I’m partial, but may I  suggest…

Don’t have a lot of dough for science supplies? You don’t need it! There are plenty of simple experiments, projects, and activities that can be done right at home and there are plenty of resources to go off of… *cough* *cough*

I’m not going to toot my own horn. Instead, I’m going to conduct the entire band. Have you seen our Sick Science videos? They’re less than 10 minutes long, every time, and walk you through the steps of simple hands-on science projects to do at home. Worried about cost? You probably have well over 90% of what you need right at home!

I’ve spent over 4 years writing the step-by-step instructions for our write-ups, but when I finally started doing the activities with my 6- and 8-year-olds at home, I realized just how easy it is to get them excited about ciencia (that’s science in Spanish). Now, even if there just isn’t time for the actual hands-on experience, they mix in science how-to videos with all of their usual video games and talking cats. Your kids can do it, too, I bet. But I don’t gamble.



Fresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

5 Non-Volcano Kids’ Science Activities Using Vinegar

Want science activities using vinegar? Look no further than Classroom Thumb War with DJ.

Vinegar is a smelly staple of science educators everywhere. The solution of acetic acid is the most often-used, simple acidic solution in the lab, and it’s non-toxic and safe to be handled. It’s no wonder that vinegar is a key component of tons of activities and projects for all sorts of chemically based experiences. What’s that? You only know that classic vinegar and baking soda volcano? C’mon, science-based blog reader!

Continue reading 5 Non-Volcano Kids’ Science Activities Using Vinegar