GARDEN GROVE : It's Entertainment Down to a Science

If residents find a few things missing from their garages--say a weed blower or some empty milk bottles--they can blame Mr. Wizard and his minions.

The television educator and entertainer, who teaches children to discover science using everyday objects, sent his assistant to Iva Meairs Elementary School on Monday to demonstrate that the impossible is possible.

To gasps and giggles, Mr. Wizard's deputy, Chris Barcroft, taught a roomfull of riveted students how to tie a knot in rope without letting go of either end, why weed blowers keep toys afloat and how to force a full water balloon through the narrow opening of a milk bottle.

"We need to think beyond the way we do in everyday life," Barcroft said. And know a few facts about air pressure, surface tension and water molecules.

The case of the balloon: When the air inside the bottle is heated with a piece of burning paper, the air molecules expand and leave the bottle, Barcroft said. The pressure of returning air will suck the balloon in.

Barcroft challenged students to tell him which holds more: a rectangular piece of paper curled along its short edge or its long edge.

"You might think it's the same, because it's the same piece of paper," Barcroft said. But as salt poured from the short cylinder overfilled the tall one, students learned there's a difference.

The show follows the format of the "Mr. Wizard" series, which aired on NBC from 1951 to 1965 and now appears on Nickelodeon. Like other science programs on television, Mr. Wizard's is intended to spur children's curiosity and thinking.

After Monday's demonstration, many of the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were not only interested, they were ready to pledge their lives to science.

"I'm going to be a scientist," said 8-year-old Vinh Nguyen, as did six of his classmates.

His friend, Tony Le, 7, was the only one in the crowd to differ.

After he noted wryly that a wizard is not a scientist, Le said he preferred to become a wizard.

"Then I'm going to turn [Vinh] into a frog," Le said.

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