Sunday, June 3, 2012

Old Shitty Science Projects of Mine

I think most of you know me as a man of science. I tend to be (sometimes annoyingly) analytical, logical, emotionless, etc.. So it may come as a surprise that although I thoroughly respect the scientific method and and its contributions to technology and society as a whole, I'm pretty fucking awful at it myself. I remember three science projects from my junior high and high school days, and I don't know which one to feel more ashamed of. I will now describe them to you in as much detail as I can remember.

Grade 6 Science Fair

To be fair I was still pretty new to the whole "science" thing at this point, and although I considered myself relatively bright for my age, the concepts of "hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion" were kind of lost on me. 

"So wait, you want me to ask a question, make up an answer, and then see if I'm right? Why don't I just look that shit up in a book?" I thought. 

"Well this could be something you maybe haven't found or can't find in a book. Something you've been curious about that you can play around with. Science is fun!" A teacher would answer. 

I then thought to myself "If I can't find something in a book it's probably because nobody gives a shit about it. But whatever, I'll do your fucking science."

I probably had a month or so to do this project, which for a sixth grader roughly translates to "you will never have to do this." But suddenly, the science fair was a few days away and I hadn't done shit, so I furiously racked my brain to come up with some bullshit I could test. I settled on, "What happens when you put different shit in cat litter?" Because fuck it, I had two cats, and therefore cat litter, and it seemed like something nobody else would ever think of because it's probably the least important thing there is.

The Experiment 

Step 1: Grab 3 different fruit peels and put them in 3 different buckets of cat litter.

Step 2: Leave one of each peel in regular dirt as the "control"

Step 3: Hate yourself.

The Hypothesis
The fruit peels in the cat litter won't decompose as fast.

So I threw some fruit in some cat litter and forgot about it. A couple days later, with no excitement whatsoever, I checked the results. The fruit peels in the cat litter were all dried out. The fruit peels in the dirt were all wet and gross and smelled terrible.

This was a waste of time.

I presented my findings to a jury of my peers, detailing how "cat litter absorbs shit, and dries it out, effectively reducing the smell of rotting fruit the same way it does for cat piss." Nobody, including the teacher, gave a shit, and I got an A+.

Grade 8 Science Fair
Sorry to skip grade 7, I have no idea what I did that year. But hey grade 8, I was a whole 2 years smarter so probably came up with something really great right? Nope. I think I procrastinated even more this year. I found myself with probably less than 36 hours before I had to present shit and realized I couldn't sit around and wait for science to happen, I had to make the science quickly. I had no idea what to do. Well, I was really cool and had a rock collection, so I figured I could include that somehow and maybe get bonus points for geology or whatever. Also, that night we happened to be cooking some food on a little gas grill on the porch. So I settled on the scientific query, "What happens when you cook rocks?"


The Experiment
Pretty straightforward really. I would find a bunch of different rocks from my awesome collection, throw them on the grill for an hour or so, and see what happened. I don't even know what I used for a control. Uncooked rocks probably.

The Hypothesis
I don't know, they would get hot?

So I started the experiment, while my parents probably thought to themselves "wow let's go inside." I waited. I thought maybe something cool would happen to some of the softer looking rocks, but after an hour they looked pretty much the same so I just left them there and did something else because maybe they were shy or something.

Well I came back much later, and one of the rocks was kind of black underneath, but another one had broken in half!

Phew, something to write about.

I basically wrote in the fanciest scientific language I could muster, that nothing much happened. I made up some shit about chemical reactions causing color changes and probably mentioned kinetic energy because I had just learned that word, and called it a day. The teacher wasn't very impressed, but I got a B.

Sophomore Year Biology
This year was more textbook based, and didn't include a whole lot of free experimenting, but there was one project that involved living like a zoologist. This was exciting in theory. We got to pick two animals, one vertebrate, and one invertebrate, and we would observe each one for three separate sessions of ten minutes each. The idea was to watch them in their habitats, and to not interfere with their behavior, and record everything they do for some reason. Here was an opportunity to go out into the world, and do some real field work! Haha fuck that!

I, along with probably half the class, chose to watch a cat, and an ant. The teacher's face as we all announced our choices got visibly more upset. In my defense, the cat was a given for the vertebrate, because I wasn't about to drive to a zoo. And for the invertebrate, what else was I gonna do? Buy a lobster and watch that? Find some other bug that is functionally identical to an ant? Find a flying bug and inevitably lose track of it? Watch a...clam? Oh well, let the observation commence. 

Cat Observations
Sure, cats can be funny sometimes, but that's usually only if you fuck with them. For the purposes of this project, we weren't to interfere. As it turns out, when you just let your cat do its thing, its number one priority is to be not exciting. Over the course of those three ten minute sessions my cat did a whole fat load of fuck all. One session in particular I remember quite well. My cat was outside and walked over and sat on a stump. I watched it from a window in my garage, so as to not affect the science, and started the timer. The only thing he did in the whole ten minutes was turn his head I think once. After these sessions, I stared at my mostly blank notepad and thought the only logical thing: "I'm gonna make some shit up."

So I calculatingly wrote down some cat like activities, being careful not to make it too flashy or too boring. Fairly satisfied, but a little uncomfortable that I just faked an entire log of cat endeavors, I took a break, not at all excited to soon observe an ant, which could not possibly be any less boring.

Ant Observations
I (surprise!) ended up procrastinating a bit for this one. Then with probably a day left or so I remembered "Oh yeah I have to find an ant and watch what it does." So, I walked around my house not looking very hard for an ant. I predictably wasn't having much luck. At this point it was time for some self reflection. I wasn't sure which would be sadder, watching an ant for thirty minutes, or lying about watching an ant for thirty minutes. I decided that the world was a cold and unforgiving place to make me choose between the two, and ultimately decided to do the only logical thing: "I'm gonna make some shit up."

I was able to come up with several ant-like activities such as "walking" and "just standing there" totally on my own from memory. However, it became tiring to make up thirty minutes of unique yet not totally fake ant activities. I slogged through two "observations" and wondered how I could escape from writing pretty much the same old shit in the third one. I decided to boldly end this ant's tale with murder. I thought "how funny would it be if while watching the ant the cat came by and killed it?" So that's exactly what happened to this make believe ant in this project. RIP my imaginary insect friend. 

I don't think we had to present our findings, because if the entire class had to sit through shit like "My cat ate some food" over and over, we probably would have shit into our own hands and smeared it all over the chalkboard. I don't remember what grade I got on this project but after bullshitting an hour's worth of observations I guess any grade that's not an F was a win for me. 

So, what have I learned from science classes over the years? I realized "you can easily get away with procrastinating", "bullshitting is surprisingly easy" and "two days is basically enough time to turn anything into science" but most importantly "I will never be a scientist ever."