Reading Rainbow

Season 13 Episode 5

Archibald Frisby

Aired Weekdays 2:30 PM Oct 06, 1995 on PBS

Episode Recap

LeVar is looking at a roller coaster zooming by. He asks himself, "Should I, or shouldn't I? That is the question. Do I just stand here and watch, or am I going to collect my courage and jump aboard?" The answer is yes, he is going for it. The reason LeVar has come to Six Flags Great Adventure is to ride a roller coaster. The roller coaster starts moving and as it goes up the first hill, LeVar tells the viewers, "I do love roller coasters. Every time I sit in one of the cars, butterflies flutter in my stomach. But there's really nothing to worry about because I've got a great seat." Now all LeVar has to do is just sit back, relax, and just hang on for the ride! As soon as the ride is over, LeVar says, "I can't believe how fast it went!" LeVar wonders, "How do they make the coaster go so fast? How does it stay on the track? Why is it that we love scary rides like this?" LeVar isn't the only one asking "why" and "how" questions. In today's book, Archibald Frisby spends his days asking himself all kinds of scientific questions. In this story told in rhyme, Archibald is a boy who is just crazy about science. He saw things in ways other people didn't. Archibald's mother gets concerned about what her son is doing, so she decides to send him away to summer camp. At first, Archibald doesn't think camp is going to be fun. But after a while, he finds science in almost everything. He even becaomes the camp's hero by winning them a softball game by making he own calculations. LeVar tells the audience that Archibald, in the story, spent his life observing things; or, taking a close look at the world around him. LeVar takes a close look at the roller coaster to answer his questions. The wheels of the coaster guide the cars, hugging the track on three sides. That could be the "roll" in "roller coaster." The roller coaster doesn't have an engine. How can it go so fast without an engine? A chain is hooked on to the entire train of cars. The chain pulls the whole train up the first big hill. When it gets to the top, the chain releases the cars and gravity does the rest. The first drop gives the coaster enough speed and velocity to continue through the entire ride. That could be the "coast" in "roller coaster." As you can see, observing can help you answer lots of questions. Scientists do it every day, and sometimes what they see can lead to life-changing discoveries. For example, George DeMestral looked at how burrs get stuck in the fabric of one's clothes. Observing the burrs under a microscope, he saw that each burr had tiny hooks. It gave him the idea to invent a fastener to stick things together. The fastener he invented is known today as "velcro." How do you design a car that will protect passengers? Scientists examine wrecked cars to answer this question that has been studied for many years. In an early experiment, an egg crashes into a miniature car and comes out as scrambled egg. When the egg is strapped to the seat, one of the first seat belts was invented. How do you determine the effects of car accidents on humans? Researchers use a crash test dummy to answer this question. Crash test dummies are designed to move like humans. Each dummy has a computer that keeps track of what happens to the human body during a collision. Cameras film the crash at different angles. Scientists watch the crash many times over and over again to answer many questions like, "Why is it important to wear seat belts?" These questions help us keep us safe on the road. How can human beings live and work in space without gravity? Scientists observe how people move in outer space by simulating weightless conditions on Earth. Moving around in a pool filled with water is sort of like being weightless in space. Doing this research gives scientists ideas of what happens to astronauts during real space flights. How can you eat and drink in space without gravity? This was a real challenge to say the least. Scientists first experimented by putting food in squeeze tubes, but that didn't taste good. Then they designed trays and containers to hold astronauts' favorite foods. Here's one more question to face for space: How do you sleep in outer space? Astronauts strap themselves in special sleeping bags to keep them from floating around the cabin. And there's no need for a pillow. Looking closely can answer many scientific questions. Another way to help you figure out your questions is called trial and error. LeVar tries out the frog game. The idea is to hit the catapult with a mallet and send the frog flying on to one of the lily pads. LeVar hits the catapult once, but the frog doesn't get anywhere near the lily pads. LeVar tries experimenting. He hits a little harder second time around, and the frog lands in the water. It seems that LeVar needs to try a different approach. He turns the catapult a little, takes good aim, and puts a little more zing in his swing. This time, the frog lands on a lily pad and LeVar gets his prize. LeVar explains to the viewers, "The thing about this game is that you need to try different ways. Just use some trial and error." Whether top athletes are jumping or soaring through the air, they work hard to achieve performances that leave us breathless. One of those athletes is high jumper, Yolanda Henry. She works with her coach and a biomechanist, experimenting to find the right moves for the perfect jump. The human body is just like a machine. The motors of this machine are known as muscles. Biomechanics study the human body to learn how it functions like a machine. To observe how the athlete moves during the jump, two cameras are set up to film it. The high jump has three parts: the run-up, the take-off, and the bar clearance (the part where you go over the bar). After the jump is recorded, it gets projected onto a screen. The information is then entered into a computer. It ends up as an animation. It allows the biomechanists to view the jump from different angles. A biomechanist uses the computer to see how small changes in the athlete's technique can improve her performance. To Yolanda, it's basically seeing yourself do something over and over again from point A to point Z in the right way. LeVar has another good question: "What makes corn pop?" LeVar doesn't know, but he does know that the answers to lots of questions are found in good books like the ones we get to see. A reviewer named Max is interested in how things work. He talks about a book entitled What Makes Popcorn Pop? It's not just about popcorn, it also contains other interesting scientific questions. The second book called I Wonder Why Soap Makes Bubbles has answers to all kinds of questions like, "What is sound?" This book also has experiments you can try. The third reviewer talks about a series of books which contain magic tricks with science called The Science Magic Series. Each individual book describes a different part of the natural world. LeVar is in one of the eating places at Six Flags. He places an upside down paper plate over a glass of water and turns the glass over. He holds the bottom of the glass. The plate is still on the glass, even when it's upside down. The question is, "Why is the water still in the glass?" Well, the air pressure is pushing the plate up against the glass and it's stronger than the water pushing down on it. LeVar explains that the world is full of interesting questions. Next time you have one, just remember that you have all the tools you need to search for the answers.