Word play in science

This one is deliberately odd, an attempt to exercise the parts of your brain that other types of science do not reach. As such, do not expect it to be like the others :-)


Let's eat worms!
Strictly legal
Other pages on this site

What to do

Clerihews (mostly about scientists)
George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

This is a clerihew. They are amusing "potted biographies" of people. They do not need to have a rhythm (a metre, if you are pedantic), but they must have a rhyme, and they must say something about the person involved who has to be historical.

Limericks have to have a perfect metre and astounding rhymes, here among the clerihews, the aim is to be historically correct in an odd sort of way, and to get a weird rhyme. Here are two more examples:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said: "I am going to dine with some men.
If anybody calls,
Say I'm designing St Paul's."
xxxxxxxxxxxxx Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium

Now it is time for you to try your hand. Here are some names to get started on. Most should be accessible to most people, and some are drawn from areas other than science, so feel free to pick and choose. They will all be found, somewhere on the Web.

Julius Caesar Mary Anning Bill Gates Robert Koch Catherine the Great
James Joyce Louis Pasteur Richard Nixon Burke and Wills Marie Curie
Sir Francis Crick Sir Isaac Newton Sir Joseph Banks The young Torricelli Annie Jump Cannon
Macfarlane Burnet Jakob Bernoulli Pablo Picasso Kiri Te Kanawa Claude van Damme
Gus Nossal Dame Nellie Melba Arnold Schwarzenegger Enrico Fermi William Gates

Remember that you will need to investigate each of these people before you write your clerihew, and find out what they did, or do.

This will help you understand

Science limericks
You are to write some limericks, given a few lines to work with. In five lines, you will introduce somebody, explain where they are or what they are doing (second line), explain what happened to the person or thing in line three, what the reaction was in line four, and finish the whole thing off in line five. Read a few sample limericks to get the feel of it first.

Limericks have a special form. There are five lines, with lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyming, and lines 3 and 4 are rhyming. Good limericks use different words at the end of each line. They also need the right rhythm, or metre:

d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH (dah)
d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH (dah)
xxx d'DAH-dah d'DAH
xxx d'DAH-dah d'DAH
d'DAH-dah d'DAH-dah d'DAH
xxxxx There WAS an old MAN from DarJEEling
Who TRAVelled from LONdon to EALing
xxx It SAID on the DOOR
xxx Please don't SPIT on the FLOOR
So he CAREfully SPAT on the CEILing

Notice how we can sneak in the odd syllable here and there.

Now you are ready to begin:

First lines:
There was a young man from Palm Beach (reach, beseech, teach, leech, leach, peach, preach)
There was a young man from Dee Why
There was a young fellow called Smith (myth, pith, kith, with (?))

Third lines
As the camels walked in,
As the rainforests fell
For the rest of his life
The Impressionist school
As his feet turned to lead
As the keyboard went green

It is actually better to have a good word play in mind for the fifth line, or a good idea about your third and fourth lines. Here are some lines 3 and 4:

Third and fourth lines
Though he feared they had germs,
He ate all the worms

His large flock of wrens
That he passed off as hens

They found the canary
Was rather too hairy

If the horse had a chance
It would normally dance

He said "Thanks very much,
But I cannot speak Dutch,

Fifth lines:
And made cider inside her inside. (an old one!!)
A Norse of a different colour
The people cried "Cafe au lait" (Olé) (here is my attempt at this one)

Other ideas for limericks:

Dig into a textbook, and look through the index for some interesting words. Check out your library, and see if you can find a Rhyming Dictionary -- it lists words by their rhymes.

This will help you understand

Good Grub
People seem mostly to be revolted at the idea of eating invertebrates, with a few special exceptions.

John the Baptist ate grass-hoppers and bee-vomit (see Mark 1: 6 for a more tasteful if less informative translation), and there are others.

Draw up a list of edible or potentially edible invertebrates, and see if you can get these rated on a YUC (Yummy/ Uncertain/ Can't face it) scale, by questioning a sample of people.

Among others, include spiders, cockroaches, snails, slugs, lobsters, prawns, oysters and ants. See if there are any clusters that form.

Examine your completed YUC scale, and see if you can work out what makes some invertebrates less acceptable than others. Is it appearance, how they behave, or something else?

Many hunter-gatherer societies seem to have less of a problem with invertebrate foods. Why?

This will help you extend yourself

Your day in court

You will need:

Pen, paper, several colleagues, computer to record your draft and scripts, reference sources to gather the facts.

What you are expected to do

This is your chance to let fly with a few forensic and dramatic skills. You are to organise a court case, based on the scenario below, sticking within the known scientific facts, presenting information in an interesting but controversial way, with a certain amount of hamming up, and with the rest of your class, the audience, acting as the jury in the matter.

As with all of these cases, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, nor is there a smoking gun or a guilty party. There may well be other parties who wish to seek leave to intervene, to present their views, but the witness list must be agreed to beforehand, and the basic pattern that is to unfold must be worked out and accepted by all sides before the performance starts. The main thing to remember is that this is more of a performance than a competition: try to avoid too many surprises for the other side.

Remember, too, that this detail is presented for you to use as a starting point. Feel free to vary the scenario, characters and format, by agreement, before you start.

The main thing about a performance like this is pre-planning and careful research. You will need to work out who the main witnesses are, and what information they are to convey, then this information needs to be carefully researched. What did A discover, who were the B people, what caused C, what exactly is the D effect, what are the defining characteristics of an E? Then once you have that worked out, you can develop the characters, the plot, the order of presentation, and you are almost ready to go.

Remember: you are trying to be informative as well as entertaining. And remember: you are trying to be entertaining as well as informative. Remember your poor audience who will have to sit through this!

Scenario: The spiders have decided to sue the insects over a breach of their copyrighted body form.

Main characters: Several arachnids, assorted members of the insect class, a trilobite, and a knight in shining armour - you add the rest.

Format for the hearing: a straightforward suit for damages.

Possible interveners: centipedes and crustaceans, and a velvet worm ( Peripatus ). (That should be enough to keep you investigating for several hours :-)

This will help you plan

On the same topic, more or less, look at Creative Science , especially the cookbook challenge.

And now for some help — some of the time

The Clerihews
The usual rules about scanning and metre don't matter too much here. Just look at the examples, then do some researching before you start scribbling!

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The limericks
You want help?
Except for this bit -- I came up with this after seeing a car with OLE in its number-plate -- so the moral is: always keep your eyes skinned, as limericks can come from anywhere!

A Spanish soprano called Fay
Always sang in a can belto way
In the Coffee Cantata
When she was a starter
The people cried Café Olé!

(That one basically came to me during a walk of 200 metres, after I passed the car, to when I reached the bus stop I was headed for. Then all I had to do was tweak it.)

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Good Grub extensions
* Investigate the invertebrates which you can eat around your area. What are the most expensive invertebrates to eat? (And how will you assess that?)

* Design, prepare and present a menu of invertebrates only, for a restaurant with a name like "Good Grub". You may indulge in a few puns here, like "wormy jelly" for "vermicelli".

* Research the Giant Gippsland Earthworm of Australia, and develop a recipe for serving it - this one does not have to be completely serious, but it must be scientifically correct. This animal really exists, but is also a matter for a certain amount of leg-pulling: I have seen a German illustration from 1927 which shows people apparently dressed in space suits, dragging worms thicker than a man's leg, and 6 metres long, from underground caverns. This is claimed to be how Aboriginal people hunt the worms. One day, I may get round to scanning it in and putting it here . . .

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Your day in court
You will need to write out most of the script, or even all of it. Here is a tip: find out how to create paragraphs with a 3 cm hanging indent . This will mean using a word processor and looking in Help, or setting the style so there is a tab at 3 cm, and the paragraph has a first line indent of -3 cm, and a general indent of 3 cm. Most recent WP packages have "hanging" as one of the standard paragraph styles. Hint: use plenty of space between lines and between speakers, and set THAT up in the WP before you start as well.

You will save yourself a lot of time by being smart around the word processor first!

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This file is http://www.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/scifun/whatif.htm, first created on September 19, 1998. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on July 23, 2001.

Worried about copyright? You need to go look at my fine print . Well, maybe you don't after you read the next paragraph, but do it anyhow . . .and to see some more ideas, look at the start of that same page
©The author of this work is Peter Macinnis -- macinnis@ozemail.com.au , who asserts his sole right to the product as it is packaged here, recognising that many of the ideas are common. Any non-profit educational or home use is completely acceptable without let or hindrance. Copies of this whole file or site may be made and stored or printed for personal or educational use. The work used here derives from on-going research and development which will one day lead to a book on brain food ideas.
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