The madness of Doctor Love
Forrest Love, aka Doctor Love
Forrest Love—or Doctor Love, as he’s known in mad-scientist circles—likes blowing things up in front of kids. “That’s the fun part of the job,” said the 30-year-old instructor and entertainer for Mad Science of Sacramento Valley, the local franchise of a nationwide company that does “edu-tainment” presentations for schools, corporations and anyone else who’ll pay to see someone in a lab coat make a mess. Formerly with the Science Center in San Diego, Love moved to Sacramento six years ago and began doing curriculum development and outreach for the Discovery Museum of Sacramento. Now, he’s finishing up his master’s degree in education at California State University, Sacramento.
How did you become a mad scientist?
It’s a franchise that a colleague of a boss had told me about. It’s along the same lines of what I had been doing before, except that now I’m working with a private company, where we have much more money to work with as far as developing neat shows and programs for the kids.
When you go out to a school to do your mad-scientist routine, do you do much gene splicing? What kind of science are you doing out there?
We like to just do basic elementary science experiments, like the egg in a bottle, but on a really showy scale. We don’t try to do anything that’s over their heads. We really like to do things that are really large and visual—a lot of fire and explosions, some simple chemical reactions—but that can also be really easily explained to the students. So, getting into gene splicing, it would be real tough trying to tell second- or third-graders what you just did.
Gene splicing probably isn’t that visual either.
No, it’s not. You have to have a very large transilluminator for that.
But being a private institution that has more money, you could do that if you wanted to, right?
Well, that’s the thing: We do have the funds we can invest and come up with these kind of programs. And being a company that provides science education to just about anybody who wants to buy it, we go out to all kind of different venues. Schools are the No. 1 thing that we’re into, but we also have programs at places like Intel or different community centers or anywhere else where they just want a science show.
Do you set fire to things?
Have you ever accidentally belted anyone with gamma rays?
I wouldn’t say gamma rays, but I am slowly but surely losing all the hair on my hands and arms. And as I’m doing the experiments, there’s always this little voice in the back of my head—my father—saying, “What the hell are you doing? Put that match down!”
How big a fire do you get going?
We can do some dust explosions that range up to 20 feet in the air, and those are pretty visual. We also have an experiment where we pour methanol into a Sparkletts water jug, and then we dump out the excess methanol so there’s just the ethanol vapor left in it, then light it up, and that produces kind of a jet engine. Again, these experiments that we’re performing, you get that little voice in the back of your head.
So, you’re doing this basically to train future anarchists who will be out on the street.
That’s what we hope not to do! We’re really just trying to get them to understand how fun science can be. And as mad scientists, we show how safe we can make it as well as super fun.
Do you do that thing with the test tube, where stuff comes bubbling out of it, and you laugh maniacally, or is that too clichéd?
Oh yeah, there’s plenty of that stuff early on. We’ve got the bubbling potions and the bubbles filled will smoke that explode everywhere. Yeah, that’s a real crowd pleaser from little ones to big ones. You know, when I’m doing that for a bunch of corporate execs sitting down for a science fair, they still get the same reaction as the kindergartners.
What are some of the odder things that happen during your presentations?
Well, kids always want the autograph of the mad scientist, and being in that position, it’s like why? And then there’s people who come up after the show and want to discuss in great detail some of the experiments I have just done. Its like, “I saw that thing you were doing with the Van de Graaff generator. Did you happen to know that the electrons are actually negative charged?” and they go on this whole spiel. And I go, “Uh, look, I’m not quite ready to get into all that. This is for kids.”
So, you haven’t gotten any requests for gene splicing?
No, but we’re always willing. We’re the kind of company that, if somebody wants to see it, we’ll show it to them.