10 of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's best Muppet Labs experiments, rated for scientific accuracy

Contributed by
Sep 8, 2015

I don’t know about you, but Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his hapless lab assistant Beaker were some of my favorite characters on the late, great Muppet Show (and soon to appear on the upcoming TV show The Muppets). But how good a scientist is the good doctor? 

I took a look at some of Honeydew’s experiments—performed with the help of able-bodied Beaker—to see just how scientific they really are. The results? Well, let’s just say that he'll have to work a little harder for his grant money.

Note: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is a trained professional. Don’t try a nuclear-powered shaver at home, people! 

Electronic Pet Converter

Problem: You have a cat, but you’re more of a dog person. What’s a Fido-phile to do?

Solution: Convert your cat into a dog. 

Results: The cat is ultimately converted into a tiger.

In reality: Dogs and cats don’t share much DNA...but house cats and tigers share 95.6 percent. Therefore, it's more than likely Felis cattus would transform to Panthera tigris. Dr. Honeydew gets a star on his report card. But really, the best way to convert your cat into a dog is take a trip to the local pound. And hope your spouse doesn’t notice.


Nuclear-powered Shaver

Problem: Although no problem was stated, we surmise that running out of battery power, or lengthy electric cords, are a problem in the world of men’s shavers.

Solution: Make a nuclear-powered shaver. But give able-bodied assistant Beaker a lead helmet to protect his fluffy orange hair from radiation.
Results: The lead helmet is so heavy that Beaker’s head sinks into his shoulders. With his face no longer visible, that shave is completely unnecessary. Success!

In reality: Bunsen does it right: Lead is used to protect against gamma radiation, and it’s used daily to shield users of x-ray machines, labs, and of course, nuclear power plants. Note: Depleted uranium is also used. 


Electric Sledge Hammer

Problem: Repairs take forever. And why go through the effort of swinging a hammer when you can make a hammer that swings itself?

Solution: Use an electric-powered sledgehammer to drive a nail in to an object lickety-split. 

Results: The hammer works. Eventually. But if you see in the News Flash attached to this video, the electric sledgehammer develops a mind of its own and goes on a hammer-wielding rampage.

In reality: It’s highly unlikely that Dr. Honeydew’s machine will develop self-awareness to the extent that it only targets geeky people. However, scientists and developers around the world are working hard to create machines that exhibit independent thought.  Let’s just hope they don’t come with attached hammers. 


Copying Machine

Problem: Everyone needs copies — in triplicate. Dr. Honeydew to the rescue!

Solution: A copying machine. Because photocopiers are just too two-dimensional.

Results: The machine works, all right. But they’re not the results that Dr. Honeydew was looking for. Beaker gets caught in the machine. Dr. Honeydew will now have to pay multiple salaries, as well as answer tough ethical questions about identity. 

In reality: Cloning occurs when genes from one organism, “often referred to as 'foreign DNA,' [are inserted] into the genetic material of a carrier called a vector,” according to Genome.gov. Animals have been cloned for their meat (and cloned meat and milk have been approved by the FDA).  More than a dozen species have been cloned. Human cloning, however, is an ethical no-no. Keep it simple, potential mad scientists, and replicate an object with a 3D printer.



Problem: Dr. Honeydew has isolated the element Bunsonium. But what does it do, exactly?

Solution: Beaker reluctantly drinks the Bunsonium to test its effects.

Results: No Nobel Prize for Dr. Honeydew: Beaker suffers from deflation, and we don’t mean financially. 

In reality: Human testing of drugs begins not by chugging a liquid but by getting FDA approval of clinical trial protocols. After approval, scientists conduct a lengthy study in three phases. Also, Beaker wouldn’t have been the only person to taste Dr. Honeydew’s chemicals. It can take 3,000 people to test a new drug. In this case, that would mean 3,000 in need of a bicycle pump.


Edible Paperclips

Problem: Although no problem is explicitly stated, it seems that edible paper clips can be used as an office supply and as a snack. Obviously, Dr. Honeydew loves multitasking.  

Solution: Dr. Honeydew has created delicious, nutritious and nickel-plated alternative to everyday junk food a that’s absolutely harmless. Almost.

Results: The paper clips were delicious. The aftereffects, not so much. Poor Beaker.

The reality: As we know, if Dr. Honeydew uses new additives or coloring, his paper clips would be required to undergo the lengthy FDA approval process. Also,  edible paper clips need to be analyzed for nutritional labeling.  More importantly, Dr. Honeydew should have conducted research beforehand to determine whether there’s a market for edible paper clips -- because without bucks, there's no Buck Rogers.


Electric Nose Warmer

Problem: Your nose gets nippy on a cold day. What’s a fan of homeostasis of the extremities to do?

Solution: A nose-cosy powered by electricity.

Results: The nose warmer made Beaker’s nose toasty warm, all right. Scratch that. It was more like smoking hot.

In reality: It seems you are more likely to catch a cold when it’s cold: The rhinovirus replicates more rapidly in the chill than the warmth. According to Today.com, “it’s entirely possible that if we can keep our noses toasty, even when wandering out in the wintriest of conditions, we might stave off cold symptoms. …” But the best way to do that isn’t with an electric nose warmer. It would be easier—and safer—to just use a scarf.

Fireproof Paper (actually, fire-resistant paper ...)

Problem: Paper is flammable. And although Dr. Honeydew didn’t state it outright, fire is a problem. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2013 “fire departments responded to an estimated 1,240,000 fires. These fires resulted in 3,240 civilian fire fatalities, 15,925 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $11.5 billion in direct property loss.” 

Solution: Create a paper that absolutely can’t catch fire.

Results: Uh-oh. But in Honeydew’s defense, science is a process.

In reality: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew isn’t the only scientist to get this wrong. Asbestos was a common fireproofing material until it was found to cause lung diseases, including cancer. However, anyone can make a fire-resistant paper by treating it with borax. Even Beaker.


Hair-Growing Tonic

Problem: Hair loss is a woe to those who want shaggy locks. According to Skin Therapy Letter, hair loss “may affect up to 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in their lifetime.” 

Solution: Honeydew has a hair tonic — and it’s up to Beaker to test it. (Weirdly, Beaker already has hair, whereas Dr. Honeydew is as smooth as a, well, honeydew.)

Results: Beaker's hair grew, all right ... right off his head. Success?

In reality: Balding men (and women) have found the solution to their hair-loss woes with Rogaine, which was approved for hair loss in 1988. (Fun fact: Minoxidil was originally used to treat ulcers.)


Banana Sharpener

Problem: Once you remove a banana from the bunch, your banana can become misplaced ... even dangerous.

Solution: Sharpen them.

Results: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew was able to solve the problem of storing bananas in a way that keeps them both visible and easy to access. Way to go, Doc! 

The reality: This extensive research could have been avoided with a banana hammock (no, not that kind of banana hammock), which solves this particular problem. However, it’s less science-y, and, as fans of Dr. Honeydew know, everything is better with science.


What was your favorite Muppet Labs experiment? What world problems do you think could be solved by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew? Let us know in the comments!

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