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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK
Mad Muppets top cult science poll
Honeydew and Beaker (Henson)
Another day in Muppet Labs
Don't tell the health and safety people but Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his trusty assistant, Beaker, have topped a poll of the UK's favourite cult TV boffins.

The crazy duo whose experiments usually end up destroying their Muppet Labs facility received a third of the votes.

They easily beat Star Trek's Mr Spock and Dr Who's Time Lord in a fun survey to mark the British Association's Festival of Science in Exeter.

More than 40,000 votes were cast in the poll through the bbc.co.uk/cult website.

Neither Dr Honeydew nor Beaker were immediately available for comment but their good friend Kermit the frog was quoted as saying: "They have spread the message that science is not just for short round-headed bald guys and their orange-haired goggle-eyed sidekicks. It's also for people like you and frogs like me."

Responsibility theme

Dr Honeydew is known the world over for his disastrous research at Muppet Labs, "where the future is being made today".

His experiments invariably go awry, with poor old Beaker usually being blown to bits or electrocuted.

UK's TOP CULT TV BOFFINS
1. Honeydew and Beaker (The Muppets) - 33%
2. Mr Spock (Star Trek) - 15%
3. The Doctor (Dr Who) - 13%
4. Q (James Bond) - 9%
5. Dr Emmett Brown (Back To The Future) - 8%
6. Dana Scully (The X Files) - 8%
7. Dr Strangelove - 5%
8. Frank 'N' Furter (Rocky Horror Picture Show) - 4%
9. Dr Evil (Austin Powers) -4%
10. Dr Frankenstein - 1%
Dame Julia Higgins, is the current president of the BA. "I'm not sure that Dr Honeydew is quite the role model we would be looking at for a responsible scientist," she said.

"His treatment of his faithful assistant Beaker is rather alarming, though admittedly also rather amusing."

Professor Keith Goulding, from Rothamsted Research, who is taking part in this year's festival, added: "I think the fact that they are acceptable, humorous - although they blow each other up a bit - but they are fundamentally human, I think says something about science."

The BA Festival of Science 2004 is centred this week on the University of Exeter.

The theme of the festival, chosen by Dame Julia Higgins, is the responsibility of being a scientist.

The festival dates back to 1831, when the first meeting was held by the newly formed British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Famous fights

Its purpose is to act as a forum for publicly presenting and discussing developments across many different areas of science. Members of the public, journalists and school students are among the thousands of visitors who attend every year.

In the past, the festival has been the stage for some major clashes between leading academics.

The best known occurred at the meeting in Oxford in 1860 when the Bishop of Oxford, Sam Wilberforce, launched a bitter attack on Charles Darwin. Thomas Huxley and JD Hooker hit back in a series of legendary exchanges.

Years later, when Bishop Wilberforce died after falling off his horse, Huxley remarked: "For once, reality and his brains came in contact and the result was fatal."

Another row started in 1836 with an attack on a young upstart railway engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by Dionysus Lardner, who refused to believe a steamship could carry enough fuel to travel from Bristol to New York.

The dispute continued into the 1837 meeting, but by the following year Brunel had won the argument. The Great Western took 15 days to cross the Atlantic to New York, with 25% of her coal unused.




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