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Science, with a Side of Ick, in Santa Ana

A "disgusting" exhibit at the Discover Science Center has kids laughing (and learning).

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ICK FACTOR: If you've ever put a bowl of yogurt or another squishy foodstuff in front of a child, you can bet that things are going to get a little messy, a little icky, and a little science-experimental before the snack break has wrapped. Heck, a lot of adults play with what's on their plates, and we can only imagine it stems from a widely shared human trait: Gross is great. So great that when we see sights and smell smells and squish our fingers into gooey things, we don't always recoil; we laugh. Okay, sure, we might recoil a little, but the allure of grossness is too strong and too appealing. That's why it makes an excellent learning tool -- nasty experiments tend to hold more attentions than a ho-hum and dryly told display -- and that's why the Discovery Science Center has jumped, gleefully, into its latest exhibit. It is indeed called Animal Grossology and it's on at the Santa Ana cube through April 20.

HAIRBALLS AND CATS: Yep, this exhibit goes there. "Why cats spit up hairballs" is under full consideration, and why cows boast a quartet of stomachs. (A ceaselessly fascinating topic for kidlets and adultlets alike.) And, indeed, "doo doo" -- the Center's polite term -- is also on the docket for scientific investigation. There's an area that explains blood-sucking beasties -- we're looking at you, mosquitoes -- and a display called "Vomit Munchers." Oh yes. Does it involve ruminant digestion and other hot topics of how certain animals consume their nutrients? Prepare yourself to be peppered by questions on the car ride home.

AND... if grossly creatures and their awesome gross ways don't appeal to the scientist in you, hang tight: Bubblefest, that oh-so-popular soapy spring spectacular, returns to the institution in March.

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