Don’t try these experiments at home
MARION — Chief Mad Scientist “Atomic Allen” Converse brought “fireworks,” an explosion and vanishing “juice” to the Marion Music Hall as part of a series of experiments, titled “Don’t Try This at Home” on Wednesday, July 3.
The presentation from Mad Science of Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island was part of the Elizabeth Taber Library’s “ A Universe of Stories” summer series for children.
In an experiment called “water into juice” Converse taught the crowd about acids and bases using two clear solutions and a chemical known as phenolphthalein. The chemical turns reddish purple when in basic solutions, but turns colorless in acidic solutions. Using vinegar as an acid, and sodium hydroxide as a base, Converse was able to instantly create the illusion of water turning into juice inside his tank.
In another experiment, Converse discussed the scientific method and the powerful words “I wonder.” The scientist asked children to observe a piece of paper and wonder if it would burn when lit on fire, and if so, how quickly. After reminding children not to play with matches or lighters, he briefly lit the paper and put it out before it became a safety concern.
He then asked for a show of hands to see which children thought the paper burned quickly, and which children thought it burned slowly. After mixed results, he explained that speed is relative, so to decide whether the paper burned fast or slow, he would have to compare it to something else.
Converse presented another ordinary looking piece of paper, but this time when he lit it, the paper burst into flames much quicker than the previous one. Converse then explained that he used “flash paper,” made of a highly combustible material called nitrocellulose.
In festive Fourth of July spirit, Converse lit a second piece of flash paper with iron filings to create a small firework-like display inside the Marion Music Hall.
Converse also used experiments to showcase the different states of matter. While carbon dioxide exists in the air as a gas, Converse presented it to the crowd in solid form as dry ice at -109 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry ice goes from a solid state directly back into a gas without becoming a liquid, in a process known as sublimation. Converse placed a quarter in the block of ice and as gas began to form, the quarter started to “shiver” from vibrations caused by the rising gas.
The presentation ended in a bang, with an experiment called “hydrogen balloon.” Converse used vinegar and magnesium to create hydrogen gas inside a balloon. After tying the inflated balloon down with a weight, he lit it from a distance with a candle attached to a pole resulting in a fiery, yet contained explosion.
The next event for “A Universe of Stories” will be Yoga for Kids at the Marion Music Hall on Wednesday, July 10 at 2 p.m.