Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Enthusiasm is a gift. It can be natural, or it can be brought to the party with a little effort. Well, there is nothing like the enthusiasm of my kid when he has a no-homework pass, and we get to go to a science fair after dinner. The Lawrence Hall of Science - Science Fair came to his school for family night, with almost every physics gadget you can find at the Emporium - which we know well. That was already exciting enough, with our favorite being a tornado water bottle. But then, to really get everyone's attention, all of a sudden, there was enough voltage and liquid nitrogen to blow up the school and electrocute everyone in it. Who says the insurance companies aren't letting us have any fun anymore?

Balloons disappeared into beacons filled with liquid nitrogen only to create liquid oxygen and ice inside of them "out of thin air" - literally! The liquid oxygen, released from the balloon, then rolled over the floor in little balls, in a levitating manner that looked quite alien. Liquid oxygen - and nitrogen - expand by about a thousand times into their gaseous state once you let them out of the genie bottle - which is why the kids were told that you couldn't drink it or you would explode. Nicely demonstrated by trying to keep the liquid nitrogen inside a bottle with a cork that flew half way to China after only a few seconds. Lots of shrieking from the huddling little lady scientists.

Then an extinguished match burst into flame while being submerged into a freezing liquid. Many bets were lost, because it happened to be liquid oxygen - a royal feast for the match. When a boy's hair was given the volume we all crave, by loading him up with electrons from a big silver ball, and he then proceeded to light a light bulb with his bare hands - the excitement was complete. Even I became enthusiastic, although it had been a very, very long day. All it took was was 12000 volts and several deadly, steaming fluids, completely alien to our planet. I don't ask much.

Well, all it really took was the enthusiastic little scientist I followed around for two hours.

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