Dozens of eager children waved their “pick-me, pick-me” arms, each hoping associate professor of chemistry Trent Snider would choose him or her to help with a scientific demo Tuesday evening as the 23rd annual “Things that Go Boom in the Night” got under way at King’s College.
“I need somebody who comes every year,” Snider said, choosing a girl in a Superwoman costume.
“How about a first timer?” he said, choosing a boy with a gray sweatshirt.
“Now, someone whose favorite subject is science,” he said, choosing a third young helper.
Carefully donning safety goggles, the helpers each took a turn holding a long-handled torch to one of three balloons filled with hydrogen.
Thanks to the resulting “booms” and balls of fire, perhaps science had just become the favorite subject of everyone in a crowded Burke Auditorium, from parents and Scoutmasters to kids like 10-year-old Madison Dempsey, of Swoyersville.
Madison, who said she would like to become a veterinarian someday, said after the program she really enjoyed watching the “elephant toothpaste” gush out of a cylinder.
King’s chemistry major Casey Cryan, of Forty Fort, and biochemistry major James Martin, from the Baltimore area, were in charge of that demo, mixing hydrogen peroxide, soap and some blue food coloring to create a pile of foam that appeared quite large enough to clean an elephant’s tusks.
Wearing hats reminiscent of “Hungry Hungry Hippos,” King’s students Zoe Waizenegger of Pine Bush, N.Y., and Justin Lansberry, of Lehman, joined in the fun by respectively inhaling helium and sulfur hexafluoride from separate balloons. The helium gave Waizenegger’s voice an extra high pitch and the sulfur hexafluoride gave Lansberry’s voice an extra low pitch, which made the corny jokes they told, about “booberries” and such, all the funnier.
Before the evening was over, Snider and a young volunteer would make blood-red slime and the audience would alternately sway and clap as they watched an oscillating compound change colors. Dr. T. Rex and his minions, also known as assistant professor of physics Artur Tsobanjan and his students, would explode some hollow eggshells, and assistant professor of physics Matt Olmstead would lie on a bed of nails.
“One nail would hurt quite a lot,” Olmstead told the crowd. But this array of nails wouldn’t hurt at all, because his weight was distributed over so many sharp points.
To ratchet up the excitement, Olmstead agreed to have a cinder block placed on his chest. Then Dr. T. Rex, with a dinosaur tail peeking from his white lab coat, smashed the cinder block with a sledgehammer as the crowd chanted the magic words of the evening, “1-2-3-chemistry!”
“He’s OK” a young audience member called out afterward, in apparent relief.
Associate professor of chemistry Julie Belanger, who organized the event with help from both the chemistry and physics departments, created a rainbow of colors — the kind you might see in fireworks — by igniting lithium chloride, sodium chloride, barium chloride and copper chloride with some methanol.
Later, aided first by a student, and then by a volunteer from the audience, she showed what happens when you dip a balloon animal into liquid nitrogen.
“Do you think it will explode?” she asked the audience.
It didn’t. The very cold liquid nitrogen made the balloon shrink. Later, as it returned to room temperature, it gradually expanded.
“When you get cold you huddle together with other people. Molecules do the same thing,” Belanger said, explaining why the balloon contracted.
In keeping with the program’s Halloween theme, associate professor of chemistry Isaac Von Rue used oxygen-rich potassium chlorate to melt half a Gummi Bear — not a whole one because, he said, that would set off the smoke alarms. When he ignited it, a large plume of white smoke streamed and streamed up to the ceiling, showing a great quantity of energy had been in that tiny nugget of sugar.
“Think of how much energy there is in all the candy you’ll eat this Halloween,” Von Rue said.
Speaking of candy, young audience members picked up bags of sweet treats as well as bags of slime as they headed outdoors for the flaming pumpkin grand finale, over which chemistry department director Ron Supkowskiwould preside, dressed as a warlock.
King’s College associate professor of chemistry Trent Snider, left, assists volunteer Alexis Gushanas, 11, of Ashley, in exploding a balloon filled with hydrogen gas during the 23rd annual ‘Things that Go Boom in the Night’ on Tuesday evening in the Burke Auditorium on campus.
King’s College assistant professor of physics Matt Olmstead lies down on a bed of nails. Soon assistant professor of physics Artur Tsobanjan will use a sledge hammer to smash a cinderblock on Omstead’s chest.
An overflow crowd does the ‘sway’ as they watch an oscillating chemical reaction change color during the 23rd annual ‘Things that Go Boom in the Night’ at King’s College on Tuesday.
Volunteer Zachary Schultz, 12, of Swoyersville, left, pulls a balloon out of a container of liquid nitrogen with the urging of King’s College chemistry professor Julie Belanger. The extreme cold of the liquid nitrogen made the balloon shrink.
Volunteer Matthew Kenzakoski, 8, of Bear Creek, right, reacts to making blood-red slime with King’s College associate professor of chemistry Trent Snider.