Friday, August 5, 2016

Mitch in Michigan With Real World Applications Of Academic Stuff...


  1. A common complaint about introductory science courses is that they never teach you anything practical, such as how to make explosives or pyrotechnics.

    1. In 9th grade, our science teacher talked about World War I poisonous gases and how they were made. One of my classmates tried to replicate one of the gases (Mustard gas, I believe) in some woods near his house. Needless-to-say, he fled in terror when he saw the strange colored gas streaming out of his vat. He got a science and history lesson that day!

    2. Um, did it occur to you junior mad scientists to bring gas masks, such as the ones they learned they needed during WW I? Now you know why, since age 9, I have been a staunch advocate of Estes model rockets: if used as directed, they're safe. That, and I knew one kid who blew off his index, middle, and ring fingers of his right hand stuffing match heads into a CO2 cannister, and another kid who blew off his left hand with a home-made bomb.

      Once, my high-school chemistry teacher threw a fist-sized chunk into a stagnant little pond in back of our high school, in Florida. Countless Cretaceous life-forms gave their lives for science that day.

    3. Sorry for the typo: that was a fist-sized chunk of potassium. It made a spectacular orange flame, and generated a noise complaint from the school's neighbors. It also pissed off most of the other science teachers, since it was a good fraction of their budget for that 9-week-term. Sodium would have been better, no doubt, but I've only ever seen what a pinch of it will do in water.

    4. All the fun has gone out of science since people got so safety/litigation-minded. And the rather colorful threats made by one of the best teachers I ever had (in eighth grade) would get him fired on day 1. They didn't involve staplers, and were in fact obscure as well as colorful, since he liked to make up his own words for things (and/or invoke a regional dialect that was not the local one; we could never quite tell the difference), but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't past muster anymore.

      Someone did, however, manage to start a fairly substantial fire in a lab in a nearby high school within the last few years. I can't remember how they did it, but I'm pretty sure it was a teacher trying to do some sort of demonstration (that was known to be ill-advised, if spectacular). So some brave souls remain; they just tend to end up unemployed.

    5. The grease fire demo was particularly vivid, because we learned in no uncertain terms why one should NEVER throw water on a grease fire.

    6. I did play with Estes rockets as a kid, though they never used them in school.

      One of my science teachers did mention a case of a Kindergarten teacher who wanted to show her students what happens when you throw a large brick of lithium into a small swimming pool. She had the students sitting around the pool while she threw it in. They all survived, but I'm sure those kids feared swimming pools for a long time.