Tuesday, 20 August 2013

HOW I MADE LIME GREEN FIRE

In my books and blogs, I've often mentioned my adoration for science and electronics. As a child, I loved taking old radios and TVs apart. Whenever I could, I'd ask adults for any old radio or TV they didn't want anymore. While at home during summer vacation, I found a few TV chasses behind a repair company and took them home.

I had hours of fun dismantling those junkers. While doing so, I discovered many electronic parts that I hadn't seen before. Being inquisitive, I took some of those apart to find out what they contained.

One of the parts I dismantled was a capacitor. It consisted of a coil of metal foil with paper in between. I learned later that these capacitors store and discharge electricity quickly. Back in 1971, I didn't know that.

Along with that subject, I've also written about my love of fire. The furnace fascinated me since I could light materials in it and watch them burn. While examining the paper from the capacitor, I decided to see what would happen if I burned it. To my astonishment, the fire was a beautiful lime green colour. Whatever chemicals the manufacturer used to coat the paper obviously made the flame turn green.

When I received a chemistry set for my birthday the following year, I learned that some substances burn with different coloured flames. Using my mom's gas stove, I tested quite a few chemicals to see what colour they made in the flame.

Such shenanigans wouldn't be allowed today. Our society has become so litigious that any accidental injury would fuel a lawsuit. Children, as far as I know, aren't allowed to do such dangerous things as burn chemically-treated paper in the furnace or take apart electronic devices which have sharp edges inside. Much of the excitement my generation of experimenters is lost as a result.

Speaking of my childhood, I wrote a book called Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School. It and my debut memoir are at the Bruce Atchison's books page. I also recently published How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.