Friday, 25 October 2013

PUTTING THE FIZZ IN PHYSICS

Were you labeled a "nerd" or "geek" when you went to school? I certainly fit the description. Not only did I wear thick glasses but I loved science. Chemistry class was one of my favourites. In fact, I gained five extra points on my grade by staying after school and experimenting with electrolytic cells. At the prompting of my science teacher, I even wrote a paper on how every chemical change had an electrical change accompanying it.

In 1972, I received a chemistry set for my birthday. I had hours of fun experimenting with the chemicals and test tubes. I even made a few independent discoveries, most notable being what happens when copper sulphate is mixed with ammonium carbonate.

Even in my adult years, I enjoyed any sort of program that dealt with science. I listened avidly to radio shows on the subject and watched whenever a TV program highlighted some new discovery.

Even at my government job, I shared my passion with others in the office. Most folks didn't want to know about my discoveries but my supervisor's supervisor, Barry,  shared a funny story with me.

When he was a boy, one of his friends brought out a lump of potassium from the science room. As his friends stood outside the building and watched, He took out his pocket knife to scrape a sliver of the highly-flammable metal off. Being kept in kerosene, the lump was extremely slippery.

Instead of a shaving, the entire lump slipped out of the boy's hands and dropped into a mud puddle. The potassium reacted so violently with the oxygen in the water that it danced across the surface of the puddle. The leftover hydrogen also ignited, surrounding the lump in blue and orange flames.

After a minute, the potassium completely oxidized. The puddle now resembled spilled milk. Barry never told me what happened afterward but I feel sure none of the kids involved told the science teacher where the lump went.

During one science class, I saw what happens when potassium hits the water. The teacher began his demonstration by turning out the lights and drawing the blinds. Then he carefully cut a piece of the metal off from the rest and dropped the tiny chunk into a sink filled half way to the top with water. The potassium fizzled and popped as it skittered around the sink.

Then I did something foolish. I leaned over the sink to get a better look. A fragment of the metal shot upward and hit my right cheek. The teacher immediately rushed me over to the "eye wash" station and cleaned off the burn.

I wrote of my love for science in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind school. Click on the book's link, on the right hand side of this page, for more info.

I also wrote about my love of science in my newly-published memoir, How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm.