Professor Party Tricks Revealed
Throughout your college years, you have no doubt seen exploding chemistry experiments, daunting feats of physics--or, in short, CH301. Walk into a Laude lecture? Disappearing ice water headed at you! Attend a CNS event on campus? Puffs of fog headed at you! Exiting your physics exam? TA carrying a spinning wheel headed at you!
These fun tricks are all around you, but have you ever wondered how they work? You may have attributed these spectacles to some sort of unexplainable magic. Or you may not have. But nevertheless, these eye-popping extravaganzas are due to a marvelous wonder called…
If you ever wondered how these experiments were done, I am here to reveal all of the UT CNS professors’ secret tricks!
(Disclaimer: Do not try these at home.)
The Human Torch
It's LIT! But why aren't they feeling the burn? For all of the pyromaniacs out there, this is the relatively “safest” way to play with fire. (However, this is still extremely dangerous and should be left for supervised situations.) There are many variations of this trick, from using dollar bills to even your own arm. Using a 50/50 mixture of alcohol and water, pour this coating on any object to insulate it from the flames. After soaking the given object in the mixture, proceed to add fire. The alcohol will burn the flames on the outside while the water insulates the object in the interior. This is a cool, or rather “hot”, experiment to show off, given its simplicity and impressiveness, but don’t forget to remain cautious when performing the experiment.
The Balloon Explosion
The balloon explosion is a commonly used and exciting science experiment that teaches the properties of the most rudimentary elements of the periodic table. Typically, balloons are filled with helium. These helium balloons are great for children's parties or simply raising the pitch of your voice, but we're talking more serious uses, like explosions. Therefore, for the purpose of this experiment, balloons are filled with oxygen and hydrogen in varying amounts to give the desired pop. The inclusion of hydrogen is necessary not only for the explosion of the balloon, but also to create a low density within the balloon compared to the surrounding air. This allows it to remain floating. For maximum explosion speed and volume, the minimum amount of hydrogen needed for the balloon to float is added and the rest is filled with oxygen. The resulting reaction is a flame that engulfs the balloon and pops it in a quick and loud boom.
Finally, there’s the rising foam experiment. In science circles, this experiment is called the “Elephant’s Toothpaste”. It requires water, soap, food coloring, yeast, and hydrogen peroxide. The more concentrated the hydrogen peroxide, the bigger and faster the foam ejection will be. The reaction is caused by the release of an oxygen atom from the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). To make the oxygen separate, we use the yeast mixture as a catalyst to aid the reaction process. When the particles separate, we are left with water (H2O) which stays in the beaker and individual oxygen (O) atoms that are released into the air in combination with the expanding soap. Because of this, the mixture shoots up out of its container in the form of foamy streams for a spectacular visual.
Now that I've broken the Scientist’s Code by letting you in on these secrets, you can feel a little bit smarter by dropping these fun facts on fellow classmates.