From: DAVID KATZ <dakatz45**At_Symbol_Here**MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] FW: ACS Thursday
Date: February 1, 2012 9:50:15 PM EST
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <C3497659BDF73E4AB2A10DA4329BB309140C6686**At_Symbol_Here**SV-EXCMB-02.principia.local> <9E067BADFBE0074FB36BAD3305C01A090BB6D2E4**At_Symbol_Here**EVS01.stlcc.local> <E31E6162-B90C-4ADB-A567-627D93558709**At_Symbol_Here**>

As a long time demonstrator, I have used the 70% isopropyl alcohol water mixture (50% mixture) for years for the non-burning dollar trick as part of a chemical magic show.  I try to get the largest denomination possible and have actually used a $100 bill.  That said, The demonstration is always performed over a non-flammable surface and away from the beaker of water-alcohol mixture.  The dollar is always held with a pair of tongs and is away from my body and my clothes.  Most times I perform this I am wearing my lab coat, so my clothing is constrained. 
I would only let a student perform this demonstration if I have personally supervised that individual in the proper procedure and only with proper supervision during the final presentation with proper safety equipment present (e.g., a fire extinguisher).
Setting a person's hands on fire is total act of stupidity by any teacher, no matter how safe that individual thinks the experiment may be.  There are too many safe demonstrations that illustrate principles of chemistry without having to resort to fire, smoke, and explosions or presenting the appearance of putting one in danger.  The phrase "don't try this at home" is an invitation for someone to try it.
Should anyone still consider performing such an experiment, make sure your multimillion dollar liability insurance policy premium is paid.  Although I doubt that the insurance company would cover you due to your disregard for the safety of others.
David Katz 
  David A. Katz             
  Chemist, Educator, Expert Demonstrator, Science Communicator, and Consultant  
  Programs and workshops for teachers, schools, museums, and the public
  133 N. Desert Stream Dr. * Tucson, AZ 85745-2277 *  USA
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           Visit my web site:
----- Original Message -----
From: ILPI
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:49 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] FW: ACS Thursday

Well, personally, I've used pentane which works pretty well due to the low boiling point (36 C).  But I would never let students do anything with fire, of course.   That said, isopropanol/water works great for the burning $20 bill trick, especially when it's one you've taken from someone in the audience.   The demo is good - but letting students play with fire in that manner is, of course, professionally derelict.

Alas, there are things like this out there...note the discussion of "Safety & Additional Information" that contains the very comprehensive instruction of "Don't get burned or set your house or yard on fire" : 

What this teacher is talking about leads to kids doing this on their own.  Which leads to this:,0,7829067.story
or kids trying it with something else, like gasoline....

Obviously, try to dissuade this person based on the high risk, near-zero pedagogical content, and personal/professional liability.

And then tell her that if you ever hear of her even contemplating doing this with students again, that you'll contact the principal, superintendent, school board, fire marshal, and local media to make sure it stops.   And that she ever has a student injured or killed as a direct or indirect result of this class activity that you will be first to testify for the prosecution/plaintiff against her.

Rob Toreki

Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
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Fax: (856) 553-6154, PO Box 1003, Blackwood, NJ 08012

On Feb 1, 2012, at 10:56 AM, Friedman, Donna G. wrote:

I just received this e-mail message from a high school teacher, it is not a joke, I am going to respond but decided to wait a bit to include your (more thoughtful) comments.
Donna G. Friedman, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Chemistry
St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley
3400 Pershall Rd.
St. Louis, MO  63135
Subject: FW: ACS Thursday
Hello fellow teachers!
I have a quick question.  Not sure if I can make it on Thursday, so thought I had best send this e-mail.  I normally have my students light their hands on fire with a mixture of isopropyl and water.  (I test it first with a paper towel to make sure it doesn';t burn.)  My students have said there is a "cooler" way to light your hand on fire and that Burroughs, Wentzville, etc. all do this cooler way.  We all know students don';t always know the "real story", but is there a cooler (more exciting, brighter) way to light your hand on fire that is still safe? 
Thanks!  I would appreciate your help on this matter!!
Melanie Shedd
Principia Upper School

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