From: John Callen <jbcallen**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] pumpkin fire and other demos
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 2020 01:14:55 -0500
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**Princeton.EDU>
Message-ID: 3210D637-9E3F-460C-9AC5-9CDD8261E634**At_Symbol_Here**


You bring back vivid memories of the thermite and other reactions which I had "safely" seen over the years of my chemistry training, initially first demonstrated by Alfred E. Crispin (Chemistry) and Louis Wagner (General Science & Physics) at Lake View High School (Chicago, IL) and then by Professors Robert W. Parry (General & Inorganic Chemistry) and Edgar F. Westrum, Jr. (Thermodynamics & Physical Chemistry) at The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  

When I was a Freshman Chemistry Teaching Assistant at  the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I had the esteemed honor and privilege of working together with Professor Gilbert P. Haight, Jr. and his Postdoc / Junior Faculty Member, Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., do the same and other reactions many times.  Professor "Gil" was very dedicated to teaching chemistry to freshman students and pioneered the blending of multimedia and TV into his lectures, labs and demonstrations.  He was especially known for his famous Christmas Lectures which blended humor and explosive demonstrations.  Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri took that "Christmas Lecture" with him to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, when he accepted a position there in 1970.  I have attached below the link to Professor Shakhashiri's 49th "Once Upon Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri" (PBS Wisconsin Originals).  I hope that you and especially all members of DCHAS will watch it to see how demonstrations can be controlled and safely be done.  In particular, please note how Professor Shakhashiri safely demonstrates the metal colors in the flame of a Bunsen Burner.

As you may know, Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1825 initiated the concept of "Christmas Lectures" and they have occurred on an annual basis except during the World War II (1939 - 1942).  Both Professors Haight and Shakhashiri patterned their lectures and demonstrations in an informative and entertaining manner after Michael Faraday.

And speaking about pyrotechnics, a variation of the thermite reaction which most people witness on July 4th in the USA is the sparkler.  That's a discussion for another time.

If you have any questions or comments about the above, please let me know. Thanks!

Be Safe & Well!

All My Best,

John B. Callen, Ph.D.
3M Personal Safety Division - Retired
DCHAS Founding Member
(312) 632-0195

On Jun 13, 2020, at 5:14 PM, DCHAS Membership Chair <membership**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG> wrote:

From: Monona Rossol <actsnyc**At_Symbol_Here**>
Re: pumpkin fire and other demos

Someone just sent that old 2018 Duluth GA pumpkin explosion video and some other horrendous experimental fluffs.  And I had a thought, well at least I think I did.  You'll tell me.

We are never going to get rid of the explosive demonstration in the science class.  It is just part of the culture and no matter how we rail against it, it is a fixed star in the firmament.  I watch the program from the U of Wisconsin most weekends and have seen there that shouldn't have been done as well.  And I still remember Aaron J. Idhe's experiments at the same University in the 1950s.  Don't tell me you haven't got some stored away you your memory banks as well.

Perhaps we need an ACS certification program for teachers who have been trained to do safe demos.  Such a program might at least take the option away from the rookies and unqualified.   Schools probably would be happy to send their teachers for this kind of certification to help protect liability.  It would work sort of like the licensing of pyrotechnic operators which I deal with all the time.

And check lists for each experiment could be worked out which would then make an investigation of any accident easier. They'd be limited to doing the experiments for which they were certified which would get people back into training when some new and attractive atrocity was developed.  And so on.

OK.  my head is on the chopping block.  Have at it.


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