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Science vs. magic sponsored by Moniteau County Library

Science vs. magic sponsored by Moniteau County Library

August 6th, 2014 in News

Flame erupts from a hydrogen-filled balloon held by a volunteer from the fifth through eighth grade group. The balloon was filled with hydrogen released during a demonstration of the release of hydrogen from hydrogen peroxide using aluminum foil. The presenter explained that if he had been putting on a magic show, no real information would have been given. Since this is science, each step was explained.

The difference between science and magic was explained by presenter "Rocketman Nate" Thursday, July 31, at two special Mad Science presentations sponsored by Moniteau County Library at Wood Place. The events were held at the California U.C.C. friendship hall. This division of Mad Science is based in Kansas City and can be reached at The contact is Kinetic Kathy.

There were two separate sessions, with students grades 5-8 in the first session and k-4 in the second. Rocketman Nate Started with the Golden Rules of Mad Science 1.) Don't talk, and 2.) Don't touch that lab equipment. He explained that the presentation worked best if only the presenter was talking, unless others were asked to comment. The lab equipment, including solutions and reagents used, might look harmless, but sometimes aren't.

Nate explained the basics of the Scientific Method, starting with an idea or an hypothesis, then a plan to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Once it has been proven to work in different tests, it becomes a theory. At some point it may come to considered a fact, but in science, there is always the possibility of new information sending the scientist back to look at a new hypothesis.

What is the difference between magic and science?

Magic is tricks and no explanation. Science may be the same "tricks," but with an explanation to make it a learning experience. To emphasize the difference, the presenter displayed three water glasses each containing a clear liquid, with everyone guessing that the substances were water. In the session with the younger students, Rocketman Nate was assisted in this science project by Sonya Grotjan. With her assistance, two of the liquids were poured together and turned bright pink. While saying that they weren't water, the third liquid was poured into the pink liquid, and it became clear again.

Nate explained that the first liquid contained a "base," and the second liquid contained a "base indicator" which turned color. The third liquid contained white vinegar, an "acid," which made the entire substance slightly acidic. In magic it would just be a trick. Since this is fun science and a learning experience, the presenter explained that sodium hydroxide is a base, and when combined with a base indicator it will turn color. When acetic acid, vinegar is added, it will become clean again.

Other tricks included pushing a large needle through a balloon with popping it (a needle well coated with Vaseline must be pushed through the thickest part of the balloon for this to work) and making hydrogen from aluminum foil and sodium hydroxide.

In the session for the younger students, adult volunteer Jodeen Maness assisted by keeping the hydrogen from escaping as it was being produced through a chemical reaction. Another adult volunteer, Maggie Menchaca, assisted by extending the hydrogen filled balloons over a burner for the audience to watch explode.

Nate said each presenter has their own interests, and the presentations with follow a theme in line with those interests. Although everyone is trained in many of the same basic fun science projects, each presenter will emphasize what they enjoy the most, and much of the time are better at doing. In his case, Rocketman Nate explained that he has been building rockets since he was four and likes "magic science" related to rockets and rocket fuel.

Following the programs, the young people could spend the tickets they had received all through the summer, plus the entry tickets, on a large number of science-related items offered. As one library person commented, "It wa