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Mad Science sparks chemistry interest

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

It may have been February vacation for Needham’s students, but they were still eager to learn. Thankfully, while their teachers were enjoying well-deserved time off, the Needham Free Public Library hosted Mad Science to give an engaging demonstration to the town’s youngsters.

Specializing in visually captivating demonstrations to inspire children, the program attracted several dozen children to the library’s Community Room, where Radioactive Rob greeted them.

“Unlike the regular scientists that work in labs and solve our real world problems, the Mad Scientists try to bring the fun,” he told the children. He compared the work of a scientist to that of a magician’s, but Radioactive Rob promised to reveal his methods to the children.

So, with a piece of flash paper – highly flammable paper, which disintegrates in seconds – and a tin bowl, Radioactive Rob invited one participant to help rip up a piece of paper at the front of the room. Then, with a piece of flash paper in the bowl with the ripped up pieces, Radioactive Rob set the flash paper ablaze, covered the tin bowl with its lid, and lifted it to reveal a fully intact sheet of paper.

When the children’s exclamations of amazement lulled, Radioactive Rob unveiled his secret: the tin bowl contains a secret compartment, which is accessed when the lid is placed on top.

While magicians use illusions and trap doors to fool their audiences, Radioactive Rob vowed that for the remainder of the program, he would use science – specifically chemistry – for his.

He held a glossy, white hardboiled egg by the name of Eggbert and a conical flask before the children, showing them that the egg clearly did not fit through the skinny mouth of the glassware.

However, after igniting a piece of the flash paper inside of the flask to deprive the space of air, Radioactive Rob set Eggbert on the rim of the flask. In seconds, with a loud thump, Eggbert was sucked into the flask.

The Mad Scientist also worked with dry ice, which sits at a temperature of negative 109 degrees. He showed how dry ice reacts with water of all sorts of colors and allowed the children to taste the vapors. Radioactive Rob even experimented with dry ice and soap, which created a seemingly never-ending stream of bubbles.

For the grand finale, Radioactive Rob held a huge, orange bucket full of water and dropped an enormous piece of dry ice into it, which produced billows of thick white vapors.

Though they were sad to see the program conclude, Radioactive Rob’s experiments at the Needham Library ignited the children’s interest in science for years to come.

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