By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Have you ever wished to join a mad scientist in a laboratory? If you were lucky to be one of the Walpole Public Library patrons who logged into Zoom on Wednesday, March 17, you did just that. Returning on yet another visit to the Walpole Public Library (this one virtual), Mad Science of Southern MA & RI was on hand to walk Walpole's curious youths through a series of engaging experiments.
For his first experiment, the Mad Scientist, JJ, had kids predict the chemical reaction when a few substances were mixed together. Referring to each substance as chemical A, B, and C, JJ asked his audience to describe the substances before mixing them. One child guessed the combination of two chemicals would make the concoction bubble.
JJ added one to his container, the swishing of the liquid heard clearly as the audience silently waited. “It makes the jar wet,” said the Mad Scientist. JJ trekked on, this time adding a new chemical to the solution. This time, the mixture turned a pink color. As children watched in awe, JJ explained that chemical A is a base. When mixed with an acid, like chemical B, it produces a chemical reaction. JJ asked the kids what they thought would happen when he added chemical C.
“It might turn another color?” offered one child.
“It’s going to explode,” stated another. JJ gave the kid a hilarious glare.
“Dude, I’m standing right here,” he said shaking his head before continuing the experiment. Instead of exploding, the solution lost all of its pink tinges and turned back to being clear.
JJ’s most exciting experiment involved some minor pyrotechnics. He explained that he was going to use some flash paper and another substance, iron filings, to create indoor fireworks. He wrapped the tiny black filings in paper before using a match to light the paper on fire. The paper lit up like a sparkler. “Could you see the sparks?” JJ asked the audience before repeating the experiment. “Do not try that at home.”
He introduced his next experiment along with a range of safety measures. “This is an experiment I don’t often get to do,” he said as he set up for what was going to be an even bigger explosion. Moving behind the table, JJ explained that he was going to make flames shoot out of a big plastic jug. “I’m going to add a chemical called ethanol. It’s basically rocket fuel,” he said. After turning the light off, JJ dropped the match into the jug, making flames shoot out of it. “What we did was we made a very simple rocket engine,” he told the many stunned children.
The program was the perfect mixture of humor, science, and some exciting experiments that kept kids engaged throughout the entirety of the presentation. It was perhaps not the same as a room full of children squealing with wonder, but nonetheless translated beautifully to the Zoom format. As they always do on their visits to the Walpole Library, Mad Science delivered.