Last week, our homeschool group had a math and science fair. Kids shared displays on a math or science topic. At our history fair in the spring, Mr. T had been disappointed that few kids seemed interested in his “history of the planets” display. He wanted more visitors this time.
No problem. He decided that he wanted to do “fizzy” experiments. To guarantee an audience, he would display as alter ego Dr. Curlybrain, mad scientist.
For a few weeks we tried out simple experiments at home to find a few good ones. Our inspiration was the fun book Cool Chemistry Concoctions: 50 Formulas that Fizz, Foam, Splatter & Ooze. The winners: cleaning pennies with salt and vinegar; a lava-lamp-like jar to shake, filled with oil and food-colored water; a jar with layers of liquids of different densities in which small items could be dropped and their landing layers predicted. But the real crowd magnets were the one in which a hard-boiled egg got sucked into a small-necked bottle by the force of a lighted match, and the one that had him inflating a balloon by filling it with baking soda and attaching it to a vinegar-filled bottle.
As his audience started growing, Mr. T seemed to forget he was a mad scientist, and morphed into a stand-up comic instead. He tossed off stream-of-consciousness jokes that often made no sense–anything to keep that audience from moving on. What, you don’t think vinegar is funny? How about if I pour it on my mom?
In the weeks of trying out the experiments, Mr. T kept a logbook. He made that fun too. (And yes, he drew a log on the cover.) He gave each experiment a silly name–the baking soda-inflated balloon experiment was christened The Power Pump–and eventually started drawing comics for each experiment.
In the penny-cleaning experiment, the chloride from salt combines with the hydrogen from vinegar and forms hydrochloric acid, a solution strong enough to clean pennies. He came up with this (I wrote the characters’ names for him):
After the fair, the science fun continued, as my friend Susan from In the Kitchen wrote a post recommending They Might Be Giants’ new science album, Here Comes Science. (Go read her post. There’s singing! There are many reallys!) We bought the CD the next day–it’s just Mr.T’s cup of hot chocolate. There’s science! There’s silliness! He was especially taken with the song “Meet the Elements”.
“Hey! I want to draw a bunch of comics about elements that react against each other!”
This announcement came as I was trying to get us to some appointment or meeting, and I was madly dashing to assemble snacks, coats, assure the rabbits had been fed…
Him: Can you Google some chemical reactions for me?
Me: Buddy, I’m trying to get us out the door.
Him: Just Google it real fast and I’ll read it.
Me: You can’t just Google chemical reactions. Why don’t you draw a comic for water–two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen? (This was the best I could manage in my mad dash to fill water bottles. I do not possess multi-tasking skills.)
Him: (wailing) I can’t have two of the same element in my comic!
I promised we would research the next day. (But can you Google some chemical reactions for me makes me smile, now that I’m not rushing out the door. Ah, the fathomless faith of an eight-year-old in his mother’s ability to work out what he dreams up.)
So today we researched. And he did make that comic about water. With just one hydrogen atom.
He also made one about gold. (Apparently he got over his distaste for drawing two atoms of the same element.) I’m not sure there’s any solid science in this one, but it cracks me up. Do you see what the two gold atoms are saying to each other upon meeting? (I probably should have added an extra e to make Spar-kle-us three syllables.)
“I’m Sparkleus!” “I’m Sparkleus!” That’s Mr. T’s little homage to Spartacus. You know, the scene when all the slaves claim to be Spartacus, to protect the real Spartacus? I’m Spartacus! No, I’m Spartacus!
I have no idea what that has to do with gold. I’m telling you, this kid is twisted. But hey, I’m up for anything, if it makes science fun.