Sunday, January 17, 2010

Great Balls of Fire!

We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night. The kids had attended my son's birthday party when I played the role of Dr. Madd and we exploded some dry ice bombs (and other slightly less cool things). They told me I couldn't be Dr. Madd at dinner. I relented, but asked them if they wanted to play with fire!

So, after dinner, once the small talk was over with, I started to get things set up in the backyard. Fire is really cool. Especially at night! Whoever the caveman that discovered how to make fire was, he or she should be given a retroactive Nobel Prize. The same with the person who invented matches and the Zippo lighter. Flares definitely deserve a Nobel prize.

In setting up, I had three things to show the kids (all under 10 years old). I had the test combustion chamber sitting on the picnic table. And my cannon right beside it. And something that I call Dragon's Breath (no not the shotgun shell one).

We started with the Dragon Breath. It is simply a large can with some tygon tubing inserted near the bottom. A sterno can burns inside and then you put in a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite combustible kitchen powder. There are lots of them: flour, powdered sugar, corn starch, coffee creamer, etc. Then simply blow in the tube and you get the following:

The kids definitely enjoyed that, especially since I put some pixie stick dust in to make it change colors (and you thought crack in a tube was suppose to be eaten). The best part was to allow them to blow in the tube to make their own fireballs!

After that it was time to get out the black powder! I had my test combustion chamber and just loaded a tablespoon of black powder in it and lit the fuse. In case you didn't read about building a cannon, the combustion chamber is made from nested cans with concrete filler in between. The actual chamber part is an empty tomato paste can (about 2 1/2 inches deep). So, the chamber isn't covered like it would be in the cannon, simply a small pile of black powder. Light the fuse and:

Pretty cool (at least the kids thought so). That column of flame is about 3-4 feet high. So, after getting them a glimpse of the power of black powder, we loaded up the cannon (in the backyard) with a tablespoon of black powder and launched the empty pineapple can about 35 feet. The kids clamored for more! And I was more than willing to oblige. Two tablespoons of blackpowder and the can, plus my wife was ready with the camera. Fuse lit. It burns down, and down, down ...

The fireball was impressive, and my wife caught it on film (or actually on the SD disk). She actually took all of the pictures. And she is great. Today, she cleaned out her craft closet and emptied her box of paints into a smaller box. Her old box was a giant toolbox. I asked what she was going to do with it and she suggested that I turn it into an explosions and miscellaneous stuff box. So, how many guys do you know have both a range bag and an explosions and miscellaneous box (besides Joe Huffman)?

If you didn't know, she posed for the Motivational Posters we made several months ago. Which brings me to a final thought: Why are pictures of women with guns (even fully clothed women) so popular? Since posting the pictures, those links have consistently been in the top five of viewed pages on my blog. I don't know, but as with teaching science through fire and explosions, I am happy to post for your viewing enjoyment some other great photos of my wife with a gun. Feel free to link to it as much as you want!

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