“There was a lot of smoke.”

That is how my son, who is in 3rd grade, described a class science experiment gone awry.  The experiment involved electrical tape, a battery, lightbulb, and a piece of insulated wire with the insulation stripped off on the ends.  Yes, amazingly simple, but it’s 3rd grade.  Apparently, in the middle of setting up the experiment, the teacher’s classroom phone rang.  Apparently the phone conversation, at one point, included the words “Scotch tape.”  Several students who were listening in to the conversation proceeded to substitute Scotch tape for electrical tape (presumably to tape the wires to the bulb).  Let’s just say that, what followed included the lightbulb briefly lighting up, a kid (not mine) crying from a minor burn on his fingers, and “a lot of smoke.”

Kind of reminds me a bit of the old pickle experiment.  I did this once or twice when I taught at Simmons College.  Basically, if you run electricity through a pickle it fluoresces.  The way we used to do it was to nail a pickle to a block of wood with two nails.  Then we used what my lab manager at the time called his “suicide plug” – a standard electrical plug (probably pulled off of a lamp or toaster or something) connected to two bare wires which were hooked up to the nails.

This also reminds me of when I broke the van de Graaff generator at my current place of employment.  This happened during a classroom demonstration about five years ago.  I don’t remember a lot of smoke but there was a lot of noise as the belt broke.  Amazingly they still gave me tenure.  I haven’t broken the new one, but I have managed to make it arc a good four or five inches to my eyebrow (have I mentioned I’ve nearly been struck my lightning three times?).

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2 Responses to ““There was a lot of smoke.””

  1. I burned a very expensive device in my junior physics lab in college. Details omitted to protect the guilty.

  2. quantummoxie Says:

    Oops. A professor of mine blew the back off a building once working with a hypersonic shock tunnel. From that point on the building housing said tunnel was installed with a metal back wall designed to pop off under pressure.

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