(editor’s note: many apologies to Dr. Joseph, who submitted this in November)
Reported by Dr. Reni Joseph, Kids and Chemistry coordinator
Kids and Chemistry celebrated National Chemistry week with a Spooktacular event hosted by the St Louis Science center on October 27th. Demonstrations included the composition of the atom and the meaning of going nuclear. In addition, we also had demonstration using Geiger counter to measure radioactivity. Samples such as bananas, smoke detectors, and Fiesta wares were used to measure radioactivity. M & M’s were used to demonstrate half-life and the idea of radioactive decay. Special thanks to our volunteers who worked very hard to make this event a success. Thanks to Mr. Eric Hill, Dr. Bill Uhland, Dr. Elaine Jurkowski, and Miss Cinda Sue Page.
Dr. John-Stephen Taylor, Professor of Chemistry at Washington University put together a hands-on demonstration of fluorescence and phosphorescence at the yearly Science Center Spooktacular. To illustrate fluorescence, he wore a white lab coat and had samples of liquid laundry detergent, both of which have brighteners that strongly fluoresce white when exposed to a 395 nm LED flashlight commonly used to detect pet urine. As a precaution, he had visitors wear yellow safety glasses to block out the blacklight. When the younger visitors turned the blacklight on underneath a bottle of tonic water, the entire bottled glowed bright green because of the presence of quinine. Extra virgin olive oil, however, glowed a blood red color because of the presence of chlorophyll. Dr. Taylor also had a portable visible absorption/fluorescence spectrometer hooked up to a laptop computer, so the visitors could see the actual wavelength of the light being emitted from the olive oil. The younger visitors had a lot of fun with fluorescent highlighters, some of which glowed quite brightly under the blacklight. To illustrate phosphorescence, Dr. Taylor had the children trace glowing patterns with a 405 nm laser pointer on a board covered in glow in the dark paint.