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Nitro Joe Brings Science Show To Mt. Zion Library For Summer Reading
Nitro Joe brought his unique version of science to Mt. Zion Library last Friday afternoon. Joseph Higgs aka Nitro Joe started doing science shows for adults in St. Louis when he was only 14 years old. He does not have a science degree but has taken many chemistry and physics courses. He managed a company that did science shows before he decided to go out on his own.
He started the program by talking about the difference between magic and science. Joe stated that magic is all about deception while science is based on learning. He demonstrated this by doing a card trick where the card was lit on fire but when placed inside a covered dish and then uncovered it was still in one piece.
Nitro Joe then talked about what a physical change is and what a chemical change is. If you rip a sheet of paper it would be considered a physical change but if you light it on fire it would be considered a chemical change. He then asked the audience what an educated guess is called in science and received the correct answer of hypothesis, He then lit a piece of paper on fire called flash paper that is used by magicians, when lit on fire, flash paper disintegrates.
Nitro Joe then began his first experiment where he created hydrogen gas which inflated a balloon he placed on a container. As the chemical reacted it turned gray. When the balloon inflated to a certain size he tied it off and taped it to the end of a pipe which a volunteer held while he lit a torch causing the balloon to explode releasing the hydrogen gas.
He noted to the audience that the chemicals he used for the experiment were common household chemicals. Joe then told the young audience members to never go around the house mixing things together to see what happens. "Realistically speaking things at home don't just go boom in the kitchen, you should not have things blowing up on a regular basis in your kitchen," he said "if things are its time to get mommy cooking lessons."
The next chemical he utilized he has been using for experiments since 1988 and he is still fascinated with it, that chemical is dry ice. One of the first facts that he shared with the audience is that dry ice is 109 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Joe stated that it is so cold that if you touched it with your bare hands you would get third degree frostbite. To demonstrate its temperature he placed a room temperature quarter into the dry ice and the quarter shook and turned white and then froze over in less than ten seconds.
He then placed dry ice and another chemical in a container to demonstrate exactly what too cold to touch looks like. Nitro Joe started with a piece of lettuce and after leaving it in the liquid for a short period of time he took it out and after hitting it the lettuce shattered.
Joe then took a water balloon and placed it in the liquid to see what would happen. When he removed it the balloon had gone away leaving an ice egg which he then hit and it shattered.
Another demonstration of the effect of dry ice on an everyday object was he placed a three day old banana that had a mushy consistency into the liquid. When he retrieved it from the bath of dry ice it was frozen so hard that the banana cracked. Joe then put fry ice in a container and created water vapor through a process called sublimation. He placed it into a flask creating soda like bubbles and stated that the process is exactly what is done for a common product that we enjoy called soft drinks.
Joe walked through the audience spraying the safe vapor into the mouths of young audience members. He then utilized a super powerful chemical for children called baby shampoo.
Joe then took a tube and combined dry ice and water into the tube then added an attachment which he dipped in baby shampoo that created bubbles that quickly disintegrated.
He finished up by placing dry ice into several containers creating a safe "fog" made of water vapor that he was able to pour onto the audience safely. "All of this is just regular, old fashioned basic science," Joe said "I just wanted you guys to see it in a different way."
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