Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why it's fun to be a scientist on Halloween

Everyone knows being a scientist has its downsides (like the Pay Rate), but it definitely has its upsides, too. If you're in a really fun lab, you'll have a glowing cat or something else strange to show off. For the rest of us, simply having access to a well-stocked lab and a basic understanding of chemistry provides definite advantages on a holiday based on magic and mystery. Here's a few reasons it's great to be a scientist on Halloween:

1. You can wear your work attire as a costume - and a pretty good one, at that. Throw on a lab coat, some safety goggles, and mess your hair up and suddenly you're a 'mad scientist'! oooooOOOO!!! Add a few of the tricks below to your party, and the 'mad' part is even more believable. Besides, lab coats are super-sexy and extremely functional. Very few other professions can claim that from their attire!

2. You can make your Jack-O-Lantern or backyard fire even spookier with colored flame. Some chemicals produce some really cool fire effects. Either sprinkle for a burst of color or soak something (like a log) in an alcohol mixture with the compound and allow to dry. Here's some fun ones to try: Strontium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride or Sodium Carbonate, Borax or Copper Sulfate, Copper Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate (that's my "white", in case you can't tell).

3. Two words: Dry Ice. Who doesn't like a good fog effect? Put some at the bottom of your punch bowl for carbonated drinks and really cool smoking punch.

4. You can go as Moses, complete with turning water into 'blood' (or Jesus and turn water into 'wine'). All you do is add some phenolphthalein indicator to a glass of water, then add some sodium carbonate to it. And if you're feeling particularly omnipotent, use a straw to blow bubbles in the 'blood' to turn it back to water again.

5. If you look online, it's easy to find a good recipe for slime. But can anyone but a scientist make GLOWING slime?! What you need is some Zinc Sulfide - add it to regular slime recipes, and voila! Glowing Slime! (Actually, you can make this if you're not a scientist - just go buy some glowing paint and add it - but the Zinc Sulfide method is way cooler).

6. You can be a little pyromaniac and produce big purple flames outside for your amusement (or at least I recommend outside for this one, unless its in a fume hood). Mix equal parts potassium chlorate and sucrose (sugar) in a small beaker. Put it in something cheap (you're probably going to shatter it). To make a large, smoky purple flame erupt, add a drop or two of sulfuric acid and get back. Of course, there are tons of ways to make large, showy flames...

7. Scientists have all sorts of ways of doing cool tricks - so if you're bored, you can always shock and awe some kids (or undergrads!) with the Halloween Reaction, which goes to orange and then to black. See this website for a demonstration.

I'm sure there's more... But I can't think of any. If you can, post them!!!