Theodore Gray is Mad Science

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Original title: Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home But Probably Shouldn’t.

Title of this edition: Ciencia Loca.

Author: Theodore Gray.

Gender: Science divulgation.

Saga: —

Editorial: VOX.

Edition year: 1, 2011.

Prizes: …

Sinopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: This book is a set of small experiments presented one after the other. Usually dangerous experiments that can only be carried out by an expert and in controlled environment. Almost every single experiment is a demonstration of one element properties or some physical fact.

Personal Review: The Sinopsis of this book is really short… but there is not too much to resume, just experiments… but let me explain it from the beginning.

It was a few days after 23 of April, the World Book Day, I returned home and I found a package for me. It was a gift from a very good friend. And the gift was this book. So I start reading it and finish it in a few days (I have been quite lazy on writting this review).

The book is quite nice and is full of comments. Theodore actually does the experiments in his home, and reading it you can actually follow his discoveries in the best way for doing them. And apart from the book, he has a web page where you can goo deeply into the experiments, with loots of information and videos.

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Oh, and almost forgot, you can use the web page to buy part of the material needed to repeat the experiments.

In this review, instead of showing my opinion, I’m going to show some of the most interesting experiments for me. So first one, aluminium oxidation assisted by mercury.

Where is the trick on this? Aluminium never oxidises at home, why is this happening? Actually aluminium reacts very well with oxygen, so well that every time you expose aluminium to oxygen, it oxidises and creates a protective oxide layer preventing the oxidation to keep going on. Mercury just removes that layer allowing the reaction to continue. Amazing? It’s just the first one.  The next one is how to trap a lighting.

I think the video is… incredible. What is behind? Well, you need a particle accelerator, and a block of an insulator material. Basically, you use the particle accelerator to through electrons into the insulator block, and some of then get trapped inside of it. After that, you take the block before it gets discharged (handle with care, is very dangerous in that state). Hitting the block creates a path for the electrons to escape from the material. In they way out, they heat the material and leave those lines behind. Nice. Can he do it better? Have you ever see explosive glass?

Isn’t it the most extraordinary thing you have never seen? What is happening? When glass melts, it’s volume decreases, and when it solidifies it increases. So, if you put a droplet of melting glass into water, the exterior layer solidifies and holds the interior material which is still hot. When everything cools down, the interior of the droplet has a very big tension, because it couldn’t expand. All that energy is stored and the outside layer is preventing it to be released. The next one didn’t look very extraordinary, but actually is metal what is burning.

Metal burning? Is it possible? Yes, it is. Some metals oxidise quite easy, that is, they react with oxygen. What prevents them to do it in a very fast way uncontrolled, like in a combustion? Surface. Once a metal surface oxidises, the reaction stops. The more the surface, the longer the reaction. So, if you have wool made of metal, the surface is very big, in fact, so big that the metal instead of oxidise can burn if you initialize the reaction with oxygen. (This is very easy to try it at home).

For the last one, I want to show you how to create sculptures with supersaturated water.

That’s all.

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What? Want more?

Ok, so here is more. The posts from Theodore Gray with more experiments in PopSci.

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