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The fun music videos in this collection show demos that are used in our presentation "Is Its Chemistry or Magic?" This presentation was designed for public outreach, and it debuted at the first National Chemistry Day (https://tinyurl.com/ybllh34q) at Lehigh University. It was also an ACS Speaker’s Service presentation for about a 10 years. It’s message is the soul of chemistry - not chemical principles.
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Chemiluminescence is a popular reaction used by chemical demonstrators because it is a dramatic and visual demonstration. In our version we use luminol (2-aminophthalhydrazide). The reaction is initiated by adding a drop of blood on a sterile alcohol pad (potassium ferricyanide also works) to the luminol. When done in the dark, it is an entertaining demonstration. We explain that this reaction has practical applications in that luminol can be used as a presumptive test for blood in a crime scene investigation. Why not just break open a cyalume stick? Watch the video and judge for yourself.
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We get a lot of mileage from acid-base indicators. Their color changes at different pH’s make for striking visual demonstrations. The MAGIC BOTTLE, MAGIC INDICATOR, AND FICKLE TRICKLE videos are related in that they make use of a variety of indicators. The MAGIC BOTTLE is our signature trick and is unique to our presentation. It is an excellent chemical magic trick because it gets the attention of the audience through unexpected color changes. Later in our presentation, we show how the trick is done. In this manner, we emphasize that it’s the chemistry not the magic that is more exciting.
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FICKLE TRICKLE is an old chemical magic trick performed by chemistry teachers over the years. One of us (OSR) first saw the trick performed by his father in the late 1940’s. The trick involves pouring a sulfuric acid solution containing phenolphthalein into a KOH solution. At first there is an excess of base generating the red color of the indicator. As the solution continues to be poured, sulfuric acid becomes the excess reagent, and the red color disappears.
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We developed the MAGIC INDICATOR demonstration as a relatively safe color demonstration that can be performed by an audience member. It is important in our CheMagic presentation because it is used to explain theatrical chemical magic. We use a variety of buffers and the universal indicator to generate colors that resemble grape, cherry, and lime juices
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In developing our CheMagic presentation, we worked for many months to come up with a demonstration that illustrates ELECTROLYSIS in a manner that is visible to the audience. This video is our result. We simply drop a battery into a solution of potassium iodide and some laundry starch from a spray can. After a few seconds, elemental iodine can be observed streaming from the anode of the battery due to the oxidation of iodide. The starch acts to visualize iodine by forming the blue-black iodine-starch complex.
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The DISAPPEARING WATER video shows a classic magic trick where water is poured into an opaque vessel. The water seems to disappear when the vessel is inverted. In our presentation, we show the “trick” then we repeat it in a clear cup to show that it contains a “superabsorber” that soaks up the water. These materials have applications where aqueous solutions need to be absorbed, such as diapers. We do this demonstration in the portion of our presentation showing how chemistry produces materials useful in our everyday lives.
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The SYMPATHY FOR THE ALCHEMIST demonstration can be used to illustrate redox chemistry. However, it also shows the importance of descriptive language in chemistry. Alchemists believed that displacement reactions of the type shown here were examples of transmutation. The issue was having clear definitions of chemical elements and chemical compounds and the ability to use the vocabulary associated with these definitions to describe chemical reactions. The alchemical era was a necessary step along the path of understanding. Demonstrations of this type are useful in teaching chemical philosophy.
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In the COLLOIDS video we demonstrate the Tyndall effect (scattering of light by particles in a colloid). We do this by comparing a Prussian Blue colloid to a non-colloidal solution of the same color. A bright LED flashlight is used as the light source. The side-by-side comparison in this demonstration is striking.
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No chemical demonstration presentation is complete without an explosion. Our philosophy is to keep demonstrations as simple as possible. Rather than carrying tanks of gas, we use calcium carbide to generate acetylene gas in a shampoo bottle. In this ACETYLENE EXPLOSION video, we first show simple combustion of acetylene in a beaker then we do an explosion in a more confined volume. Acetylene has wide explosion limits; thus, calcium carbide needs only an approximate measurement.
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