January 10, 2014

[friday] Column: Science experiments can hurt


---- — I’ve never had a proper nickname.

My family had a cat named Sadie growing up. I read somewhere that Sally was a common diminutive of Sarah. None of that ever stuck for me, though. I didn’t use enough glue.

But if I’m honest, people have called me plenty of other things. One of the most common?


I like to experiment. I do crazy things like use aluminum foil, batteries and a flashlight bulb to troubleshoot my clothes dryer.

But when you let a nerd use the Internet, the results can be… interesting.

Just as that unbelievable winter storm was rolling in this week, I ran across a short video on Facebook, that mystical land of crazy links you’re not sure you should believe. The video showed a dude shooting boiling water from a super-soaker into cold air. It turned to snow instantly.

You probably saw the same video. But I was crazy enough to actually try it. Maybe I should become a Facebook link. I’m sure I’d make my mother proud by going viral and garnering 29,894 likes.

But I blame the craziness on cabin fever this time. I’d spent pretty much all day Sunday and Monday cooped up at home. I figured, hey, why not?

Those words are like “Open Sesame” for harebrained adventures.

So I boiled some water and prepared to record the adventure on video. I didn’t even do a trial run before recording. Either I am confident or shameless.

There are three things you try not to do in this experiment:

1. Spill water all over Broadway, turning it to a sheet of ice. Check. (We don’t want any ice-induced accidents, do we?)

2. Cover your face in boiling water. Double-check.

3. Spill water on your hand. Uh ...

I goofed up the video on the first try because I got few drops of boiling water on my glove. Just an inch or so from where I held my phone. I won’t say whether I was more worried about the phone or about the mortal danger I’d put my skin into.

The mishap distracted me from actually watching the result of my experiment, so I decided on a redo. Don’t ask me what logic drove me to that conclusion.

But it was worth it. Right there in broad daylight, in the heart of Logansport, I threw boiling water into the air. And it turned to snow as fine as fairy dust.

– Sarah Einselen

Friday editor / Reckless amateur scientist