15 October 2012

Spooky science secrets revealed


TALLAHASSEE — Ever wonder what makes a glow stick glow? At the lab’s October 30th Magnet Mystery Hour, kids will experiment with light sticks and learn a few of their luminous secrets. They’ll also examine marshmallows, delve into the mystery of orange snow and lots more. The free Oct. 30 event — Spooky Science Secrets — begins at the lab at 6 p.m. and wraps up about 7 p.m.

MagLab educator Carlos Villa stands in front of HiPER, a new lab machine.MagLab educator Carlos Villa stands in front of HiPER. Those black cones aren’t witches hats, they’re part of the machine. The cones  absorb pulses of radiation.If you’d like a brief lab tour — one with a special Halloween twist! — come early for a 5:30 p.m. walkabout. The fall Magnet Mystery Hour is fun for people of all ages, but elementary-school children will have an especially good time. Parents and guardians must stay and supervise their children for the entire event.

“When I say we’re going to do science, I really mean we’re going to do science,” said Carlos Villa, the event’s master of ceremonies and the lab’s K-12 educational outreach coordinator. “There are so many ways to tie in science with the Halloween holiday, it makes it a lot of fun. Last year, it was a big hit with the kids. We got a lot of people to think about things that they hadn’t thought about before.”

That’s where the glow sticks come in, Villa added. While many kids use them for trick-or-treating, few children know much about them.

“Light sticks have always been super cool: You take this little plastic stick and you snap it and all of a sudden it starts glowing all by itself,” Villa said. “It’s actually a chemical reaction, but nobody ever stops to think about it that way. We want to jump on that and make them think about why the stick is glowing, so that the next time they see one, they’ll say, 'I know why that’s glowing and why it’s going to run out eventually. I know how to make it last longer, and I even know how to make it shine brighter.' It’s all based on science.”

At the event, kids will do an experiment and watch what happens. Then Villa will lead a discussion about what they’ve discovered and what they might infer from their results. Scientists have to learn how to be excellent observers — which is harder than it sounds — and to make logical inferences based on what they’ve seen. Villa will wrap up the evening with a science demonstration using liquid nitrogen, a spectacle that typically elicits plenty of oohs and ahhs from the audience.

After their mental workout, the kids can take their glow sticks and other MagLab treats home with them. So come join the fun! The lab can only accommodate about 60 children and parents, however, so plan to arrive early. It'€™s first come, first served.