Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 5.24

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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16 Comments

  1. Funny story.
    Grade 12 Physics.
    Demonstration, by the teacher, of the principle of F=ma. Specifically, if the force stays the same, there’s an inverse relationship between mass and acceleration.
    So we got out to the parking lot.
    Teacher takes a D-size model rocket engine and straps it to a “dynamics cart” (a 1kg block of wood with wheels); lights it; we all watch it gently accelerate over the pavement and burn out.
    Take an identical size rocket, attach it to a 50 g “dynamics cart” (basically, a hot wheels car). Light it.
    Holy shit. The thing launched it in to the air, spiraled out form where it started, nearly hitting *each* of us as we ducked under it’s spiraling pattern. Then it spun back to the ground in the middle of our circle, righted itself and flung itself over the school’s gymnasium.
    It was the most awesome physics class in the history of my life and, curiously, no one was arrested for “firing projectiles at students” or anything like that. That might have been because none of the kids complained (Obviously, this would curtail future adventures.) Or maybe Canada just wasn’t so wired up against white people in 1992 as the U.S. is in 2013 against a black girl.

    1. There was also this one from Mary’s Quickies of May 8th
      http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/diabetic-high-school-girl-beaten-police-officer-and-arrested-falling-asleep-class
      What genius decided that cops and schoolkids was a good mix?

      I could tell some pretty impressive stories from schooldays as well. There was the time somebody let off a naval smoke flare in school assembly. You could hardly see in front of you it was so thick, and probably toxic too The culprits were punished by expulsion, and rightly so. The point is, it was investigated and handled internally, as a good headmaster was expected to do in those days.

  2. So let me get this straight. An “excellent student” who has never been in trouble unknowingly mixes a chemical reaction and now is facing felony charges, but three boys rape an unconscious girl, posting a video of the crime to the web and we have to listen to what a shame it is that they face charges.

    Hey world you might want to pull your head out of your ass.

  3. So. How many people, including HERE, were saying this girl was “just trying to make an explosion” and not REALLY doing a “real” science experiment?

    Note the word “real” — because obviously, even if she had just been curious (even though she was actually doing a science experiment)< it's not "really" science (which is bullshit, imo). But she really was doing an ACTUAL science experiment!

    And yet, so many people made the assumption that she wasn't. There were so many "buts". "She shouldn't be arrested, BUT she wasn't doing a REAL science experiment!" I feel like this is pretty much an exact quote.

    And it was wrong.

    I need to find the other post where this was originally talked about here.

    I wonder, what was that assumption based on? Could it have anything to do with her race? Gender? Huh. What do you all think?

    1. If you knew that you were making a powerful explosive, then yeah, you ought to be in quite a bit of trouble. But I don’t see that here.
      The question, really, should be put to the classmate who gave her this advice. It seems clear to me, based on the text I’ve read, that Keira expected something in the “baking soda and vinegar” genre. Maybe an “Ooh, look. It’s fizzy!”
      But the classmate … the one who advised her to mix that stuff together … what was that person thinking? Possibly, Keira needs new friends, the kind who don’t knowingly tell her how to mix explosives without warning her that she’s mixing an explosive.

      1. I don’t know, even nice kids can do dumb things sometimes, or want to pull silly pranks on their friends. It’s possible they didn’t expect her to get into trouble. It’s also possible they just had no idea it would cause an explosion.

  4. http://skepchick.org/2013/05/ai-florida-teen-is-charged-with-felony-because-of-a-science-experiment-fair/

    Bjornar / May 2, 2013, 3:27 pm Reply
    Mixing chemicals and placing them in closed containers, when you don’t know the possible results, are not “science-experiments” kids should be doing, and is not comparable to “exploding something in science class”, except of course when “exploding something in science class” is actually dangerous negligence. But unless someone had to be rushed off to hospital the proper reaction to kids doing stupid things should be a trip to the principal, not handcuffs and incarceration.

    Overblown response or not, this is in no way a bar to future scientists who should be bright enough to understand that bottle bombs of all designs are potentially lethal devices

    And that’s just one.

    This bothers me A LOT. Am I the only one?

    1. I agree with you. I was trying to explain in that thread that it was not a dangerous “works bomb” which contains concentrated caustic soda but rather contained dilute hydrochloric acid toilet cleaner which cannot burn skin unless left in place for at least an hour.

      That said, my own variation on this experiment at age 11 was to use ammonium sulfate (not nitrate, little Jack did not make AMFO!) and sodium hydroxide to generate ammonia and blow the corks out of bottles. Because of the heat generated the reaction was very satisfactory!

      The whole point is, even at a young age, I did my literature research and experimented with small quantities to find the optimal non lethal mix, I was fully aware of the dangers and did not push it too far. Also, I worked at home knowing that the reaction of the outside world to such things is often uninformed and hysterical!

    2. If you knew that you were making a powerful explosive, then yeah, you ought to be in quite a bit of trouble. But I don’t see that here.
      The question, really, should be put to the classmate who gave her this advice. It seems clear to me, based on the text I’ve read, that Keira expected something in the “baking soda and vinegar” genre. Maybe an “Ooh, look. It’s fizzy!”
      But the classmate … the one who advised her to mix that stuff together … what was that person thinking?
      “Teehee, let’s tell her how make a bomb for giggles”?
      Possibly, Keira needs new friends, the kind who don’t knowingly tell her how to mix explosives without warning her that she’s mixing an explosive.

  5. I read the “women, slaves, and slaves” article yesterday after my wife sent me a link to it. Very thought provoking! I’m still pondering how much of what I know of history (and other subjects) has been poisoned by the fact that women who “matter” don’t fit into our predominant cultural narrative, and thus become invisible. I know that what she is saying is not earth- shatteringly new (especially here), but for some reason her article really struck a chord with me.

  6. Amanda

    Glad you decided to run that story about Lamar Smith, and his really stupid proposal. I hope everyone here signs the petition. We need to keep politics out of science as much as we can, and let the real scientists do their job, not the politicians.

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