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Potentially Catastrophic Science

February 3, 2011

The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science
50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists
written by Sean Connolly
Workman, 2010

Part history, part science, this unique book will get your young scientist engaged in both. Every chapter starts with a major breakthrough in science, the science behind it, and finally, related experiments. Not to worry, Connolly includes a Catastrophic Meter Chart from low to high – so you can decide how much risk you’ll incur.

For example, the 1783 chapter describes the Montgolfiers’ hot-air balloon success. The science behind it explains warming a mixture of gases plus the density of air versus the density of a balloon. The first experiment has you make your own hot air balloon with a trash bag. The second experiment is a ping-pong ball held in hot water – and what happens is pretty cool.

Easy to read and educational, I highly recommend this book! (If you need a science fair project, this is your book.)

BOOK PLAY: From Workman’s Blog –

Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Experiment #14

This is a great way to see equal and opposite forces in action (and reaction). When you let go of the holes in the carton, the water goes shooting out. That is the first force. It also pushes back on the carton with equal force, just as the fuel burning out of the back propels a rocket forward. But because you are holding the carton in place from above, the linear (straight-line) force becomes converted into a rotational (spinning) force.

Empty half-gallon beverage carton
Friend to help and observe

1. Use a pencil to jab a hole in the bottom-left corner of each side of the carton.

2. Make a similar hole in the center of the top flap. (This might be a little too tough for the pencil, so you can use the scissors.)

3. Cut a 2-foot length of string and tie one end through the hole in the flap.

4. Hold each of the four bottom holes while your friend fills the carton with water and holds the free end of the string.

5. Get your friend to hold the string up and away from herself, and let go of the four holes.

6. Water should rush out of the holes and the carton should spin around until the water runs out.

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