Wednesday, May 22, 2013

You can't make a Mentos geyser without the Mentos

It was Book Fair night at my daughters' school last night and the guest of honor was a scientist at a local science attraction for kids. The girls wanted me to go so I dashed home early to do the final prep work on supper (steak and beef enchiladas with beans and rice) so I could meet them at the school in time for the show.

I got there and my girls led me out to the courtyard where the scientist and her husband were getting set up. Of course, having just gotten there without having tried to set up earlier in the day they couldn't get their projector to work - whether is was because the outlets were turned off, the extension cord was bad or the projector just didn't work, we don't know. It was a sign of thing to come.

Once the search for a working outlet ended (unsuccessfully), the parents and kids gathered in the little amphitheater as the scientist began her spiel. Behind her on a table were five soda bottles. There was but one thing this could mean -- the Mentos explosion!

First she told us about polymers because that's apparently what she worked on in a previous life. Then we talked about all the horrific ingredients in soda. As much as I like Dr Pepper, I'm not so certain I can ever drink another one again. At least I know what's in my homemade beer and there aren't any chemicals that can eat right through a metal can.

Next she talked briefly about the Mentos. She told us that there's a conference every year in which scientists gather together to discuss just why in the hell Mentos and Diet Coke create the crazy cascades of bubbles they do. The conclusion is that nobody has the slightest idea why.

Now it was time for the main event. My oldest daughter manned the Diet Coke bottle with her best friend (at least for this week) next to her at the Diet Pepsi bottle. The anticipation was building. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

"Um, does anyone have any Mentos? We forgot to bring them," the scientist said.

Excuse me? You're coming to the school to do one freaking experiment and you forgot the main ingredient? Is there not a checklist at the science place that lists Mentos as one of the things you need to pack in your bag? My wife eventually found some Mentos in the teachers' lounge - but I missed the explosion because I had to get back home to put everything in the oven so that dinner would be ready by the time everyone got home.

Please take this as a cautionary tale not to take for granted your shiny gadgets are going to work properly at trial or that the equipment in the courtroom is going to cooperate. If you can make the trip ahead of time, check out the courtroom before you have to show up for trial. And always, always, always bring along a backup just in case the electronic gremlins decide to take the courtroom hostage on trial day.

Oh, and here's a Mentos meltdown for your enjoyment...

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