A Sad Day in the Science Classroom

I opened up the Star Tribune to a sad story. From the Star Tribune:

Thursday morning, ninth-graders in the second-hour science class at Maple Grove Junior High School had turned their desks toward the science table where teacher Matthew Achor conducted experiments for the class final.

The first time the teacher dropped a match into a jug of methanol, Neuberger said the experiment seemed to work. “It made a loud boom and a little flame,” he said. “Everyone thought that was cool and clapped.”

Neuberger looked down at his paper to begin writing down his observations. “I’m pretty sure he was starting it up to do it a second time,” Neuberger said. “And the next thing I know I’m on fire.”

Several students were injured during this science experiment. One of the students, Dane Neuberger, was severely injured with second degree burns to his face.  All of the students are expected to make a full recovery, and according to the article it doesn’t look like Neuberger will need skin grafts. Only minor damage was sustained to the classroom.

Details are slim in the article, but it sounds like the appropriate actions were taken after the explosion. A fire blanket was used to wrap Neuberger and an ambulance was called immediately. The room was evacuated and the fire department was called to investigate. The article doesn’t discuss the type of bottle or the amount or type of methyl alcohol employed in the experiment.

The science behind what was being taught.

The purposes of this experiment could be to demonstrate an exothermic reaction, oxygen supply in combustions (if a narrow-necked bottle is used as heat, flame and gas exits the bottle, fresh oxygen is sucked back into the bottle, re-igniting any remaining methanol vapor), detonation velocity, expansion of gases, etc.

This video shows the experiment as performed on four different alcohols:

The way it works is that liquid methanol is put into a bottle and allowed to evaporate, leaving methanol vapor in the bottle. Heat energy – a match, in this case – is added to the bottle, causing a combustible chemical reaction. Visible flame and a loud whoosh” is heard during the reaction. The methanol vapors are ignited, and liquid by-product (H2O) is left in the bottom of the bottle.

In the article above it’s mentioned that this teacher had been performing this experiment for years, and I found several online mentions of this as an acceptable high-school chemistry-level experiment. Some sites perform the study outdoors, some indoors. I do not remember this experiment performed when I was in junior high or high school.

Science teachers – Do you use this experiment in your classes? What safety precautions do you employ? For the rest of you – Do you remember this experiment from your days in the chemistry classroom? Did you have any larger-than-intended explosions?

Reusing Condoms in Rural Kenya

Once again my First World Problems are brought into perspective.

The word is out that condoms protect against sexually-transmitted HIV. Unfortunately, the condoms aren’t out there. Demand is far outweighing supply in Kenya, as reported by PlusNewsGlobal.

Local TV channels recently showed images of men in Isiolo, in rural northern Kenya, washing condoms and hanging them out to dry; the men said the price of condoms meant they could not afford to use them just once. Other men in the village said when they had no access to condoms, they used polythene bags and even cloth rags when having sex.

Male condoms are intended for single use; washing and re-using them weakens the latex, increasing the chances of breakage and in turn, the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Washing condoms in dirty water may also carry additional disease risk.

Condoms are free at government health centres, but in rural Kenya these are few and far between and supplies unreliable.

People want to have safer sex, they know that means they need condoms and they’re having trouble getting them. They’re under the impression that a dirty condom is better than no condom, but from what we know this is a baaaaaaad practice.

It sounds like Kenya needs to get its hands on more condoms by increasing the quantity and/or improving distribution, both of which are solutions being considered by the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan 2009-2013.

Via the RH Reality Check blog.

This Isn’t About Hate.

Two weeks ago a Muslim American organization held a fundraiser in California for women’s shelters, homelessness relief and hunger relief. They were protested by a group of Americans waving flags and yelling through bullhorns. But don’t worry – as one protester clarified, “This is not about hate. We are not hate-mongers.”

Observe the language of…not-hate:

“Mohammad was a child molester. Mohammad was a pervert. Mohammad was a fraud. Mohammad was a false prophet.”

“…I know quite a few [U.S.] Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early…uh…meeting in paradise.” – Deborah Pauly (Rep.), Villa Park Councilwoman

“You’re a stupid terrorist. Go home! Go home! Go home! No Sharia! Do you beat up your wife, too? Are you a molester? You are, aren’t you? ‘Cuz you just sit there and you’re a coward. You beat your women. Why don’t you go beat up your wife, like you do every night? And then go and have sex with a nine year old and marry her.”

“One nation under God, not Allah! Get out of here! Never forget 9/11!”

“Go home – we don’t want your Sharia law! No Sharia law – US Constitution!”

“Take your Sharia and go home!

“You’re terrorist lovers! Your hands are bloody!

“You’re not welcome here – go home!”

“Terrorists!”

“Traitors!”

“A big part of the problem we face today is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others’ positions, no matter how odious, that’s…and, and what do we call that? They call that ‘multiculturalism’, and it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgement we need to prosper as a society.” – Congressman Ed Royce (Rep.)

Protip #1: Muslim does not equal terrorist.

Protip #2: When an elected official says “I don’t even care if you think I’m crazy any more.” as Deborah Pauly did, that’s when it’s time to vote for the other candidate. You know, the one who you don’t think is crazy.

I’m at a loss. How do we address this kind of hatred and ignorance in a productive manner? These are Americans who are screaming and jeering at other Americans based solely on the color of their skin and the clothes they are wearing. These are American who really think that Islam is a religion of hate, that all Muslims are terrorists, that you can’t be Muslim and a “real American”. How do we deal with that?

Wait – I know! Have a Muslim American organization get together to hold a fundraiser to support women’s shelters and alleviate homlessness and hunger in their community!

Nah…that would never work.

Video seen on @michelleinbklyn‘s twitterfeed.

Random MN Election Commentary

If you want the full, most accurate and complete skinny, you gotta go to the MN Secretary of State General Elections Results page.

I’m kind of nail-biting over how close the governor’s race is:

Because after hearing about ‘ol Crazy Eyes being given another term in the US House by 6th District (WTF, 6th District?) I need some really, really good news.  Clicking on the image below will open a new window to a recent article by the MN Independent and a clip of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews trying doggedly to get an answer from Representative (*erp*) Bachmann.  But all she wants to do is repeatedly repeat her repetitive plan for what passes for “progress” in her ol’ crazy eyes:

  1. Keep Current Tax Laws so no one’s taxes go up
  2. A Full Repeal of ObamaCare.
  3. Secure the US Borders
  4. No Increase in National Energy Tax

Oh, and jobs.  Something about jobs.  Jobs are also her number one priority, I guess.

Weather ~ Links ~ ACES Tragedy

I don’t know about the rest of the country or world, but here in Minnesota Fall just came along and placed a major smackdown on Summer.  I can’t believe I wore a long-sleeve button-up shirt and a coat to work this morning.  It’s a pretty bizarre time of year because the trees and grass are still green and lush, but I step outside expecting 80°F and it’s only 55-60°F. 

~~~~~

I’ve added two blogs to my blogroll sections to the right:

AmeobaMike – I followed this blog home after it’s owner left a comment on one of my posts yesterday.  AmeobaMike is about science and science education.  Dude has ATP and Golgi in his popular tags section AND he’s got a cartoon for his blog avatar AND he makes science cards.  Silly and science always work well for me.   

Richard Wiseman’s Blog – I follow Richard Wiseman on twitter and always end up following his links back to his blog, so I decided to finally skip the middleman and get him up here on The List.

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Have you heard about the tragedy at the crocodile sanctuary in Belize?  Two children who had been out selling limes went missing and they haven’t yet been found.

It gets worse.

Villagers received information from a local psychic that the children had been kidnapped and fed to crocodiles at the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary.  They went to the police and demanded action.  

When the police didn’t act fast enough for the villagers, they took the law into their own hands based on the “evidence”: The psychic’s tale and the fact that they saw limes in the kitchen when they peeked through the windows (remember that the missing children had been selling limes at the time of their disappearance).  The villagers stormed the sanctuary and burned it to the ground.  No humans were physically harmed, but it has been claimed that at least two crocodiles were slaughtered and over a million dollars of property destroyed.  Animal Policy Examiner has written up an account of the events leading up to the incident.

CNN also covered the story:

[cnnvideo url='http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/09/08/romo.belize.croc.sanctuary.cnn' inline='true']

Now according to ambergriscaye.com the psychic is being charged with “psychic pretense”.  None of those from the mob have yet been charged with any crime, and a public meeting to discuss the incident with the town is scheduled for Sunday.

This ain’t going to end well for anyone, is it?

World Sauna Championships

My apartment neighbor and I had a yard sale yesterday.  Bad call, brutha.

It was sooooooooo humid!  I love summer and heat, but moist heat is just icky, unless you’re in a sauna (and it’s not 230°F…more on that later).   The temperature was only about 85°F when we started, but the humidity was 70%!  It was frakin miserable.  Luckily we have a North-facing apartment, so we were in the shade for the entire day, but still schweaty grossness ensued.  There were two …count ‘em two… deodorant reapplication breaks yesterday.  Neighbor and I were hit on by one dude about three hours into the ordeal and we were thinking, “Man, how desperate must you be to think we look sexy right now?”

Our yard sale

But the good outweighed the bad.  Neighbor brought out frozen green and red grapes, which yesterday were a little slice of heaven.  By the end of the day we both had gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary junk, and as soon as we finished packing up the unsold items for Goodwill we went down to Lake Calhoun to go swimming.  The water was indescribably refreshing.  And Neighbor and I made enough money to go out for margaritas and Mexican food afterwards!

So we didn’t have it so bad.  I mean, you wanna talk humidity?  Instead of sitting in the shade eating frozen grapes, we could have been in the World Sauna Championships in Finland this past weekend. 

World Sauna Championship photo source

This “championship” seems to be less of a artful mastery of one’s chosen sport, and more a willingness to suffer extreme pain and injury in the name of being able to say “huh huh!  Look I did it!”  Look at these rules, from Wikipedia:

Rules

  • The starting temperature is 110 degrees Centigrade. Half a liter of water will be poured on the stove every 30 seconds.
  • Use of alcohol is prohibited prior to and during the competition.
  • Competitors must wash themselves beforehand, and remove any creams and lotions.
  • Competitor must sit erect, their buttocks and thighs on the bench.
  • Ordinary swimsuits must be used. Pant legs in men’s swimsuits may be up to 20 centimeters long, and women’s shoulder straps may be up to 5 centimeters wide.
  • Hair that reaches the shoulders must be tied into a ponytail.
  • Touching the skin and brushing is prohibited.
  • Competitors must not disturb each other.
  • When the Judges ask, competitors must show that they are in their senses with a thumbs up.
  • Competitors must be able to leave the sauna unaided to qualify.
  • A breach of the rules results in a warning. Another one results in disqualification.
  • The last person in the sauna is the winner.

All one has to do is sit still and endure heatstroke and skin burns.  This contest is so stupid, I’m amazed it didn’t originate in the US or Japan.  Seriously, at least in American Gladiators and Japanese game shows there’s some running around, balancing and wrestling.  Hell, even a lot of the Jackass stunts require more agility and physical prowess that sitting in a hot, steamy room and trying not to pass out. 

Well, now it’s over.  The World Sauna Championships have been suspended – probably for good.  Again, from Wikipedia.org:

On 7 August 2010, Russian finalist and former third-place finisher Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Finnish five-time champion Timo Kaukonen, passed out after six minutes in the sauna, both suffering from terrible burns and trauma. They were both rushed to the hospital but Ladyzhensky died en route. Kaukonen was reported to suffer from extreme burn injuries, and his condition was described as critical, but stable.

I don’t know anything about the World Sauna Championship except what I’ve learned today.  And I’m all for people spending their time, money and physical health in whatever ways they like as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.  I’m not making a statement about the way this gentleman died; people die in professional sports all the time.  Athletes are aware of the calculated risks they take when they engage in their sports.  This is an unfortunate accident and I feel for the guy’s family, friends and those who enjoy the World Sauna Championship.

But if this “sport” seemed stupid before, doesn’t it just seem even more awful that it’s unentertaining and deadly?

Minnesota Tornado Outbreak

Last night’s weather was wonky in Minneapolis.  We got about 60 seconds of either hard rain or hail – when we went outside 30 minutes later the ground was dry…  And the sky was yellow.  I mean yellow.  It’s hard to capture a cloudy, yellow sky with a digital camera – all of mine tried to auto-correct – but one of my friends managed to get a good shot and posted it to her FB account:

At 9pm it was so light out that it felt like 6 or 7pm. 

Tornados ripped across many parts of Minnesota last night, but in Minneapolis the weather remained fairly calm.  We did have some high winds in the early evening, but not much else.  At about 9:15pm The Hubby and I went walking in the oddly bright, balmy, 80-degree evening.  We found this telephone booth outside of an antiques shop on Lyndale Avenue.  It looked great with the dark blue, cloudy sky in the background. 

Details from last night’s tornado outbreak in greater Minnesota:

There is already a wikipedia page devoted to the Mid-June 2010 Tornado Outbreak.  Remembering that this is Wikipedia, and knowing that I haven’t fact checked the info, here’s what they have to say: 

Affecting mostly Minnesota and North Dakota, the system produced a total of 62 tornadoes reported across four states while killing at least three people, all in Minnesota.

The page also has a table started that is listing EF#, Location, County, Time and Comments/Damaged caused by the tornados. 

From twincities.com:

A funnel cloud forms near Grand Forks International Airport Thursday afternoon June 17, 2010. A number of tornados were reported in the northern Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota into the evening Thursday. (Associated Press/The Grand Forks Herald: John Stennes)

From Cleveland.com:

A large funnel cloud touches down west of Albert Lea, Minn., early Thursday evening.

Youtube has several videos of last night’s tornados.  I thought this one of a tornado in Winsted, MN by mkastavitch was fairly decent:

And this video by SlayerWalleye (that’s a Minnesotan user name, eh?)  shows some of the devastation caused by a tornado that tore through Wadena, MN:

Where’s the Sun?

Happy Grab Bag Random Lazy No Prepared Post Monday!

photo source

1)Is it June?  I could have sworn it was June already.  That means it’s the summer time and I want sunshine!  The average June temperature in Minneapolis ranges from about 63-83°C in June and 2010 seems to be on the lower end of that scale, but can I at least have some sunshine?  Brrrr….I wore a coat yesterday!  In June!

Whatevs.

2)  Happy Flag Day!

Wikipedia sez:

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

Cool poster from June 14th, 1917:

3)  On last week’s Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe I heard about the unfortunate side-effect of a brand of mumbo-jumbo being exacerbated by the South Africa World Cup in the story “Vulture Threatened by Pseudoscience”.

Apparently there is a type of South African traditional medicine called muti which relies on natural products from trees and other vegetation.  Some South African cultures integrate other natural products into their treatments, namely, body parts.  The body parts may come from animal or even human sources.

In the case of this story, the body part in question is the brain of South African vultures, an animal that is already in danger of extinction (7 of 9 South African vulture species are classified as endangered).  Gamblers are smoking the dried vulture brain in hopes of foreseeing the winner of the World Cup.  From Scientific American:

In addition to dreams of winning lotto numbers or sports teams, practitioners say the practice can give users an edge on taking tests or help their business attract more clients.

Photo Source

Don’t eat me, I’m a pretty African White-backed Vulture that eats icky dead things so you don’t have to deal with them!

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, the day we in the States set aside specifically to honor and remember men and women who have died in military service.  I wanted to do a post for Memorial Day and I started thinking about the current war in Iraq.  After zipping around in Wikipedia for a while, I found my way to an entry entitled “Multi-National Force – Iraq“.  In a subsection, Deaths, it listed the numbers of deaths of those serving in the Multi-National Force through January 2010 as 4,692 (this absolutely does not include Iraqi deaths).  In another Wikipedia entry “Casualties of the Iraq War” the breakdown is such:

There are quite a few exceptions and justifications provided for the numbers above, including alternate estimates from multiple reporting sources.

Regardless of your thoughts on war and the politics of war, these are a lot of people who have died in service to their countries.  Regardless of their reasons for serving, of their duties or positions in the war, of the reasons for this war, of the impacts of this war, or of any philosophical objection to or support of wars in general, or to this war in particular, these are a lot of people who have lost their lives.  Their deaths have affected our families, friends, communities and countries in uncountable ways.  On Memorial Day, I reflect on these losses.

This painting always brings a lump to my throat, and whenever I start to wax philosophical about war, this always reminds me that the consequences of war are very down-to-earth.

This is a crude post.

Crude oil flowing from BP’s Deepwater Horizen oil rig explosion has started washing up on Louisiana’s shores. 

Last night rough seas pushed oily water over the protective booms standing between the on-coming oil and Louisiana’s coasts.  Oil has entered the Mississippi River and is spreading into the river’s offshoots and surrounding wetlands, and toxic chemicals from the oil are leeching into delicate aquatic environments and threatening wildlife.  Alabama’s coastline is also threatened, and wildlife with the potential to be affected by the spill include hundreds of species of fish, birds, and mammals including Atlantic bluefin tuna, plankton, sea otters, sperm whales, oysters, menhaden fish, and endangered turtles.

The above paragraph is a summary of the TimesOnline article located here.  The article has very good writing and includes a current video of the situation unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.  Please click the link for more information.

From YouTube:

Other coastal wildlife at risk: Mussels, crabs, shrimp, fish in nurseries, dolphins, manatees, brown pelicans, terns, gulls.  NOLA.com has posted what they claim is a comprehensive list of all of the birds, mammals and and invertabrates under threat from the oil and toxic chemicals from the spill.

View from space.  Photo source.

The worst part of this spill is that we’re not sure how much oil is going to escape before we can plug the oil leaks.  Everyone ready to do this again?

photo source