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Black Hole

School Science Diary for 9 May 1993

Aim: To make copper sulphate.

Method: In groups we added dilute sulphuric acid to some black copper oxide in an evaporating dish and heated it gently over a Bunsen burner.

Observation: The liquid slowly turned blue. When it was nearly dry we turned the Bunsen off. When it was dry we found small crystals of copper sulphate (bluestone).

Sammy Tees turned his Bunsen full on. White fuming clouds rose from his dish. We then had a surprise practice fire alarm.

Miss Take, our science teacher, was last to vacate the laboratory; she was last heard in the sick bay telling God about someone. Mavis Rice, who was in Sammy's group, must have got some acid on her hands because her hair is streaked white. She is always preening her hair.

Sammy's voice has gone funnier. Wendy Todd won't smile because her silver teeth-braces have turned black. The caretaker has again given in his notice.

Result: Copper sulphate is fun. Next week we are to make copper nitrate.

School Science Diary for 25 June 1993

Aim: To show that iodine is necessary for animal development.

Method: We got twelve young tadpoles from the pond in the back corner of Waimaka Bush. We put four in each of three aquaria. One aquarium was a control; to the second we added 2 g of potassium iodide (KI); to the third we added pieces of chopped up sheep thyroid. The experiment began on Friday.

Observation: By Monday week the tadpoles in the control each had their front legs out. The KI tadpoles had three legs each out. There were no tadpoles in the thyroid test aquarium.

Results: Miss Burns, the English teacher, is away sick after a frog jumped into her lap. Rev. Diack, the visiting Bible Class man, was heard telling God about Moses and Pharaoh. Miss Fortune, home economics, begins French cuisine lessons today.

Iodine speeds up juvenile animals' development to adulthood. Sammy Tees will have thyroid stew for a week and Mavis Rice will monitor his progress and report.

The forest and bird people have begun a picket for animal rights. Mr Bryce, our principal, is giving the picket people tea laced with KI. Unfortunately we do not have a control group this time.

School Science Diary for 4 August 1993

Aim: To investigate the amount of water in a single-bed mattress in use in winter.

Method 1

We checked for the presence of water in the mattress using cobalt chloride, and also anhydrous copper sulphate. We soaked the mattress in a bath with a known volume of 200o proof alcohol (ethanol). From the lowering of the specific gravity, we calculated the amount of water present.

Sammy Tees kindly volunteered to get rid of the used alcohol at the end of the school day.

Method 2

As in method 1, but using concentrated sulphuric acid. We calculated the amount of water from the rise in temperature and the heat given off.

Method 3

We borrowed a large still from the local distillery, heated the mattress in the still and condensed the steam which came off.

Method 4

We put the mattress in a large centrifuge and collected the water which was spun out.

Method 5

We put the mattress in a sealed (water-tight) plastic bag and floated it in a pond. We noted the level of the bag at which it floated. We recovered the bag from the pond, took out the mattress, froze it, put it back in the bag and floated it again. From the difference in floating levels, we calculated the amount of water in the mattress.

Method 6a

We took a brand new mattress of the same kind and dropped it from the school roof into a sand pit. We measured the displacement of the sand. We repeated the drop using the used mattress and found extra displacement of sand. We calculated the extra energy required and the amount of water needed to give this.

Method 6b

We used each mattress above as a pendulum, calculating their masses from the period of swing, which was roughly in the 60s. The difference gave the weight of water.

Method 7

Mavis Rice suggested that we weigh the mattress, dry it thoroughly and weigh again. The difference in weight would give the amount of water dried out, at 1 gram per cc of water. We did not carry out this method because it is very difficult in practice to weigh a mattress on bathroom scales. Also the method itself seems too simple. Everyone knows that a good experiment has to be difficult.

Avus has breathed far too many fumes while performing a truly excessive number of experiments.