Chemistry as you have never seen it!


Above and bottom, left: Some of the chemical wizardry demonstrated by the experiments

Who ever said chemistry was dull? Certainly not awed spectators at a demonstration by two York chemistry professors, who recently wowed an audience of close to 500 people at the University with the shattering of a banana and electrification of a pickle.

On Wednesday, Feb. 11, the Division of Natural Science in the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science sponsored a demonstration like few had ever seen. “Chemical Wizardry”, a talk and demonstration delivered by Professors Bill Pietro and Scott Fielder in Curtis Lecture Hall L, revealed the beauty and majesty, not to mention the colour and splendour, of chemical interactions.

Right: ‘Wizards’ Scott Fielder, left, and Bill Pietro 

The audience of students, staff, faculty and families were thrilled with a variety of explosions, fluorescent displays and cold-shattering exhibitions while being entertained with lively banter from the presenters. They were also educated in the finer points of chemical kinematics.

They were amazed to see a rose and then a banana shatter under the assault of liquid nitrogen and then to watch an initially colourless liquid oscillate in colour before their eyes. The electrification of a pickle drew gasps of amazement.

The climax of the demonstration was a series of unexpectedly loud explosions as hydrogen, trapped inside a series of condoms, was ignited. It was a fun-filled presentation that revealed the spectacle that chemical reactions can create.

Throughout the event, the audience was clearly engaged, and sometimes even participated in the experiments. It was apparent that the two lead “wizards” of the day were enjoying themselves immensely and the audience came along willingly for the ride. 

Paul Delaney, Master of Bethune College and senior lecturer in York’s Division of Phyics & Astronomy, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, told YFile about the event.