November 22, 2010
It's been thirteen years since Bill Nye the Science Guy went off the air, and we've been looking for a replacement science guy in the dozen years since.
I'm starting to think, however, that we might have found our new science guy in Steve Spangler. I saw Spangler at an NSTA conference in St Louis a few years back and was impressed with the theatricality of his demonstrations. I was surprised to see that I've already mentioned him four times in the blog since then.
This past week, though, the above video made the rounds on the AP chem listserve. The discussion was how Spangler got the massively quick version of the elephant toothpaste - warmed the catalyst, warmed the hydrogen peroxide, upped the concentration of catalyst, somehow bought greater than 30% hydrogen peroxide. As Spangler isn't part of our listserve - at least he isn't an active one, anyway, we don't have a definitive answer, but my guess is upping the concentration of catalyst. I know when I use the solid catalyst, the area with the solid catalyst reacts very quickly, and I'm thinking that a high concentration of the sodium iodide catalyst would have a similar effect. I also want to check out whether the use of the Erlenmeyer flasks give greater lift than do the two-liter bottles that I typically use.
Spangler has also released a pair of books - Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes and Secret Science. Naked Eggs is the newer and far more attractive of the books, and it looks like Spangler is positioning himself to have a bigger seller than what could be achieved with the Secret Science black and white pages. Naked Eggs - which I have to admit to having bought this week - is a really pretty book that takes a number of familiar demonstrations - all safe for home performance - and makes them a little flashier, a little more attractive.
If Spangler is making a move to be the nation's new science guy, he's going to have to get a more regular television presence than appearances on Ellen and other talk shows, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him making appearances on his own show fairly soon.