Chemistry Students Cause Big Reactions

Chemistry Lecturer Mike Danahy wields a torch on Coe Quad

The air at 6:02 p.m. was too chilly for a proper thermite reaction, which, had it worked, would have sent streams of molten metal pouring over the edge of a container. But the time was just right to make ice cream from liquid nitrogen, pleasing the crowd of gathered students hoping to be impressed by big chemistry explosions.

Students in the Kamerling Society were staging the unfortunate thermite reaction and serving up the well-received liquid nitrogen ice cream on Coe Quad in honor of Mole Day, which falls on Oct. 23 between 6:02 a.m and 6:02 p.m. Mole Day celebrates Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 10^23), a number that chemists use to make conversions between atomic mass and grams.

The Kamerling Society, which was founded in 1979 and named for Bowdoin chemistry professor Samuel Kamerling (1934-1969), is a student group of chemistry majors and other science students who try to get people young and old excited by science.

Besides celebrating Mole Day on campus, Kamerling members regularly visit local schools to perform science demonstrations. Recently, the group visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School to show off chemical reactions with big wow factors to students in an after-school program. Read the full story and see the slideshow.

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