May 13, 2013

Girl Arrested, Expelled For Science Experiment

A girl takes off her shirt in Tunisia and gets on the wrong side of the authorities and we’re protesting across the globe. Now, a girl has Fun With Science in Florida and she’s a felon?

16-year-old Kiera Wilmot heard about a nifty science experiment.

She took an 8oz plastic bottle, put some aluminum foil inside, some Sodium Hydroxide, and closed the bottle. It’s exothermic, it generates hydrogen and sodium aluminate. The plastic top eventually goes pop.

When we did this in school, we said, “cool!” I’m pretty sure we did do exactly this, in fact: Blake Hannaford (now a robotics professor), Harris Suzuki (retired young from a successful investing career), Michael Harris (gentleman), and I. Michael Druzinsky (composer) might have been there too.

When Kiera did this at lunch in her Florida high school, the principal said, “that’s an explosive device! You are expelled!” And the prosecutor said, “felony!”

OK: this is not a great idea. Don’t try this experiment yourself; you could get hurt. (That other experiment with the ___________ crystals, and the ________? The one that makes every footstep “pop” in the school corridor? Don’t do that one either.)

But, seriously folks, this is very bad news for American education. How anti-intellectual have we become when, even in the deepest South, we want to expel and jail kids for a science experiment? And where the f____ is the American Chemical Society’s statement of solidarity with the girl?

Update: Good report from DNLee at Scientific American.