History Lessons

A few months after Wylie first came to live with me, we were out for our evening walk when he spotted a rabbit hopping through the yard, trying to get away. He kept on walking but never took his eyes off the rabbit.
That’s how my dog hit a car.
The next night, he did it again. It was the same driveway, the same car, and probably the same rabbit. That was three years ago.
Laura came to visit this evening and around 10:00 we took Wylie out for his evening walk. We were on the last leg of the trip with less than a quarter mile to go when Wylie yelped. I don’t know what he was watching this time, but he clipped his shoulder against a pickup’s trailer hitch.
They say that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. This worries me somewhat as Wylie’s approach to life seems to be best summed up as, “Remember, I don’t want to learn anything from this experience.”

Scientific progress goes Foosh!!!!

It’s time for another installment in the saga of Things-That-Go-Foosh!!!!

Taking a break from work last Friday, a few of my coworkers and I did an experiment with dropping three Mentos into a bottle of generic soda. All I did was to place the bottle on the pavement, take the lid off, and very quickly drop three Mentos mints through the opening.

The result was a stream of soda between four and four and a half feet high. Naturally, this led to more questions:

Does it have to be diet soda?
Does the brand make a difference?
What happens if you drink a soda while eating a Mentos?

To answer the first two questions, we did another experiment this Friday.

As far as drinking a soda while eating Mentos, there’s a video on Google on that subject

This time out, I did a bit more prep work.

I wanted to get a bit more “pizzazz” out of the experiment, instead of just having the soda bubble up to around 5 feet, I wanted to get some height from it. So the first bit of prep work was to drill a 29/64″ hole in a bottle top. That’s actually quite a bit harder than it sounds because the drill wants to hang up on the plastic and twist it away from you. You’ll probably want to use a pair of pliers, put the cap upside down on a piece of scrap wood, and still be careful.

Next, dropping the Mentos into the soda is tricky at best. Wait too long to drop the next mint and the soda’s already bubbling up at you! And with the smaller hole in the bottle top, you need to be able to put the Mentos into the bottle and not have them drop in until the bottle cap is in place.

My solution was to drill a hole through all the Mentos I was planning to use, thread a wire tie through groups of four, and put the wire tie through the bottle cap, letting go when I was ready to start the fountain. This worked out pretty well, though I did make two important discoveries in the process:

Mentos have a gum-like center. This is the source of the mint scent you’ll notice when drilling holes through them. (A small drill bit is the way to go so you don’t loose too much of the surface. 7/64″ seems to be pretty good.)

The stuff in the center of a Mentos will tend to stick to the drill bit. (I had a fair amount of success at cleaning up by running the drill through a piece of scrap wood afterward.)

Finally, I gathered a variety of soft drinks in order to test whether the brand of soft drink mattered as well as the differences between the regular and diet versions. In all I ended up with five bottles: generic diet soda, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Coke and Diet Coke.

Once all the materials were put together, the next step was to gather up a few coworkers. Fortunately, word of the previous week’s experiment had already got around, so it wasn’t too difficult to find a few people who wanted to see what would happen.

The first bottle “launched” was the generic soda. This was impressive! The bottle I’d launched the previous week was also generic diet soda and the soda stream went about four and a half feet. This time, using the bottle cap with a hole in it, the stream went up about ten feet. Quite cool.

Next up was the Diet Pepsi. Take the cap off the previous bottle, set up the Mentos, put the cap in place, drop the Mentos, and FOOSH! Granted, it’s a very small sample set, but brand name versus generic does make a difference. The Diet Pepsi went about a foot higher than the generic.

Next came the regular Pepsi. My guess is that the regular soft drink has a higher density than the diet one because of the sugar. Whatever the reason, the regular Pepsi only went up around eight feet.

The next to last bottle was the regular Coke. This one was the big surprise. A week earlier, the bottle of generic soda with no cap shot up about a bit more than four feet. Even with the drilled cap on it, the regular Coke barely reached five feet.

Because the video I’d first seen involved dropping Mentos into Diet Coke, I saved that one for last. It was quite the spectacular ending. One of the theories on why Diet Coke goes so high is that it has more carbonation than the other soft drinks. More carbonation = more bubbles = a higher spray. Whatever the reason, the Diet Coke went highest, somewhere around twelve feet.

The reason for doing this series of experiments was to answer the questions about whether the brand of soda makes a difference – it apparently does – and how significant the difference is between regular and diet – quite the huge difference for Coke and Diet Coke.

I suppose some folks think this is a waste of soda. Perhaps it is. But laughing as the soda goes spraying into the air has got to be better for you than actually drinking the stuff. 🙂

More things that go Foosh!!

Being the curious type, I did some more experimenting with the Mentos over the weekend. This time instead of the brand name soda, I decided to try generic soda.

The first test was conducted in the parking lot at work last Friday. The bottle was placed on the pavement and in went the Mentos. The soda jetted about 4 1/2 feet into the air and after a second or two the stream collapsed back on itself. Sethiya got it on video but it’s a bit more than 17 MB – not exactly a “reasonable” size. But a still shot, that’s not so bad.

Soda fountain

During the Relay for Life last weekend, I launched a second bottle. No still shot yet, but this time the bottle was leaning against a concrete block and the soda stream went another six to twelve inches higher, possibly because the soda wasn’t falling back on itself.

It went Foosh!!!!

Back on Monday, I read an article on Slashdot about a pair of artists/performers who recreated the Las Vegas Bellagio Fountains. But instead of using electric pumps and water, they used Mentos and Diet Coke. The videos on their site are hysterical and after watching them a few times, I got curious about whether the reactions were really that dramatic, or were they somehow “juiced up”?

Always up for a good science experiment, on Thursday I explored a nearby Safeway store but couldn’t find Mentos on the shelves. (I wasn’t at all worried about whether I’d be able to find the soda.)

Laura and I went to Target on Thursday night to get a bag of dog food for Wylie. Twenty minutes later, we walked out with a 20-pound bag of dog food (the reason we’d gone there), two 2-liter bottles of Diet Pepsi (on sale), and a package containing five rolls of Mentos.

After dinner we came back to my house and went into the back yard (soda on cars is to be avoided). We opened one bottle and leaned it against a log so it wouldn’t fall over (and also so it wouldn’t rain back on us). I only managed to drop three mints into the bottle before the foam started rising.

The stream of soda lasted about five seconds, arcing ten feet in the air. And that’s without doing any fancy stuff like the guys in the video did with drilling holes in the bottle top or rigging things up so they could drop five mints in simultaneously.

After five seconds, the soda stopped flying, but what was in the bottle kept bubbling for another ten seconds or so. In the end, more than three-quarters of the soda was gone and what was left had gone completely flat.

Sure, it was a silly thing to do, but it was still pretty neat 🙂

Automatic revulsion

Last night I watched a MacGyver episode from 1989 that revolved around the plight of the Black Rhino. The episode ended with a voice-over from Richard Dean Anderson explaining that (as of 1989) there were less than 4,000 of them left in the entire world. He went on to say that with the then current level of poaching, unless something was done, they’d be extinct by the year 2000.
That was 17 years ago. Curious about their current status, I went to Google and typed in “Black Rhino.”
On an intellectual level, I know it was just some mindless computer program with no idea what the words meant or why I was looking them up. That’s the intellectual version. But after watching a TV show about people killing the animals just to sell their horns, the one ad on the side of the page was somewhat disturbing:
Black Rhino – Find it on Ebay.

The Call

The first time it happened was about a month ago. Wylie started barking around 3 A.M. and after a few minutes I realized it was because of an unidentifiable noise coming from out past the backyard. I closed the bedroom window so the sound was muted and Wylie decided that was good enough and went back to sleep.
It happened again last night, but this time I listened a bit more carefully. At first, I thought it sounded something like a wild turkey or some other large bird. But very few birds (not even Terry Dactyl) are awake at 3 A.M. After listening a bit more, I thought it sounded a bit like a cat yowling. At least one of my neighbors has a cat that spends most of its time outdoors so I’ve heard plenty of yowling during the summer months, but that wasn’t quite right either. As the sound drew nearer, I identified it as more of a yipping bark. That’s when I realized what was going on. The coyotes were checking out the neighborhood.
Not so long ago, the Washington Post magazine section had a feature article about coyotes coming into this area. Although some people don’t like them, they’re generally the same people who overfill (or otherwise don’t properly close) their trashcans and then wonder why they draw nuisance animals. The coyotes are just exploiting a food source. For myself, I find their willingness to adapt to be somewhat fascinating.
Wylie and the coyotes (which I can’t help thinking, would be an excellent name for a band) traded barks a minute or two longer and then the yipping receded into the distance. Wylie then curled up next to the bed and went back to sleep.
It wasn’t until our walk this morning that I realized what had happened. Wylie had heard "The Call of the Wild" and, disgusted with the early hour, he’d hung up on them.

Making Headlines

I have a GMail account I use for keeping up with email when I’m away from home. One feature of the system is something they call “web clips” which is a collection of headlines from various news feeds. Every now and then I’ll spot a headline that piques my curiosity and I’ll read it (particularly the ones from “Ask Yahoo” or the quotations), and I’m always amused when I’m cleaning out the spam folder and GMail displays a collection of spam recipes.
Sometimes the headlines are really offbeat though. Like the one that turned out to be an ad featuring Footie pajamas for grown-ups. I had no idea they made those!

Bunnies

Over the past month or two I’ve been littering the Shore Leave site with bunny sketches. The site has pages and pages of information about the convention (one of the program book editors commented that the web site was practically a second program book), but it’s awfully dry reading so I wanted to add a few humorous elements to break things up.
So far, nobody’s said much about them, but only one has been there for more than a few days. The people I’ve told about my plans have reacted favorably though, so I doubt anyone is going to be offended. (This means I’ll probably end up being responsible for the site again next year, so perhaps I should try harder.)
So how many bunnies can you find?

Recycling

The Washington Post’s comic section (what Mom calls the "Educational section") contains an item called "Hints from Heloise." The feature generally consists of people writing in with ideas for how to perform common household tasks without spending a whole lot of money or clever ways to reuse things that would normally go in the trash. Why should they have all the fun?
A few theater chains in this area promote upcoming movies by giving away posters at Science Fiction conventions. There’s really only so many of those things you can put up on your bedroom walls, so after the convention weekend the leftovers end up in the trash.
In a moment of inspiration back in February, I realized that movie posters would make rather "unique" wrapping paper. A friend commented that he’d had a similar idea at one point and demonstrated how the smaller posters could be used to make some rather colorful envelopes.
This sort of recycling isn’t really all that new. Last year I passed out Jaycee board reports printed on the back of Serenity posters (Can’t stop the signal y’know!) and I’ve also been known to send postcards made from Pop-Tart boxes. 🙂