Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I am sure I am far from alone in having fond childhood memories of smashing wintergreen lifesavers with a hammer in a dark stairway in order to see the flashes of light--Kenneth Chang has a good article on the phenomenon in the Science Times today. And there's a great quotation in the middle: "In 1753, Father Giambattista Beccaria wrote 'A Treatise Upon Artificial Electricity.' In it, he noted, 'You may, when in the dark, frighten simple people only by chewing lumps of sugar, and, in the meantime, keeping your mouth open, which will appear to them as if full of fire.'"

1 comment:

  1. I had a deprived childhood, obviously. Didn't know about this trick. My age group delighted in two other combustible activities, however: One was hanging onto a lighted firecracker until the last possible second and then throwing it so it exploded in the air. The other involved aerosol spray, a match, and one of the boys with "a mighty wind."