Friday, November 4, 2011

#IYC2011- Halloween Style with the Mid-Hudson ACS

Guest blog post by George Ruger, Chair, Mid-Hudson Section of the American Chemical Society 

Halloween is great for ghosts and goblins.  Also for superheroes and villians.  And of course the highlight of any good holiday- food.  In this case, lots and lots of candy!!  Sugar and chocolate and things that are gummi.  A dentist's equivalent of a winning scratch ticket perhaps? 

But this is the International Year of Chemistry!  So to make things even more complicated for children and parents alike, we are adding a little bit of Chemistry into one of our favorite holidays.  The Mid Hudson section of the American Chemical Society helped bring in winter and our favorite candy holiday with Halloween at Dutchess Stadium, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades baseball team.  The weekend winter snowstorm was an added bonus.  Great for the marketing department, not so great for the rest of us.

The gates to Dutchess stadium opened from 4 to 7pm.  During that time a few hundred children and parents walked through the lower level of the stadium.  There were corporate sponsors representatives who had tables decorated and were giving out candy to the kids and some adults who had bags as well.  It seems that most adults with bags were almost required to say that the candy was for another kid who could not attend.  Hey, we are not there to judge!  It's ok to like holidays.  About ten corporate sponsors from the regular season showed up, secondarily showing off their products to the crowd.  But lets face it, the kids primarily wanted candy and entertainment.  So handfulls of candy were handed out and the staff of Dutchess Stadium had activities for the kids.  There were Halloween stickers to put on hats and decorate costumes with.  And lots of costumes as far as the eye could see.  

So how does Chemistry fit into all of this?  Well, at the Mid Hudson ACS table, along with bags of candy were some funny looking instruments, including a pH meter.  There was literature to hand out describing IYC and the Global Water Experiment as well as the Chemistry Ambassadors program and a copy of the Periodic Table.  But what really got people's attention were the bottles of water and soda next to the pH meter.  Ok, only a few dozen people seemed truly interested, but that is not too bad considering how many other things there were to do. 

So we all know about the Global Water Experiment.  Many scientists worldwide are taking pH measurements of water samples from various sources and inputting that information into a global database.  So how is this relevant to Halloween?  Well, at the ACS booth we were taking pH results from two sources, a gallon jug of water and a bottle of soda.  It seems that testing Stadium water was not possible.  The water supply was already shut off for the winter.  So the water sample had a pH result of around 6.5, which is a decent result for drinking water.  Off to the soda- with a pH result of around 3!  Yup, soda has the same pH value as vinegar (also around 3).  Well, with several acidic ingredients listed right on the label this should not be too surprising.  And yet for many it still is!  More than one type of soda was tested, with similar results.   

George Ruger, Chair Mid-Hudson ACS
So what should we take away from this?  Halloween is meant to be fun.  But a little Chemistry mixed in can still be fun.  So, what can we do with a chocolate bar?  Does anyone have access to a crucible?

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