Spooky chemistry at Keele University

Posted: November 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Halloween saw the return of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, monsters, skeletons and even some action heroes to the Keele campus in the annual Spooktacular science outreach event, held at the Keele Sustainability hub. The event was open to the paying public (very reasonably priced at £3 / head or £10 / family), ran from 2 – 6 pm and involved lectures, demonstrations and hands-on experiments concerning the spookier side of science. The chemistry team was heavily involved in this, with stalls inviting children (and adults..) to make slime or alginate worms, as well to experience the smells of nasty and nice molecules. Dressed as a chemistry skeleton, I mainly supervised the latter stall, which was the brainchild of another Keele lecturer David Thompson and was erected outside the hall for fear of stinking out the place. That fear was well founded, as the “skunk” smell (butanethiol) proved to be highly potent! In addition to skunk, “Nasty” smells were mouldy cheese, smelly feet, sweat and poo, while “nice” smells were thyme, boiled sweets, flowers, mints and citrus fruits. Smelling smelly smells proved to be a lot a fun for everyone, with some of the parents quite surprised to find that  the compound used to give a poo smell (indole) is also used at low dosage in perfume to provide a “fruity” odour…

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Photos provided by David Thompson 

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