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Northwestern University

Things That Go Boo!M

What do you get when you mix spouting flames, exploding balloons, the Northwestern fight song, tap dancers, gummy bears and a collection of ambitious scientists?

Why, chemistry instructor Eberhard Zwergel’s annual Halloween spectacular, of course. For the better part of 20 years, Zwergel and his crew of students, program assistants and faculty colleagues have dazzled thousands with a Halloween-inspired extravaganza showcasing the power and beauty of science. This year’s show on Oct. 28 continued that tradition, featuring more than 20 combustible experiments such as the “Wand o’ Death” and the “Methane Mamba” and culminating with the earsplitting explosion of several large balloons filled with hydrogen, oxygen and a trace of strontium salt.

Between experiments, the near-capacity crowd at Tech enjoyed dance interludes by student troupes Tonik Tap, Graffiti Dancers and Boomshaka as well as rousing tunes from the Northwestern Marching Band and the rock group Capital Punishment.

Sparking interest in chemistry is one of Zwergel’s goals, but he isn’t much concerned with teaching chemical equations during the Halloween event. Fun is the aim of the day.

“People don’t need to know the formulas,” Zwergel says. “Just sit back and enjoy, because science at work can be beautiful and exciting.

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