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Harry Potter chemistry demonstration

OHIO students demonstrate experiments similar to the magic described in "Harry Potter."

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Harry Potter travelling exhibit

The demonstrations were part of a travelling exhibit from the National Institute of Health.

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Harry Potter experiment

The chemists used a cauldron of dry ice for the presentation.

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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Chemistry fraternity shows the science behind "Harry Potter" potions


Children and families packed the Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery as Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry students brought some of Harry Potter's magic potions to life, such as a smoking cauldron, a rocket in a bottle and elephant toothpaste.

The Ohio University students reached out to many who may someday be interested in chemistry as a career, with their potions display for visitors to the Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery Saturday, Aug. 31.
The children at the potions performance were engaged, oohing and ahhing at the chemistry experiments with gasps from all around and some children jumping up in excitement.

OHIO students Daniel Nething , Brandon Shiflett, Stella Tanesis, Lauren Loftus, Marie Hayden, Jenna Silverman, Matt Dill and Wen Zhang were able to show the children a variety of magical demonstrations.

Presentations included a rocket in a bottle, colorful flames, a smoking cauldron using dry ice, how to make elephant toothpaste and multiple liquid nitrogen experiments. The elephant toothpaste sent foamy bubbles overflowing from a beaker. Tanesis conducted the experiment and explained that it is the same reaction used for volcano projects.

"A couple of the things didn't work as well as when we tried them before, but it's chemistry, and chemistry doesn't always work, so that's expected. But I thought it was really, really good," said Silverman, the master alchemist with the Alpha Chi Sigma Gamma Nu Chapter.

Silverman demonstrated the liquid nitrogen experiments, something she said she was excited to do for the first time. She showed the children that by placing objects in the liquid it could be used to shrink inflated balloons, harden a bouncy ball and turn yellow carnations to a crisp. The flowers could be crushed after being placed in the liquid.The fraternity got as many children involved as possible, giving them balloons to be submerged and allowing them to crumble the flowers.

"We would love to have everyone come up and play with the carnations and everything, but it's hard to get every single kid to do it, and we had a much bigger turnout than we expected," Nething said.

As a parting gift, children were given chemistry beakers.

"We hope they all come to OU and join the chemistry program and our future AXΣ brothers," Silverman said.

As part of the National Institute of Health's six-banner travelling exhibit Harry Potter's World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine, the fraternity was asked to help out by showing children how chemistry brings to life the magic described in a well-known literary series: "Harry Potter." The Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery is located in the Market on State in Athens.

"As a kid, I came to demonstrations like this, and it always sparked my interest in chemistry," said graduate student and fraternity member Daniel Nething, reflecting on how important community outreach can be for the fraternity. "Once I got into high school, I got to start doing more cool experiments," he explained. "I think that helps start new generations of chemists, and even if they don't, I think they really enjoy seeing just the mystery of science."