One of the Expanding Your Horizons conferences I do every year is in Carlsbad at the local branch of the New Mexico State University. I take the trailer down and stay a few days, visit the cave, etc. The trailer park I stayed in last year has a sign saying “Not a Gun Free Zone”. I couldn’t stay at my usual trailer park in town because it is being threatened by a massive sinkhole left over from and old brine well. I can just imagine my new Lance 2285 trailer slowly sinking headfirst into the ground. Hopefully without me in it. So I went up to the KOA halfway between Carlsbad and Artesia. There be mosquitoes there – I got eaten alive. We don’t have mosquitoes in Los Alamos. Too dry. And the internet was almost non-existent. Otherwise quite nice.
I had about a dozen girls, age 8 to 12, in my “Light, Color, and Sparkles” class, with two consecutive sessions. We make rainbows with prisms, use laser pointers to look at diffraction and reflection, and write with blue light on phosphorescent paper. I demonstrate why the sky is blue, and even set up a laser microscope which is very cool. Get an eyedropper full of dirty water, mount it in a stand, squeeze out a spherical drop of water, and shine a laser pointer at the sphere. I have a white screen set up a foot away from all this, and the drop gets magnified about 100 times. You can see all the paramecia and little animals swimming around.
This year I got water for the eyedropper from the local Pecos River, which smelled rather funny. Seems the kids are forbidden to swim there because there’s some kind of bloom going on. Which also meant that there were lots of interesting swimming things in the drop of water. A whole universe in a drop of water.
The girls crowded around to watch. Suddenly one of them said, “Eeww. We’re girls, not boys. We’re not supposed to like this stuff.” Then a small piece of algae brook loose and floated across the screen. They all screamed and ran away.
But amid the chaos I heard one girl say softly, “If I were going to do this I’d have to keep the whole thing really steady because you just touch it and the drop jiggles”.
So at least I got through to one of them.