About the Sodium Movies

The sodium movies involve footage taken in the classroom and outdoors that focus on my "Sodium Swimming in a Trashcan" experiment which was developed over several years time. I have always enjoyed sharing the unusual properties of the alkali metals with my students. For years I had performed the sodium and water reaction in the classroom underneath a large one-hole bell jar which allowed me to demonstrate this reaction without spattering lye everywhere. It all started when I decided to come up with a way to safely enjoy a larger scale sodium/water reaction that could be more of an experiment rather than just a demonstration. I originally envisioned a child's plastic swimming pool, but I went with a large battery jar with a large section of clear PVC pipe. You can see the results of this experiment. When I switched to a double trashcan system, it provided a more closed and measurement friendly system while getting the added benefit of the lid launching skyward. The classroom movie attempts to explain the reactions and show the steps   and materials involved in the set-up. Unfortunately, the instructor is rather boring and did not have a microphone. All of the sound is recorded through the microphone on board the camera so it can be difficult to hear me unless you turn the sound up. The other two movies show outdoor footage of the reaction taking place. If you look closely at the 2000 experiment you can see the seam of the trashcan burst from the pressure (you can also see it in the still frame below). The 2001 experiment will involve another trip to the hardware store. If you read the experiment handout you will see that we do a number of predictions prior to the reaction that require a healthy knowledge of chemical concepts. I have shown the reaction to my first year students, but my second year students are the ones who have completed all the predictions, recorded live data in the field, and submitted reports.

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