ROCK ISLAND — Augustana College's "mad scientist" professors fired up their Tesla coils and plasma globes Friday night to ignite the love of physics, chemistry and biology in the hearts of local Girl Scouts.
About 20 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 donned goggles and lab coats for the Mad Scientist Masquerade at Augustana College's Hanson Hall of Science. The night included demonstrations on the physics behind grain elevator explosions, interactive electrical displays, optical illusions and thought-evoking discussions on the fundamentals of science.
Among the maniacal professors was Pamela Trotter, a biochemistry teacher at Augustana who sported a wild red wig Friday night. As she set up a miniature mock grain elevator with a small candle inside, she explained how the otherwise flammable grains resist the flame -- until they are projected into the air.
Using a long plastic tube, she blew the grains into the air, increasing their surface area and making them vulnerable to the flame. The result was a surprisingly large fireball that rose several feet into the air before dissipating.
"This is the kind of stuff you don't want to do at home," Ms. Trotter said.
One of the girls, Jacee Eddy, of Bettendorf, said she was eager to learn more about science, although it isn't her favorite subject.
"It's actually kinda fun," she said.
Earlene Johnson, the mother of one of the participants, said she thought it was great for her daughter, Shyla, to learn more about science — a subject she enjoys — while also having fun.
"More girls are into science than there used to be," Ms. Johnson said. "They're just as smart as math and science as boys."
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.