Chemiluminescence demonstrations probably get the most “oohs and aahs” from the audience. Consequently, they are popular in chemical outreach presentations. Luminol is the most common reagent to illustrate this phenomenon. Demonstrators have various ways of presenting this demonstration, for example, pouring the solutions through a spirial glass tube.

We like … Read more

Genie in the Bottle

As noted in previous posts, we use chemical magic to get the attention of the audience. However, we are not magicians in the strict sense. Magicians do not share their secrets. We use magic to get the attention of the audience then we reveal how the trick was done. Our … Read more

The Clock Reaction

A popular and entertaining demonstration is the Clock Reaction. Clock reactions serve two purposes. With their relatively slow kinetics, they are used in a laboratory setting to investigate kinetic reactions. In an outreach presentation they are eye catching. In the clock reaction, two clear, colorless solutions are mixed, and … Read more

Oscillating Clock

The Oscillating Clock Reaction is a variation of the iodine clock in which the solution cycles between two colors (black and amber). The chemistry is rather complex, but the value in this demonstration is pure entertainment.

The history of the oscillating reaction is interesting. W.C. Bray in 1921 reported an … Read more

Narrated Videos

We hope you are enjoying our chem demo videos set to music. In addition, many of our videos are also narrated. These serve as an alternative pedagogical approach to our demo music videos, and sometimes include more details about the demo. Thanks to our affiliation with the Chicago Section of … Read more

Dribble Cup – a “Fun” Demonstration

When professional firefighters or law enforcement officers visit public school classrooms, they dress and act according to their professional roles. More often than not the chemist’s visit involves funny t-shirts, cute hats, and silly behavior. Thus many chemical outreach presentations support the very stereotypes that the profession has come to … Read more

Sympathy for the Alchemist

Many claim that modern chemistry of the 20th and 21st centuries began in the late 18th century with the work by Lavoisier and the abandonment of the phlogiston theory. Of course, chemistry did not suddenly appear in the late 1700’s. One could trace chemistry back to the time of the … Read more

The Scientific Method

The scientific methodis the modus operandi of science. It involves formulating and testing a theory. The theory is supported or not supported by the test results. In the event the observation does not agree with the theory, the theory has to be abandoned or revised.

In explaining the scientific … Read more

Chemistry of the Planet Earth

Oxygen is about 20% of the earth’s atmosphere; consequently, combustion is an important reaction on this planet. It’s no wonder that scientists for centuries have been trying to arrive at a theory of why things burn. For example, Phlogiston theory was an attempt to explain combustion and was popular during … Read more

Pyrotechnics and Explosions

No outreach chemical demonstration presentation is complete without pyrotechnics or an explosion. Demonstrations of such usually require a supply of gas (hydrogen or methane), are dangerous (sodium), or can get out of control (we recall a thermite reaction that went out of control in 1990 during a public demonstration … Read more

Chemical Magic

As indicated in our title “Is It Chemistry or Magic”, we use chemical magic in our presentation.  However we are not chemical magicians! What’s the difference? Chemical magic is strictly “sleight of hand”. As in traditional magic, the object is to fool the audience. People love magic. Why? First, it’s … Read more

The Audience

At the end of our videos we have a slide that reads: “CheMagic is Otis Rothenberger, James Webb & Friends”. Our friends are those who attend our presentation. We estimate that in the 20 years of giving “Is It Chemistry or Magic?” presentations, we have had a total audience of … Read more

A Household Chemistry Challenge

In this post, we offer a challenge: Suggest a potential household chemistry demonstration and we’ll attempt to turn it into an entertaining video! First, consider an example.

The CheMagic professional outreach presentation “Is It Chemistry or Magic?” has a demonstration repertoire that includes four demonstrations that we call “… Read more

Chemical Demonstrations Home Post

Please Read Me First: The chemical demonstration outreach presentation “Is It Chemistry or Magic?” traveled the American Chemical Society Speaker’s tour circuit for 15 years. This presentation was founded on four principles – 1 negative and 3 positive”

  • Chemical demonstrations cannot teach chemical principles per se.
  • Chemical demonstrations
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