Saturday, May 14, 2005

Rocket Fuel

One ofmy joys of adolescence was creative destruction. It seemed that nothing was safe from my urge to dismantle, blow-up and otherwise ruin my immediate surroundings. I was encouraged in this behavior by that bastion of middle-class America, The Reader's Digest. In between abridged novels (Gone With the Wind - in only 200 pages!) and helpful health related features (I am Joe's Colon) the editors (who must have been drunk that day) published a story about teen-aged rocketeers - including a formula for rocket fuel! Well, after my buddy Tom and I read that, it was only a matter of time before we put it to a proper "scientific" test. The science room at our junior high had the proper ingredients so we mixed them together during “science club” after school one day. Now you may ask: “Where was your faculty advisor?” and the answer would be: “Who knows?” Unlike the virtual lock-down conditions of many of the schools today, in the innocent sixties students often spent a great of time unsupervised. At any rate, we had procured a tin can to be our test vessel (so as not to damage any of the schools equipment!) and proceeded to ignite what we assumed to be a small amount of fuel.

What did we learn from this experiment?

#1. Rocket fuel has A LOT OF ENERGY per mass.
#2. When you ignite rocket fuel in a tin can, the can immediately turns red-hot
#3. Any combustible material adjacent to aforementioned tin can will be immediately charred.
#4. It takes a long time to sand out char marks from a wooden table-top.
#5. Science club was canceled for the rest of the year.

Well, they did allow us to continue our studies- I'm sure if we were students today and tried a stunt like that we would be incarcerated until our twenty-first birthday, and then would have begun a lifetime of crime. Somehow I think that The Reader's Digest doesn't publish rocket fuel formulas anymore.

By Professor Batty


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