Monday, March 30, 2009

Why adults on Benadryl should not play with matches.

My poor husband has been sick for over a week. He finally is holding up the white flag and is at the doctors. Hubby rarely gets sick. He normally has a pretty sunny disposition. For days now he's just been miserable-- not sleeping, coughing, sputtering, sore throat, fever, AND he's actually had to call in sick at work. Hubby never calls in sick to work. 

So while hubby has been sick, my son has been busy working on a huge physics project. A Rube Goldberg machine that will blow out a candle. For those of you not familiar, Rube is a cartoonest (and inventor) who was famous for depicting complex devices that perform simple tasks in really convoluted ways.

So my son's machine - AY YI YI - A marble travels down a tube then hits a cassette tape initiating a domino effect of multiple cassette tapes. The last one knocks a ball off of a platform. The ball is attached to the lid of a music box which then flips open. The music box starts to play. As it does, a string is wound around the music box key. The other end of the string is connected to a roll of quarters. The quarters are positioned on one end of a board. On the other end of the board, which hangs over the edge of the platform, is a heavy ball. As the string winds, the quarters are pulled off of the board, then the ball falls. Of course the ball is hooked to something. Right? It's connected to a cork which is stuffed into the bottom of a funnel. When the cork pulls out, sand starts to pour out of the funnel down a trough and into a coffee filter that is suspended by wire and tied to a lever by a rope. As the filter fills with sand, the lever tilts. On the other side of the lever is a homemade track with a matchbox car on it. The filter with sand goes down, lifting the track. Once it reaches a certain height, the car zooms down the track and hits a mousetrap, setting it off. The mousetrap is hooked up to a string which is wrapped around a fan. The trap goes off, pulling the string and turning the fan blades. In front of the fan is a trough of water with a homemade sailboat in it. On the sailboat is a lighted candle. The fan blows into the sail, moving the boat with the tealight directly under the filter with the sand. The flame burns through the filter, then the sand spills out, extinguishing the candle. Whew!

You can imagine how many hours it took for my 15 year old to put all of this together. HOURS and HOURS and HOURS. Yesterday he was working on trying to shave off a little time. Hubby suggested using an accelerant to speed up the burning process. "We can add a little lamp oil." 

OMG! The entire thing went up in flames. The flames were so high that they jumped above the wire that suspended the filter and caught on the rope. From there the cardboard trough caught, then the funnel. I ran out of the garage to grab a nearby hose. By the time I came back and put the fire out, 2/3'rds of the machine was gone. 

We stood back, looked at the mess, and started laughing. It was definitely one of those times that if we hadn't laughed, we would have cried. My son worked until late yesterday putting everything back together. This time using more non-flammable material and NO accelerant. 

The good news is that he's learned a lot in building this thing. He's learned quite a bit about physics - energy transfers, chemical reactions. He's also learned why you shouldn't let adults on Benadryl play with matches.



Emptrix said...

jaw agape and speechless

Captain Hook said...

OMG! That is priceless! I hope you got pix.

Samantha Sommersby said...

I actually have an early picture because I was looking through the lens when it caught. Of course I chucked the camera to tend to the fire and I haven't even looked at the picture. I'll have to check my son's phone when he gets home to see what the photo looked like.