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Fischer Lecture on How Fun Science Can Be

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Staff Writer

Tuesday night Dr. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri presented “Science is Fun.”  Shakhashiri is the President-Elect of the American Chemical Society, and this marked the 20th annual presentation of the series. 

 Shakhashiri enlightened students about the fundamentals of science and the decline of literacy in scientific studies.  He also explained this decline is not an excuse to separate ourselves from science or all together avoid science. 

Shakhashiri was born in Lebanon and became a naturalized United States citizen.  He says he is grateful to be an American citizen and shows his gratitude through work by saying that science is “freedom.”  Freedom and democracy are important to the chemist and strongly believes in President Lincoln’s speech on public opinion. 

“Science is vital to our democracy,” Shakhashiri said.

Shakhashiri explains that his method to increase scientific literacy is a two-part vocation: the advancement of chemistry, which includes his research and work in the scientific community; and the communication of chemistry, publications, and lectures.  He explains that science differentiates our society from others.

Shakhashiri demonstrated experiments with a lesson in observation and perception that coincided with each. For the first experiment, there were four balloons floating in the air, two were yellow and two blue. The chemist took a crude looking flame-thrower and held it close to the yellow balloons.

Each balloon popped, but when he directed the flame toward the blue balloons they exploded with a ball of fire. The blue balloons were filled with the highly combustible gas hydrogen.

The next exciting experiment included six large graduated cylinders, pairs of blue and purple. Shakhashiri took dry ice and dropped a chunk into every other cylinder and before the audiences eyes the cylinders turned yellow, green, and orange. 

He explained that the dry ice reacts with the chemicals inside the cylinder creating carbonic acid and in conjunction with the indicating solution also in place changed the color of the solution. 

The lecture was very relaxed, creating a fun atmosphere for both audience and lecturer.  Though some of the experiments were elementary and easily explained, there were roars of laughter and cheers. A crowd of all ages was well entertained in this night of knowledge and amusement.

The lecture was sponsored by RC Chemistry Department in named after Dr. Charles H. Fisher ’28. Fisher, now 104, is a distinguished Maroon and chemist.  He was an adjunct research professor for Roanoke College, and has publishing over 200 publications and 72 patents.