Britain shows its scientific side; ‘Practical Pyromaniac’ explains experiments

July 4, 2011
Show and Tell
Britain presents its scientific side
Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, www.royalsociety.org/summer-science/2011

The Royal Society’s annual summer science exhibition runs today through July 10 in central London. For those of us who aren’t in Great Britain this week, there’s a fun Web site describing the 22 exhibits. Subjects include biology, chemistry, engineering, technology, health, environment and physics. An exhibit about airport security demonstrates the newest tracking technology to help screeners scan baggage. Another shows how people adapt their speech to make it easier for others to understand them in noisy environments, such as altering pitch and speed. (There’s even an online video about this practice.) The Royal Society is a British science organization founded in 1660.

Use care in these experiments
Playing with fire
“The Practical Pyromaniac” (Chicago Review Press, $16.95)

If you’re going to set stuff on fire, it’s best to be practical about it. That’s the idea behind “The Practical Pyromaniac” by engineer William Gurstelle. (Readers might recall his past DIY books, including “Backyard Ballistics” and “The Art of the Catapult.”) Gurstelle is apparently a fan of history, because he introduces his experiments with a few pages of relevant events from the past. For example, his portable camping stove project, “The Burning Ring of Fire,” begins with information about how American colonists kept warm in New England. Other projects include the one-candlepower engine, a propane flamethrower and a fire tornado that spins on a turntable.

Rachel Saslow

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