The Chemistry of…

(No.1 in a series of n)


I knew the basics about how glowsticks work, but I wasn’t aware of the actual chemicals involved. But the boy came home with Science homework yesterday evening which was to research the exact mechanism. We never got to play with glowsticks in our Science classes. Although I did use them extensively in farmers’ barns across Northumberland and several (or more) warehouses in Gateshead a couple of years later.

But I digress (often).

My insatiable lust for pointless knowledge led me to peek over his shoulder as he found this rather cool page on this rather cool site.

And basically, it’s a fairly simple chemical reaction:

diphenyl oxalate + hydrogen peroxide = phenol (yikes!) + 1,2-dioxetanedione.

The unstable 1,2-dioxetanedione then breaks down in the presence of the dye, which is activated by the energy released as two carbon dioxide molecules are produced. Still slightly concerned about that phenol though.

Those dye molecules look like something out of the Power Rangers.

Of course, you don’t need to know this to enjoy waving your glowstick around, but a little trivia never hurt anyone. Well, unless it pushes something important out of your brain, like how to breathe or something like that.

Or just how dangerous phenol can be.

Can you blog about anything?

My daughter saw my back end the other day.

Of my blog – the back end of my blog. The bit where I write stuff.
Jeez. I need to make these things clear up front, hey?

We had a short conversation about blogging and she asked whether I could blog about anything. Could I, for example, blog about the glass harmonica she learned about at school?

This one?

The glass harmonica, also known as the glass armonicaglass harmoniumbowl organhydrocrystalophone, or simply the armonica or harmonica (derived from  harmonia, the Greek word for harmony).

You had me at hydrocrystalophone.

Well, yes I can. And I can even share a video of one being played.

This is the original, mechanical, sideways version of those wine glass street performers that you see in tourist areas of major european cities. The design is credited to Benjamin Franklin back in 1761.

So yes, my dear, I can blog about anything. The world is my whelk.

Whether anyone reads it is a completely different matter altogether, of course.


Today, if weather permits (and actual genuine spoiler, it looks like it won’t), I’ll be helping with recording a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest number of people playing Mancala at any one time.

What is Mancala? I hear you ask. This is Mancala (not, as Wikipedia first warns us, to be confused with mandala or Lake Manzala):

Mancala is one of the oldest known games to be played. Mancala is a generic name for a family of 2-player turn-based strategy board games played with small stones, beans, or seeds and rows of holes or pits in the earth, a board or other playing surface. The objective is usually to capture all or some set of the opponent’s stones, beans, etc. Versions of the game have been played for at least hundreds of years around the world.

It’s part of the kids’ school’s 20th Anniversary celebrations and I think it’s a great way to remember a special birthday year.

The students have made and decorated their own Mancala boards and learned how to play the game – which is no bad thing in itself, as this article tells us:

Because there’s a lot more to playing these games than just… well… playing these games:

The African continent has a long history of gameplay that extends back to pre-slavery and precolonial times. Board games, in particular, have been used to teach, or reinforce, values as well as cognitive and motor skills.

The list of requirements for a Guinness World Record attempt is unsurprisingly rather long and arduous, but the team at the school responsible for this attempt have got it all in hand. For my part, I’ll be taking Florence the Mavic up to record the fun from on high. I may have to hide her behind some trees to get some protection from the wind.

Having been desperate for rain for most of this year, the inevitable Whatsapp group set up to keep us informed with the latest updates is ironically suddenly filled with prayers for dry weather for this morning. It’s not looking promising, but we’re going to give it a go anyway – the fourth term calendar is too full to easily accept a postponement.

Wish us luck – and maybe watch out for some of my aerial footage illustrating a new World Record  for South Africa in the 2020 GWR Book.

Influenza A virus subtype H1N1

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug going around Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs at the moment and that nasty bug is Influenza A virus subtype H1N1.

Sadly, my daughter has succumbed and is man girl down. It’s been four days now and she’s only starting to mend. I think there’s a nice bacterial bronchitis taking hold now.

It’s not fun seeing your kids struck down like this, so my advice to you would be to try to avoid letting your kids get Influenza A virus subtype H1N1.

And while the Northern hemisphere flu vaccine included cover for H1N1, our local version… didn’t.


Thus, the only way to effectively protect your children is to hermetically seal them in a plastic bag. However, I have been informed that this may also be detrimental to their health, so maybe don’t try that.

Lucozade, rest, nurofen and – from today –  some azithromycin.

We’ll get her mended.

Rotten news

I was saddened to learn this week of the death of Stefán Karl Stefánsson.

Who he, you may ask. He was… is… he will always be the actor who played villain Robbie Rotten in the cult children’s TV series, LazyTown.

The premise of the show was fairly straightforward: Robbie Rotten was the villain, trying to get the children of Lazytown to spend more time being lazy, eating junk food and playing computer games.

Hero Sportacus, seen here cradling Robbie, always wins through with his regime of healthy eating and activity.

Lazytown was just far enough up the scale of weirdness to be cool without being frankly scary (see The Night Garden, In The). It was one of the kids shows that I was forced to sit through that I actually quite enjoyed. They were few and far between. I quite like Henry Danger these days.

But I digress, often.

Stefánsson was very open about his illness and how he reacted to it:

It’s not until they tell you you’re going to die soon that you realise how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big.

All in all, he just seemed like a genuinely nice guy. And as Sportacus’ actor Magnús Scheving shared on Instagram:

Today the world is poorer. Stefan a great talent and a human being passed away. My heartfelt for his friends and family. LazyTown will be empty without you ??

Sad news.