Time for the yearly school science fair. You brainstorm with your 15-year-old son, what project would be appropriate this year? How about something easy, like growing potato sprouts with different nutrients, or finding out if girls and boys have different resting pulse rates? Nope, any “science” project is worthless if it doesn’t involve one of the big three: power, fire or noise.
Thus, this year’s project was to test a variety of liquid gas burning backcountry cookstoves. In the garage. Next to dad’s ski quiver. At least the Jeep was parked outside (and I moved the new Atomic Kongurs into the office.)
The experiment turned out to be fairly involved and a good exercise in scientific inquiry. The fuel was metered out in precise quantity, water was brought to given temperature, then remaining fuel was measured. Three trials were run. Five stoves were tested: Brunton, Coleman, Whisperlite, XGK, and ancient Svea. According to research, hypothesis held that the Whisperlite would win, but the XGK came out on top. Good job Louie, now we know which stove we’ll be carrying on those spring ski traverses!
While finishing up the display last night, conversation turned to past projects. We all agreed our biggest success was a pyrotechnic model simulating the sacking and burning of an ancient city. This was built (outdoors) using matches and gunpowder, and ignited in the school playground. Awe is my best description of the class reaction to this.
It runs in the family. Show-and-tell at my 1950s grade school in Dallas Texas was always a boor (how many teddy bear names can you learn?) — that is, until my turn came. I was about 9-years-old. My dad had taken me on a photography trip, covering a live rattlesnake hunt. I brought back a few live ones to play around with at home, fat mean Texas rattlers that would bite anything that moved. One day I loaded the serpents up in an aquarium and hauled them off to school. That morning it was mayhem in the classroom as I showed my mates how you could tap on the aquarium, and a big snake would strike at your hand with a loud thump, leaving a smear of venom on the glass. Of course it didn’t take long for word to spread that we had live rattlesnakes in the classroom. What happened after that is a blur: the school evacuation, my parents having to come get the snakes. In all, excellent! My only regret was not getting to throw a teddy bear in with the rattlers as an “experiment.”
|The completed science fair display — flame on!|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.