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By Glynn Moore
Morris News Service
Back in high school, we had a science fair. I needed an idea, but, as has happened so many times before and after, my mind drew a blank. I was poorer than a college student and couldn't invest in exotic materials, so I looked around the house.
I found eggs.
We had chickens, so I figured they had already done most of the work for me. I built an incubator out of a cardboard box, coated inside with aluminum foil and warmed by a light bulb.
Not exactly original, but it cost only pennies.
Anybody could hatch eggs, so I took science a step further. I decided to inject the eggs with various liquids – alcohol in this one, colored water in that one – to see their effects on the chicks.
I assiduously mothered my eggs, monitoring the temperature, injecting them as needed and methodically recording each step. Weeks went by, and by the day of the science fair, not one egg had hatched. I didn't get the first drunken or Easter egg-tinted baby chick. What I got was a bunch of putrid eggs.
In retrospect, I should have suspected that nothing good happens when you mess with Mother Nature, when you don't plan your work better.
Years later, on a memorable WKRP in Cincinnati Thanksgiving episode, the radio station manager would echo my sentiments after his helicopter dropped live turkeys from 2,000 feet up: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"
Getting no chicks (a familiar high school lament), I wrote a paper that somehow exonerated me and laid the blame at the door of those eggs, that General Electric 100-watter and, so far as I remember, science itself.
It took me years to purge that experiment from my memory.
The other night, though, I picked up a new book by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who, among other things, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and co-founded the string field theory (all I know is, it has nothing to do with eggs).
Let me give you a couple of paragraphs from the preface to Physics of the Impossible (2008, Doubleday). Dr. Kaku writes: "In high school for my science fair project I assembled an atom smasher in my mom's garage. I went to the Westinghouse company and gathered 400 pounds of scrap transformer steel. Over Christmas I wound 22 miles of copper wire on the high school football field. Eventually I built a 2.3-million-electron-volt betatron particle accelerator, which consumed 6 kilowatts of power (the entire output of my house) and generated a magnetic field of 20,000 times the Earth's magnetic field. The goal was to generate a beam of gamma rays powerful enough to create antimatter.
"My science project took me to the National Science Fair and eventually fulfilled my dream, winning a scholarship to Harvard, where I could finally pursue my goal of becoming a theoretical physicist and follow in the footsteps of my role model, Albert Einstein."
An atom smasher in his mom's garage! That made me feel inadequate for a few minutes. Then it hit me.
My family never had a garage. We had chickens.
Reach Glynn Moore at glynn.moore@morris.com.



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