The Crisp Packet Fireworks Show!

05 April 2009

Interview with 

Chris and Ben


Meera - It's 1 o'clock on the day of the first Naked Scientists show and I'm here backstage.

Chris - It's 1 o'clock! Have we only got half an hour?

Ben - We have 30 minutes to get everything ready before we go onstage.

Meera - How is everybody?

SciFest Africa AudienceBen - Well, we've practised pretty much everything. We know what we're doing. We've had to write down the order but we do roughly know what we're doing. Everything's on the stage, laptops are all set up. I think we should be ok. Now we've just got to hope some people turn up!

Meera - I've met a lot of school kids this morning that are all expecting great things. What's your reaction to that?

Chris - Actually I went to the talk before to see what the audience were going to be like. It was absolutely packed out. This auditorium is massive. It's 900 seats out there and there's schoolkids in all of them. They seem to be an enthusiastic audience but at the same time we've not done this show before. We've not done it as a three parter with me, Dave and Ben so this is going to be really interesting to see if we can (a) remember what we're going to say and (b) what we're going to do and then ...while I get to (d) probably that these experiments work. Fingers crossed. We nearly blew someone away in the foyer earlier when we were doing a few test runs with our hydrogen. This guy appeared wide-eyed. I thought we were going to give him a heart attack and he said, 'That was really loud! Especially the second detonation.'

Meera - I see here you've got your ear defenders on Chris.

Chris - Yeah. That's so I can't hear myself.  

Meera - Ben, you've got a nice running order on a clipboard there that should help things run a bit smoothly.

Glowing Highlighter
Glowing Highlighter - as part of Crisp Packet Fireworks at the MTN Sciencentre, Cape Town © Jason Hudson -

Ben - It will once I've fully populated it. There's all sorts of different things that we're doing. We're doing lots of experiments with different themes. It's a case of making sure we know what the theme is at every time we nicely go from one to the other because we want people to take a lot away from this. It's not just bright lights and big loud bangs. There's quite a lot of stuff you can learn from our talk which is what we try and do all the time with things like Kitchen Science. I'd better go and set a few things up on stage and colour myself in. The very first thing I'm doing is standing in UV light with lots of highlighter pen all over my arms. You shouldn't be able to see the highlighter pen in normal light but as soon as we've switched the UV on I'll be glowing. That should be quite a good start.

Meera - That should be a nice surprise. Good luck!

Ben - Cheers!

Meera - The crisp packet fireworks show features glowing chemicals, liquid nitrogen, a tornado of fire and exploding hydrogen balloons. With over 20 experiments packed into a one hour show it's fast-paced and keeps the audience on their toes. The grand finale features Chris pouring liquid nitrogen into a large bucket of hot soapy water. This nitrogen boils and expands to around 600 times its liquid volume, creating an enormous amount of bubbles almost instantly. This plume of bubbles nearly hits the ceiling and most definitely covers Chris. For the audience this is a great way to finish.

Vincey - My name's Vincey Rada.

Meera - Have you just come out of the Naked Scientists' show?

Vincey - Yes, I have.

Meera - What did you think?

Vincey - It was a very good show. They did a lot of experiments, it was interesting and I enjoyed it immensely.

Meera - What was your favourite experiment?

Vincey - I think my favourite experiment was the last one. They had a bubble bath  and then they put liquid nitrogen in the bubble bath. It all foamed up.

Meera - Made a big mess?

Vincey - Yes.

Meera - Jeremy - did you come out of the Naked Scientists' show?

Jeremy - Yes, it was very good.

Meera - What was your favourite experiment that they did?

Jeremy - The one where they fried the pickle or electrocuted the gherkin. It was like a homemade electric chair.

Meera - What happened to the gherkin?

Jeremy - It flamed up and went an orange colour.

Meera - Has this made you want to go home and try out some experiments for yourself? That are safe, of course.

Jeremy - Yeah. Yes!

Meera - Hello, what's your name?

Onilla - Onilla Chandran.

Meera - Have you just come out of the Naked Scientists' show?

Onilla - Yes. I've just seen it.

Meera - What did you think? Did you like it?

Onilla - I highly enjoyed the show.

Meera - Did it make you like science more or did you already like science anyway?

Onilla - I already had an enjoyment for science but more boosted my confidence in science.

Meera - There were a lot of experiments in there. What was your favourite experiment?

Onilla - My favourite had to be the fluorescent highlighters where they pained themselves. You could see them through the UV lighting.

Meera - What's your name?

Zis - Zis.

Meera - Did you just come out of the naked Scientists' show?

Zis - Yes, I did.

Meera - Did you enjoy it?

EarplugsZis - I did, very much.

Meera - Has it made you like science more or did you like it anyway?

Zis - I did like science before I got into that and I love it more.

Meera - What was your favourite thing that they did today?

Zis - When that blue balloon when that blue balloon blew up. I liked that very much.

Ben - That blue balloon was filled with a mixture of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen. When ignited they react together with explosive results. The audience certainly enjoy it and it led to the SciFest organisers awarding us the Golden Earplugs Award: a prestigious award for the loudest act at the festival.

These incredible pictures are courtesy of Jason Hudson - find him at

Chemiluminescence © Jason Hudson -
Hydrogen Bubbles
Hydrogen Bubbles © Jason Hudson -
A rose frozen in liquid nitrogen
A rose frozen in liquid nitrogen © Jason Hudson -
Hydrogen bottle rocket
Hydrogen bottle rocket © Jason Hudson -
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 1
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 1 © Jason Hudson -
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 2
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 2 © Jason Hudson -
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 4
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 4 © Jason Hudson -
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 8
Nitrogen and a bubble bath part 8 © Jason Hudson


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