Today is the official release date for the Hungry Scientist Handbook, a new book by Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns.
The Hungry Scientist Handbook was conceived as a sort of cookbook for geek-centric food and– using the word a different way– as an a cookbook for food-oriented electronics– as evidenced by projects varying from polyhedral pies to LED lollipops.
We met Patrick and Lily at the 2006 Maker Faire, where they invited us to contribute a couple of chapters to their project. We did, and it’s finally out!
(We aren’t the only ones who are excited– we’ve seen write-ups at the LA Times and Wired this week.)
We also contributed a few new cooking projects that involve dry ice: Dry (Ice) Martinis, Fizzy dry ice lemonade, and Dry ice root beer. (With Floating bubbles on CO2 as a bonus project.)
And… a brand new exclusive Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories electronics project that we developed just for the Hungry Scientist Handbook: Smart Coasters.
Smart Coasters are cast-plastic coasters for your drink that light up red when you put a hot drink on top and light up blue with a cold drink. The design is fully analog– no microcontrollers and no programming– and they incorporate a solar cell so that the whole thing is hermetically sealed: waterproof and washable. Complete step-by-step DIY instructions are included for both the electronics and the resin casting.
Whether you’re floating bubbles on carbon dioxide, making a cloud chamber or wanting to keep the contents of your freezer frozen during a power outage, you are going to need dry ice. We’ve gotten a lot of questions about where to get dry ice. We found our local dealer by stumbling on a flyer at the grocery store, which isn’t the most reliable method. Luckily, we’ve found a fantastic resource for you (if you’re in the US): Airgas has a dry ice retailer locator on their website.
We have had mixed luck just showing up at the store (and one long dry ice dry spell during the period after a fire at the local plant) so we recommend calling ahead to check availability. Conveniently, Airgas includes phone numbers in their retailer listings.
Here’s your obligatory warning: dry ice is cold. Dangerously cold. Don’t allow prolonged (and by prolonged, we mean anything more than momentary) contact with skin. We don’t recommend using a hard plastic cooler for transporting dry ice as the very low temperature can make it brittle and prone to cracking. A styrofoam cooler is a better option, but a nice thick towel will do nicely for insulation in transit as well.
For an added bonus, here’s the Airgas page of Cool Uses for Dry Ice. You’ve got to love an industrial supplier that has a recipe for “Witch’s Brew” on their website!
You can actually do a version of this trick at home, using stuff that you either already have or can get a the grocery store: You can blow bubbles and float them– apparently in mid air– atop a layer of carbon dioxide; a not-very-exotic heavy gas. You’ll need a big pot, pan or storage bin (made of plastic or metal), some dry ice, and bubbles.
How do you do it? Place your dry ice in the pan and wait a few minutes for a layer of carbon dioxide to form in the bottom of the pan. (We used a 20″ diameter steel wok, which turns out to have a pretty good shape for the job.) Very, very gently, blow some bubbles above the pan and let them fall in. If your carbon dioxide layer is thick enough, the bubbles will bounce off of it, or often even come to rest, sitting in place.
We made a video so that you can get the idea, but you should really just try it yourself because it’s pretty straightforward and the pictures don’t do it justice.