Monday, August 22, 2011

Move Over, Harry Houdini

What is it about magic that makes people stare in awe? You know, that moment when you realize, hey, I didn't have a quarter in my ear when I came in this room. But now you're handing me a quarter from my ear, and I can keep it, and even spend it? Wow!
Stay with me now while I go to the next step. It's like when I know I've just taken junk paper, soaked it in water and buzzed it in the blender. I know it was garbage, then wet, then gunk. But then there's the moment of magic (okay, I know it's chemistry, but it still feels like magic) when I pull the gunky pulp out of the vat on a screen, let the water drip away, and place it onto the waiting felt and press it. I know what it was just a moment ago, but now it's something new and beautiful and different. It's like I can go out and spend that shiny new quarter.
The words "pulp" and "hydrogen bonding" do not stop people in their tracks and cause them to say "Wow!" But when I demonstrate papermaking and people see the process, you'd think I just pulled a quarter out from their ear. Move over, Harry, papermaking is magic.