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back to article Made for each other: liquid nitrogen and 1,500 ping-pong balls

It's the rare scientific mind that has the pure intellectual chutzpah to tackle a problem that has troubled boffinry since the discovery of cryogenics – namely, "What happens if you combine liquid nitrogen with 1,500 ping-pong balls?" C'mon, don't tell The Reg that question hasn't crossed your mind. It hasn't? Well, then you don …

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Happy

Sidebar ad: "Play ping-pong whenever you want, all by yourself!"

Guess so...

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FAIL

Nothing new here, move along

This trick is very very old one for folks trained in the field of Low Temperature Physics. I remember seeing this done in the 1970's while in graduate school, and the person who did it was in his 60's and claimed to have first seen it when he was in graduate school.

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Re: Nothing new here, move along

I know you think your comment is more important than other people's, but just picking the first post and making an unconnected reply so you can ride higher than everyone else's posts... don't do that.

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Trollface

Amazing

The things you can afford to do when you charge 50 kids £9,000 a year.

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Devil

Re: Amazing

More. Look carefully at the audience. Zoom into fullscreen if you have to. You will see that these are not the 9k paying students you are looking for.

This looks like a circus run for the entertainment of candidate foreign students during an open day tour. If memory serves me right you are allowed to charge these more than the base 9k fee which locals have to pay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazing

The kids paying the £9k/year (that a lot of these kids still don't seem to have realised they only pay back long AFTER they use the service) who get the direct benefit of the education and increased lifetime financial earnings makes more sense to me than a cleaner on £15k/year struggling to make ends meet paying their £9k for them.

Sure, if you want 10% of the population to go to Uni society can afford it. At 50%, it's not sustainable, and those who benefit should pay more of a contribution.

I'm sorry if I can't bring myself to weep for these kids.

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Re: Amazing

This probably costs less than the adobe typesetting program for publishing the lecturers compulsory book in hardback form, which will immediately be out of date as any students that actually buy a copy will be performing the task of proofreading.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 7:28 and upvoters

No, you can't bring yourself to weep for these kids. You're rich enough for your kids to be able to go whaterver the fee and it's the only the plebs and chavs that will be put off going by the 9 grand a year price tag.

An educated workforce obviously does nothing for the economy as a whole, and the last thing we need is a group of working class oiks getting above themselves because they have an "education"....

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Re: Amazing

The problem with your argument is how you go from 50% to 10%. You seem to think that the way to restrict the numbers is to make sure that only the rich can afford to go to university. I would argue that it's more important to encourage the less well off to get a degree, as their prospects are often worse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 7:28 and upvoters

The way these new rules actually work means that many of them will never actually pay back as much as I will, as I was under the original Labour rules which were "You WILL pay the whole lot back unless you die first. And no, you still owe us the money even if you're bankrupt."

Thus the boundaries and repayment rates meant that some student would be paying the interest on the student loan for their entire life.

It got changed a couple of years later to "We'll write off the remainder after 25 years", but the boundaries still meant that many would pay back more than the original loan amount.

The new rules are writing off after 30 years, but now the boundaries are such that the national average pays back £33k total on a loan of £27k, and most of those below average earnings will have paid back less than they borrowed before the write-off.*

So how exactly does that loan put them off?

Unless of course it's because they can't do the maths, in which case they probably shouldn't be doing a science, maths or engineering degree anyway, so job done at promoting those!

* Source: BBC Student Finance

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazing

I think a lot of degrees need to be revoked if future candidates are to be in with a chance.

If you're over 40 your degree should be revoked. For your own good

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazing

and actually if you're under 30 no degree for you either.

in fact i think no degrees for anyone. fuck em. fuck em.

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Re: Amazing

"Sure, if you want 10% of the population to go to Uni society can afford it. At 50%, it's not sustainable, and those who benefit should pay more of a contribution."

I'd rather we as taxpayers paid for that 10% to go to university assuming that they go on merit alone (which I'd admit is hard to enforce). The current system of churning out tens of thousands of rubbish graduates that can barely spell their own names and have zero interest in their subjects is no use.

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@Sabroni

" You seem to think that the way to restrict the numbers is to make sure that only the rich can afford to go to university."

I feel I have to butt in here and say that didn't get that sentiment from the OP. On the contrary, they seemed to be bemoaning the fact that we had gone from 10 to 50 and *as a consequence* had to ditch the previous system.

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Re: Amazing

All we have to do is tell the retards in the HR depts in the UK that 90% of jobs do not require a degree full stop.

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Re: Amazing

Liquid Nitrogen is pretty cheap - pence per litre for the electricity. A few pingpong balls don't cost much. We have the video. Lighten up...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazing

just my 2p worth....

It used to anoy the hell out of me that in the past, when kids who's parents were on low incomes and all the tuition fees were paid for by the state and recived grants to live on for the time they were at uni, only to piss off overseas and take on well paid jobs and not paying uk tax repaying the investment the state made in them.....

with student loans, at least they are investing in their own futures.

The student loan system will if anything stop the masses of people doing nonsense courses that never leave to a job, but they see it as better than getting a job in the first place.

If anything, I think the state should write off a % of the loan for each year they are paying tax in the UK so that people can be out of debt for their studies sooner.

It does not bother me or my daughter that she is likely to be 40k+in debt by the time she finishes uni. she will be well qualified as a dentist and be earning more than that each year

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Re: @AC 7:28 and upvoters

Already happening at my work place. They come straight out of Uni and end up same place I am working as there isn't any other jobs. But once here they seem to think they are better because they have a bit of paper, I make sure I put them back in their place quick smart. Not only are they lazy and weak but can't even do basic problem solving on the job. People must realise we can't all be doctors otherwise everything we have in society will crumble. Uni is just a sham to take people's money and keep it looking like governments are doing something. What is the bet there will probably be uni degrees for cleaning sooner or later! Laugh all you like now but there are already uni courses for topics that clearly don't need it.

Here is just a sample of some of the most rediculous, But there are many many others.

http://www.toptenz.net/to-10-useless-college-classes-degrees.php

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazing

No, all we have to do is fire all the retards in the HR depts. There, fixed it for you.

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WTF?

Ahhhh... The Internet...

Where poitical articles' comments are filled with childish name calling, and an article for a youtube video of an explosion results in a page of debate regarding the state of tertiary education.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 7:28 and upvoters

Yep, just been working this out myself. For each student that doesn't become a "high earner", i.e. 60K (*) plus before they are 40, the government (thats us) will end up spending more than they (we) would by paying the fees up-front. Mind you the private companies involved will do quite well out of it, so thats nice.

(*) excl inflation

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Rich vs Poor

I would have thought that the most scholastically gifted would be the best ones to go through University.

It should have nothing to do with how rich daddy is.

Having a bunch of rich knuckleheads coasting through a soft arts degree on daddies dollar is no better or worse than having a bunch of poor knuckleheads coasting through a soft arts degree on the taxpayers dollar, except for the fact that I don't have to pay for daddies little princess I guess.

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Mushroom

Re: Amazing

What you need to do is educated everyone to a level, then subsides University courses that produce graduates in a needed fields.

i.e. take medicine or engineering and the course is free - take media studies, sport science or drama charge £15k a year. Then when you have enough engineers and doctors start raising the fees. But the chances are you'll never have enough doctors an engineers; the rich will still send their kids to University to do History and modern art but we wont be subsiding muppet's who are just putting off working in a call center for another 3-4 years so they can piss it up.

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Re: Amazing

I agree, courses that will put money on the table - Free of charge. Maybe charge a deposit fee repayable after staying resident in the UK for 3- 5 years after graduation.

Courses that are a waste of life - Charge the earth.

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Re: Amazing

Perhaps they do realise they being charged interest on the loan from the time they get the money.

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i would do this in a crowded area

then when everyone suddenly stops walking because of the sudden ping pong balls slapping them in the face, i will take the opportunity to become extremely aggressive and hit people with a bog brush; which is painful and humiliating.

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Re: i would do this in a crowded area

why not go all the way and add some nails?

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Great!

This reminds me of some of the experiments in freshman physics I had with Frank Oppenheimer at the University of Colorado in 1966-67! As we would say at Dulwich College (SE London where I went in 62-63), well bowled! :-)

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Re: Great!

I still remember, as a teenager, being taken by a friend's Dad to an afternoon of similar chemical high jinks run at the local university. I still find physics and chemistry fascinating.

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Great contest

Guess how many ping pong balls are in this trash bin? Wait for it.

BOOM!

None.

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Devil

Thankyou all for coming..

before you go give us a hand to pick them up!

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Happy

Re: Thankyou all for coming..

Hey! Look! Souveniers!

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That's learning of today (the future)?

While I do think that learning should not be dreary, and neither accompanied by whipping and memorizing, I also am unconvinced that a 5 minute-stunt at an expense, even a relatively low one, is anything but a stunt, a marketing exercise by this good university.

Instruction this is not. Explanations given immediately before, seemingly to unprepared students, no calculation done. Is this the tertiary education of the nouveau rich; entertainment to get them kids off their iPhone5 for some minutes with a bang? Silly laughter, exit, and the assistants cleaning the floor nicely from glass debris and collecting 1500 ping-pong balls. Thank you.

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Paris Hilton

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

You must have a really interesting life...

Paris... because she likes a good bang.

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FAIL

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Glass debris? I think you'll find that it was a plastic bottle.

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Cheers Buzz Killington, youre really doing a great job of reminding us how fucking boring and worthy 99% of everything is. Keep up the good work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Lets see some of what the experiment demonstrated:

Liquid / gas transition. materials strength, thermodynamics, Newtonian physics and much more.

That one demonstration can provide hours of lectures across multiple fields. Instead of dreary diagrams trying to get a point across they can refer directly to the demonstration, something that the students will vividly remember and something that takes it out of the realms of classroom theory into a real world example.

You are also confusing laboratory work with a demonstration. If this was laboratory work then the students themselves would be setting up the experiment and the instruments to take the measurements. Thinking about it, there's another lecture for you. He can ask the students how they would set it up as an experiment, what they would measure and how, what it would tell them etc...

It is pity that your lack of imagination and your obvious prejudices limit you so much.

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

I think you'll find it is useful in demonstrating the amount of force that can be generated by a liquid evaporating (albeit one that does so at -196C). Most would not have realised that this level could occur from such a small amount of liquid. That bin bounces a long way up.

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

There are some studies that point out that the dreary approach (rote memorization and lengthy practice drills) actually yields better long-term results. I don't know why, but I think it's because that combined with a very high competitive bar (I think they were comparing Japan in this case, which tends to foster mutual competition) tends to make the students focus, and focused learning tends to stick better because there's a motivation behind it..

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Well that education style doesn't get you employed in my industry. Whilst it may make you an absolute ace should the problem space fit inside the box you were taught, as soon as you have to think outside that box, epic fail.

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Windows

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Japan... ah, that would be the country that is offering very good jobs to ex pat US and UK academics in 'creativity' teaching...

My point being 'long term results' on what test?

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@Uwe

It is education.

It makes them ask the most important question of all:

WHY?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Perhaps you don't know of the Purdue University "Light a barbecue with liquid oxygen" video which went viral on the early public Internet? It's said it significantly increased applicants for science courses at Purdue. This is a good example of low-cost marketing. True. But whoever said that universities don't need to do it?

I went to completely the wrong university for what I wanted to do (Cambridge, as it happened) because in my day there was too little information about different universities and different courses. With so much information nowadays, stunts like this may cause students to read up on a university they would not otherwise have considered, that may be better suited to their interests and needs. So don't knock it.

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FAIL

Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Unless you were at his lectures before and after this video was taken, how can you say that? You've no idea what calculations or prep work where done.

It's a YouTube video, it's the exciting bit, the rest doesn't tend to make good viewing.

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

Learning how to learn is the most important lesson, sometimes you can do this with a bang rather than a book, if everybody was the same then teachers would only need to teach one way.

We are not all the same, this experiment may well have enthralled one student enough to study physics, if this is the case that's *enough* to make the whole exercise it, maybe it's those cool things which excites people enough to ask "what if".

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Re: That's learning of today (the future)?

It can also be used to show why it's not a good idea to have a beachfront property in Pompeii when gas comes out of solution in a nearby magma chamber.

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It's like an episode of XKCD

In my classes, the booms were all accidental...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's like an episode of XKCD

Not in our classes they weren't. One of the chemistry teachers was fond of making water by lighting balloons filled with a 2:1 mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Used to wake up those sleeping through maths in the classrooms below the lab.

We had accidental ones too though. Mine involved a probable toluene residue from the previous day in a test tube used for a nitration experiment. Oops :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's like an episode of XKCD

This stuff has a long history. I have a 1910 chemistry textbook which describes and experiment in which a long lead tube is filled with a mixture of carbon monoxide and oxygen. At one end is a boiling tube in a large shield. The other end is sealed and a spark generated. Of course it has a serious purpose: to show the speed of flame propagation in a gas/oxygen mixture. The reduction of the boiling tube to sand grains is just a little added flourish.

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