Lighting A Fire For Science

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He thought he knew it all.

Brookhaven’s Colton Watson knew what made fire. The 12-year-oldknew about the relationship between fuel, heat and oxygen. He knewthat a chemical reaction took place during combustion.

But after watching Professor Whys scientific youth demonstrationon fire, “Blazing Science,” at Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeMonday night, he learned something new.

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“I honestly did not know you could set yourself on fire likethat,” Colton said.

That’s how Professor Whys – otherwise known as Mik Jacobs, anentertainer, educator and Hollywood stuntman – ended the show, bylathering his left hand with a fire-retardant gel, applying a dabof napalm-like stunt jelly and lighting a small fire that burned inthe palm of his hand for several minutes.

Of course Jacobs gave the obligatory “don’t try this at home”disclaimer and constant reminders that playing with fire can resultin serious injury, but more than 50 youngsters from around LincolnCounty and Wesson paid attention through his 45-minute show for oneage-old reason …

… because fire is cool.

“This is an opportunity to see a little bit of energy in action,and it’s fun, too,” Jacobs said. “The show allows people tounderstand the science and the safety as well.”

Jacobs and his audience had fun with fire in several differentforms. Besides the show-closing burning hand maneuver, thespike-haired scientist also used pure oxygen to accelerate a steelwool sparkler, burned magnesium and lithium to produce blue and redflame and blew fire from a hose to produce Dragon’s Breath.

The experiments Jacobs performed were the same experiments – ona smaller scale – as those used in Hollywood for special effects.That’s where he has worked, and he’s still a member of the AmericanScreen Actors Guild, as well as the National Education OutreachNetwork and The International Museum Theatre Alliance.

He’s performed “Blazing Science” and other shows at schools,museums and science centers around the world.

Now, he’s performed at Co-Lin.

“We wanted to get the young kids on campus and we wanted to getthem some exposure to science,” said Dr. Kevin McKone, chairman ofthe school’s science department.

Even one parent got in on the action. Heuck’s Retreat farmerScott Smith came up from the audience and had the honor of lightingJacobs’ hand on fire. Still, his three children enjoyed the showmore.

“My kids are very interested in science and we knew this wouldbe a very good demonstration,” he said.

His daughter, 9-year-old Abby Smith, loved the demonstration -especially the part with the hand on fire.

“I didn’t think that was possible,” she said.