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Sun., Oct. 4
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Clarkson professor wows crowd with charity magic show


POTSDAM - He has the patter down pat and a magician’s flair for the unexpected, but James G. Peploski is quick to tell his rapt young audience that magic isn’t real. Chemistry is.

The Clarkson University professor entertained about 180 people at a charity magic show at Clarkson’s Science Center on Sunday.

Mr. Peploski started the show years ago, using the same chemistry demonstrations he uses to get his freshman students interested in science.

“I thought about what I could do to make students want to come to class,” he said.

These demonstrations often have a penchant for the pyrotechnic, like a fire-spewing Nerf gun and an oxygen-fueled blaze in a bottle.

At one point he requested the help of an assistant. Violet O. Reyes, 11, who held a small piece of explosive material in her bare hand. Mr. Peploski lit it up, creating a pillar of flame that vanished quickly, without injuring anyone.

“It was amazing,” Violet said.

Attendance to the show was free with the donation of an unwrapped toy to the Potsdam Community Fund. Mr. Peploski said he wanted to help the fund, and his long-running show seemed the perfect way to do it.

The fund provides Christmas gifts to families in need. It is expected to help over 500 families this year, according to Nancy E. Griffin, a member of the fund’s board of directors.

“We were so grateful that they did this. It’s a great gift, both to the kids in the community and the kids who we help through the holiday fund,” she said.

As he performs, Mr. Peploski explains the science behind his stunts.

“Everything you touch, taste, or smell is made of chemicals,” he tells his audience, explaining how the same chemicals he uses to create his flashy demonstrations are used in daily household products.

The children who watched the show on Saturday were especially impressed, with plenty of excited shouts as chemicals changed colors with a shake or balloons filled with hydrogen instead of helium exploded into flame at the touch of a lighter.

“It’s the perfect audience,” Mr. Peploski said. “Young children who get excited, who are screaming and hollering.”

After the show he stayed to answer questions from the audience and hand out glow-sticks.

For the finale, Mr. Peploski poured a mixture of cream, sugar and vanilla into a bowl. He added liquid nitrogen, at -200 degrees Celsius, to freeze the mix instantly. A few seconds of stirring, and the show ended with instant ice cream for all.

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