KARACHI: He may have been behaving like a magician, but Joachim Hecker is an engineer and a journalist from Germany, who likes to be referred to as a ‘science entertainer’. On Monday, the Goethe-Institut Pakistan in collaboration with the TDF MagnifiScience Centre had him over for a most enchanting and engaging live science experiments show for school students.

Having travelled around the world, from Thailand to Alaska ... Ethiopia to Siberia ..., he is in Pakistan now with his big blue bag of science experiments, reminding you again of a magician’s case of tricks. Karachi is his first stop in South Asia.

The science show started with the science entertainer talking about sound, specifically bone sound. This he demonstrated by asking for volunteers from the audience, students, teachers, all were welcome. The more the merrier. A stethoscope was brought out. Its chest piece or bell and diaphragm was removed from its tubing and connected to a microphone. Mr Hecker then placed it on top of his head and spoke, bringing out a very different sound because it happened to be amplifying the sound of his bones too. If he opened and closed his mouth, you could also hear the sound made by his teeth, when he knocked on his head, you could hear that as well.

That done, he called in two student volunteers. One was given a bag of potato crisps and the other a rusk. Placing the same stethoscope piece on each of the students’ heads one by one he asked them to eat the chips and rusk. The amplified sounds of their chewing sounded like thunder and earthquake. A teacher was also called in for the same experiment.

It’s an experience seeing how Joachim Hecker communicates science to schoolchildren, says TDF’s Faheem Abbas

Next he used one of his gadgets to play music. The sound of the music playing was quite low until he put that gadget on a table, a chair and a door. And suddenly, it was quite audible. This too was improved upon further when he attached it to a bucket, turning the bucket into a loudspeaker.

More science experiments involved electricity, creating human circuits by connecting positives to negatives, connecting electrodes and wires to students’ arms and teachers’ arms and creating cyborgs or controlling each other’s reflexes.

There was an appreciation for colours of the rainbow as students looked at heat maps through infrared thermal cameras. Turning to biology, the students also looked at human body temperatures and the heat maps they created. They also played with three-dimensional effects and how the brain can manipulate vision.

Experiments in organic chemistry saw polymer being mixed into water to turn it into a blend that looked like soft snow. It was also pointed out how polymer is used in diapers to keep them dry. It is also used in expensive sports shoes as it simply sucks up moisture.

All in all, the hour-long science show was a crash course in science, with lots and lots of fun.

Earlier, the director of MagnifiScience Centre, Faheem Abbas, said that usually communicating our knowledge of science is not very good. “Therefore, it is an experience seeing how Joachim communicates science. You’ll love it,” he said, while encouraging the school students to participate by asking him plenty of questions, but as things turned out they along with their teachers did far more than just that.

The Consul General of Germany in Karachi, Dr Ruediger Lotz, also attended the science show along with his son.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023

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