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Chemical Reactions Spark Interest in Halloween Show

Eberhard Zwergel presents his annual Halloween chemistry show Oct. 31.

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October 22, 2008 | by Megan Fellman
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Luminescent liquid -- much like that of a witch's cauldron -- will flow down a glass hill while changing from red to blue when Northwestern University's Eberhard Zwergel presents his popular Halloween chemistry show.

Full of bangs, pops, flames, hisses and color changes, "Phantom of Northwestern" will be held at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, in LR3 (lecture room 3, first floor) of the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. The show is free and open to the public.

Hundreds of captivated students, faculty, staff and community members crowd into Zwergel's chemistry demonstrations every Halloween. Zwergel is known for his annual Halloween show, consisting of more than 20 experiments in a 50-minute time frame.

He will lead a team of student chemists in a fast-moving show demonstrating the wonders of chemistry, as well as some physics and biology. A section of the Northwestern University Marching Band, a rock band and dance groups will perform during the show to complement the chemical reactions.

The Halloween show started simply as an extension of the demonstrations Zwergel did in his inorganic and advanced chemistry classes. Twelve years later, he is still entertaining with more advancements every year.

Zwergel serves as a senior lecturer and demonstrator in Northwestern's chemistry department. His experience and ambition to create new reactions makes him popular with students, who just call him Eberhard. Some have even put his face on t-shirts, with "Eberhard" written on the back.

A slideshow of Zwergel at work, "In photos: Eberhard blows things up," by North by Northwestern can be viewed online.

(Melissa Kreitner, a junior in the Medill School of Journalism, contributed to this story)