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Popular Chemist Performers Call It Quits

Popular Chemist Performers Call It Quits

Posted - Dec. 20, 2004 at 9:51 p.m.



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Ed Yeates reportingAfter more than two decades, two amazing stunt performers are calling it quits. While they may not be as highly produced as a Las Vegas show, their annual Christmas lectures at the University of Utah are every bit as popular.

Monday night, the auditorium at the Henry Eyring chemistry building was sold out, so to speak, even though tickets have always been free of charge.

Dressed up as 19th century scientists, chemists Ron Ragsdale and Jerry Driscoll are going on stage, so to speak, for the last time -- at least publicly.

This annual Christmas Faraday lecture has been "wowing" audiences for 24 years. That's because the two don't lecture chemistry, they perform it with bangs, zaps, colors and humor!

Ron Ragsdale/ Chemistry, University of Utah: "I think it's because it's a live performance. It's all spontaneous and people are not used to seeing that nowadays." "We have fun with it and I think it distills over into the audience."

And distill it does! Many experiments have evolved - only getting better - like pouring liquid nitrogen into a collapsed can and inflating it again.

Occasionally, a mistake - but even then, audiences love it.

The duo could have taken all this fun science abroad on tour. But now, because of security..

Jerry Driscoll/ Chemistry, University of Utah: "Now they're so tight on security that it's difficult to do. You have to get on an airplane and they won't let us bring any chemicals. But we could go over thirty days and fill this place every night."

One favorite-- a unique mixture of alcohol and water that turns a blue fire to red.

"My gosh, did you see what I have just seen? The red consuming the blue?"

The U likes this one. But when performed at BYU.. "Not a laugh. It was deadly silent."

After 24 years, the annual show has become too demanding. Ron admits, after missing too many wedding anniversaries, it's time for his wife.

And for Jerry, "I'm starting to slow down like a mouse on warfarin."

So, their swan song!

"I want to remember that the last performance was fantastic."

"I want to go out feeling good about what we have done."

There is one more lecture tomorrow night, but NO tickets are left. Beginning next December, "the NEW Faraday Lectures" with some new faces. I'm sure Ron and Jerry will be sitting here - watching that first show.

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