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Steamed Up Over Science

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Next week on the grounds of the Washington Monument, a former high-school science teacher plans to finish up a 20-year-old science experiment. And with any luck, he says, a few of his former students may even show up.

Now a self-employed insurance salesman, Jack Redden taught at Hixson Junior High, in suburban Chattanooga, Tenn., from 1967 to 1972. He plans to be in Washington Dec. 15 to uncap a thermos he filled with boiling water in 1970. He's hoping the water will still be hot.

Mr. Redden got the idea for his classroom heat-transfer experiment from a segment of an early documentary television show called "Armstrong Circle Theater," sort of the "60 Minutes" of its day, he recalls. In the story, a combat airplane crashes and lies undiscovered for 20 years. When the wreck finally is uncovered, a thermos discovered in the cockpit is opened to reveal still-steaming coffee.

Discussing the idea with his 9th graders, Mr. Redden decided to test the concept during lab.

He recently placed newspaper ads in the Chattanooga area reminding his 165 former students that the project's completion date was approaching, and jokingly informing them they were expected at the uncapping. Although he's had replies from 10 students, "I expect about five to show up," he says.

Whether or not the water is still hot, the would-be Mr. Wizard says he will not be disappointed. After all, since the water is still in the thermos ("I can hear it when I shake it," he notes), he knows the grand event will at least top another historic television predecessor--Geraldo Rivera's much-ballyhooed opening of Al Capone's vault.

It was empty.--VLJ

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