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Blinding us with science

Hey kids! Nothing says "science is cool" like blowing stuff up, right? At the Rochester Museum and Science Center's Outdoor Science Extravaganza you can see the experiments they dare not show you inside.

On Saturday, October 30, from noon until 2 p.m., six local scientists will be wowing the audience with such crowd-pleasers as an imploding 50-gallon drum, a thermite reaction, and everyone's seasonal favorite, the dry ice jack-o-lantern. (I'd like to see a smirking tweenager try to lob that baby into the road.)

The imploding drum experiment teaches us that air pressure is our friend. First, water is boiled in the drum. Steam rises and forces the air out. Next, the drum is capped and cooled down quickly. A couple minutes later, the drum implodes in one-fifteenth of a second. Wow! That's even faster than a sugared up preschooler implodes on Halloween.

The thermite reaction sounds especially intriguing. One minute a scientist drops acid on some sugar. The next minute sparks fly out, a flowerpot cracks open, and a waterfall of liquid iron spills to the ground. That's an even more intense visual than Timothy Leary got when he did a similar experiment in the '60s.

You'll see other spectacular experiments at this free event. It's the kickoff for the annual Northeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held in Rochester this year. I hear it's pocket protector optional. For more information on the Outdoor Science Extravaganza, go to www.rmsc.org

--- Linda Kostin (www.junkstorecowgirl.com)

This week for families:

Barnes and Noble Fri, Oct 29. Special Pajama Storytime, 330 Greege Ridge Center Drive, 7 p.m. 227-4020

Brighton Memorial Library 2300 Elmwood Ave. Drop-in storytimes: tot time, Mondays 10:30 a.m.; pre-K, Mondays 11:30 a.m.; PJ stories, Tuesdays 7 p.m., all ages; families, Thursdays 7 p.m., all ages; toddlers, Fridays 10 a.m. | Fall Festival, Sat, Oct 30, karaoke, book characters, crafts, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Free. | 784-5300, TDD 784-5302.

Central Library 115 South Ave. Fantastic, funny, favorite stories, Fridays through Nov 19, ages 3-5, 10 a.m. 428-8150

Child Development Study For mothers and infants, Mothers and Infants Growing Healthy Together program, Mt. Hope Family Center. 275-2991

Cool Kids Dia De Los MuertosCelebration Sun, Oct 31. Mexican arts, Brockport Farm Market, Market St, Brockport, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Bilingual mass, Nativity of the BVM Church, 152 Main St, 1 p.m.; dinner and dance, BVM School, Holley and Utica Sts, 3-6 p.m. $5/family. 637-0126, 343-9313

Harvest Night Fair Sun, Oct 31. Activities, entertainment, candy. Grades pre-K-5, Brockport Middle School, 40 Allen Street, Brockport, 6-8:30 p.m. Free. 637-3979

Henrietta Public Library 445 Calkins Rd. Tues, Wed, Nov 2, toddler storytime, age 2 with caregiver, 10:15-10:45 a.m. Registration required. | Wed, Oct 27, 11-11:30 a.m., Tues Oct 28, 10:15-10:45 p.m., preschool storytime, ages 3 and 4. Registration required. 359-7092, www.hpl.org

Rochester Museum and Science Center 657 East Ave. Sat, Oct 30, Outdoor Science Extravaganza! 12 and 2 p.m. | Sun, Oct 31, Harry Potter Magic at RMSC: The Science of Wizards, 12-4 p.m. | Surprise! It's Science, through May 2005 | Rochester's Frederick Douglass, through January 2006 | Live Science! demos and theater, Wed-Fri 3:30 p.m.; Sat 2, 3, 4 p.m.; Sun 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 p.m. Sat 3 p.m. show sign-interpreted | Ongoing exhibits include: AdventureZone, Carlson Inquiry Room, At the Western Door | Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $5-$7. 271-1880, www.rmsc.org

Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center Sun, Oct 31. Native American storyteller Jim Bruchac tells monster tales, 205 Genesee St, Auburn, 2 p.m. 315-255-1553, www.cayuganet.org/smac

Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul St. Book and Beast, Wed, Oct 27, 11 a.m. Free with admission. 336-7213 | ZooBoo, Sat-Sun, Oct 30-31, kids activities, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Little Ducks: Hide and Seek Zoo Discovery Class, Fri, Oct 29, age 2, 10:15-11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Tix: $18. Preregister. | Hours: daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tix: $5, $4 seniors, $2 kids. 467-9453, www.senecazoo.org

Strong Museum 1 Manhattan Square. Fri-Sun, Oct 29-31. Halloween Fun: Preschool Halloween Party, Fri, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Family Halloween Party, Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun, 12-5 p.m. | Arthur's World, through Jan 23 | Long-term exhibits include National Toy Hall of Fame, Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? and Super Kids Market. Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $7; $6 seniors, students; $5 children. 263-2700

Kids in trance

They are everywhere: kids playing intensely, absorbed in music, staring into space and daydreaming. It makes a lot of sense. Neuroscience research teaches us that imagining turns on nerve networks, enriching the brain. Children are just booting up the newest models of the world's best computers. They are in the business of learning how their minds and bodies are connected.

They naturally use the gift of imagination for fun, fantasy, to set goals for themselves, and to cope with fears and challenges. This is how they learn to control brain-body reflexes in response to stress, pain, and joy. This is why early life traumas and successes powerfully shape who we become.

This also means that young people are hypnotically talented. With careful training, children can apply their concentration and imagination to prevent migraine headaches, control pain during surgical procedures, stop problem habits, and manage chronic diseases like asthma. Research shows that children can direct immune responses, control blood flow, change skin temperature, and regulate other so-called "involuntary" reflexes with self-hypnosis. This is powerful stuff. Not only does it mean that children can have more control when they are sick, but also that they can cope better when well.

Like any other therapeutic skill, hypnosis, and related strategies (biofeedback, relaxation training), ought to be employed by trained, licensed healthcare professionals as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. On the other hand, those bedtime stories we tell to help our children sleep well are good places to start.

--- Laurence I. Sugarman, MD, vice president, American Board of Medical Hypnosis