Review: Potato Chip Science

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Do you like potatoes? Do you like science? Well Allen Kurzweil has the book for you.

Kurzweil, author of the Grand Complication, was in the historical thriller genre back when Dan Brown was still in short pants. His latest book, however, written with his son Max, is explores science and history from a different angle. It’s all about potatoes, potato chips, and all things tuber. The 82 page book is just the beginning when it comes to PCS because inside the packaging – a potato chip bag, of all things – you get lots of tools for making your own odd potato projects.

The most obvious and coolest project is the kit is the potato battery. They include a small LCD clock and a small noisemaker that can both be powered with an ordinary potato. But jamming a small copper lead into one side of the spud and a zinc lead into the other, you basically get a clever lesson in catalysts and electronics.

Other experiments include spud guns, compasses made out of Pringles can tops, and even a shrunken head made out of potatoes.

You can even make a kite out of a potato chip bag and a Chia Pet out of a potato, some peat, and some grass seed. As you can see, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Generally, this book is about reusing and recycling and exists in the some vaunted sphere as the Boy/Girl Scout’s Handbook and other fun books for boys (and girls). I remember spending hours poring over those books for fun activities. I think the real value in books like Kurzweil’s is the instillation of the tinkering spirit. If you’re reading CG or TC, you’re probably a tinkerer to begin with or, at least, the tinkerer’s fire was stoked in you at an early age by something like this book. As a parent, I see the value in teaching science and conservation through something fun like potatoes and potato products. Considering my five year old only wants to eat fries anyway, he might as well learn about composting and electricity through Idahos.

The book is available now for $12 from Amazon. Bottom line: If you have kids between ages of 9 and 12 – younger kids will be a bit baffled by the experiments – you owe it to them to make them a potato clock.

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