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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Using a pooter (or inhalator)

Just a quick one today, because I have been doing a lot of heavy data-shovelling for the gold book.

This is an old-style pooter, which you should avoid like the plague, because it is dangerous.

This dangerous and old-fashioned design used a glass jar, glass tubing and cork.  I was helping at a Cub camp one day, and my task was to look after a hyperactive kid and keep him interested for the day.  I showed him how to find small things and catch them with a glass pooter, and he was delighted.

That was fine—in fact it was in the specs I had been set for him to be delighted, but he set off, whooping and hollering, leaping over rocks with this glass jar and I just knew that he was going to fall and gash himself. He didn't, but I knew I had to do better.

A couple of weeks later, I was running a workshop for teachers at the Australian Museum. It was all about using scrap and junk to do real science, and I showed them where I was at. The second and third pictures show the solution,  My thanks to Carrie Bengston, who drew the third pic.

In a flash. one of the teachers suggested using a film canister for the job.  This was almost twenty years ago, and people used 35 mm film that came in canisters.  For years, I would go to my local photography shop and come home with plentiful supplies.

Digital photography killed the photography shop, and my supply dried up.  I needed a new design that used components that would be available for at least the foreseeable future.

Well, you can see me making (1) the film canister version; and (2) a newer version that is featured in Australian Backyard Naturalist, if you go to the video links given in the last paragraph.  There's nothing special about these designs (except that they work),  But it's how they work that counts. There are four absolute requirements:

(1) You must have a clear container, and
(2) You must have a lid that comes off easily, and
(3) There must be a cloth filter to stop wee beasties entering your throat, and
(4) There must be no breakable parts.

The two designs you see in the video meet all of those criteria. Look at the video, then come up with your own design.

The don'ts:

* Don't pooter up ants, because they make formic acid, which burns the throat;

* Don't pooter up stink bugs (think about it);

* Don't pooter up millipedes, because their secretions may be toxic; and

* Don't even try to pooter things that are bigger than the tube (think about that!).

To get some more information on making pooters, you need to look at a video on pooters that I made for the National Library of Australia.  I actually did three videos, which you can find from here.  (By the way, that was me before I found out that I was in reach of being overweight, and also that I had a genetic predisposition to diabetes.  I didn't need to be told twice, so I now cast a far smaller shadow.)

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This blog covers quite a few different things, so I tag each post. I also blog about history, and I am currently writing a series of books called Not your usual... and the first two have been published by Five Mile Press, The offcuts appear here with the tag Not Your Usual... . For a taste of Australian tall tales, try the tags Speewah or Crooked Mick.   For a miscellany of oddities, try the tag temporary obsessions. And language us covered under the tags Descants and Curiosities, while stuff about small life is under Wee beasties.

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