"Testing tubular fluids" by Les Smith
This little experiment is an attempt to determine whether the fluid that accumulates in a tinwhistle as it is played is condensed water vapor or saliva.
The technique depends upon the ability of saliva to convert starch to sugar, and upon the fact that iodine turns blue in the presence of starch.
We will need the following:
- “Q-tips” swabs or something much like.
- a felt-tip marker.
- corn starch
- a small pot
- tap water
- fluid from a whistle
- tincture of iodine.
- Isopropyl alcohol to dilute the tincture.
1) Mark one band near one end of a few swabs, two bands on a few more, and three on another few. This will make it east to tell one from another, and will identify the “handle” end.
2) Put around 1cc of corn starch in a litre of water and bring it to a momentary boil.
3) Dip the unmarked end of each swab into the cornstarch mixture and set them all aside to dry.
4) Put a few cc of alcohol in a little dish, and ad tincture of iodine until the colour is a nice dark shade. It shouldn’t take more than a few drops.
5) Take a swab that has not been treated with starch (no bands) , wet it with tap water, and, using a small spoon or eyedropper, place a drop of the dilute tincture on it. The reddish colour of the iodine should be evident. This demonstrates that the swabs are initially free of starch, and that the diluted tincture is dark enough to see.
6) Take a treated swab (one band), wet it with tap water. Wrap it tightly in plastic and hold it in your armpit for ten minutes or so. The wrapping and warming have no effect on this swab, other than to ensure that all the samples go through a similar process.
7) With a small spoon or eye dropper, put a drop of the diluted tincture on the swab. It should turn blue, indicating the presence of iodine.
8) Take a treated swab (two bands) and spit on it. Wrap it with plastic wrap and hold it in your armpit for ten minutes or so. This will give the enzymes in the spit some time at the right temperature to do their work.
9) Give it a drop of the tincture. If everything is working, it should look like the first (no bands) swab.
10) If all of this gas gone as described, the test is proven to be working properly. Now wet another trreated swab (three bands this time) with the Mystery Fluid, wrap it, and stuff it in your armpit.
11) After ten minutes, drop some of the indicator solution on it and read the result
All went according to description except step 8, during which the wait was closer to fifteen minutes than ten, as I received a phone call from my parents, who advised me very sensibly to have a PSA test done when next I visit the doctor.
"Sally Gardens", several reels by Emile Benoit, a jig of my own composition.
Crud collected at the mouthpiece window, and by swabbing out the top section of the tube.
Ambient temperature: 13C
Earlier attempt with e-flat Water Weasel did not accumulate fluid at a sufficient rate. (editor's note: Ironic, isn't it? The "Water Weasel" was too dry!)
The enzyme was not detected in the fluid. It may contain some small proportion of saliva, but is, at least in this whistle playing these pieces, predominantly water vapour.