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Baking soda and vinegar never drew such a crowd before...nor, in Portland, had their combination set a record

DAVID F. ASHTON -  Mt. OMSI erupts streams of pink-colored foam lava. Is it enough for a world record? The Guinness folks will have the final say on that. It will take months for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to find out if its 34-foot tarpaulin-and-scaffolding simulated mountain, spurting pink foam, will set a new Guinness World Record for the "World's Largest Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano".

But, at the spectacle on July 23 on S.E. Water Street just north of the Ross Island Bridge is likely the largest gathering the science museum has seen for a single, outdoor, five-minute event – an estimated 3,000 spectators crowded into OMSI's front plaza to see the show.

"We've wanted to attempt breaking a Guinness World Record for a few years now; and with the 'POMPEII: THE EXHIBITION' now open here as our inspiration, we pulled a team together, and hopefully we'll break the record today," smiled OMSI Event Planner Sonali Shivdasani.

The "eruption" was a chemical reaction caused by mixing 66 gallons of vinegar and 50 gallons of a baking soda/water mixture – plus some food coloring, Shivdasani explained. "We hope the foam will spray up between six and eight feet above the structure, beating the previous record of a four-foot 'eruption'."

This "eruption" will be just like similar science experiments, only on a much grander scale, OMSI Science Educator Matt Miller commented.

"We're using sodium bicarbonate with vinegar, which has a lot of acetic acid in it," Miller told THE BEE. "When those ingredients mix, one of the reaction products is carbon dioxide gas, and that creates lots of bubbles which expand as it rises out of the solution mixture, and we get lots of foaming – and hopefully a big eruption."

The crowd grew anxious when the 3:00 p.m. scheduled eruption was delayed, as team members scrambled to make final preparations and start the chemical reaction. Then "steam" from the top of the mountain signaled that the eruption was about to commence.

Finally, two streams of reddish-pink foam shot out, high above the mountain, causing the crowd to cheer.

Some giggled and guffawed, as if they had been expecting to see some sort of a massive lava flow to come rolling down the sides of the tarp. Others backed away – a shift of the wind had covered parts of the crowd with a strongly vinegar-scented mist.

OMSI had team members stationed on the roof top and other locations to document the hopefully record-breaking eruption. Will they be recognized for setting the record? "We're 100% confident," Shivdasani said.

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