Friday, August 17, 2018
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Edward Craven Walker invented the modern Lava Lamp after seeing one on a counter in a pub in England after World War II.   Wax bubbles in a lava lamp during operation (Photo credit: Wikipedia) He bought it, found out the designer had died and set about to improve it. He launched it in 1963, won a patent for his design in 1965 and the company that now makes them still sells 400,000 a year. Though my grandson and I tried to make one recently, it turned into a science experiment instead of a working lamp. The question in our experiment was, can you use crayons to color the water in the mixture instead... (Read More ...)

Non-Newtonian Fluid  Cinnamon sticks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I was testing one of my science experiments recently with a visiting grandchild. We were making oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid characterized by the fact that it has some properties of a solid and some properties of a liquid. Quicksand is a non-Newtonian fluid. I’d made this myself when I had no children visiting, so it would be a good test for my upcoming book, “Can You Bend a Pencil? 10-Minute Science to Delight Your Grandchildren.” First, we read the list of materials and started getting them out. Grandma: “Yes, we have... (Read More ...)

Expanding Ivory Soap Did you ever make a bar of Ivory soap foam up in a microwave? 1898 advertising poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It’s easy. Materials 2 bars of soap, Ivory and something else. I used Dial. A microwave-safe plate. I used a pie plate because it has high edges. A microwave Instructions Set the other bar of soap in pie plate and put in the microwave. Set microwave on high for 2 minutes. After two more minutes to let it cool down, remove from the microwave. Repeat with the Ivory soap. What Should Happen? The Ivory soap bar will foam up to about six times its normal size. Not... (Read More ...)

Which Soap Floats? Ivory soap floats. “The Nursery” by Alice Barber Stephens, 1898 Ivory Soap advertisement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) An accident at the Ivory soap manufacturing plant made consumers start contacting the company to get more of “the soap that floats.” Without their realizing it, the accident had introduced air into the bars of soap, making them, suddenly, less dense than the bath water they were used in. Now, the company whips air into the soap as part of the manufacturing process. It is this air inside the bar of soap that makes it less dense than the surrounding... (Read More ...)

Capillary water flow in a brick that is in contact with water at the bottom. From the weight increase, the estimated porosity is 25%. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Paper Towels and Water. How can you make water defy gravity by rising up instead of pouring down? Materials: 3 paper towels (can also use cloth rags) 6 glasses the same size 2 small bowls (or any two things the same size to put a glass on top of) Measuring glass Water Instructions: Twist the paper towel, starting at one corner, until the entire towel is lightly twisted into a rope, corner to corner. Set up the glasses in three rows: 2... (Read More ...)

Pool noodle(s). (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Does An Orange Float or Sink? Is there any difference between an unpeeled orange and a peeled orange when you put the orange in water? Let’s find out. Materials: Orange Water Bowl Instructions: Fill the bowl with enough water to float the orange. Put the unpeeled orange into the water. What Should Happen? The orange should float. The air pockets trapped in the peel make the orange less dense than the water it is floating in. If you peel it, including the white part of the rind, it should sink. That’s because there is no longer enough air trapped... (Read More ...)

A pencil “slashed” by the light refraction in a bowl of water (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Can You Bend A Pencil? In this activity, it appears that you have bent a pencil without touching it. Materials: Pencil (a straw works fine, too) Water Glass Instructions: Fill a water glass about 2/3 full of water. Put a pencil in the glass, allowing it to lean against the side of the glass. What Should Happen? The pencil will appear to be bent at the water line. That is, the part of the pencil underwater does not appear to be in a straight line with the part of the pencil above the water. Why... (Read More ...)

Rainbow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The Term Refraction Means What In Terms of Rainbows? Refraction is a description of the bending of light through raindrops to create rainbows. But, you don’t have to wait for a rainstorm to end and the sun to come out to make your own rainbows. And, you don’t have to have a prism. You will still, however, need a sunny day. Materials: Water White paper Glass Sunny window Optional: Milk Lemonade powder mix Flashlight Bowl of water Instructions: Fill the glass about 2/3 full with water Hold the glass up to a sunny window Hold the white piece of... (Read More ...)

What Happens If You Crack Popcorn Kernels? You may already know that the way popcorn works is that when you heat the popcorn kernels, the water inside turns to steam. Popcorn kernel and Popped Popcorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia) This in turn builds up enough pressure to crack the kernel and let the soft, fluffy corn inside pop out. But, how do you prove it? What would happen if you cracked the kernel, just a little bit, before heating it up? Would it release the steam before popping the kernel? Would it pop out faster? Would it come out more slowly? Would it be smaller? Would it come out at all? Here’s... (Read More ...)

Fire and Water. You can make water draw up into a upside down glass, as though by magic. Tealight Candles (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos) Here’s what you need: Tealight candle (could also use a match broken and anchored with a coin) Small bowl Small glass Water Matches Here’s what you do: Set the candle (or broken match) in the bowl Add water to the bowl, until it is about half-way up the side of the candle Light the candle Set the glass gently over the candle, down in the water What Should Happen Within a few seconds, the flame on the candle will blow out. In less than a minute after... (Read More ...)