Category Archives: Humor

5 Non-Volcano Kids’ Science Activities Using Vinegar

Want science activities using vinegar? Look no further than Classroom Thumb War with DJ.

Vinegar is a smelly staple of science educators everywhere. The solution of acetic acid is the most often-used, simple acidic solution in the lab, and it’s non-toxic and safe to be handled. It’s no wonder that vinegar is a key component of tons of activities and projects for all sorts of chemically based experiences. What’s that? You only know that classic vinegar and baking soda volcano? C’mon, science-based blog reader!

The dinosaurs are a nice touch, though.
The dinosaurs are a nice touch, though.                                                                                                     (Source)

There are better, more exciting uses for that funky fluid. We’ll help you out with a few ideas to take your vinegar from dull to delightful with these science activities using vinegar. Did I mention that all of the materials are readily available at most stores (if you don’t already have it at home or in class)?


 5. Flame Light Relight

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If you weren’t aware of just what makes the old science fair volcano “erupt,” it’s the production of carbon dioxide gas from the combination of baking soda and vinegar. Now, what’s a fantastic use of carbon dioxide? If you said, “Warming the global climate,” you’re correct, but mistaking this blog post for a political rant.

But if you said, “Extinguishing flames!” you’re even more correct and definitely thinking on the right tracks.

Consider that fire as good as out!
Consider that fire as good as out!      (Source)

The CO2 gas produced from the most basic of acid-base reactions is exactly what you need to perform the Flame Light Relight activity. You’ll also need to commandeer a bit of yeast and hydrogen peroxide but everything for the activity should be at your disposal or easily purchased at a store.

The smoke is really just the bubbles screaming.
The smoke is really just the bubbles screaming.

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 4. Folding Egg

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Perhaps the only things that are on par with the smell of vinegar are eggs and sulfur. We definitely aren’t going to send you out to find some sulfur, so you know this experiment will involve the incredible edible egg. At least, the egg will have been edible when you started.

Eggs aren’t the most malleable item in the world. It’s tough to bend, let alone fold, when you’re known for cracking. With the Folding Egg project, though, you’ll be folding an egg in absolutely no time.

Looks good enough to eat... Later. Eat it later.
Looks good enough to eat… Later. Eat it later.

The Folding Egg is a result of the acetic acid’s reaction with the calcium carbonate found in eggshells. You can see the reaction in the bubbles that form on the egg’s shell. (It’s our good friend CO2, back for another appearance.) Eventually, all that remains in an inner membrane from the egg’s shell. Now you can fold that egg up and stack it neatly with the rest of your linens, or whatever it is you people who fold things do.

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 3. CO2 Sandwich

30abc13cc534f50d7e91a2fd6a66b470332ba6dbI’ll admit, it’s hard to feature vinegar in an experiment and not have it’s gaseous buddy CO2 come along for the ride. Them’s the facts of life, Brostrodamus, so saddle up and prepare to make a delicious sandwich with your favorite acid-base bi-product.

Of course, you’re not going to get much digestive satisfaction from a sandwich full of CO2-filled bubbles. What you will get, however, is a fantastic demonstration of how the vinegar-baking soda reaction can change air pressure in a closed space.

Consider that fire as good as out!
It was the dog, I swear!        (Source)

Not only does the CO2 Sandwich provide an excellent opportunity for scientific exploration (try altering the amounts of each chemical), but the POP! you hear after the zipper-lock threshold is broken? Let’s just say that it’s like the first time I heard The Turtle’s sing “Happy Together.”

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 2. Chemistry Rocket

19310341183c3e4763930296726b1e564d07a3c7“More air pressure activities? DJ, you’re boring.” Is that so? Then how come I’m teaching you how to make a rocket ship that will fly you to the moon using vinegar and baking soda? (Since we’re getting involved with projectiles, it’s the best practice to make sure that plenty of adult supervision is involved.)

The Chemistry Rocket uses the same principles of acid-base reactions and air pressure to launch a soda bottle into the atmosphere. By atmosphere, I mean like…  100 feet or so. I hope you weren’t actually expecting some sort of DIY space program. I’ve got nothing for you, there.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.09.16 PMWhat I do have for you, is all of the air pressure, acids, and bases contributing to a spectacular display of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unscientific explanation: the bottle goes WHOOSH when the contents go KABLOW!

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


1. Ice Tray Battery

3eef8fb276f7e8a9782135d3f54d61966f9dd37cWhat do you get when vinegar, copper wiring, an LED, and some galvanized nails walk into an ice tray? It’s not a joke! You get a voltaic battery and a simple closed circuit. It may seem like creating a battery would have a lot more to it, but I speak the truth, people!

The Ice Tray Battery is the ultimate when it comes to kids’ science activities using vinegar. Simple household items throw their current-conducting properties into the pot to create a basic version of the batteries you buy at the store.

Love me yet?
Love me yet?                              (Source)

The look on young scientists’ faces when items that they know produces the unexpected result is like watching an LED light up from vinegar in an ice tray. It’s worth it, and isn’t that why we do things like this?

(Get the step-by-step instructions and scientific explanation.)


 

486275_604344292689_1597661315_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

Insta-Snow Steals The Show!

Ordinarily, I talk about how students and young people of all types and sizes adore Insta-Snow and other products and experiments featured here.  However, don’t think for even a second that you have to be a child to have fun with science.  It’s not just children who are fascinated by Insta-Snow. Polymer science has the power to fascinate grown men and women –  sensible adults who are attending a serious conference and sharing business techniques and practices and products and advice, for example. I’ve seen it happen.

Make fake snow in seconds with Insta-Snow
Insta-Snow! Order as much or as little as you need!

 

Such a time was Indianapolis’ MixWest, an annual social media conference attended by mature grownups who are extremely successful at what they do partly because they never lost the secrets of the Pan – they’re only grown up on the outside,  they thoroughly enjoy life, and they share this enthusiasm and expertise with friends and clients alike. This makes them absolutely excellent at what they do, and it’s why their clients  are so happy.

A few years ago at this conference, there was a slight “Incident of the Insta-Snow,” wherein grown men couldn’t wait to get home to see their polymer samples expand.  It was a glorious mess!  (It was Jason Bean‘s fault!) This year, we narrowly escaped another rousing incident because there were a lot of cameras pointed at us.  Therefore, most of the conference attendees took their Insta-Snow sample home to share with their kids.  The only one who couldn’t wait and HAD to activate it there at the conference was Douglas Karr, but nobody’s going to tell on him.  It’s on film, though.

Chris Theisen took his sample home and let his son activate it. It was a hit until the boy learned that Insta-Snow shares its polymer base with disposable diapers.

There are many other MixWest attendees who managed to get their Insta-Snow sample home so their children could watch, and we’ve been promised more videos and pictures.

Until we get them, just remember that science is for everybody, young and old and in between, and that the same polymers that make a baby’s disposable diaper so useful can also be used to demonstrate the absorbency of polymers in other ways, too.

But how many people out there connect diapers with science? We’re aiming for everybody. It’s just a matter of time.

Polymer science is so absorbing.

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

Science & Music – 4 Fields of Science and Their Tunes

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(morguefile.com)

Music makes everything better. While that might not be scientific fact, it’s an opinion that holds a lot of stock, for me. In fact, I believe that certain types or styles of music can make things better to the point of being perfect. We’ve all heard people say something along the lines of “this is the PERFECT song.” It can be driving a car or going for a swim. Songs can be perfect for situations… and fields of science! Science & music go together like dry ice and dish soap… that is to say, they’re better together.


4. Physics and EDM
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Physics is arguably the most applicable field of science, as it pertains to human existence. My very typing on a keyboard is governed by physics: friction between my fingers and the keys, potential energy in stationary fingers, kinetic energy in moving fingers, etcetera, etcetera, on and on. I would float away if it wasn’t for physics.

The necessity and application of physics to real life makes it seem like the musical suitor should exhibit similar real-world tendencies. Country music with lyrics that harken to blue collar life, runaway dogs, and heartbreak? Symphonies that fit perfectly with the dance of planets, stars, and other universal bodies? Nope.

Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, fits the bill.

Younger scientists will think of popular artists/DJs like Skrillex, Diplo, or deadmau5. (That’s “dead mouse,” if you were curious. It is not Dead Mow Five, however incredible that would be.) For older scientists, EDM is that weird noise that has been referred to as “that noise,” “robot sounds,” and “what in the…?”

The majority of EDM music falls in a beat per minute (BPM) range that only seems suitable for things like running, faster running, and sprinting until your heart explodes. However, isn’t movement what physics is all about? And while EDM does tend to stay above 100 BPM, there is a TON (metric) of movement from key changes, tempo adjustments, and more. Listen through one of your favorite tracks (or, one that you can tolerate) and imagine vectors, angles, and Sir Isaac Newton holding headphones to his ears. Glorious.

flickr.com
D-d-d-d-drop the apple… er… bass! (flickr.com)

 

3. Biology and Hip Hop
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I’ve heard it said that life has a beat, a pulse, that drives each being, each action. Therefore, biology is essentially studying that beat.

Hip hop, more than any other style of music, relies heavily on a beat. Some songs are comprised of nothing but lyrics over a kick and snare drum combination.

A BUH-bum, BUH-bum gives your body the rhythm required to make you a functioning homosapien. I know more than one person that has made a hip-hop beat out of their own heart beat. Time lapse videos show plants swaying to a muted tune like commuters on a train. Biology, the science of life, has a beat, because life has a beat.


 

2. Ecology and Atmospheric Nature Sounds
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If you’re an ecologist and you listen to anything except atmospheric nature sounds when you’re doing lab work or paper work, I question your dedication to your work.

Aren't my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets]
Aren’t my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets] (pixabay.com)
Turn your lab into your passion!


 

1. Chemistry and the Late 60’s
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The Late 60’s comprise an era of music as diverse and all-over-the-place as Janis Joplin’s hair.

Pictured: A GOOD hair day.
Pictured: A GOOD hair day. (wikimedia.org)

If one field of science can relate to that, it’s chemistry.

Good ol’ chemistry: identifying, studying, and playing with the building blocks of life. From the first time your dad convinces you that vinegar and baking soda taste really great together and that, “No! They won’t make a mess,” chemistry is just… THERE. Chemistry is involved in your life whether you like it or not. Want to know the reason your shampoo foams so much? Chemistry. (Well, foaming agents like cocamid, DEA, MEA, or TEA, to be more exact.) Gasoline propelling your vehicle? That’s combustion, and that’s chemistry!

You know how I made fun of older scientists before? Well… younger scientists, take a listen to 10 recent pop songs. Odds are that, whether inconspicuous or blatant, nearly half of those songs feature a sample. Where did that sample come from? Let’s just say the 60’s would be a very, very solid guess. That era of music is still everywhere, even though we don’t know everything about it. What did they take when they wrote that? What in the world are they singing about? Doesn’t matter! It’s good music!

That sounds a lot like the constant investigation of chemicals and elements, don’t you think?

How a Device Used to Kill Humans Saved Penguins

Humans Saved Penguins By Trying to Kill Other Humans

Be honest: do you like penguins?

The answer is yes. You love penguins just like everyone else.

You’ve watched Happy Feet more times than your 11-year-old niece has sang “Let It Go” in the last 5 months. (Don’t worry, we won’t talk about how much you cried during March of the Penguins.)

Well, what would you and your penguin-loving friends say if I told you that humans placed close to 20,000 land mines  on the beaches of the Falkland Islands? Perhaps I should tell you that millions of penguins call the islands home.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you how that really isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, these gruesome seeds of war may have actually saved the penguins from, you guessed it, humans. The Falklands’ reputation for penguin-based conflict began with whale oil.

Whale Oil for Energy

As everyone who has completed their whale oil handbook knows, rendering whale oil requires big vats and boiling water. This posed a problem to the European whalers in the area, as the Falklands don’t possess much in the way of trees for burning. They turned to something way, way out of left field: penguins. Penguins proved to be easily caught, and even better for fire because of their own fat layers.

How Bombs Saved Penguins on the Falkland Islands.
WE ARE NOT WOOD!

Now, in the year 2014, we don’t have much use for whale oiling. We find our relentless desire for power from other places like fossil fuels, the sun, and water.

War in the Falklands

With the fossil fuel discovery, so came a reprieve from penguins being used as tuxedoed pieces of firewood. The population began to grow in numbers, again, until Argentina’s government attempted to regain control over the islands from the hands of the British.

Those two combatants are less likely than a Mike Tyson – Evander Holyfield rematch, but combine political instability in Argentina with an aggressive no-dictator policy from one Margaret Thatcher, and you’ve got a 2 month conflict over the Falkland Islands.

When the tide went out the British remained victorious, but had a large military invoice show for a fairly lackluster piece of real estate.

To make the conflict worthwhile, the Falklands became an exclusive fishing zone. Our tux-wearing bird friends also eat fish. You can see where this is going.

Competition from human counterparts dropped the penguin population from 6 million to 1 million in just 10 years. So, humans contributed to this penguin downfall, but they’ve also saved the penguins.

Humans Saved Penguins

Remember those land mines we told you about?

The Argentinians left them all over the coast of the islands as British deterrent (we’ve found George Washington does a great job, too).

Thankfully, no humans have actually died from the estimated 20,000 left. Instead, these land mines protect the islands’ penguin inhabitants. The penguins are too light to set off the incredibly dangerous explosives, while humans and the 700,000+ sheep on the island will go… um… kaboom!

So, humans, what do we have to say for ourselves? Our best animal protection efforts happen out of trying to blow the legs off of each other. Thankfully, both Argentina and Great Britain are tentative about going back for the estimated 11 billion (that’s billion with a gigantic “B”) gallons of oil there. Maybe nukes will give the penguins an even better habitat, but don’t count on it.

3D Printing: The End of Manual Labor?

Robots and other automated, mechanical beings have been a staple in science-fiction for a very long time, finding their first mentions in the ancient world. At the onset of the 21st century, however, robots became much more than an idea in a sketchbook. Robots are now a very real part of the modern world.

The world of robotics has seen its share of successes and failures (see Roomba and Asimo for examples of each, respectively). Many of the most notable applications of robots can be found on production lines: automotive, furniture, and food, to name a few. That brings us to the topic at hand, 3D printing.

Get it? (http://bit.ly/1iJOweL)

3D printing isn't, by strict definition, a form of autonomous robot, but the application of the technology is very similar to those listed above. 3D printing has the ability to completely change the world as we know it. Imagine houses, cars, guitars, furniture, or entire body parts printed at exponential rates and for a fraction of the cost. Every field from industry, to medical, to leisure would be altered by mass adoption of 3D printing.

Therein lies a (possible) dilemma.

3D printing has the possibility of putting an already weak job market into further turmoil. Manual human labor would fall to the wayside as a method of accomplishing things from days gone by. Why purchase some do-it-yourself furniture when you can by a 3D printed armchair for less than half of the price at a furniture outlet. This scenario is very possible, and approaching way faster than a hungry Roomba.

I guess my main question is this: where do we draw the line?

Looks small, but it's just the beginning of his full-scale model of 2nd century Rome. (http://bit.ly/1eqysOh)

We are a society with an astoundingly weak ability to define and maintain boundaries, especially when it comes to quality of life. 3D printing may have the ability at increasing quality of life for many, many people through ease of access and low cost, but what of men and women that earn through manual labor? When do we stop progress from becoming too overbearing?

3D printing isn't something that seems inherently evil or corrupt. There are many, varied, amazing things that 3D printing can accomplish. The capabilities that are being discovered and put to use, what seems like, every week are absolutely astonishing. But, the risk is large, too. A balance has to be found and consistently enforced between automation and manual, human accomplishment. 3D printing can, and probably will, be one of the greatest human accomplishments of the early 2000s, but it also has the possibility of being a last, fatal, 3D printed straw on the proverbial camel.