Category Archives: Science Experiments

Instant Ice – Super Cold Water Turns to Ice Before Your Eyes

We recently came across this video by‘s reader Phil Sabine making its rounds on the Internet. In the video, Sabine takes a cold bottle of water, turns it upside down and then taps the bottom. The water instantly begins freezing from the bottom down to the top.

Is it magic? A slight of hand? Or did he switch the liquid in the bottle to something other than water?

The answer to all of the questions is no, there is no trick. The solution lies in the science behind the freezing temperature of water and how ice crystals form. This is also referred to as Supercooled Water.

Everyone knows the freezing temperature of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. When this temperature is reached, the water molecules freeze by forming ice crystals. It’s easier for the water molecules to turn to ice on top of already formed crystals.  Ice crystals build on existing ice crystals to eventually freeze the entire bottle of water.

What starts the freezing ice crystal process? 

The process of starting the ice crystals is called “nucleation.” This starts from an impurity or scratch or piece of dust on the container holding the water. In this case, the water bottle. One ice crystal attaches to the imperfection, and the others grow on top.

What if the water bottle does not have an imperfection or impurity? Nucleation cannot begin, and the water stays in its liquid state. Even in temperatures below the freezing point. This state is called “metastable.” The water stays liquid until something kicks off the nucleation process.

In the SooCool video, Phil turns the bottle upside down and smacks it. This is enough to start the ice crystals to form and build on top of each other as they freeze down the bottle.

The water in the bottle isn’t frozen solid, but more slushy.

For an experiment, take a case of water and place it in the freezer. Keep all of the bottles in the same position and try not to make any dents or flaws in the plastic. Wait overnight and check the water. Some of the bottles may still be liquid. If this is the case, try different techniques of shaking, hitting or disturbing the water in the bottle to see if the water will instantly freeze.

Instant Freeze Soda

Did you know soda will also instantly freeze? Here’s a video of Steve demonstrating this on 9News. You can also read step by step directions and the science behind the Instant Freeze Soda on the experiment page.

Becky's Ink and Fire Extinguisher Surprise

Becky Ditchfield never wants to know what we’re doing for our Science Mondays segment on KUSA-TV 9News. This was our last segment of the year and I wanted to make it one for her to remember. I pulled out an old favorite from the Spangler repertoire, but it was new to Becky. In anticipation of your next question, here’s the disappearing ink recipe.

The Fear of Becoming Invisible – How Great Teachers Use Science Demos as Object Lessons

We salute and thank all of those great teachers out there who find engaging activities to get their students back in the seats and ready to learn for another school year. If you’re a teacher, you know all too well the challenges we face keeping our students engaged and interested. If we’re not careful, it’s easy for some students to disappear into their surroundings and become that “invisible kid.” This segment featured two demonstrations from our Science of Leadership workshop for teachers that use elements of the science demonstration as a metaphor for learning. Oh, by the way, teachers shared their best first days of school activities on our Facebook Fan page this week.

Take a look at our First Days of School Kit with ideas for getting your students excited about the year after the first bell.

One of the most popular activities is Mentos and Diet Coke Geysers to ring in the new school year. There are many teachers who use hands-on science activities to get kids excited about learning and bring it home to the dinner table. Read the experiment page for more information on these Back to School activities.

Here are two science activities to use to welcome students back to school and learning. The first is a lesson in refraction that teaches kids about being an invisible student. The teacher demonstrates how students can be invisible using Vanishing Jelly Marbles and the index of refraction. By just changing the background by adding a little food coloring, a good teacher can help their students stand out.

This demo teaches us how to become invisible… just blend in with your surroundings. But it’s equally amazing to see how invisible objects become visible by just changing the surroundings. Add a few drops of food coloring to the bowl of water and stir. The once invisible Jelly Marbles now stand out again the different colored background.

Over the years, there’s been lots of talk about the dangers of “invisible students.” This is an amazing way to get students to talk about the dangers of just blending in… becoming invisible… seeming insignificant or believing that no one cares.

The following poem is offered by a wonderful friend and a well respected authority in student leadership development, Dr. Earl Reum. Earl often used the Jelly Marbles as a way to get students talking about the “Invisible Kid.”


[An open letter from the "Invisible Kid" to graduating seniors]

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time but never seemed to have the right words. I am a “nobody.” Some people might think of me as an Invisible Kid. I have never thought of myself as a “leader.” I know who the leaders are in my school. I know all of the “popular” kids. I even have lunch with them once in a great while when I’m invited to join their table.

Sometimes people call us “nobodies” the silent majority. We just sit back and let everyone else make decisions for us. It’s not that we don’t want to get involved. We just don’t know how to get involved. We timidly raise our hand in class to volunteer to help on a special project, but we usually get passed over for someone who is more of a “leader” type. But sometimes we do get picked! I cannot tell you how special that makes us feel. We don’t get picked very often, but when we do, we’re supposed to feel privileged… and we generally do.

When we get the courage enough to actually participate in an activity, we kind of feel out of place and uncomfortable. Those who do try to make us feel more at ease and human-like will forever have our deepest thanks.

I guess I don’t mind being a nobody. I stay out of the way of the popular kids so they don’t have a chance to make fun of me. I’ve never been elected to anything. I’m not a trouble-maker in class, and I even get pretty good grades. I’m only special to me and to those few who are close to me. The spotlight never shines on me – I can only watch it glimmer from afar.

I want you to know that even though I’m a nobody, I have important things that I want to tell everyone. I really do want to share my hopes, my dreams, and my special talents with anyone who is willing to receive what I so desperately want to share.

I hope that by telling you this you will take a moment to stop and think about us nobodies. I think that there are lots of nobodies in the world. Maybe the two boys who killed the students and teacher at Columbine High School thought of themselves as nobodies when they were younger. Maybe they didn’t feel like they belonged to anything. I think they probably felt alone, not loved, and certainly not needed. Maybe that’s why they made up that gang and wore black trench coats and wrote poems about hate and death. Maybe that was their way of trying to reach out and belong to something. I don’t know why they did those terrible things, but I know that the sadness in my heart has caused me to take another look at my life.

That’s why I don’t want to be a nobody any more. Last night I made a promise to myself and my family to think of myself as a “somebody,” even if it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am going to raise my hand more. I am going to volunteer more. I am going to share my hopes, my dreams, and the things that make me special with anyone who will listen… even if it make me feel embarrassed. Please help me to be a somebody by continuing to invite me to be on your team, to sit at your lunch table, to get more involved in school activities. I might say “no,” but please keep asking. Someday I will have the courage to say “yes.” You can make a difference in my life.

- The Invisible Kid

(Written by Dr. Earl Reum)

Patriotic Monster Foam – Exploding Hydrogen Peroxide

Since fireworks are no longer an option, you have to find some way to occupy your time on the 4th of July. I turned to my demo team and brainstormed anything we could do in the backyard at 9News for the celebration. Here’s the classic Elephant’s Toothpaste demo using hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide as the catalyst to make a red, white and blue patriotic eruption that shot up about 20 feet in the air.

We also learned that Oxiclean is the magic cleaner that will remove iodine stains from the beautifully pressed white shirt of a news anchor (thanks to Mark Koebrich for being the best Science Monday co-host in the world!)

UPDATED JULY 5, 2011 – Mark Koebrich asked photo journalist Brian Willie to share some behind-the-scenes video of this amazing eruption. Yes, everyone was wearing safety glasses. It’s important to note that the hydrogen peroxide completely decomposed into water and oxygen. The brownish yellow stains you see are from the iodine in the catalyst (potassium iodide). And the secret to removing those stains in an instant… OxiClean!


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Mix a Little Science into Your Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-science-2-09-09-260x250Everyone knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday. That doesn’t stop me from finding experiments for every holiday year round. Why not mix a little science into your holiday calendar? I don’t have a secret formula for the science of relationships, but I have some fun ideas to do this February. Whether you are looking for a fun, different and scientific Valentine to give, or some fun activities to do in the classroom or during a Valentines Day party, we have ideas to make your Valentines Day amazing.

For Valentine’s this year, don’t go to the store and buy the boring paper Valentines. Add a little “oooh and ahhh” while spreading the love. Take test tubes –or my favorite, Baby Soda Bottles– fill them with candy and add an experiment that the recipient can perform after the candy is gone. They will be the hit of the Valentine exchange.

If you are looking for some activities to do during a Valentine’s party or for a project, get some Goldenrod indicator paper. When this special paper meets a basic substance, it turns bright red. Cut out hearts or favorite Valentine shapes and you will end up with the coolest Valentines around. Kids will have fun changing the color and testing acids and bases.

Make sure you have plenty of hand boilers to show how “hot” you are. Or maybe how “not” you are, by using them to demonstrate the relationship between temperature and pressure.

Surprise your love by giving Magic Color Changing Carnations. Profess your love with white carnations, then magically turn them to pink carnations with a little science know-how.

For more ideas to bring science into your Valentine’s Day, check out our Valentine’s section for activities and experiments.