Category Archives: Teaching Moments

The Science of Sugar – How Much Sugar is in a Can of Soda?

Do you know how much sugar is in that can of soda you drink every afternoon? It’s well known that sugar accounts for the high calories in soda that lead to weight gain and unhealthy habits. But just how much is in that can and what about diet soda?

Start by placing different types and brands of soda into a bucket of water. Which ones will float and which ones will sink? Classify and take notes. Then move to the science behind your results. Why do some float and why do some sink?

Start with comparisons – we are going to use Coke and Diet Coke in our example. Both cans are the same size and hold the same volume 355 mL. The regular Coke weighs about 384 grams while the Diet Coke weighs 371 grams. The regular Coke has 140 calories, the diet Coke has zero calories. Are the calories the thing that makes it weigh more? Sort of.

The regular Coke has 39 grams of sugar. But what does that mean? About 18 packets of sugar in one can of regular Coke.

The reason the regular Coke sinks is the sugar content. If you drank one can of soda every day for a year, you would consume 32 pounds of sugar!

For more on the Science of Sugar, watch this week’s episode of The Spangler Effect where Steve goes beyond the sugar in a can of soda and makes some very sweet discoveries.


Can You Really Balance an Egg During the Equinox?

This is an encore posting of an article we ran in spring of 2010 about balancing an egg on the equinox. 

The first day of spring and the vernal equinox is this week. The vernal equinox marks the start of spring, an autumnal equinox marks the start of fall.  During the spring and fall equinox, the sun is directly over the Earth’s equator and day and night lengths are equal for most of the planet – 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

The earth rotates around the sun on a tilted axis, which doesn’t change. When the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, it experiences warmer, longer days. When the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun, the Southern Hemisphere is tilted away, experiencing colder and shorter days.

As the earth continues on its path around the sun, there are two points at which the sun hits the Earth perpendicular to the axis. When the earth is in this position, the sun is directly over the equator and there is an equinox. The earth then continues to tilt the opposite side of the sun and the seasons change to winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Where we live in the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox signals the start of spring. The North Pole is tilted toward the sun and days grow longer and warmer while buds on trees and plants begin to sprout. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is occurring. The South Pole tilts away from the sun and the days grow shorter and cooler.

It is believed that during the equinox an egg can balance on end. This is more myth than science, but every year during the equinox, this question arises. Yes, with a little patience you can balance an egg on end during the equinox.

What will happen if you try to balance the egg on March 21st? Or April 20th? Or October 2nd?  The egg will balance the same on any day as it does on the vernal or autumnal equinox. It helps if you try it on a rough surface or choose an egg with a bumpy end for better balance.
The myth comes from an assumption that during the equinox a special gravitational balance exists. The equinox is about balanced light, not balanced eggs or special gravity.

As an aside, a solstice occurs when the poles of the earth are tilted at their maximum away or toward the sun. At winter solstice, the pole is tilted furthest from the sun, at summer solstice it is tilted closest to the sun.

Staff Spotlight on DJ — The Man of Many Words … and Hats

Q: Tell us a little about who you are…
My name is Daniel Joseph Souza. I’m a father of a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Boomer, a brother to a soon-to-be-married baby sister, a son to the two most amazing and inspiring parents in the world, and, as of right this second, a person with the perfect life. Also, I like to wear hats.
Q: What do you do at Steve Spangler Science?
A: Speaking of hats, I wear a few of them for the company. I am a copywriter, marketing assistant, speaking assistant, and pretty much anything else that’s asked of me. Like I said, I like to wear hats.
Q: What do you like best about what you do?
I’m lucky enough to use my degree and do something I love on a daily basis in copywriting. And what’s more, I get to be incredibly creative in the copy I do for the website, emails, and a lot of the other stuff you read from our company. Oh‚ and I get to wear hats.
Q:  What is your favorite Steve Spangler Science moment?
  My favorite SSS moment, huh? There’s a ton to choose from, but recently I walked in on the product shoot for Crack Open Geodes. Bryan and Mattea (on our video team) were kind enough to do a bit of improv with me. We proceeded to convert a single Crack Open Geode into a “DJ Egg.” The new baby DJ hatched with a hat on and everything.
Q: What is something you wish every SSS customer knew?
I wish every SSS customer knew how much time and care goes into every single step of them getting their awesome science gear. From product development, to customer service, to marketing, to production, to shipping‚ we all care immensely about getting you the best product, whether that be the information you get on the website or the sweet Potato Gun you get from FedEx. Some of us even wear hats to show how much we care.
Q: What is your favorite science experiment?
 My favorite science experiment was one that I conducted my junior year of high school (shout out to Mr. Landis) in college-level chemistry. The experiment involved a reaction between potassium permanganate and glycerin and created this sweet purple flame. There was a point when that experiment went terribly wrong, but you had to be there. Also‚ hats.
Q: What do you like to do when not on the job?
I’m really all over the place when I’m not at work. I don’t think I can possibly understate it any more than that. I’m currently trying to write a fiction novel about a post-Civil War boomtown in Colorado. I love listening to music. I love my people. I also have an affinity for eating food. And yes, you are correct, I wear hats.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
Three things: 1.) Please, please, please use the Oxford Comma. B.) Are you having a bad day? Stop that. You’re awesome. III.) I love you. Hats.

Leprechaun Visits, Green Water and Lots of Mischief for St. Patrick's Day

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

It’s almost time for leprechauns, shamrocks and green water. Yes, it’s March and time for St. Patrick’s Day. If you are looking for some activities and fun things to do with your kids at home or students in the classroom, we have a few ideas.

Leprechaun Traps:

Start with a plan, maybe even diagram your design, then use Legos, cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, PVC pipes, gold coins, Lucky Charms and green paint to make it come to life. Here is a trap that Steve made several years ago with his son using PVC pipe, gold water and a plastic cup. They spent a little too much time in Home Depot but their end result came out great.

Leprechaun Secrets: 

Did you know that leprechauns have more than one secret? They know where they have hidden the gold, but they also keep other secrets as well. The leprechaunologists at Steve Spangler Science (yes, we have a few on staff) have discovered the leprechauns’ hidden rainbows, leprechaun beads, leprechaun green worms and leprechaun eggs. Learn more about how to uncover these secrets yourself with our Leprechaun Science Kit at

Leprechauns also know how to turn the water green at your house. Steve did this as well with his kids a few years ago. It’s as simple as waiting for the kids to go to bed and dropping a few color changing tablets into the toilet tank and faucet screen.

The leprechauns visit our house every year. In February, my daughters start planning their traps and getting excited about the visit on March 17th. They are sure they will catch a leprechaun and steal its gold. Somehow that never happens but the leprechauns wreak havoc in our house. Chairs are turned over, cabinet doors left open, pillows tossed around and the water is green. I turned the milk green one year but the food coloring does something to the milk and none of us could stand it, so I let the leprechauns know that green milk is not ok.

I change the water to green by dropping blue and yellow tablets into the toilet, then unscrewing the screens on the faucets and carefully placing a blue and yellow tablet in each before screwing it back on. You have to be careful because the screen is usually wet, which makes the water drip green into the sink. This trick is old hat in our house, so my girls wake up, run and turn on all the faucets and then check for the next surprise. How fun would this be if a teacher turned the water green in her classroom sink?

It has been difficult to come up with different ways the leprechauns can cause mischief.

They have left gold flecks (glitter) in a path across the floor, hidden gold chocolate coins, left disappearing eggs (Jelly Marbles in water), colored green carnations (food coloring and water in vase) and leprechaun soup mix. Leprechaun soup is actually Pistachio pudding mix. When you add milk to the mix, it turns green. No one really likes the flavor, so we tend to pitch it after a few days.

Baby Got Craft has a great idea for using the pistachio pudding mix in Leprechaun dust. Put a little pistachio mix into a baby food jar, add milk and shake. I like how each kid can make their own individual serving. She also made adorable labels for the jars. I wish I were that crafty.

This year, I want to try my hand at green eggs. Not sure I’ll be able to stomach it, but it should be fun for the girls. I also found necklaces at Target and gold coins. I found a few people on Pinterest who have left leprechaun footprints.  The Crafting Chicks have a great idea to make tiny footprints with their hands.

Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest St. Patrick’s board for lots of leprechaun traps and additional ideas for the holiday that aren’t necessarily science based.

What do you do for St. Patrick’s Day? Do you set traps or have leprechaun visits?


Make Your Own Mixed Up Chameleon with UV Color Changing Beads

Ann Bridgewater, a teacher who traveled to Denver all the way from Hong Kong to attend Science in the Rockies this year, shared a very cool project with us. She uses UV Color Changing Beads to craft Mixed Up Chameleons for a little craft/science/literacy lesson all rolled into one.

Ann weaves embroidery thread in and around the beads to make a chameleon shape. (You can Google this if you need a pattern.) She used black pony beads for the nose, eyes, and feet. Then she reads The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. Her students then take their chameleons out into the sunlight to detect UV rays with their beads. The once white and black chameleon is now colorfully mixed up.

What a fun idea to bring a character to life while mixing a little science and literacy.