Science Experiments Gone Wrong

We like to think our science experiments will all be rousing successes, and in a way, they always are.

We like to think our hypothesis will always be correct, and in that same way, it always is.

When an experiment doesn’t go the way we expected it to, or the way we thought it ought to go, the first thing that sometimes goes through our heads is “It failed!”

When in fact, it did not fail.  It just proved something else.  A lot of inventions were invented accidentally – think of Alexander Graham Bell trying to invent a machine that would help the deaf communicate, and accidentally inventing the telephone!

After Christmas, I had a lot of candy canes that I’d taken off the tree, and I thought I’d try some experiments with them.  Our Pinterest boards were full of candy cane experiments that looked easy and fun, so why should mine not be just as cool?

Step one:  assemble the candy canes.  I covered a plate with a sheet of waxed paper and put three candy canes on it.  So far, so good.

Three candy canes, cellophane removed.
Three candy canes, cellophane removed.

Step Two:  Microwave the candy canes for just a very short time until they become soft enough to bend.

Here’s where it all went wrong.  An experiment requires specific times, and “a very short time” wasn’t specific enough.  It allowed for error.

burned peppermint
Two minutes seemed like a short time, but apparently it was a long time if you’re a candy cane.

Was this experiment a failure?  Not at all.  I just proved something other than what I’d set out to prove.

Remember this?  I was going to cultivate this viviparious tomato and plant it and eat all the tomatoes it would product.

It had a healthy beginning.
It had a healthy beginning.

A week later, it looked like this:

Doesn't it look great?  It was flourishing in that dirt!
Doesn’t it look great? It was flourishing in that dirt!

Today I put it on the dining room table for JUST A FEW MINUTES to admire it, and maybe take a few more pictures.

This happened.

The cats used it for a litter box, and ate the sprouts.
The cats used it for a litter box, and ate the sprouts.

Always make sure the cats are confined to another room when you do science experiments.  Lesson learned.

The main lesson, however, is that no matter what our results, every science experiment has some element of success.  What you prove or learn might not be what you thought you were going to prove or learn, but something is proven and something is learned every time.

Keep on experimenting.  Keep on.

 

 

Snow Monsters That Glow in the Dark!

JoAnna Cobb is a math teacher in southern Indiana by day, but by night, she creates snow monsters!

Mrs. Cobb and one of her Snow Monsters
Mrs. Cobb and one of her Snow Monsters

Mrs. Cobb is an excellent teacher who likes to make her math classes as interesting as possible – she’s been known to use some Spangler Science, in fact!

But during this long snow day after snow day week, Mrs. Cobb and her mom decided to be innovative with their snow creations.  Some inexpensive Glow Bracelets (Dollar Tree – two for a buck!) and some snow-rolling later, and the Cobb lawn was covered with creepy snow creatures with glow-in-the-dark eyes and a scary, smiley mouth!  (At least Mr. Cobb won’t have to mow for a while!)

Did I mention that Mrs. Cobb’s mother came over and helped cover the lawn with monsters?  Proof:

Mrs. Cobb's mother likes to make snow monsters, too!
Mrs. Cobb’s mother likes to make snow monsters, too!

Mrs. Hackney, you’ve definitely done a good job raising your daughter.  I think we know where she got her creative streak, too!

If you’re passing the Cobb lawn and see a swarm of glowing-eyed snow monsters, don’t be afraid.  They’re friendly.

I think.  Well, what do YOU think?

They're not scary, right?
They’re not scary, right?

Maybe I’ll wait until daylight to drop in, Mrs. Cobb.

Science isn’t always about labs and test tubes and chemicals, you know.  A lab is any place where experiments are being performed, and a snowy yard where people are experimenting with glow-in-the-dark faces on snow monsters is definitely a lab.  Every classroom is a lab.  Every kitchen is a lab.  Yes, every classroom, and every kitchen.  Any place wherein people are laboring in some way is a LABORatory.   Working in your yard?  You’re working in a lab.  You’re LABORING, aren’t you?

Mrs. Cobb’s yard was definitely turned into a laboratory this week.  She didn’t know how the Glow Bracelets would work until she experimented, did she?

Laboratory.  Experiment.

Vivipary and the Tomato on the Kitchen Counter

A few days ago, I bought some tomatoes at the grocery store.  They were on-the-vine tomatoes, so it’s safe to assume that all of them were about the same age.

I assumed these were quadruplet tomatoes - all the same age!
I assumed these were quadruplet tomatoes – all the same age!

Mom told me to never keep tomatoes in the refrigerator. She said cold tomatoes lost their flavor quickly, and that tomatoes should be kept on the windowsill or on the kitchen counter. She also claims that tomatoes should be stored upside-down so the flavor is evenly distributed. I’m sure that’s true because it’s my mom saying so, but I’m not sure how that one works. But I do it anyway. Because, you know, Mom.

Two days ago, I selected one of these very nice-looking tomatoes at random and cut a slice off the top.  This is the sight that greeted me.

I thought those were worms at first!
I thought those were worms at first!

I was so startled; this was NOT what I expected to see when I sliced open that outwardly attractive tomato!  What WERE those creepy squiggly things?  Were they worms?  Had I purchased a wormy tomato?

A closer look told me that I had not purchased a wormy tomato; I had, however, purchased a tomato with a little well-preserved age on it, and the two days upside-down on my kitchen counter had added to the aging process in a rather unique way.

Instead of getting mushy, like most tomatoes would do after a few days, this tomato got fertile.

A tomato is, biologically, a fruit, since its seeds are on on the inside, and those seeds had germinated.  When this happens, it’s called Vivipary, which is Latin for “live birth”  My tomato, meant for salad, was experiencing live birth.

It’s not just tomatoes that can do this; almost any fruit will occasionally experience Vivipary.  Apples, peaches, pears, melons, squashes, pumpkins. . . almost any fruit’s seeds can germinate while still inside the fruit.   Another pretty cool thing:  Seeds germinated inside the fruit will eventually poke right through the skin of the fruit!

Check out my Viviparious tomato today.  The sprouts, still watery but now with room to grow tall, are doing just that.

They're growing really fast, too!
They’re growing really fast, too!

I looked up this phenomenon on the internet and discovered that it’s not really a phenomenon at all; it’s quite common.  It’s just that most people will say “GROSS!” and throw the sprouted tomato away, rather than put it in water and take pictures of it.  And maybe plan to separate the seedlings and plant them when spring finally arrives.  And probably serve the resultant fruit to unwary friends and family and not tell them the origin until they’re already eaten them.

Of course, my family and friends would probably think it was really cool, which, of course, it is.

Be aware that any tomatoes you do get from a Viviparious tomato will probably not be the same kind of tomato you bought, since commercially grown tomatoes are usually hybrids, but there is no reason your tomatoes won’t be real tomatoes, and they’ll probably taste great.

Know, too, that “Vivipary” is not a kind of tomato, like Brandywine; Vivipary is merely the name for the germination-inside-the-fruit process.

As for the other tomatoes on that very same vine. . . . they were fine.  They were just. . . . tomatoes.  We ate them.  They’re gone.

But their Viviparious sister?  If all goes well, she will live on and on.

Come on over for dinner.  Care for some salad?  It’s, um, home-grown.

 

Education, Connections, and Humpty Dumpty

Sometimes I feel like several different people when I talk or think about education.  Most of me can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could not want to learn as much as possible, every passing moment.  Some of me can understand how a person can be too exhausted from the labor and stress of a typical day to even think about thinking.  And all of me wonders how people who hate everything about learning can remember to breathe.  Education is too important.  How can a person be too tired to live properly in the universe?

Turn off the TV and pick up a book.  Go outside and do things.  Look around – the world is a beautiful, fascinating place.   Play games.  Playing is learning.  Climb a tree.  TALK to each other.

I write about connections a lot.  Once a person of any age – and it can start in infancy – learns that everything in existence and out of it is connected, the learning will never end.  Things like nursery rhymes (which were not intended for small children, but that’s another topic.) connect to adult literature and history and sociology.  Did you really think Humpty Dumpty was an egg?  I’ve had students who didn’t know a single nursery rhyme, which makes me despise their parents, but that’s another topic, too.  (They were not in the top class, by the way.  Or the average class. Far from it.) Connections.

connections, education

 

Fairy tales (also never intended for small children) are also a wonderful connection to modern literature, history, and many other topics. (Not the Disney versions – the real ones.) Connections.

Humpty Dumpty, Battle of Colchester, cannon, king, not really an egg
. . . not really an egg. . . .

 

As for mythology. . . . well, connecting the dots from mythology to science to literature to music to poetry to everything else will give you great works of art, not just a hen and chicks, when you stop and take a good close look at the picture you’ve made by connecting.  Almost everything in the night sky is named for a mythological character, as are most of NASA’s spaceships and a great deal of scientific vocabulary.  Oh, and a great deal of every other kind of vocabulary, too.  Connections.

connections, education

 

I know there are people who care nothing for learning.  They come home from work or school and sit in front of the TV and cherish their mindless, effortless evenings.  It’s beyond my comprehension.  I’m so sorry for their children – the children who will come to school with no connectable schema – no prior knowledge.  It’s hard to learn anything without something to tie it to.  Shame on these parents.

turn off the TV, education

Educators owe it to the universe to try harder with these poor neglected children, to give them a base on which they can start making the connections necessary to become a learner – an educated person who is curious about the world and never stops trying to find out “why.”

There is no such thing as a subject that exists only unto itself.  Everything is connected to everything else.  You know something about everything.  YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT EVERYTHING.  Just think about that.

contented cowsPlacid contentment is a good thing only if you’re a cow.

ONLY if you’re a cow.

Presley from Act Out Games Loves the Spangler Science Club

One of our very favorite fellow YouTubers, ActOutGames, has reviewed several hot toys and kit of the month subscription boxes.

They have even honored us with several reviews of Sick Science kits and Spangler Science Club.

We always look forward to every video that Presley and her dad produce and really enjoy their reviews. Here’s Presley’s review of the January Spangler Science Club kit. Her excitement and enthusiasm for science is the reason we come to work every day.

Presley also reviewed the December kit –

Presley is truly a rock star, but don’t take our word for it. Check out her YouTube channel, ActOutGames and watch her videos on DIY, education, Cosplay and even Japanese Anime lessons! This kid is the complete package.