Density in Action: Can You Sink a Marshmallow?

By Loralee Leavitt, Candy Experiments

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, children crowd around the Candy Experiments booth.  A volunteer asks if they’re ready to take the marshmallow challenge: “Can you sink a marshmallow?”

As Steve Spangler teaches in the lemon and lime sink-and-float experiment, an object sinks if it is more dense than water.  It floats if it is less dense than water.

When you drop a marshmallow in water, it floats like a balloon.  A marshmallow is full of air bubbles, which puff it out.  The sugar in the marshmallow gets spread out over a large area, making the marshmallow less dense than water.  So how do you make a marshmallow denser?  You have to make it smaller.

To try the marshmallow challenge, take a mini marshmallow and squash it.  You can do this by smashing it between your palms, rolling it between your fingers, or smashing it against a flat surface.  Try to roll it into a ball rather than flatten it into a pancake, because a pancake shape floats better than a ball.

When your marshmallow is as small as you can make it, drop it in water.  Does it sink?  If it does, you’ve made it denser than water.  You beat the marshmallow challenge!

If that was too easy, try a harder challenge: sinking a regular marshmallow.  Squash or roll it on a cornstarch-covered cutting board to keep it from getting too sticky. (Otherwise, you may have to scrape the marshmallow goo off your hands with a spoon.)  Then drop it in a water to see what happens.  You can also try this experiment with Peeps, 3 Musketeers, or other kinds of candy that float.



Loralee Leavitt destroys candy for the sake of science at Her new book, Candy Experiments, contains dozens of amazing experiments including creating giant gummi worms, turning M&Ms into comets, and growing candy crystals.  Candy Experiments is available at

Japanese Scientists and Discovery Channel Capture First Pictures of Giant Squid

The first images and video of a giant squid swimming in the ocean depths has been captured by a Japanese-led group of scientists, with support from the Japanese national broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel.

The squid was on the small side – only about 3 meters (10 feet) long. The largest ever found measured about 18 meters. The giant mollusk’s eyes are the size of a human head and it can weigh up to a ton.

Little is known about the giant squid, also believed to be the mythical Kraken in folk-lore stories. Researchers have searched for the real creature for years in hopes of learning more about the species. Giant squid have been found washed ashore but never fully observed in the ocean. No one has caught the beast on film in its natural habitat like this.

This cephalopod was found near the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo.

Giant squid are very elusive, solitary and shy animals.

The crew spent hours in a small submersible that used lights invisible to both human and squid eyes. At 630 meters, they lured giant squid using small squid as bait. After about 100 dives, the giant squid appeared. The sub followed it down to 900 meters (3,000 feet).

The footage will be aired for the first time in the Discovery Channel’s “Monster Squid: The Giant is Real.” The program premieres on Discovery at 8 p.m. ET Jan. 27th.



Inside Winter Wonderland – A Christmas Village Covered in Insta-Snow

Becky I. from California shared pictures of her Christmas village with us. She uses Insta-Snow and sprinkles it all over her Christmas village. Insta-Snow fluffs and feels like real snow. It is perfect for creating an indoor winter wonderland. The snow sticks on trees and bushes and lightly covers sidewalks and buildings.

Just hydrate some Insta-Snow and spread it all around your village. You may want to use gloves or avoid touching the snow. Dirt and oil from hands can transfer to the snow and make it look dingy and dirty after a few days. The snow will start to dry out. Just spritz it with a water bottle every few days to keep it fresh and looking great.

Thank a Teacher Day – December 17, 2012

As the horrific events of Friday, December 14th unfolded, we all felt helpless and angry. Angry that someone would walk into a school and take the lives of children and the educators who not only taught them but protected them to the end.

As we all look for ways to do something in the shadows of this tragedy, there is something immediate and easy that we all can do.

Thank a Teacher Day 2012, created in loving memory of those who lost their lives in Newtown, CT, and in honor of the hundreds of thousands of teachers who would do that tomorrow for your child.

How often do you show your appreciation to your child’s teachers? Today, bloggers and those in the media are participating in Thank a Teacher Day 2012. Our teachers spend at least six hours a day with our children. They not only work tirelessly to give them an education, but also provide comfort, support, a listening ear, hugs and safety.

On Monday, December 17, 2012, take a moment and thank a teacher. Send her an email, a card, a bouquet of flowers. Create a “thank you” bulletin board. Offer to help from home. Make time to volunteer in the classroom.

Take a few minutes in your day and connect with your favorite teacher, or your child’s teacher. It’s simple; just tell him or her “thank you.”

If you can’t do it today, make sure you do something this week. Teachers truly dedicate every aspect of their lives to give to their students. It is time we give back to them.

If you are a blogger, please share this message on your blog or website. The original image and post are found here – Julieverse Thank a Teacher Day. You can also tweet at #ThankaTeacher. Or share in your Facebook groups, with friends and family to spread the message of hope and thankfulness.

To discuss the events of Newtown, CT, feelings as a parent and all of the controversy and sorrow surrounding the tragedy, visit the Forums on


Santa and Rudolph Leave Footprints All Over Your Home – Insta-Snow Snowy Footrprints

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

Each year I work hard to keep the Santa mystery alive. I find new ways to surprise my daughters’ on Christmas morning…we’ve left a special Santa key, sprinkled reindeer dust on the lawn, taken secret pictures of Santa with our computer and so much more. Last year was my favorite Santa visit “trick.”

This is an activity for parents who aren’t afraid to make a mess!

We have a gas fireplace at our house, so Santa must park the reindeer and sleigh on the front lawn and enter via a special key through the front door. I created Santa and Rudolph’s footprints all over my house. Santa snuck in the front door, but Rudolph and his reindeer friends had to stay outside – they don’t fit down a chimney nor do they belong on my carpet.


I secretly hydrated Insta-Snow and kept it in a sealed bin for Christmas Eve night. I also cut out reindeer hooves and boot forms. After the girls went to bed, I placed the templates near the fireplace, by the door and outside to make a path. I only left Rudolph’s hoof prints. Creative parents who like to spend tons of time outside in nature can leave all 9 reindeer prints and other traces from the sleigh.

The one debate we have in our office about this little activity is either to sprinkle the snow around the template, like the snow has fallen off the boots and hooves or if you sprinkle it inside to make snow tracks. How you do it is up to you. I made tracks in the snow on my sidewalk and then made snow prints inside the house.

The best part? The next day when the snow had dehydrated and the footprints were faint.

If you are lucky enough to have snow Christmas morning, go the extra mile and make a few sleigh tracks in your front yard!

Clean up really isn’t that big of a deal. The Insta-Snow vacuums right up or disappears into grass or the environment. It’s a non-toxic polymer that won’t hurt anything outside.

You can purchase Insta-Snow through Steve Spangler Science or find it from Be Amazing Toys in Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and other local toy stores