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They are the brainchild of our amazing video team and originate on our Sick Science! YouTube channel. The videos demonstrate simple science experiments you can do at home with minimal materials.

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The Science Behind the 9News Broncos Clingy Thingy

Kirk Montgomery and our friends at 9News here in Denver have created a whirlwind of excitement over the Broncos amazing season with Clingy Thingys – United in Orange. Fans in Denver can’t get their hands on them fast enough.

The Science Behind the 9News Denver Broncos United in Orange Clingy Thingy

So that left us to answer the question – how does the Clingy Thingy work?

The Clingy Thingy does not use adhesive to attach to glass or plastic so it isn’t permanent. The “thingy” attaches using static electricity. Similar to the way your hair sticks to a balloon.

Static electricity involves extra electrons. When you rub a balloon on someone’s hair, the balloon picks up electrons, leaving it negatively charged and the hair positively charged. Opposites attract, so the balloon will stick to the hair, or cause the hair to stand up if the balloon is held above the hair.

When you bring a charged balloon near pieces of paper, the paper isn’t charged so you might expect nothing to happen. But the paper is attracted to the balloon. Why? The negative charge on the balloon repels the electrons in the paper, making them (on average) farther from the balloon’s charge than are the positive charges in the paper. Because electrical forces decrease in strength with distance, the attraction between the negatives and positives is stronger than the repulsion between the negatives and negatives. This leads to an overall attraction. The paper is said to have an induced charge. This explanation applies to a charged balloon sticking to a wall and a charged balloon attracting other uncharged objects.

Moisture and dirt will kill the attachment so if you are trying to stick it to a car window, wipe away any condensation or dirt with a cloth before trying to stick it.

3 Things You Can Do with Your Clingy Thingy

Here are a few ways to display your Clingy Thingy in the name of science.

Tornado Tube

There will be a tornado of orange at Sports Authority Field this Sunday as the Broncos beat the New England Patriots. Stick your Clingy Thingy to a clean plastic soda bottle (upside down), fill that bottle about 3/4 full with water. Then attach a Tornado Tube to the top and another soda bottle to the bottom. Watch the message be revealed as the water swirls down to the bottom bottle.

Tornado Tube - The Science Behind the 9News Denver Broncos United in Orange Clingy Thingy

Make the Message Appear

Place your Clingy Thingy face up under a clear dish or pie pan. Fill the pan with Water Balls.  The message will disappear because the water balls will refract the light. Pour water slowly into the dish. As the balls disappear, the message will appear. You’ve changed the refraction to reveal United in Orange!

Revealing a secret message with Water Balls - The Science Behind the 9News Denver Broncos United in Orange Clingy Thingy

 

What We Will Do to the Patriots Sunday

The Broncos will be on fire and light up the field. They will burn the Patriots.
(Don’t try this demonstration at home).

The Science Behind the 9News Denver Broncos United in Orange Clingy Thingy

 Follow 9News Facebook page for updates on where they will be to hand out the Clingy Thingys.

Boiling Water Turns Into Snow in Subzero Temps a Hoax

As two-thirds of the country is gripped in the clutches of a Polar Vortex, many are spending time outside in the cold trying to create instant snow.

Throwing Hot Water into Freezing Air Does Not Create Instant Snow - It's a Hoax | Steve Spangler Science

Internet videos and stories are telling people to head outdoors in the subzero temps with a pot of boiling water. They claim when you throw the hot water into the freezing air, the result will be instant snowfall.

We hate to burst your frozen bubbles everyone, but this is a hoax. When you throw hot water into cold air, you do get a cool reaction of water vapor and condensation, but you don’t get snowflakes. Only some of the hot water will condensate, but most of it will fall back down to the ground. Many people have been burned after throwing hot water above their head and having it fall down on top of them.

If you want to try this on a safer, smaller scale, you will get the same result from placing a steaming cup of hot coffee in the freezer.

While the reaction of throwing the hot water into the cold air is pretty dramatic, it isn’t creating snowfall. Snowflakes are created when a water droplet attaches to a piece of dirt or dust in a cloud. The hot water droplets don’t have time to attach to anything before they fall back to earth.

If you are in the areas with extreme cold and want to use your scientific skills to experiment and learn, here are a few safe experiments to try. And remember, don’t stay outside very long. It doesn’t take a lot of time for skin to freeze or frostbite to set in. Go out in small bursts and get back where it’s warm.

 Throwing boiling water into freezing air during the Polar Vortex to make instant snow is a HOAX | Steve Spangler Science

Get an Email When the International Space Station is Overhead

The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky (after the sun and moon) – it can be seen without a telescope by the naked eye.

The ISS is even visible when spotted over a city and flies over about 90 percent of the Earth’s population.

Backdropped against the Caspian Sea, this full view of the international space station was photographed by a crewmember onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery after the undocking of the two spacecraft. Image credit: NASA
Backdropped against the Caspian Sea, this full view of the international space station was photographed by a crew member onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery after the undocking of the two spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

How do you know when to look up?

NASA is now offering a Spot the Station service. This provides a list of upcoming opportunities to spot the ISS from thousands of world locations. You can also sign up to receive an email or a message on your cell phone when it’s overhead. You will only receive alerts during prime viewing opportune times, like only when the station is high enough over the horizon and in view long enough. NASA believes most will receive alerts a few times a week to a few times a month.

The ISS looks like a fast moving airplane but is much higher and travels thousands of miles an hour faster. It orbits the Earth every 90 minutes.

The station is about the size of a football field and has more livable space than a six-bedroom house, including two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree bay window.

ISS Size Compared to a Football Field - Courtesy NASA
ISS Size Compared to a Football Field – Courtesy NASA

Sign up for ISS alerts at NASA

Here are some facts about the ISS, courtesy of NASA

  • The International Space Station marked its 10th anniversary of continuous human occupation on Nov. 2, 2010. Since Expedition 1, which launched Oct. 31, 2000, and docked Nov. 2, the space station has been visited by 204 individuals.
  • At the time of the anniversary, the station’s odometer read more than 1.5 billion statute miles (the equivalent of eight round trips to the Sun), over the course of 57,361 orbits around the Earth.
  • A total of 174 spacewalks have been conducted in support of space station assembly totaling almost 1,100 hours, or nearly 46 days.

The International Space Station is not only an orbiting laboratory, but also a space port for a variety of international spacecraft. As of June 2013, there have been:

  • 89 Russian launches
  • 37 Space Shuttle launches
  • 1 test flight and 2 operational flights by SpaceX’s Dragon
  • 3 Japanese HTVs
  • 3 European ATVs

 

 

 

Science Craft – Water Color Tie Dye Pillows

Are you looking for a last minute crafty Christmas present? Or something to do over the long holiday break? How about making tie dye pillows that use a little science to create a beautiful masterpiece.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

Materials

 

We used pillows from IKEA for $3.99 each. You can also do this technique on pillow cases, towels, t-shirts, or any material that is 100% cotton. This activity won’t work on synthetic fabrics.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

ACTIVITY

Warning: Rubbing alcohol is very flammable and must be kept away from any open flames or heat. This experiment must be conducted in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors or in a room with open windows.  

You may want to start by practicing on a piece of scrap fabric or old t-shirt to experiment with color mixing and spreading.

1. Using the Sharpie markers, draw a design on your pillow. We drew our design straight onto the pillow and didn’t use a pillow case.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

2. Experiment with wider lines, dots, or abstracts. If you want a section to be one color, color it in closely or color more sparingly for a different result.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

This is a good step for an adult helper. Kids about 5 and up can drop the alcohol (and will want to) but they may need a little guidance to make sure they don’t drown the pillow. They may also pick up some of the ink if they place their hand or fingers on the wet fabric. Sharpie pen will come off skin using a cotton ball and a little rubbing alcohol.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

 

3. Sparingly drop the rubbing alcohol on the fabric. The alcohol will spread the ink and mix the colors. Go slowly and don’t use much at first. Watch the alcohol spread the ink. It may take several minutes before the ink has stopped spreading. Don’t over saturate your fabric.

4. Experiment with drops of the rubbing alcohol – what happens when you drop it sparingly around your pillow and what happens when you place the drops close together?

5. Let air dry if it’s really wet and then place damp pillow in the dryer to set the colors.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

TAKE IT FURTHER!

Enjoy experimenting with various patterns, dot sizes, and color combinations. Instead of using dots, try drawing a small square with each side being a different color, or use primary colors to draw a geometric shape and accent it with dots of secondary colors. Half circles, wavy lines, and polygons all make unique patterns when rubbing alcohol travels across the ink. Your designs are only limited by your imagination. Try as many different patterns as you like.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

HOW DOES IT WORK?

This is really a lesson in the concepts of solubility, color mixing, and the movement of molecules. The Sharpie markers contain permanent ink, which will not wash away with water. Permanent ink is hydrophobic, meaning it is not soluble in water. However, the molecules of ink are soluble in another solvent called rubbing alcohol. This solvent carries the different colors of ink with it as it spreads in a circular pattern from the center of the shirt.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

ADDITIONAL INFO

Reference: The original Sharpie Pen activity is the creation of Bob Becker, a chemistry teacher in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science