Tag Archives: Cloud in a Bottle

The Science Behind Clouds – On a Cloudy Day You Can See Weather

Have you ever wondered how clouds form? We all learn the water cycle in school – water falls from the clouds in the form of rain or snow and collects on the ground. The water on the ground heats up and turns to vapor and the vapor travels up into the atmosphere and creates clouds.

But how do those clouds form? Here’s an experiment that demonstrates how the water molecules join together and form a cloud.

Before you start on your own cloud, let’s learn a little more about clouds.

A cloud is a lot of droplets of water and or ice crystals, depending on the temperature. The droplets float in the air molecules.

Even though we don’t see them, water molecules are in the air all around us. These airborne water molecules are called water vapor. When the molecules are bouncing around in the atmosphere, they don’t normally stick together.

Clouds on Earth form when warm air rises and its pressure is reduced. The air expands and cools, and clouds form as the temperature drops below the dew point. In other words, cold air cannot hold as much water vapor as warm air. Invisible particles in the air in the form of pollution, smoke, dust or even tiny particles of dirt help form a nucleus on which the water molecules can attach. When these droplets come together, they form a cloud.

Why do clouds float instead of sinking to the earth? The water droplets in a cloud are heated up by the sun. The cloud and the water vapor inside are warmer than the air around it. Warm air rises, cold air sinks. How much water vapor, temperatures at different heights, wind and other air masses determine what altitude the clouds are formed.

Try this simple and popular Colorful Rain Cloud in a Jar activity –


  • Clear jar
  • Water (any temperature)
  • Shaving cream
  • Cup of water with a little food coloring
  • Pipette (or spoon)
  • Food coloring
  • Fill jar about 3/4 full with water
  • Spray shaving cream to cover top of water completely.
  • Drip water on top of the shaving cream using pipette.
  • Drip food coloring on top of the shaving cream.
When a rain cloud gets so full of water or mass, the water has to go somewhere and will break through the cloud and start to fall to the ground. As you pour or drip the water over the shaving cream cloud, the water will start to break through just a little bit. Observe your cloud as it gains mass and changes in composition. As the water breaks through, drip food coloring on top of the cloud.
Questions and Answers to Popular Cloud Questions –
1. Why are clouds white? 
The water droplets and ice crystals that make up clouds, scatter the light rays and reflect white light. Sunlight is made up of all colors. When all colors of the light spectrum mix, it creates white light. This is the opposite of paints or physical colors, which blend to black. The clouds reflect all of the colors evenly, showing white.
2. Why are storm clouds grey? 
When the clouds get thick or high in the sky, the light does not make it all the way through to reflect back out, making the cloud appear grey. When many clouds are together, they can also cast shadows on other clouds, causing the clouds to look grey.
3. How do clouds move?
The clouds and the storms they form move in the air currents, wind and jet stream.

Here’s another popular cloud activity – Cloud in a Jar
This activity requires adult help.  


  • Jar
  • Hot Water
  • Ice
  • Plate or jar lid
  • Matches
  • Fill jar about half way full with very hot water. (Have an adult help with this part)
  • Cover the jar with the plate or lid and place ice on top.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes – you will start to see a cloud form. Watch the convection currents as the hot air rises to meet the cold air and then sinks again.
  • Light a match (bring your adult helper back in for this part), let it burn down for a few seconds.
  • Blow out the match and place it between the jar mouth and plate.
  • The cloud and the air currents will be more visible.
  • Lift off the plate and watch the cloud disperse.
  • Try it again!

Additional Resources: 





Staff Spotlight on JJ – Master of Production

Q: Tell us a little about who you are…
A: I am a very personable and outgoing person who loves to make the best out of every situation. I feel as though no man or woman is better than the next and that we all need to work close to one another to really expand our horizons in life. Having the privilege to work for such a great company has allowed me to have a multitude of opportunities that I never thought were possible or that I would ever even come across in my life. I have been with the company now for 3 1/2 years and still wake up every morning excited to come to my job and work with my friends. It really takes a unique work environment to be able to say that your coworkers are not just team members but lifelong friends and that is one of my favorite things about working at Steve Spangler Science.

Q: What do you do at Steve Spangler Science?
A: I help oversee the production of the fun kits and educational products that we provide to our great customers. I also oversee the coordination of having Goodwill come into our facility to help produce some of our products which in turn helps us out a lot by keeping our production demands down. Thank you Goodwill!!!

Q: What do you like best about what you do?
A: I love knowing that the product I touch not just only helps further and expand the education of kids but also puts the fun back in science. Being able to work here gives me a comfortable feeling of knowing how much the company gives back to the community in various ways. It helps me understand the significance of a family owned and operated business and the importance of the great morals they work and live by.

Q:  What is your favorite Steve Spangler Science moment?
A: My favorite moment(s) would be when we were able to go down to Weather and Science Day at Coors Field. Having that many kids and teachers that are excited to learn about science/education is incredible and really wow’s me till this day. I am hoping to see this breathtaking event come together again this year. Keep your fingers crossed!

Q: What is something you wish every SSS customer knew?
A: I want every SSS customer to know how much we appreciate your feedback as well as input. We put so much hard work and dedication into our product and ordering process that we are always in search of how to improve on it to make the best experience for our customers. Thank you — all you guys ROCK!!!

Q: What is your favorite science experiment?
A: I would have to say my favorite is WCIB-250 Cloud in a Bottle. It still till this day amazes me to see a cloud right in front of you. My second choice would be WEXB-050 Bouncing Bubble Kit just because who doesn’t love to bounce a bubble in your hand. If you haven’t tried either one, you are missing out.

Q: What do you like to do when not on the job?
A: I like to stay active, especially outdoors. I love snowboarding, hiking, camping, spelunking, and running outside just on a random path to see where it ends. Enjoying time with my family and friends is definitely the highlight of my days though, no question about it.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
I live my life by this quote because of its importance and truth. I ‘m just saying…

Ellen Show – Spangler Science Take 9 – It's Raining Ping Pong Balls!

We’re back from the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California with lots of fun stories from our latest appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. When I say ‘we’… I mean ‘we’ because there’s no way I could pull these segments off by myself. Jeff Brooks, Carly Reed and Lisa Brooks traveled with me and worked hard backstage and on the outside location shoot to make everything run smoothly. Unlike other talk shows, the people at the Ellen Show are used to pulling off big stunts… but even this one had everyone a little on edge because no one really knew what was going to happen to all of those ping pong balls. Watch the video…


The line-up of science demos was as follows…

  • Cloud in a Bottle – a really visual way of creating a water vapor cloud instantly in a 2-liter bottle.
  • The second demo was a Dust Explosion using a very fine spore called Lycopodium, a fine yellow powder derived from the spores of Lycopodium clavatum (stag’s horn club moss, running ground pine). By itself, the powder is not flammable. When the fine powder is dispersed in the air and each particle is surrounded by oxygen, it’s very flammable…and the fire ball is huge.
  • We wrapped up the studio portion of the segment talking about the expansive nature of liquid nitrogen which boils at room temperature. If liquid nitrogen is contained while it’s desperately trying to expand, you get an explosion. The technical term for the reaction is a BLEVE – boiling liquid expansion liquid explosion. We came up with a way to illustrate this in the studio using a 55 gallon steel drum and a mess of ping pong balls. The look on Ellen’s face at the end is worth the price of all the work (and hoops we had to jump through) to do the demo.

I came back after the commercial break to do one more liquid nitrogen demo outside where we shot a rubber trash can about 75 feet into the air. The producers loved the video of us practicing the demo in our parking lot and wanted to recreate it outside on the Warner Bros. lot. Again, thanks to Jeff, Lisa and Carly for working with the props team at the studio to make this happen.

Here are just a few of the behind the scenes pictures. Hope you enjoy the final product which airs on Monday, April 26, 2010.

Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-2 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-4 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-5 IMG_062Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-3 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-13 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-9 Ping Pong Rain Preview Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-1 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-8