With the touch of her bare hands, “Frozen’s” Elsa coats the world with ice. It takes a little longer, but with your imagination, you can use alum crystals to make ordinary objects extraordinary with science!
We coated pipe-cleaner snowflakes, styrofoam snow people and even an evergreen branch with gorgeous ice-like alum crystals. We demonstrated how to make these on Kare11 Sunrise News.
Here’s how to grow your own alum crystals:
Ingredients: alum (spice section of grocery store. 3 small containers for half recipe, 5 containers for 4 cup recipe. Alum is relatively expensive, so you might want to cut the recipe in half and crystallize smaller items! See below.) glue, water, paintbrush,small items you’d like to coat with crystals.
1. Using a paintbrush, brush glue on the surface you want to “freeze”. One option is to twist 3 pieces of pipe cleaner together to make a snowflake. If you have beads, add them to your snowflake before crystallizing!
2. Before the glue dries, sprinkle the object with alum. These are your seeds for crystallization. Allow object to dry.
3.With adult supervision, dissolve about 1 1/4 cup alum in 4 cups in hot water (we use the microwave), reserving some alum to sprinkle on other objects you may want to make later. (One 1.9 oz. container of alum is around 1/4 cup, so you’ll need 5 of them.) Liquid will be cloudy and some crystals will sink to the bottom. This is your supersaturated alum solution.
4. Allow liquid to cool.
5. Suspend objects in alum solution until crystals are the size you’d like them to be. This may take an hour for small crystals or overnight for large one. Remove the crystals from the jar and dry your crystallized object. We grew big crystals on our snowflakes and then scraped them off the beads, but left them on the pipe cleaners.
6. To crystallize more objects, reheat alum solution, stir up crystals to dissolve as many as possible, and cool before adding the next thing to be “frozen.”
The Science Behind the Fun: Some crystals, like alum, will form from supersaturated solutions, like the one you used in this experiment. A supersaturated solution is one that is forced to hold more atoms in water (or another solute) than it normally would. You can make these solutions using heat or pressure. Crystals can form when a supersaturated solutions encounters a “seed” atom or molecule, causing the other atoms to come out of the solution and attach to the seed.
What else can you think of to crystallize?
In addition to some of my neighborhood friends,two awesome chemist friends helped me out with this song: the amazing Dr. Raychelle Burks (with the Bronsted-Lowry line) and bassist Ryan Williams, who happens to have a PhD in Chemistry, with his awesome bass-playing.
The video quality isn’t top-notch, but you’ll get the idea, and hopefully learn a little chemistry!
I got together with some friends this weekend to do a quick iPhone recording of a chemistry song (on my Kitchen Pantry Scientist YouTube channel soon) and these awesome kids were nice enough take a break from playing to sing the Science Song with me. They had me laughing so hard that I could hardly get the words out!
Can you make up a song about science?
This colorful, fizzy acid/base experiment will liven any kids’ party or rainy day!
Check out my Kitchen Pantry Scientist YouTube channel for more how-to videos!
With a few ingredients from your kitchen, you can turn your table into a mad scientist’s laboratory for Halloween! We made Fizzy Balloon Monster Heads, Alien Monster Eggs, Rock Candy and Soda Geysers on Fox9 News this morning. Click on the blue experiment names for directions!
Last Saturday morning, I had fun showing Kare11 meteorologist Belinda Jensen how to make Mad Scientist’s Green Slime, Frankenworms and Magic Potion. Click here to watch!
There’s going to be a solar eclipse this afternoon, so I’m re-posting directions on how to make some simple solar viewers!
NEVER look directly at the sun, since you can permanently damage your retinas (the light sensors on the back of your eyeballs.)
You can safety view the sun (and therefore a solar eclipse) using a shoe box by standing with the sun BEHIND you. All you need is a shoe box without a lid, a piece of white paper, aluminum foil, a pin and tape. It’s perfect for viewing a solar eclipse, like the one coming up this afternoon. It will be visible from around 4:30 CST until 6:00 PM CST here in Minnesota!
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun from view.Go to this eclipse calculator to see when and where you can best view the eclipse with your viewer! Here in Minnesota, we’ll see a partial eclipse.
First, tape white paper over one end of the shoe box (on the inside.) This is your viewing screen.
Then, cut a big notch out of the other end of the shoe box and tape aluminum foil over it.
Use a pin to poke a hole in the center of the foil. If you mess up, you can always put new foil on and try again. The smaller the hole, the better the focus, but we made ours a little bigger than the actual size of the pin.
Now, stand with the sun BEHIND you. (See photo at top of post. The sun is behind her, high in the sky.) NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH THE PINHOLE ITSELF.
Hold the box upside down so the pinhole is pointed at the sun behind you. The foil should be behind your line of sight so it’s not reflecting the sun in your eyes. Light rays from the sun will shine through the pinhole and project an (upside down) image on the white paper.
Practice on a sunny day (or when the sun peeks out between the clouds) so that you know what to do when it’s time for the eclipse. Small children should be supervised so they don’t try to look directly at the sun.
You can do the same thing using two white index card, poking a hole in one you hold nearest to you and projecting the image on the one you hold away from you (with the sun behind you.)
Enjoy! Watching an eclipse in the 70s after my dad came to school and helped us all make these boxes is one of my earliest “science” memories!
For an explosive fountain of Halloween fun, try this carbonated chemical reaction!
-a two liter bottle of Diet Coke
-a roll of Mentos mints
-a piece of paper.
-a disposable plastic table cloth or some construction paper
1. Make a Halloween costume for your Diet Coke bottle. We made pumpkins by cutting up a plastic tablecloth into sections and cutting a hole on the fold for the mouth of the bottle. Then, we draped the “costume” over the bottle and decorated it with permanent marker.
2.Remove the lid from the bottle and set the Diet Coke on a flat surface (outside!)
3. Roll some paper so it will fit into the mouth of the bottle, tape it into a tube, and fill it with a roll of Mentos mints.
4. Quickly dump the mints into the bottle and stand back! (Young kids should wear safety goggles or sunglasses to protect their eyes.)
The science behind the fun: Scientists are not sure exactly why the Mentos cause such an explosive reaction, but they think it has to do with the chemical reaction that occurs between the Diet Coke and the Mentos mints, when chemicals in the Mentos break the surface tension in the soda at the same time that carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles form very rapidly on the surface of the mints, causing a huge, very fast release of carbon dioxide bubbles. The pressure of this gas builds very quickly in the bottle, shooting the liquid and bubbles into the air.
What could be more fun than creating your own green slime ? It’s easy to synthesize your own green goo using only Elmer’s glue (the non-washable kind), Borax (found in the laundry detergent section of Target and some grocery stores), green food coloring and water.
Mix together about 1/3 cup glue and 1/3 cup water with a spoon or Popsicle stick. These measurements don’t have to be exact. Add a few drops of green food coloring and stir.
To make the Borax solution, add around a cup of water to a jar. To the water, add about a Tablespoon of Borax. Shake or stir to dissolve as much of the Borax as possible. You’re making a saturated solution, so it may not all dissolve!
Here’s the fun part: Add a teaspoon at a time of the Borax solution to the glue/water mix. After each addition, stir the mixture. You’ll see long strings begin to form and stick together. Keep adding Borax until the mixture doesn’t feel sticky. It will form a shiny playdough-like substance. If you add too much Borax solution, it will feel wet, but you should be able to squish it around in your hands to absorb the extra water! The slime isn’t toxic, but Borax is soap, so don’t eat it!
What happens? Mixing Elmer’s glue with water forms a substance called a polymer, which is a long chain of molecules, sort of like a string of pearls. (A molecule is the smallest amount of a specific chemical substance that can exist alone, like H2O, a single water molecule). The polymer formed by water and glue is called polyvinyl acetate.
The Borax solution (sodium tetraborate) is a cross-linking substance that makes the polymer chains stick together. As more and more chains stick together, they can’t move around and the goo gets thicker and thicker. Eventually, all the chains are bound together and no more Borax solution can be incorporated.
You can store the slime in plastic bags. If you want to make a larger batch, just remember to mix equal amounts of glue and water and then add as much Borax solution as needed.
This morning, on Kare11 Sunrise, I showed off my new book, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, and demonstrated three experiments from the book. Just click on the experiment name for directions, photos and more about the science!
Frankenworms- Bring gummy worms to “life” using a chemical reaction.
Magic Bags- Explore the elastic properties of polymers.
Leaf Chromatography- Separate plant pigments on coffee filters.
This is especially fun in the fall, when you can compare green leaves to red and yellow ones! Here’s a nice article on the chemistry of the colors of fall leaves (from the Compound Interest website) that my friend Joanne Manaster highlighted on her Joanne Loves Science Facebook page.
Last week, the kids and I saw a bright red bird with a blue head. Baffled, I pulled out my favorite bird identification app: Merlin Bird ID, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The app is free, available on the App Store and Google play, and much of the data in the app has been collected by citizen scientists, like you and me!
To use the app, you simply answer 5 simple questions about the bird you see and the app draws on a wealth of data to help you identify the bird. It comes up with a list of likely matches, and you choose the bird you’re looking at to learn more about it, and even listen to a recording of its song.
Normally, we can quickly identify the bird we’re stalking using the app, but the blue-headed red bird was tricky, so we went online to do more research. Merlin Bird ID suggested that it might be a cardinal, so we did a search for blue headed cardinals and discovered that we’d seen a bald-headed cardinal. It seems that some cardinals and blue jays molt all their head feathers at once, leaving their bluish skin exposed.