Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marshmallows and Dry Ice

Since we had extra dry ice the other day, we decided to use it for candy experiments. My kids had a lot of fun dropping, snapping, and crushing frozen candy to see whether it was frozen hard enough to shatter. Check out these marshmallows! video

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shrinking Ghosts

If you're going to test marshmallows, you've got to use some Peeps out of principle. Here are some really spooky Halloween ghosts--they shrink by themselves.

We took an empty plastic bottle, drilled a hole in the lid, and stuck in a basketball air pump, wrapping rubber bands around the pump insert to help create a seal.  Though the seal wasn't perfect, we were able to pump in enough air to increase the pressure in the bottle, and sink our ghosts.
video

The eerie moaning isn't ghostly howling, it's air escaping from our leaky bottle.

"They're Getting Smaller and Dancing!"

How do you squash a marshmallow without touching it? All you need is a bottle, a pump, and an MIT engineer. Check it out: video

After-Christmas sales

I've bought more candy in the past twelve months than ever before in my life, but the post-holiday sales too hard to pass up. I thought I was done buying candy, but I fell victim to a box of tricolored candy canes in the checkout display. Wonder how those look after a few minutes in the oven?

After we got home, my daughter pointed out that they're sour candy canes, which means we can do the acid test on our leftovers. Bonus!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Candy Experiments are Going to Washington DC!

We've been invited to present candy experiments at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, to be held on the National Mall in Washington DC on October 23 and 24. Hundreds of science organizations, including Harvard, MIT, Fermilab, and Dow, will be presenting hands-on science activities for all ages in a grand weekend extravaganza. Exhibitors will help visitors build underwater robots, make instant snow, turn old crayons into fuel, mix colored chemicals, and lots more.

So if you're in DC next October, come try candy experiments and other great science activities. If you're not planning to be in DC, maybe you should add it to your calendar. We'll see you there.

Don't Eat the Experiments!

The other day when I was doing experiments with my kids I thoughtlessly popped a malt ball into my mouth. As soon as I did, all the other candy started making me salivate. I could hardly keep my mind off all the sugar.

I always tell juvenile candy scientists that experiment candy is just for experiments, not eating. The few times I've allowed children to try even one piece, they spend the rest of the time begging for more. Now I've learned for myself: don't eat the experiment candy. Or you might want to eat it all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Traveling Marshmallows

When we drove to Utah last week, I woke up in the middle of the night kicking myself: "Why didn't we seal any marshmallows in bottles and bring them along to see what happened when we changed altitude?" So when we visited the family cabin, nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, we sealed up some marshmallows and drove them back home.

Here's a video of us opening the bottle at sea level. Notice how the marshmallows shrink when the lid pops off--that's because the air rushing in pushes them down. When the video ends, you can see that the unsealed marshmallows are a lot smaller than the sealed ones.

video

Friday, January 1, 2010

M&M Colors

A few days ago I was stuck in a mountain cabin with a 3-year-old whining for M&Ms. What to do? I showed her what happened when you put them in water. She was hooked. We watched the colors dissolve, watched the m's peel off (they didn't float this time, for some reason), and stirred the colors together to make new ones. She liked it so much that when she saw me the next day the first thing she said was, "I want to play with candy!" So we did more dissolving, using primary colors to make orange and green. Hey, it's one way to amuse the kids.