Friday, December 31, 2010

Candy Experiments on Brazilian TV

Candy experiments just received international recognition, as part of a Brazilian documentary about the USA Science and Engineering Festival.  Noticing the popularity of our booth, the interviewer came over to ask us about what we were doing.  My daughter and I both enjoyed being interviewed, but wondered if we would ever get to see the show.  Thanks to a Brazilian dad who saw the show and sent us the link, we finally get to see it ourselves.

You can watch the show at the Globonews website.  Our segment is in the second video, starting at about 1:20.  Lucky that we were near the beginning!

Here's the rest of the email from the Brazilian dad:

"I saw your experiments on TV here in Brazil. I'll try to reproduce some of your suggestions to my son.  My son  is 5 years old, he is a candy lover and also a science enthusiastic, just like most kids I guess. So your initiative will fulfill his expectations :-)  Great idea from you."

We're so pleased that candy experiments have crossed the border! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Candy Cane Countdown #1: Rubber Bandy Canes

When we heated our candy canes, we expected them to bend.  We didn't expect them to stretch--but some did.  Here's how you can stretch one brand of candy canes like rubber bands.

1. Preheat the oven to 250 F and line a pan with foil (in case the candy cane melts too much.)
2.  Place an unwrapped Bobs brand candy cane in the oven on a pan.
3.  Wait about 5 minutes until the candy cane is warm but not yet melting.
4.  Using tongs, pick up the candy cane and break it apart.  Does the middle stretch?




Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Candy Experiments at Sensational Homeschooling

My guest blog about holiday candy experiments just went up at sensationalhomeschooling.com.  Since my readers can no longer access that site, here's a recap of the article:


At www.candyexperiments.com, we experiment with all sorts of candy to learn science lessons about melting, density, colored dyes, and ingredients.  This month we looked for ways to use up some of our holiday candy and found these two experiments you can try at home:

Chromatography
Many candy colors are made by mixing dyes.  You can separate these dyes with chromatography.  While brown M&Ms are the most fun to separate (they form a rainbow of color), M&M green also separates.

To try chromatography with your green holiday M&Ms:
1. Cut a rectangle of coffee filter paper (about 4" x 2").
2.  Wet a green M&M and dab a spot of color onto the paper, about one inch from the bottom.  
3.  Fill a glass with 1/2 inch of water.
4.  Fold the paper vertically.  Then stand it in the glass, with the color spot above the waterline.  (If the paper doesn't stand up, fold the top over the edge of the glass, making sure the paper still touches the water.) 
5.  Wait a few minutes as water seeps up the paper.  The water will dissolve the color spot and separate it into faint streaks of yellow and blue, with the blue on top.   

Candy Canes vs. Sugar
Candy canes, which are made from a mixture of heated sugar and corn syrup, melt at a lower temperature than table sugar.  Here's how you can see for yourself:

1.  Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat your oven to 250 F.
2.  Place a candy cane and a sugar lump on the baking sheet.
3.  Heat in oven for 5-10 minutes.  What happens to the candy cane?  What happens to the sugar?

Candy Cane Shapes
Warm candy cane is pliable, or easy to bend.  In the factory, straight sticks of warm candy are bent into curved candy canes, before they harden and cool.  You can turn candy canes into other fun shapes by doing this:

1.  Take a square of foil.  Fold it several times lengthwise to make a long strip.
2.  Shape your strip into a funny shape.  You can fold it accordion-style to make a zig-zag, curve it gently up and down into S-shapes, or raise the edges up to form a C.
3.  Lay the candy cane on top of the foil.  Place in oven on baking sheet.
4.  Wait several minutes.  Does your candy cane melt into the shape of the foil? 
(Note: since candy canes vary in size and ingredients, they will melt at different speeds. Check every few minutes; candy canes melted too long will turn into bubbling puddles.)

This holiday season, don't feel overwhelmed by too many holiday treats. Turn them into candy experiments.  Soon the whole family--even you--will be begging for more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Candy Cane Countdown #2: Mutant Candy Canes

A candy cane doesn't start out as a cane.  It starts out as a straight candy cane that's bent into shape while it's still warm. * You too can form candy canes into funny shapes.  Here's how:

1.  Preheat your oven to 250 F and line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
2.  Fold a square of tinfoil into a rectangular strip about 3 inches wide (i.e. wider than the candy cane.)  Then fold it into an interesting shape, like a zigzag, an S-curve, a bowl, or anything you like.
3.  Place your unwrapped candy cane on top of the foil shape, put it on the pan, and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes.**  Check frequently until the candy cane has softens and sinks onto the mold.

Did you make a mutant candy cane?

Above: candy cane on foil shape
Below: same candy cane



 Above: candy cane on foil shape
Below: same candy cane


Below: candy cane on zig-zag foil


*See Candy Canes at www.candyusa.com, published by the National Confectioner's Association.
**Melting times vary based on candy cane size.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Candy Cane Countdown #3: Bubbling Candy Canes

Want to turn your candy cane into a bubbling puddle?  Try this.


A candy cane melted in the oven, then cooled and removed from foil.

1. Turn up the oven to 300 F, and put an unwrapped candy cane on a foil-lined pan.
2.  Leave the candy cane in the oven for 5-10 minutes.*
3.  After several minutes, your candy cane will melt into a bubbling pile of goo.  (Don't touch--it's HOT!)  Can you still see stripes?

*Melting times vary based on the size of the candy cane.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Candy Cane Countdown

The other day my son was licking a candy cane.  "Why does the red stripe turn pink?" he asked.  As I explained that the red dye had thinned out to show the white beneath, I was reminded how everyday questions can lead to all sorts of interesting lessons--and candy experiments.

We've been having lots of fun getting new experiments ready for the holiday season, like Mutant Candy Canes, Bubbling Candy Canes, and Rubber Bandy Canes. Check back over the next few days to see them yourself!

To get in the candy cane spirit, check out these web pages from the National Confectioner's Association:
--How Candy Canes are Made
--Fun Facts about Candy Canes

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sticky Candy

In which my son mashes warm candy into his own invented sticky stew--and becomes my competition!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Braiding Candy Experiments

My daughter came up with a new candy experiment: braiding Twizzlers.  She separates out the strands, then braids them together for decorations.  Since she wanted to explain her craft to the world, here's the video.



Here's the finished product.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Candy Experiments To Be Used on KidsHealth.org

For the record, I found them before they found me.

It was last spring that I stumbled onto the candy-eating pumpkin on KidsHealth.org, a calorie-counting game.  Even though I knew it was most appropriate for Halloween, it was too fun to save, so I blogged about it right away.  I was impressed that the website was funded by a nonprofit dedicated to children's heath, instead of corporate sponsors, and that their activities were both entertaining and educational.

Now KidsHealth.org has found candy experiments. 

Since candy experiments fit so well into the KidsHealth.org mission and methods, KidsHealth.org will soon be publishing ten candy experiments on their website.  I'll be excited to see how they turn out.

Especially if they put the experiments near the candy-eating pumpkin.