Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
--Doyle and Fossey Science Detective Books: Think about Encyclopedia Brown doing science experiments, and you get Drake Doyle and Nell Fossey. These fifth grade science detectives use real science to solve mysteries like why is the garbage can burping, who faked the ghost in the cemetery, and who wrote the mysterious love letter (I especially liked this one because it uses chromatography.) Each story has instructions for an experiment kids can try themselves. With a degree in microbiology, years of lab experience, and several children's books in publication, Torrey knows both her science and her audience. My daughter enjoyed these books, and I'm wondering if my son is ready for them.
--Potato Chip Science: I haven't tried this one out yet because I hid it until it's time to wrap presents. (Don't tell my kids!) According to the package, it has instructions and equipment for several experiments including a potato clock. If nothing else, the packaging is genius--they've enclosed it in a crackly plastic potato chip bag.
--Candy Experiments Kit: If I get surprised by a sudden need for a holiday gift (somehow I can never tell when get-togethers and playdates are going to erupt into spontaneous gift exchanges), I'll package up some candy experiment kits. To make your own kit, print out the set of 8 experiment cards from my Printables page, which includes experiments for Life Saver Lights, Pop Rocks, Floating Letters, Acid Test, and others. Tape the appropriate candy to each card, wrap it up in a nice box, and decorate with a bow. Nobody'll ever know it was a last minute scramble.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Last year I posted these really fun candy cane experiments:
-Candy Cane Countdown #3: Bubbling Candy Canes
-Candy Cane Countdown #2: Mutant Candy Canes
-Candy Cane Countdown #1: Rubber Bandy Canes
The Rubber Bandy Canes were one of my favorite experiments ever, and I just bought two boxes of Bob's candy canes so we can do them again. Maybe this year we'll even be able to hollow some out.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Horn's noticed a backlash against sugar in public opinion in the last few years, as experts warn that sugar is contributing to the rise of obesity. "Sugar has been getting a bad rap," he says. So his art works, such as this sugar-coated carriage Mother-Load, seek to present sugar as something beautiful.
Horn created Mother-Load in recognition of Alma Spreckles, a rags-to-riches 1900's socialite who married a San Francisco sugar baron. Horn made a form from plywood and steel, adding ornamental details made from scrunched aluminum foil and carved foam. But the most striking ornamentation comes from the sugar crystals, bought in bulk at a Chinese grocery. Horn used an acrylic glaze to coat the entire surface of the carriage in gem-like crystals of all sizes. Finally, Horn coated the carriage in amber-colored shellac, making the final product glow like honey. A sign in museum where the carriage is currently displayed warns visitors to not lick the artwork!
Mother-Load will be displayed at the Bellevue Arts Museum through Dec 31. You can also see more pictures at Timothy Horn's website.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thanks to Samira Kawash at www.candyprofessor.com for sending me the link!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The sugar has formed into clear crystals, with a molasses-like liquid beneath them (you can see the brown puddle at the bottom of the tipped bowl.) But why?
It turns out that brown sugar isn't much different from white sugar. In fact, most brown sugar is just white sugar with a little molasses added. When you dissolve it, and let it recrystallize, the sugar molecules crystallize together, concentrating the molasses flavoring in the remaining liquid. The crystals have only a tiny molasses taste, which comes from the molasses coating I wasn't quite able to rinse off. If I could clean off the crystals before I tasted them, I'd be tasting pure sugar.
When I tell people I do candy experiments, they always ask if I make candy. My answer is always no. It's way more fun to take it apart!
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
I do want to contest one fact in the article, which says "This might be the first time gummy bears have been destroyed in the name of science." We've been destroying gummi bears in the name of science for years now!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Pixy Stix are on sale too, at least in the post-Halloween aisle at my local drugstore. Those are really fun for acid testing.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Like me, Bowers has found that once she gets the kids excited about the candy project and turns them loose, they're not focused on eating it. She tells her kids no eating while building ("What construction worker snacks on the job?"), and lets them choose one piece of candy to set aside and eat after cleanup. Her final rule: "Candy construction workers always brush their teeth after work."
In my experience, letting the kids choose even one piece of candy to eat keeps them focused on eating, not testing, so my mantra is, "The candy is for experiments, it's not for eating." But it's nice to know that Bowers has also figured out ways to get children to play with candy instead of eating it. It really is possible to redirect kids' candy mania, and find alternative ways for them to enjoy their candy.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil
Unwrap your candy and put it on the sheet. (Caution: never melt a jawbreaker!)
Place in low oven (300-350 F) and wait to see what happens.
Microwave: use a microwave-safe plate and watch your candy (not jawbreakers) as you heat it. Most candy melts in a minute or less. If you heat it too long, you might scorch your candy or even your plate, so choose your dishes carefully and keep a close watch.
You might be surprised at what melts and what doesn't!
Friday, October 28, 2011
As a candy experimenter, I try to keep my children from gorging on candy. But I didn't want to just say no. "Sure," I said. Noticing that she was contorting her face in very odd ways, I remembered some memoir I'd read in which the writer could never master the Mr. Spock eyebrow trick. "If you can raise only one eyebrow." Ha! Beat that impossible task! She promptly did.
I couldn't renege--as she reminded me several times on the way home, "We don't lie in our church, Mommy!" And her proposal, that each child could eat one mini candy bar and share in the contents of two mini packs of M&M's, was still conservative under the circumstances. I agreed to the deal, as long as she would give me all the brown M&M's for my upcoming class demonstrations on chromatography. "Just the plain ones? not the peanuts?" she clarified, and, feeling magnanimous, I agreed.
And that was how I learned that some packs of M&M's are defective. I.e., incomplete. I.e., no browns.
Maybe next time I'll just keep my mouth shut.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
This heart used to be purple. The other side, exposed to the sun, has faded completely. On this side, the bottom of the heart, the edges have faded from sunlight, leaving only the untouched purple spot in the middle.
The blue candy heart on the left has faded noticeably. Compare it with the unfaded heart on the right.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
An article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal describes why one family does candy experiments. After the Halloween-loving father helps his kids sort their candy "according to awesomeness," the kids won't eat the discards. So there's nothing left to do but experiment with it!
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Here's the candy experiments video. If it doesn't work, try this
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
A look at the ingredient list reveals the answer. Besides sugar and corn syrup, colors, and flavors, the candy contains malic acid, sodium bicarbonate, and tartaric acid. In other words, it's just an acid-baking soda reaction.
Here's a video of Zotz in water.
If you can't view the video, here's my six-year-old's illustration of the process. It's almost as good as the video (says his mother).
Next time you try Zotz, remember to enjoy the bubbles. You're eating a self-contained acid test!
It's always fun to be mentioned, and I agree that older kids will have a blast with candy experiments. But younger kids do too! Even my toddlers loved dumping candy in water and stirring, stirring, stirring. In fact, my young son could go through an entire Halloween haul in one evening, just dumping it all into a bowl of water to make "candy soup."
One comment in this article mentioned that many military organizations do not want candy shipped to them. If true, this would put a crimp in those dentist buy-back programs. More investigation required.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
You can read about their candy experiments, as well as other fun science projects they've done, at their blog.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I had much more control over the pouring process when I used the syringe. My husband also poured a rainbow, and he poured his colored solution into a liquid measuring cup with a lip, which also made the pouring easier. Both rainbows turned out nicely, with very distinct stripes.
So, if you've been put off by the difficulty of the Density Rainbow, it may be time to give it another try!
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Here's something this teetotaler never knew before: some shot glasses are so narrow you can't fit a spoon down inside to scoop out a piece of chocolate! (Luckily this was a well-stocked cabin: I soon turned up something like a pickle fork that worked just fine.)
This photo is of one of the chocolate experiments, with tiny fragments of chocolate dissolving at the bottom.
Thanks for the interest.
Monday, August 15, 2011
This was so fun I tried it with many kinds of soda, and only stopped when I couldn't feel my cold fingers anymore!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Not only did we buy a box of gorgeous truffles, but the saleslady explained how they created the cocoa butter decorations. She told me that the patterns come pre-printed on sheets of plastic, which are applied to the truffles as they come out of the enrobing machine, still warm. It made me wonder if I could warm the truffles up and use tissue paper to lift the patterns off, but I'm not sure I want to try. Halloween candy is fair game for experimentation, but gourmet truffles are another matter.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Cocoa butter covers the surface of many gourmet chocolates. That's because the decorations are made with cocoa butter. We learned this at the recent Seattle Chocolate Salon, where vendors handed out samples of their wares to try. Many also spared a few minutes to answer questions from a curious candy experimenter.
The creators of La Chatelaine chocolate explained to me how the cocoa butter was dyed and applied to decorate their truffles. Cocoa butter coating doesn't degrade the taste at all--it was a real test of will to save these truffles for photographs before I could eat them. They taste as good as they look.
Amano Chocolate also had gorgeous truffles.
Apologies to the vendors whose wares I couldn't feature--I couldn't afford a box from everybody!
Maybe next year.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
And what about those pretzels? By today, the uneaten survivors had bloomed too.
The lesson? If you're trying to create chocolate bloom, be patient. It might take a few days for the process to really work.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
When I cleaned out the freezer, hoping to sneak the water bags into the garbage, I was amazed by what I saw. Air bubbles had formed lines streaking out from the center of the ice, as if we'd frozen a firework explosion.
The explanation for this phenomenon has to do with the air in the water. PhD Martin Lersch writes in his food chemistry blog, Kymos, that room temperature water has air dissolved in it, and the amount of air it can hold increases as it gets colder. (I had to boil water to remove the air for my experiments with floating conversation hearts.) When the water freezes, "the water can no longer keep the air dissolved and a bubble is formed." If the ice were to freeze from the inside out, the air could escape naturally. However, since freezer ice freezes from the outside in, and (presumably) since our ice was enclosed in air-tight Ziploc bags, the air was trapped inside the ice. We froze the water in large amounts, which contained more air than regular ice cubes.
The result? Lots of trapped air bubbles forming slow-motion fireworks, a beautiful reminder of Nature's inexhaustible designs.
Friday, May 20, 2011
The Laffy Taffy looked pretty good when it was stuck on the egg. However, when we peeled it off, only one egg had any color left.
We'll have to try better ways to transfer color next year when it's egg season again.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Trying something new, my daughter mixed the baking soda with the Pixy Stix while the powder was still dry.
Then we poured in the water. Great bubbles!
Cake Mate hearts float nicely for a few minutes when you put them in water. As they do, they dissolve, shedding bright red sugar solution. The solution, denser than pure water, sinks.
Conversation hearts sink immediately. In some hearts, however, trapped air bubbles seem to emerge, floating upwards, sometimes carrying up candy particles. (Watch the blue heart in the right side of the bowl shedding pieces which float up to the surface.)
I can feel my heart rising already, can't you?
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
One easy method is to crease the chromatography paper vertically, then stand it in water. This works especially well if the bottom of the paper is cut flat (an angled bottom will make the paper tip.)
If the paper doesn't stand on its own, try folding the top of the paper over the side of the glass. Note that that this method is problematic: a professional biochemist cautioned me that surface tension between the glass and the paper might interfere with the capillary action causing the water to rise. However, it works well enough for M&M color separation, or the other basic chromatography we do in our kitchen. For better results, angle the bottom of the paper out so that the paper is not stuck to the glass.
If your chromatography paper is especially difficult to work with, clip it in place with clothespins or binder clips. Lay a pencil over the top of the glass and clip on the paper, forming a T with the paper hanging down, or take a shortcut and clip it to the side of the glass, as shown (angling the paper out from the glass, as above).
When doing chromatography with large groups, I use clothespins on a wire rack to suspend the chromatography papers over a dish of water. This way I only need one water container. (Make sure your scientists label their papers in pencil if they want to know which are theirs.)
Whatever chromatography method you use, make sure that the color dot is placed above the waterline. This is easy if you're hanging the paper--just hold the bottom edge in the water with the dot above the surface, then clip the paper in place. If you fold and stand your paper, make sure the dot is high enough so that it will still be dry when you stand up your paper. Then watch the water rise, and see what colors your dot is really made of.
Friday, April 29, 2011
According to the label, these red hearts actually contain three dyes: Red 3, Red 40, and Yellow 6. When we tried chromatography, the red heart dye separated into at least two different colors, a pink and an orange.
If the color table on www.red40.com is accurate, we found Red 3 ("cherry-red") and Red 40 ("orange-red"). Yellow may have been too faint for us to see (this is common), it might not separate from the other dyes in water (for instance, if it moves at the same speed in water as one of the other dyes), or it may only have been used in the pink candy which we did not test.
We also wondered if the hearts would sink or float. Turns out they do both.
These two hearts were put in water at the same time. One sank quickly, while the other floated for several minutes. The floating heart had an air bubble trapped underneath, which probably helped the buoyancy.
Overall, the hearts floated at first, then sank, then returned to the surface as a dissolving mass of bubbles.
Friday, April 15, 2011
First of all, are these m's made of the same stuff as normal white m's? Experimentation shows at least one difference: these m's seem to dissolve.
What about the speckles on the M&M eggs?
Yes, they float too.
Which leads me to my final question: how do they print the speckles on all sides of an oblong egg? Alas, experimentation can't answer that one.