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Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

Style 2

Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

Style 3

Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

Style 4

Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

Style 5

Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

Style 6

Create your own Icy Snow Globes

 

Make the most of the chill by doing a wonderful winter science activity that is full of sensory science!

You will need:

  • A teacup (or something waterproof that is dome shaped)
  • Water
  • Lovely things to put in it
  • A seriously chilly night

How to do it

  1. Fill the cup with cold tap water. Poke your finger into the water, how does it feel? You could measure and record the temperature if you have a thermometer.
  2. Find some small objects to put into the water, things like marbles, stones, leaves and flowers work well (although our lavender flowers wouldn’t sink, we still liked the effect). How do your objects feel before you put them in the water? Do they feel different after they have been in the water? Do they look different when they are in the water?
  3. Look for an uncovered, flat surface outside and place your water-filled cup on it, you will need to leave it there overnight. Why do you think the surface needs to be uncovered?
  4. Make a prediction: What do you think will happen to the water and your objects when you leave them out overnight? What changes do you think you will see in the morning?
  5. Rise and shine! Go and have a look at your cup then poke the water, has it changed? What has happened to the water? How does it feel now? Was your prediction correct? You could measure the temperature again and see how different it is!
  6. Caution: this next step will get a bit wet so make sure you do it on a wipeable surface, that is clear of anything that could be damaged by water.
  7. Take a flat plate and put it on top of your cup. Holding the cup and the plate together turn it over so that your cup is sitting face down on top of the plate. Gently lift the cup up, what do you see?  What has happened to the objects in your Icy Snow Globe?

What’s going on?

The temperature is regularly getting below freezing point at the moment and that means that water will freeze! It also means that its the perfect time for a winter science activity! You may have noticed ice on the ground or even had some snow! When the temperature gets below 0 degrees centigrade the molecules in water start to slow down and line up, creating a regular pattern that turns liquid water into a solid, you will know this as ice!  The ice will form from the outside in, where it is closest to the air. This is because the air is colder that the water in the cup. Because there is quite a lot of water in the cup, the bit right in the middle might not have gotten cold enough to freeze. Can you see any bubbles and liquid water trapped inside the icy dome?

Now that you know how to make an icy science snow globe, what else could you do? I think there are so many creative things you could try! Take a look at the little video I made of my icy snow globes with some gem stones in one and nothing in the other on our instagram page Are there other winter science activities using the weird and wonderful properties of water that you could try?

 

A Sciency Festive Q&A

It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the questions stop. In fact, we find that kids are even more curious at this time of year, as they try to wrap their heads around the magic of the festive season. Here are a few of our favourites!

Is Rudolph’s nose really red?

This is no ‘Christmyth’! There’s a species of reindeer that does indeed have a distinct red tinge to their noses. And the believers among us won’t be surprised to learn that you’ll find these gorgeous beasts in certain Arctic regions. Y’know, close to the North Pole? The redness is down to a dense cluster of blood vessels packed into the nose. These vessels can deliver blood there to help manage body temperature and protect the brain in the freezing environment. The more we think about it, why wouldn’t Santa pick a lead reindeer that’s better equipped to handle the freezing cold temperatures?

Why do our fairy lights always come out tangled?

It doesn’t matter what you do, every year your lights emerge from your box of decorations in a knotty mess! It’s not you, and it’s not Gremlins. You’re literally battling the mathematical laws of probability here and the odds are always stacked against you. See, thanks to something called entropy there are many ways for a string of lights to become tangled but only one way for them to remain unravelled. So don’t feel too bad. As a certain fictional starship engineer once said… “Ye cannae change the laws of physics!” Check out this article which explains everything without making your brain hurt.

Which is better? A real tree or a fake tree?

Of course a real tree looks better and smells better, but is it better to buy an artificial tree and save one from being ripped out of the ground? We checked in with the Carbon Trust and the answer is a definite no. The carbon footprint of a real pine is lower than a plastic one, especially if you dispose of it responsibly. Don’t despair if you do have a plastic one though. If you take care of it and use it no less than 10 times, you’ll have evened out the carbon footprint score. Winner! Read more about how you can have a more earth-friendly Christmas here.

Want more festive facts? Check out our post on why Santa is the ultimate Curiositeer!

Feeling Festive – For Grownup Curiositeers Only!

As we enter the festive season, it’s clear we’ll be doing a lot of our socialising online this year. Zoom office parties might reduce the chances of high alcohol consumption which is quite a relief for me as I’ve been forced to recognise that age and alcohol equal substantial discomfort. From the dead-of-night heart palpitations to three-day hangovers, overindulgence for over 40’s is just no fun and I don’t even drink that much!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to enjoy the odd glass of fizz (or 3) but clearly getting older and alcohol don’t mix. But why? As with most of life’s big questions, I turn to science for the answers that might prepare me for the inevitable or perhaps incentivise me to change my ways.

What makes bubbly boozy?

Alcohol obviously! Specifically ethanol, which is a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms strung together like Christmas lights where the last bulb is a combination of one Oxygen and one Hydrogen atom.

The structure of ethanol makes it very easily absorbed through our gut. About 20% is absorbed through our stomach and 80% is absorbed via the rest of our gut, directly into the bloodstream. This means that within minutes of having a drink, the alcohol is speeding its way to every organ in the body.

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol goes to the liver which secretes a cunning enzyme that snips those Christmas lights at just the right positions to turn out every light in the chain. That enzyme is called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (dee-hi-drog-en-ase), and its job is to break down alcohol into manageable pieces that we can easily get rid of.

The Brain strain struggle is real

The problem with Alcohol Dehydrogenase is that we each have a limited supply and it easily becomes overworked. Once that supply is depleted, any remaining alcohol is free to run amok and cause havoc. It creates the most chaos in your brain, every part of it! How? Well, your brain functions are highly organised and finely balanced (a bit like Santa’s delivery system for all those Christmas presents 😃). That’s thanks to the neurotransmitters that make sure the right signal gets to the right place at the right time (just like Santa’s elves).

Alcohol basically disrupts all that organisation and balance, and to make matters worse, increases the power of a neurotransmitter called GABA which causes slurred speech and slower movements. If that’s not bad enough, it also acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls the amount of water in your urine. For every unit of alcohol you ingest, your body forces your kidneys to get rid of a whopping 120ml of water. This causes serious dehydration.

 

Alcohol compensates for these rather alarming effects by increasing our dopamine levels giving us an artificial feel-good-factor (like when we fall in love), hence the merry feeling and potential lowering of inhibitions!

The painful truth

So there’s the sad scientific reality. Booze is bad news. But now I know, what’s going on, I feel way more determined to follow all the advice I’ve read about “sensible” alcohol consumption (and I’m sure you have too), because let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. Here’s my plan:

  • A well-balanced meal with protein, carbs and fat to keep my gut busy and prevent that sudden shock of alcohol.
  • Taking it slow to give that supply of Alcohol Dehydrogenase a chance to break down more alcohol, leaving you feeling a little more festive in the morning.
  • Match alcohol with water – it won’t completely prevent dehydration but it will definitely help. This is the hardest one, especially if someone’s constantly topping your glass up. You could perhaps try keeping a bottle of sparkling water on hand and mixing white wine with that, for a more virtuous glass of bubbly, or making longer drinks that are big on mixers (there are tons of posh low sugar ones out there now!) and smaller on spirits.

In cheery conclusion… There’s no reason not to enjoy a festive tipple, just take it steady, and your tomorrow self will thank you for it!

And if you’re looking for some science fun for your own virtual office party, check out our Curiosity Boxes for grownups!

feeling-festive-alcohol-cocktail


5 Sciency things to do this Christmas

Wherever there is magic, there will be science, and Christmas is no exception! Bring the Wow to your winter with these 5 quirky, festive experiments.


1. Get cool and curious with frost

We can hope for snow, but if those fabulous fractals don’t fall, then you can do lots of investing with frost! One of the most spectacular ways to explore that magical change from liquid water to frozen ice is by watching ice crystals form on a bubble. You will need it to be freezing or just above freezing outside (no more than 3 degrees C), but other than that, all you need is some washing up liquid, a small ceramic plate and a bubble wand (you can make one with a pipe cleaner or bend a wire coat hanger into a circle).

  • Pour a enough washing up liquid onto the plate to cover the bottom.
  • Dip the bubble wand into the liquid, then turn the wand so that the O is vertical, with just the bottom still touching the liquid on the plate.
  • Gently blow to create a bubble that sits on top of the bubble liquid.
  • Wait and watch!

2. The Strongest Santa Sack

What would be the best material for Santa to use for his sack? It needs to be strong enough to hold A LOT of presents, be flexible enough to throw over his shoulder and able to withstand hot and cold temperatures as he travels all over the world. Before deciding, find out about materials and their properties here

.Could you design and make a super strong Santa sack? If you really want to blow your mind, then watch this video exploring 13 of the most astonishing materials:

 

3. Reindeer Footprints

Could you follow in the footsteps of great naturalists like Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall or Steve Backshall and try to track a reindeer? First you will need to work out what a reindeer foot looks like, then you can compare reindeer hooves to your own feet! How are they different? How are they similar? Download this template to draw your own set of Reindeer tracks and to create a reindeer face with your own footprint Reindeer Prints

1. The toes spread out wide to act like snowshoes – distributing the animal’s weight so that it can “float” over snow, soft ice, muskeg and wetlandswithout sinking in.

2. The sharp-edged hooves easily break and clear the snow when caribou dig for food. The name caribou comes from the Micmac Indian word “xalibu,” meaning “the pawer”.

3. Large feet make good paddles. Caribou are very strong swimmers and often have to cross wide rushing rivers or thaw lakes that block their migration path.

Caribou make a characteristic clicking sound when they move, but this does not come from their hooves, but rather from the tendons slipping over the bones in their feet. It’s a good thing they aren’t predators – how could they sneak up on anything when they “click” with every step?

4.How Hot is your Choc?

Your mission: To find out if marshmallows melt more quickly in water or milk!

You will need:

  • Mugs & spoons
  • Timer
  • Water
  • Marshmallows
  • Milk
  • Thermometer
  • Hot chocolate mix
 

Step 1: Fill one mug with milk & one mug with water. Microwave for 60-90 seconds. Ask a grown up to remove mugs and check the temperature isn’t too hot. Pour the sachet of hot chocolate mix into each mug & stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Now make a prediction. Which mug do you think will be the hottest? Using a liquid-safe thermometer, take the temperature of each drink. Which one is hotter? Why is this? Where you right?

What’s going on? The result you get here will depend on a number of things. If you took the milk straight from the fridge and the water straight from the tap, the milk will probably be starting from a lower temperature and will come out colder than the water. It will also depend on the kind of milk you are using. Semi-skimmed milk is mostly water so the water and the milk will heat very similarly. Interestingly, water boils at a slightly lower temperature than milk so if you put two saucepans on the hob, one with 100ml of water and the other with 100ml of milk, then the water will boil first.


5. Mock Apple Pie: GROWN UP HELP REQUIRED

Your mission: To trick your tastebuds with a pie that tastes just like apple pie but contains no apple at all! 

You will need:

  • 500ml of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pie tin
  • 35 RITZ Crackers
  • Ready made shortcrust pastry (or make your own if you are really fancy!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade or 200 in a fan oven

Step 1: Put the water, sugar and cream of tartar into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes a bit syrupy – until you have about 1.5 cups of liquid. Let it cool a little so that it is warm and won’t burn.

Step 2: Smash up the ritz crackers and put them to the side. Prepare your pie tin by lining it with a layer of pastry, about 0.5cm thick.

Step 3: Add the lemon and cinnamon to the saucepan, then tip in the crackers and mix well.

Step 4: Pour the syrupy cracker mix into the prepared pie dish and seal with a pastry lid. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

What’s going on? Did you know you can trick your tastebuds!? An edible chemical called tartaric acid tastes just like the tart, tanginess of apples. Using Tartaric acid (otherwise known as cream of tartar) in this recipe fools your tastebuds into thinking you are eating apple pie when there isn’t a spec of apple in sight!

 

 

 

Recreate the Eiffel Tower!

Your mission is to create your own version of this iconic Parisian landmark and we’ve provided all the instructions and a template and here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black card (or recycle a cereal box and use that)
  • PVA glue
  • Wool
  • A plastic cup
  • A lolly stick
  • Some paper clips
  • A drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some sticky tape

If you want to make a sparkly night time version of the Tower you’ll also need some glitter, beads and/or sequins.

Did you know?

Science might have saved the Eiffel Tower! What do we mean by that? Well, the Tower wasn’t so popular at the time of construction. 300 local artists and writers publicly declared their hatred of the now world-famous Tower but Gustave Eiffel had a plan right from the beginning – to make the tower a place of scientific research as well as a monument. Over the years, research conducted there has might surprise you. During World War I, the French army used the Tower as a giant ear to intercept radio messages, which even resulted in the arrest of one of the war’s most famous and notorious spies. Other areas of research conducted at the tower include meteorology and aerodynamics – two subjects that Eiffel was keen to pursue. His contributions to our understanding of both are significant!

What we may never know is what came first – his desire to preserve the Tower, or his own curiosity. What do you think?

Good luck! And don’t forget to post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

5 Edible Science Ideas

The first place most kids will “do science” is in the kitchen and there are SO many extraordinary things to discover, that are even better than licking the bowl…well, nearly! Here are just a few ideas to infuse your kitchen with chemistry and boggle your bakes with biology, that aren’t included in our Bake Off Lab Box. There is a rather large caveat (caveat not cavity) here, which is that some the activities below would make a dentist weep, so we wouldn’t encourage you to eat too much sugar, and definitely follow up your sciencing with a thorough tooth-brushing!

1. Experiment with Yeast!

Forget the old bicarb and vinegar combo, yeast is your best friend in a kitchen lab. In fact it’s your best catalyst (a catalyst is like a chemical cheerleader – it encourages and speeds up reactions)! Not only is it safe to play with, it’s a master at producing bubbles and speeding up reactions. Why not set up an experiment to see what can make yeast produce the most bubbles? Does it bubble most in sugary water? salty water? Hot water? Cold water? What about lemon juice or milk? Set up an experiment and test it out. How will you measure the bubbliness? Could you think of a way to try and trap the bubbles? There’s a bit of a clue in our Microbeasts Box!

 

2. Nano Girl’s Kitchen Science Book

Before lockdown our Curiosity Box team was working with Nano Girl to create a special Nano Girl Live Curiosity Box. Unfortunately, in this case, the show couldn’t go on thanks to the “V who shan’t be named” but we still think this Kitchen Science book is eggciting, who doesn’t love the idea of unicorn noodles!!



3. Blind Chocolate testing

When we invent a new medicine it gets tested in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are “Blind Tests”. That doesn’t mean they test blind people, itmeans that the person receiving the medicine doesn’t know whether it is the new medicine or something called a placebo. A placebo is something made to look exactly like the new medicine, but without any of the active ingredients (check out this video for some examples).

To do a Blind Chocolate Testing you’ll need a grownup to choose some different types of chocolate, number each type, then break them into equal sized pieces and keep them out of sight (no, grownups, your belly doesn’t count!). The testers will need to be blind-folded before being given one piece of each type of chocolate. They can then guess what kind of chocolate it is, what brand, how much cocoa it contains etc. This is a particularly fun thing to do over zoom with friends!

You can also read more about chocolate and crystals in our science story here.

4. Skittles experiment:

Check out this fun experiment exploring colours, light and skittles!

 

Skittle science – don’t just taste the rainbow, play with it!

5. Home Made Sherbet:

Set your taste buds a-quiver with the contrasting combo of sour Citric Acid (the stuff that makes lemons tangy) and icing sugar. You can add some jelly crystals or powdered food colouring if you like. Turn this into an experiment by following these instructions:
Wash hands thoroughly.
Set up 4 test mixtures:

Test 1: 1 parts sugar to 9 parts citric acid
Test 2: 3 parts sugar to 7 parts citric acid
Test 3: 5 parts sugar to 5 parts citric acid
Test 4: 7 parts sugar to 3 parts citric acid

Lick your CLEAN index finger and dip it in each test mixture. Record how it tastes in your Show Stopper Record Sheet. Do they all taste the same?

Take the rest of the Test 1 mixture and divide it into 4 small bowls or cups. Then have a think about what would happen if you added a liquid to the powder? What different liquids might react with the powder and how?

With your prediction in mind, choose 4 different, safe liquids e.g. water, fruit juice, vinegar, washing up liquid and pour 1 teaspoon of each liquid onto the powder in each bowl, what happens? Was your prediction accurate?

 

 

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