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Style 1

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light

Style 2

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light

Style 3

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light

Style 4

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Style 5

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light

Style 6

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?

 

 

The Curious Questions That Kids Ask

Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen my autumnal adventures in fungi spotting. Here are some of the highlights

 

Being outdoors right now also reminds of when my kids were younger and our autumnal yomps were punctuated by questions about the world around us. They were (and still are) curious about EVERYTHING! I’d find myself drowning in questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does the sky sometimes turn red?” “What makes those white lines in the sky?” and “How is the sea salty?”. Simple seven-year-old questions that I’ll admit I didn’t know all the science to answer. But I did a little learning of my own so I could answer their questions, which I’m now passing on to you in case your little curiositeers are in never-ending-question-asking mode too.

Why IS the sky blue?

So let’s take the first question. The sky is blue (when it’s cloudless at least) because of the way light behaves. You see, light from the sun might appear to be white, but it actually contains all the colours of the rainbow. Sunlight moves in waves and each colour has a signature wave. Red for example, has a long relaxed wave whereas blue has a short, fast, zippy wave. When light hits Earth’s atmosphere with all its gases, bits of dust and other flotsam makes the busy blue light bounce around and off everything it touches. It’s this bouncing that means we see the blue light the most when we look up, which leads us neatly on to question 2.
curious-questions-blue-sky

Is red sky REALLY a delight/warning?

I remember my mum quoting the proverb “Red sky at night Shepherd’s Delight, Red sky in the morning Shepherd’s warning” but why? This is again because of particles in our atmosphere. HIgh pressure can cause dust and particles to become trapped there they scatter the blue light making the red and yellow waves from the white sunlight more visible than the blue.

As for whether seeing them in the morning means anything. It does, but the proverb’s most reliable when weather systems predominantly come from the west as they do here in the UK. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. “Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, most likely making way for a wet and windy low-pressure system.

curious-questions-red-sky

Where do those airplane patterns come from?

Now we have the colours sorted, what is the science behind those white trails left by aeroplanes? Those trails are called Contrails, and they’re actually artificial clouds. Contrails are formed by water vapour from the exhaust of an aircraft, which turns into billions of ice crystals when it hits the cold air outside. How long the contrail lasts depends on what the weather is like at the time. Although pretty from down here, contrails are bad news for the climate. They interfere with radiation and in doing so contribute to increased temperatures in the atmosphere – i.e. climate change.

curious-questions-jet-trails

Why is the sea salty?

And the final question. The truth is all water is salty – it’s just that “fresh” water has so little salt in it that our taste buds can’t detect it. The amount of salt dissolved in the sea is huge! If you spread all the salt in the ocean over the land, it would be 500 feet deep! This came originally from volcanic ash and lava flowing into the water and the salts leaching out. The salt levels are maintained when fresh rainwater flows over rocks into the sea, absorbing more salt as it goes.

curious-questions-salty-sea

 

That might keep them quiet for five minutes… But if they’re curious for more why not get them a Curiosity Box bundle so they can unearth their own answers!

Making Mini Movies with Science

We’ve provided all the instructions and templates so you can construct your own Mini Movie Maker. This activity’s from the Curiosity Box archives but it’s a classic for a good reason. You don’t need much equipment at all. In fact, you can recycle a cereal box and use that instead of the black card that’s in the instructions. It’s the perfect activity to do with your younger Curiositeers on a rainy day.

Where’s the science?

Your mini movie maker goes by the fancier name of a Zoetrope which is defined as:

“A device for giving an illusion of motion, consisting of a slitted drum that, when whirled, shows a succession of images placed opposite the slits within the drum as one moving image.”

We prefer mini movie maker but whatever you want to call it, it’s the very first kind of animation and it works because our brains put together the images and fill in the blanks so that we see it as one moving image! You might have also seen some those books that you flick through really quickly to see a moving image – that’s based on a similar principle.

We love this activity and we hope you will too. If you do make your own Zoetrope/Mini movie maker, why not post a picture on our Facebook page? We’d love to see how you get on!

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

If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance way to entertain your kids, we highly recommend this experiment, which is a twist on the one that was doing the rounds a while back where you made a beautiful rainbow using Skittles and water.

So what’s happening?

Milk has lots of protein, and the alcohol tries to grab onto those proteins and make them change shape. The movement of the molecules in the milk and the alcohol as they dance around and interact with each other would be invisible but the food colouring gets caught up in the dance so you can see it happen before your eyes.

If you simply use water, you’ll see a very distinct pattern form. This is because when you pour water on the Skittles, the sugar dissolves and the colouring disperses through the water. The colour continues to move away from the Skittles into the clear water because it wants to spread itself out evenly. So it moves from where there is lots of colour (in the Skittles) to where there’s mostly water until everything’s equal.

Water is also a very good liquid for dissolving things in, especially sugar. Milk isn’t so great, so the colours take longer to dissolve in the milk which is why the colours move more slowly than they do in the water.

And you don’t have to stop there! Why not set up a few different plates (if you can spare the sweeties) and see what happens when you:

  • Try warm milk compared to fridge cold milk
  • Use different kinds of coloured sweets like M&Ms
  • Swap washing up liquid or hand soap for the alcohol.

Have a go and feel free to post your findings on our Facebook page. We’d love to see how you get on!

The Sun, the moon and Diwali, the Festival of Light!

A friend of mine told me she was looking forward to Diwali this month. The lights, the food and perhaps some noise-free fireworks in the garden were all mentioned. But I’ve got to confess that I didn’t catch much of the conversation because I was thinking “this month? I thought Diwali was in October, it was last year!” I asked her if I’d imagined it, and she assured me that I hadn’t. So why the different day? She explained that Diwali and in fact all festivals fall on different days every year because Hindus have a completely different calendar system – called a Panchanga.

 

Now you might be thinking that science and religion don’t mix. But this is the perfect example of where they can! The Panchanga calendar system is lunisolar. It’s a multi-dimensional calendar people!

What does that mean? OK here’s where it gets a bit complex so bear with me…

This calendar system dates back to BCE (Before Common Era) and combines information about lunar days, solar days, lunar months, solar months, the movements of the Sun and the Moon in relation to stellar constellations, and other astronomically defined time spans. Compared to the Western system that’s based on solar days and solar years, it’s massively intricate, but it allowed different regions in India to have their own calendar. A process that has now fallen out of favour, especially now that all countries use the solar Gregorian calendar system.

So how does a lunisolar calendar system work? Well, you have 12 lunar months – which are based on the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth in relation to the Sun, and 12 solar months – which are defined by and named after the zodiac signs the Sun traverses during different parts of the year, as seen from Earth.

The lunar month

Each lunar month is divided into 30 lunar days, but it doesn’t stop there! The 30 days are divided into 2 groups of 15 days, One ‘fortnight’ takes us through the waxing of the moon up to full moon,(the “bright” fortnight) and the other takes us through the waning of the moon (the “dark” fortnight). Festival dates are determined by the lunar months which is why they shift around a bit, and Diwali always falls on the same day that there’s a new moon, take a look here if you don’t believe it!

The solar month

Sun gives us lightSolar months aren’t that different to our Gregorian months because they’re broadly based on the same idea and they don’t shift around so you can see how they match up with the months and seasons that we all use.

 

 

Leap…months?

12 lunar months only amount to something like 354.367 days, whereas 12 solar months give us 365 days as we know, that’s a difference of around 11 days. How do you synchronise the two? You just make the lunar year longer every 2 and a bit years! But you don’t just chuck in an extra few days at random – oh no. Hindu scholars look at the seasons and insert an extra month in sync with the seasons and the cycle of nature, to align the lunar and solar calendar and retain balance with our natural environment. Clever!

There’s loads more to talk about when it comes to lunisolar calendars, not least that many cultures including the Chinese and the Egyptians also have them. But I think we’ve answered the question of why Hindu festivals fall on different days so let’s leave it there for today! And a very Happy Diwali to anyone celebrating. Peace, love and light to you all!

Science of Fireworks

This story was prepped with our magnificent mailpimper Sonal, find out more about her here

If this has lit up your curiosity about light, then why not take a look at our Light Boxes

Diwali-the-sun-the-moon-and-the-festival-of-light
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