Our reading selection this month, How to Fossilize Your Hamster by Mick O’Hare, is a hands-on guide to learning about science. It’s fun to read, but more fun to work through the experiments yourself.
Skepchick reader Skeptigator has been trying out some of the experiments:
We made a bomb with baking soda and vinegar, by the way, use a small ziplock bag, the large ones are too big. We did the Diet Coke and Mentos experiments. We also made slime from corn starch and water.
The publisher has some videos online, too. Some were created by New Scientist and others were submitted by readers.
Any Skepchick readers working on experiments from the book? If you’ve got any stories or videos, send them in to me!
Skeptigator is of course horribly, horribly wrong.
There’s no such thing a “Too big” when you’re talking about explosives. If your ziplock bag seems “too big” you just need to use more soda/vinegar.
Very simple rocket experiment:
1 large drinking glass
1 plastic bottle with a pop top (like from bottled water) small enough to fit in the glass
2 effervescent tablets
Go somewhere outside with a lot of room. Remove the pop top from the bottle and make sure the pop top is securely closed. Put the warm water in the bottle. GENTLY stir in the detergent (you want it to mix but not suds up).
Place the glass on a level surface. Break the effervescent tablets in two, and QUICKLY put them in the bottle, put the cap on securely, turn upside-down, shake, place upside-down in the glass, and STAND BACK.
You don’t know exactly when it’ll go off, but when it does it should go up several feet. The only mess from this is soapy water.
When I was in Girl Scouts, we used to volunteer at the Carnegie Science Center for these overnights with younger scouts. We always made the cornstarch and water mixture because it would entertain kids for so long. It’s such a cool thing and so simple. Always use cold water though. Warm water just makes flavorless gravy.
My wife made the cornstarch mixture a few months back. She couldn’t believe that I’d never done it in school, so she went to the ‘net, scrounged up a recipe, and made a bowl of it.
Also made a bloody mess in the kitchen.
Maybe I’ll find it more entertaining when we have kids.
Great video — I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate this stuff :)
I love the scene with the dramatic leaps away from the explosion… which didn’t go off. Brilliantly acted and directed. Two slime-covered thumbs up!
We did try this experiment with the larger bags 4 times. The last couple we used a ton of baking soda and vinegar but the bag’s seal would get a small leak every stinkin’ time. I don’t think the larger bags expand fast enough (that’s what I told the kids at least).
It’s a fun experiment purely for the weird physical properties of the resulting mixture. On one Mythbusters episode, they made a giant vat of the stuff and ran across the top of it. Then Adam stopped in the middle and promptly sank in.
JSug: As much as I love Mythbusters, I’ve got to give the British series Brainiac the props on this one. Years before Mythbusters did it, they filled an ENTIRE SWIMMING POOL with custard and Jon Tickle walked on it as if it were completely solid. And yes, he stopped and sank down, and they did other cool stuff with it, too.
In later episodes, they tried things like pogo sticks to see what would work and what wouldn’t.
Youth and science a beautiful thing. =)
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