Reed & Caroline – Dark Matter

It’s “Reed & Caroline Wednesday” again. 😉 The VeryRecords recording artists’ music is a part of my Yuck Science virtual programs, and there will be an extra post each week January featuring one of their songs.

Dark Matter is a track from their second album Hello Science. In addition to being a catchy tune, this features a simple but very creative paper animation made by singer Caroline Schutz’s daughter Ava. Does this video give you any ideas for what you could create?

Reed & Caroline’s Dark Matter music video, with animations by Ava Gould

This style of video is called stop motion animation. All it takes to create is a camera and an idea! Ava took photos of her creations with a story in her mind. There are several photos per second, and they were edited together into an animation.

Continue reading “Reed & Caroline – Dark Matter”

Soaring Trash Can Rocket!

Our second launch attempt with a trash can rocket was an even bigger success! With both a lighter and more durable trash can, it flew at least 50 feet in the air!

The ‘rocket’ is powered by a pressurized 2 liter soda bottle bursting. Liquid nitrogen is sealed in the bottle, and as it boils, its gas form takes up much more space. When it runs out of room, it becomes more and more dense until the bottle bursts with enough force to send the trash can high into the air.

This test was to prepare for an even bigger spectacle! On January 29, we will launch 10 trash cans at the same time at the finale of a special event we are doing with a private school in Nassau Bay, Texas. Look for a video of that on February 1! I’m excited to share it with you!

Bernoulli’s Principle: Student Experiments

In our Zoom shows, students explore Bernoulli’s Principle together. In the gallery of parent-provided photos below, you can see students making ping pong balls float in two different ways.

If you are interested in trying this on your own, all you need is a lightweight, hollow ball like a ping pong ball or a ‘ball pit’ ball and a hair dryer. Aim the hair dryer straight up and place the ball in the air flow. It’s that simple! You can also slowly turn the hair dryer to an angle once you have it going and make the ball float with nothing underneath.

It also is fun to try the same thing with a bendable straw and a ping pong ball, as you can see in the photos below. Making the ball float with your own air can take a little practice, but it’s pretty satisfying!

The science of Bernoulli’s principle can sound pretty complicated, but put simply, where there is a faster stream of air from the hair dryer or straw, there is less dense air, or less air pressure. The higher pressure air that surrounds that air stream helps contain the ball in its lower pressure stream.

The faster moving air has a lower pressure than the surrounding air, simply because the current is moving those air molecules out of the way, the same way a stick floating in a river doesn’t stay in one place. Using water as an example makes sense, because Bernoulli’s principle applies to other fluids like water as well!

To see a fun video showing Bernouill’s principle, see this post from last year!

The Flying Trash Can!

Check out this video of a trash can flying high into the air, from just the force of a 2 liter soda bottle bursting!

The bottle was filled about a third of the way full with liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen gas takes up 694 times the volume that it does in liquid form, so as the liquid nitrogen boils inside the sealed bottle, the pressure of the bottle increases rapidly! When the bottle bursts, the force from that pressure being released is enough to make this trash can soar!

This was a test run for one of the next videos I have planned, which will demonstrate the same principle in an even bigger way, so stay tuned! If you would like to be among the first to see that, you can subscribe in the black field below to receive email notifications of new blog posts.

Science for Christmas!

My family has a bit of a tradition of pulling out science toys for the holidays, which started with making Mentos and Diet Coke geysers for the Fourth of July several years ago. This Christmas, we made elephant toothpaste and made a trash can fly up into the air using liquid nitrogen. Check it out in the video below!

I hope you and your family are enjoying a wonderful (and safe!) holiday together!

Carbon Dioxide Balloons: Student Experiments

Our interactive Zoom shows are super fun! Sometimes, we organize with a school’s PTO or PTA to provide materials so that the students can do science experiments together as a group. One of my favorite moments is seeing a bunch of colorful balloons fill my screen as we inflate balloons together with carbon dioxide together. Below is a gallery of parent-provided photos from some of those evenings.

If you are interested in trying this experiments on your own, read below for the instructions. It is very easy to do. You might even have everything you need around your house!

To inflate your own balloons with carbon dioxide, you will need:

An empty water or soda bottle
A balloon
8 ounces vinegar (I use white vinegar, but whatever you have will do)
About 2 tablespoons full of baking soda

When baking soda and vinegar combine, they release carbon dioxide. To inflate your balloon, just:

  1. Pour the vinegar into your empty bottle.
  2. Put the baking soda inside your balloon. A funnel helps, stretching the balloon open with your fingers and scooping it in with a spoon works, too!
  3. Without spilling any baking soda, put the mouth of the balloon over the mouth of your bottle. Pull it down over the ridges where the cap goes. A good seal is important to not make a mess.
  4. Shake the balloon lightly to get the baking soda to fall into the bottle.
  5. Hold on to the bottle and watch it inflate!

Kids React to Fireballs!

It’s safe to say that fireballs are one of the most popular parts of the Yuck Science live show on Zoom. Watch the students from Eastlawn Elementary in Burlington, North Carolina react to fireballs I make during the show. They are a lot of fun! Don’t miss last 30 seconds of the video when you can see the fire is slow motion. It’s really cool!

The fire is made by blowing lycopodium powder through a flame. Lycopodium powder is a spore from a plant known a club moss. You can see a photo of the plant below.

Lycopodium clavatum, also know as club moss

The fire looks scary, but it isn’t even flamable unless it is blown into the air like a dust. The dust burns very quickly, so there isn’t enough time for anything around it to catch fire. Lycopodium is commonly used by special effects artists because it is a relatively safe way to create a dramatic effect.

There is another post coming soon about the science and other cool characteristics of lycopodium. Be sure to follow this blog using the subscription form below if you would like to see more!

Which falls faster, a hammer or a feather?

Does as heavy object fall faster than a lighter one? What about a much lighter one? Check out this video clip where astronauts on the moon find out!

Apollo 15 Astronaut David Scott performing a science demonstration on the moon in 1971!

During the Apollo 15 mission on the moon, Commander David Scott performed a science demonstration for all the world to see! He dropped a geologic hammer and a falcon feather and dropped them at the same time. Which do you think hit the ground first?

Scott was testing a famous theory by Galileo Galilei, who said two objects dropped from the same height would would fall at the same rate, regardless of their mass. Legend has it that he tested his theory by dropping different sized balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but this is now thought to be untrue.

In his 1634 book Two New Sciences, Galileo wrote that if it was possible to create a vacuum, any two falling objects would travel the same distance in the same time. He meant that if you could take away other factors, gravity would increase the speed of the two objects at the same rate, even if they were different sizes. That is, they would have the same rate of acceleration. We didn’t have a way to create a vacuum back in 1634 to test his theory, but it turned out that he was correct!

His theory was already proven by 1971 when the Apollo 15 astronauts were on the moon. The experiment had been already been done in vacuum chambers here on earth. But the moon was a perfect place to demonstrate this science principle since its surface is essentially vacuum!

The moon has very little air in its atmosphere, so there was no air resistance and the feather fell at the same rate as the hammer, just as Galileo had concluded hundreds of years before! In a vacuum, all objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass. Way to go, Galileo!

On Earth, where our atmosphere is filled with ntirogen and oxygen and other gases, the hammer would hit the ground first—not because it’s heavier, but because the feather encounters air resistance on the way down. Have you seen a feather fall before? They are light enough, they could even be carried upwards by a gust of wind. That is why it is significant to study gravity in a vacuum. We are able to remove the variables of other forces that might affect what we observe.

Galileo Galilei

Keep in Touch!

Do you have a science question, or a question about something from one of our shows?

If you have a science question you would like to have answered either in a comment or possibly featured in a future post, leave a comment and ask! I hope you will understand I do not correspond privately with children, but I am very happy to answer any questions in any public post!

Do you want to be among the very first to see new blog entries or science videos?

You can enter your email in the subscription area of this page to the to be among the first to receive notices about new posts here! Your personal information will absolutely never be sold or used for any other purpose. Or you click on any of the social media links on this page and follow us on those sites as well!

Do you have an idea for a future post or video?

Student’s ideas are a big part of the shows, and I would love to hear yours. You can leave it in the comments below or on any Yuck social media page. If you include your name and school, you will be recognized if your idea is used.

Do you have a fun science project or art you would like to share and possibly be featured in this blog?

I love seeing students’ work! A few students have already had art related to the shows shown here, and I would love to use more! Or if you have a cool science experiment you have done, I would love to share your work with others! Please have a parent send photos or a story to brian@yuckshow.com so that we can make sure we have permission to post your material.

Do you want to see the latest videos and photos from the shows?

I’m not going to lie, I think the photos and videos on the Yuck Instagram account are some of the most fun on the whole internet! And the science videos at Yuck Science on youtube or the hundreds of slime and cream pie videos from past shows at YuckTV are a lot of fun, too. Or maybe facebook and twitter are your thing, and you can find Yuck there, too!

This has been a really exciting year for Yuck, with our new Yuck Science show, new public science video series, and finding new ways to stay in touch with all of our friends at schools through this blog and other social media. Thanks so much for reading and participating in science!

A Popsicle Stick Chain Reaction!

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to make your own popsicle stick chain reaction after featuring a small chain in the Yuck Science video program.

Popsicle stick chain reaction in slow motion, from the Yuck Science video show

How to Weave Your Sticks!

First off, while I have the most fun calling these popsicle sticks, they are actually jumbo craft sticks, more the size of tongue depressors like a doctor uses, measuring 6 inches by 3/4 inch. You can try regular popsicle sticks, but they are thicker and work less well.

“Open your mouth and say, aaah!”

Step 1.

Make a tic-tac-toe shape out of four sticks. The sticks are colored so that you can see how they cross easily.

Step 1

Step 2.

Add a cross piece that weaves between three of the sticks. This holds that end in place. Keep a hand on the other end or your chain reaction will happen early! This happens to everyone a few times while they learn. Don’t get frustrated! Soon you’ll be a pro!

Step 2

Step 3.

Continue by adding a stick that weaves between the two sticks on the bottom.

Step 3

Step 4.

Then add a stick that crosses the last one you added, weaving between two of the sticks as well.

Step 4

Step 5.

Keep going! Add a stick that crosses the last one you added again. If the sticks you are supposed to weave through don’t have enough length for your new stick, you may need to move them over. I almost ran out of room here!

Step 5

Step 6.

Keep going! You should be getting the hang of it now, but if it takes some time, be patient with yourself! It can be tricky to master! To stop, add another cross piece on the bottom, like the red stick you added in Step 2. This will allow you to take your hands off!

Step 7.

When you are ready to start your chain reaction, remove the first stick!

The Science!

What’s happening here? The sticks are bent and woven together, which creates tension. That tension is called stored energy or potential energy. When you release the stick from the end, the tension is released making the sticks fly through the air. This movement is called kinetic energy.

Kinetic energy is the energy of something in motion. That’s a big word for a young scientist, but you are more familiar with it than you think! Your PE coach studied kinesiology in school! That’s the science of exercise and body movement. Do you see the similarities in the words? Both start with the letters KINE! That comes from an ancient Greek word kinēsis which means . . . movement or motion!

Working with popsicle sticks shows potential energy and kinetic energy very simply. Bending the popsicle stick “stores” potential energy until you convert it to kinetic energy by releasing it. It almost sounds like too many words to describe something so simple, right? But there are tons of real life applications!

Roller coaster designers study potential and kinetic energy all the time!

Application?

A fun application is a roller coaster! Roller coaster designers think about potential energy all the time to calculate how much energy is needed to move a roller coaster car through a track in a fun and safe way! At the tippy top right before a big drop, cars have their highest potential energy. As they fall, their potential energy falls as their kinetic energy increases, maybe even enough to propel them up another peak!

The roller coaster might move along the track endlessly as potential and kinetic energy balance back and forth, but other factors make it lose speed, requiring designers to know the right places to help carry the cars back up to the next . . . BIG . . . DROP!

Right before a roller coaster car drops, it has its highest stored or potential energy. When it is moving its fastest in the bottom of the drop, it has its highest kinetic energy.

Liquid Nitrogen Smoke Cloud!

Among my favorite new pieces of science equipment are my liquid nitrogen dewars. A dewar is a special container designed to store liquefied gases. It is like a special thermos but much larger. When you have a dewar and are trained in safely handling one, you can do science experiments with liquid nitrogen.

Liquid nitrogen is a super cold liquid version of nitrogen. It is so cold that is boils at −320 °F. That is 352 degrees colder than the temperature that makes water freeze. And it is even colder when it is still a liquid! That’s cold!

My first dewar after filled for the very first time! It weighs over 100 pounds filled and is being loaded into the Yuckmobile with a forklift!
My second dewar is the one I use for shows. It is much smaller an has a blue wrap. My sometimes co-host Luke is shown with it here!

One of my favorite demonstrations with liquid nitrogen is making a ‘smoke cloud.’ The smoke is actually a nitrogen being released as a vapor. In this demonstration, you poor warm water into a container of liquid nitrogen. The extreme temperature change causes the nitrogen to turn into a vapor immediately, and if you watch closely, you can see little chunks fly out, which are piece of a ice that were instantly frozen by the liquid nitrogen. That’s really, really cold!

Making a ‘smoke cloud’ with liquid nitrogen

Follow this blog or subscribe to the Yuck Science youtube channel to see more liquid nitrogen demonstrations soon!

Public Science – Elephant Toothpaste!

Elephant toothpaste foam swirling in front of Empires13 mural

I hit the streets again and did some elephant toothpaste demonstrations with passersby in front of a really cool mural near downtown Houston. Check out the video below!

Elephant toothpaste is getting to be a really popular science demo! It is a chemical reaction using hydrogen peroxide and a catalyst to increase the release of oxygen. The oxygen in caught in dish soap, creating the foam. I use potassium iodide as the catalyst and a really strong hydrogen peroxide for a really big effect, but those chemicals require careful handling. You can try the demonstration safely at home using the instructions below!

Materials

  • Empty plastic bottle, or experiment with different sizes and shapes of containers!
  • Dry yeast packet (found on the baking aisle of the grocery store)
  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • 1/2 cup 3% or 6% hydrogen peroxide
  • Measuring cups 
  • Measuring spoons
  • Safety glasses
  • Plastic sheet or container to catch the foam . . . or try it outside!

Procedure

  • Use safety glasses because hydrogen peroxide can irritate your eyes.
  • Gloves are a good idea too, at least for clean up!
  • Place your plastic bottle on your plastic sheet or container, or do the experiment somewhere that will be okay if you have a spill.
  • Mix one tablespoon of yeast and three tablespoons of warm water together. Stir for about 30 seconds. Set aside.
  • Measure 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide, and carefully pour it into the bottle.
  • Add a nice big squirt of dish soap into the bottle and give it a light swirl to mix. Soap creates the foam, so don’t skimp here!
  • Add a few drops of food coloring directly into the hydrogen peroxide, Or if you want to give your foam stripes like toothpastes, put the drops along the inside rim of the bottle’s mouth. Let them drip down the inside of the bottle without mixing them. 
  • Pour the yeast mixture into the bottle, and watch your reaction!


Hopefully, you saw lots of bubbles and foam when doing your demonstration! When the hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with the yeast it starts breaking down into water and oxygen. Oxygen is a gas and it gets trapped as bubbles in the soap, creating the foam. The reaction continues as long as there is some hydrogen peroxide and yeast left.

You can try this with different-shaped containers, as you see me do in the video above! What happens if you use a bottle with a narrower or wider neck, or a container with no neck? Have fun!

Happy Halloween!

We celebrated Halloween doing some science with our next door neighbors down at the lake by our house. First, we filled our jack-o’-lantern with elephant toothpaste, and then we made it explode! We tried to do both of them at the same time but had a little bit of trouble. You can watch the video below!

Or check out some of the photos below! I hope you have a safe and fun Halloween!

First, we loaded our pumpkin up with hydrogen peroxide, potassium iodide, and soap, the ingredients we use in elephant toothpaste!
Look at it go!
Woah!
Look at the difference in the pumpkin’s color between this photo and the others. It is easier to see in the video, but the pumpkin is basically cooking after the elephant toothpaste reaction, which generates a lot of heat and steam!

It took a few tries to make it explode. The bottles we tried were leaking. But with a little persistence . . .
KABOOM!

Is There Sound in Space?

Is it possible to hear sounds in space? The short answer is no . . . mostly! 😀

In almost every science fiction movies or TV show, you hear spaceships speeding through space or shooting laser beams. That is entertaining, but sound doesn’t work this way in real life. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum, and much of space is a vacuum, so that should be an easy answer.

But . . . to be completely correct, not all of space is a vacuum. It’s full of clouds of gas and dust that are the remains of old stars or the beginnings of new ones. And sometimes that gas is dense enough to carry sound waves, just not sound perceptible to humans.

In 2003, NASA’s Chandra x-ray telescope detected ripples in the gas cloud in the Perseus Cluster and determined that they were sound waves from a nearby black hole. It made one droning note, deeper than we could ever hear. The note is a B-flat, 57 octaves below middle C, which is roughly a million billion times lower than the lowest frequency of sound we can hear.

So while you absolutely can’t hear sound in the vacuum of space, there may be a whole symphony of sounds in distant gas clouds that perhaps only alien ears could ever hear. Those sound waves won’t ever travel to us, though, because sound still can’t travel in a vacuum!

A scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, one the few science fiction movies to depict total silence in its scenes in space, and also one of Mr. Yuck’s favorite movies!

Public Science – Downtown Houston Mentos Geysers!

Today, I took the Yuck Mobile on the road and did a science demonstration in a park near downtown Houston with a sweet family and a very nice man visiting from Atlanta, Georgia! We made six Mentos geysers with Diet Coke!

This is a physical reaction caused by the Mentos speeding the release of carbon dioxide gas. Notice how the streams are all different sizes? The reaction depends on the number of Mentos that actually make it into the bottle, how quickly they move through the soda, and also the freshness and temperature of the soda.

If you would like to see more public science videos, be sure to follow this page or subscribe to the Yuck Science youtube channel.

PS. Making Mentos geysers is the only thing I do with diet soda. The artificial sweetener aspartame is a neurotoxin and is just terrible for you! I don’t drink Diet Coke or any other sodas, either.

Is the Sun Yellow?

We all reach for the yellow crayon when it’s time to draw the sun, right? And we know the sun is yellow because Superman gets his superpowers from a “yellow star.”

But light is a tricky thing! In space, the sun would appear white. By the time we see light from the sun, it has traveled 92,955,807 miles through space and through our atmosphere, which bends and filters light.

Colors like blue, green and violet scatter more easily than yellow, orange and red. This gives the sun a yellowish color throughout the day and an orange/reddish tint when it is near the horizon, even though it would be white if viewed from space. Sorry, Superman!

By the way, don’t look straight at the sun during the day to check! That might hurt your eyes!

Typical representation of our yellow sun!

Student Art

Occasionally, students share drawings inspired by the show.  Here is one of a girl getting covered in slime!  If you would like to submit a photo of your drawing to be published here, you can ask a parent to help you send one.  Be sure to do your very best . . . a lot of people might see it!

IMG_6327

IMG_6335

How to Make Slime

The number one question kids ask at the end of each show is what’s in the slime!  There are many, many different recipes for making slime.  The one I use, I call “theatrical slime” because it is somewhat different from the types used in science experiments.  It is completely non-toxic and non-staining, and it is even safe to eat (though I wouldn’t recommend it).  Perfect for sliming your friends!

Ingredients:

6 quarts of water

1 box of corn starch

green food coloring

Instructions:

Pour water into a large pot.  Stir in corn starch, breaking up any clumps.  Add 5-6 drops of food coloring, or more if you like.  Bring to a boil (with parent supervision).  Reduce to medium-low heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until slime begins to thicken.  Rinse the pot before the slime dries so it will be easier to clean.  LET IT COOL THOROUGHLY before use.  When I need slime in a hurry, I add ice at the end.  Makes one big bucketful, or enough to slime yourself and a friend.

Souvenir Merchandise

Yuck Game Show t-shirts and other merchandise are available through Cafe Press.  These items were made available for the kind folks who ask for souvenir items.  The prices are set by Cafe Press, and I have opted to receive any of the money from purchases to keep prices at least somewhat low.