Greetings, fellow Earthlings! Did you know our planet was tiny? Take a look at this scale model of the planets in our solar system, arranged in front of a scale model of our sun! Earth is one of the little balls in the bottom right corner! Compared to our sun, or even to a lot of the planets in our solar system, the earth looks miniature!
And this image doesn’t communicate the vast, empty space between the sun and each of the planets. It also doesn’t show that our comparatively giant sun is merely a mid-size star, and that it is just one of 100 million twinkling stars in the sky. Not all those stars are visible from earth, of course!
Most of us have seen Star Wars, where Han Solo flies into an asteroid belt and the tie fighters that follow him get smashed up because it is so hard to fly in an asteroid belt. He is warned by C3PO, his robot companion just how low the odds are of safely navigating it.
To see if that is true, let’s look at the asteroid belt in our own solar system! To get past Mars, NASA missions must navigate this asteroid belt. And even though real-life spacecraft are much too delicate to get hit by an asteroid, they’ve never had a problem whatsoever. This is because in our asteroid belt, the asteroids are usually still hundreds of thousands of miles apart. There are more “rocks” floating around than in other parts of our solar system, but NASA can easily navigate through them. Sorry, C3PO, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is much higher than 3,720 to 1!
We say this all the time, because we see videos of weightless astronauts floating in the space station, or jumping about on the moon. But those astronauts that jump on the moon don’t go off endlessly in that direction, which would happen if there were no gravity. They are pulled back by the moon’s gravity, even though it is just a small fraction of the earth’s gravitational pull. And those astronauts on the space station are in orbit around the earth . . . because of gravity!
So there isn’t no gravity in space, there is less gravity!
The Great Wall of China is often said to be the only man-made object visible from space. It makes sense that people would have said this, even centuries before we ever went into space. Though much of it is in ruins today, the Great Wall wall is said to be over 13,000 miles long. But astronauts have said again and again that they have great difficulty actually finding it.
When your weight is distributed between more than one object, even seemingly delicate things can support you. Watch a young scientist friend of mine build a tower out of paper cups that she can stand on! How high can she go?
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?
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.
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 several 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!
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!
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.
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!
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:
Pour the vinegar into your empty bottle.
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!
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.
Shake the balloon lightly to get the baking soda to fall into the bottle.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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.
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.
Make a tic-tac-toe shape out of four sticks. The sticks are colored so that you can see how they cross easily.
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!
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!
Follow this blog or subscribe to the Yuck Science youtube channel to see more liquid nitrogen demonstrations soon!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
This video shows examples of Bernoulli’s Principle at work! You can try the same thing at home if you have a hair dryer and any small, hollow ball! Or try it by blowing into a bendable straw bent upward like a ‘L’ and a ping pong ball!
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!
This is a favorite video of mine, compiled from clips from the 27 shows we did at Odessa’s Permian Basin Fair in 2009. 25 people get pies in the face, to the tune of Grieg’sIn the Hall of the Mountain King. If you would like to see the full videos, you can find them on YuckTV!
There’s no question that people getting pies in the face is a highlight of the show. The video above is a compilation of clips from a series of shows we did at the Kemah Boardwalk. For more slime and cream pie videos, you can check out my youtube channel, YuckTV!
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!
6 quarts of water
1 box of corn starch
green food coloring
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.
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.