The Great Gummy Bear Break Up (fun with liquified and solidified gases!)
Here we are in summer and I have a few videos I'd like to share with you
On June 24th, materials science grad student, Allen Hall, and I went to Camp Explosion at the Community Center for the Arts to help students learn about liquified and solidified gases. In particular we brought liquid nitrogen and dry ice! Nitrogen
gas makes up about 78% of Earth's atmosphere. To turn it into liquid requires a lot of energy. Carbon dioxide is what we breathe
out as waste gas and plants use to create their fuel in the presence of sunlight. Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide
We allowed the students to choose a gummy bear, place it in a cup, and Allen added
liquid nitrogen to the cups so the bears could freeze and the liquid nitrogen to boil off completely. In the spirit of destruction,
we let the kids smash their bears with hammers.
As a special
treat, we brought along two larger size bears, a medium sized one and then a large 5lb bear, both of which were frozen and
then smashed. Here's what the kids filmed of the day!
Congratulations to these youngsters who filmed this!
As you can see, with the very large gummy bears, we had a "control" bear,
(one that did not get frozen) and was dropped out of a second story window (everyone well out of the way). Basically, it "thudded"
to the ground. Nothing spectacular. We let the second giant gummy bear sit in the liquid nitrogen for quite
some time, but not long enough, as the center still was gummy. It cracked and crumbled when hitting the ground, but not as
spectacularly as I had hoped. I will try this again in a few weeks and this time will use a high speed camera to film it!
Making liquified gases is a tricky thing, even though we do it all the time! The
path to getting gases to become liquid is quite a story and this was captured quite well in NOVA's Absolute Zero. If you have
about 2 hours, sit down and watch their presentation.
We also made very mini dry ice 'bombs' using dry ice, water and tiny snap cap tubes that popped loudly once the dry
ice sublimated quickly in the presence of the warmer water. Sublimation is the process of a solid transitioning to a gas state
without passing through a liquid state. The increase in pressure inside the tube allowed the tube to explode open quickly
and make a much bigger sound than one would expect from that tiny tube! The kids wore safety goggles and pointed their tubes
toward an empty wall. A word of caution. Do not make any dry ice bomb at home. You could be arrested. I'm serious.
Our Kids Read Science and Teens Read Science contests are getting
a lot of good press! We officially have about $2500 worth in prizes, and that's on top of the generous book donations by science
authors. So if you aren't motivated by the mere love of science, consider that you could win an iPod touch and other great
prizes. Phil Plait featured the contest on his site Bad Astronomy and the local paper also featured a story. Many bloggers and science communicators have so kindly given a shout out as well!
On July 30th, 8pm at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts here Champaign-Urbana,
I will be one of the featured speakers at the 4th Pecha Kucha CU event. It's FREE! I will revisit my role as a time travelling beauty who talks about "My Little Black Book of Scientists
This fall, at the Champaign Public Library
(see my book suggestion on their site here), I will run two outreach programs for the afterschool crowd, in the hopes of exciting these kids for science and I will
also run two registered events for teen girls focused on the "Science of Make-up" and "Science of Hair Care"
Rolled into both I hope to have a make-up artist for one and a hair stylist for the other. More info as it becomes available.
I also am working up a presentation for the general public about the science behind
how the most common prescription drugs work (Prevacid, Tylenol, Fosamax, and more.) It will be a simplified treatment of the
cells of the body and how they work and their corresponding responses to these drugs, without a lot of biochemistry. (As I
am not a physician nor a pharmacist, please understand that I cannot help you with your medical conditions or your drug prescriptions).