Science Fair

Science Fair by Circespeaks

Science Fair by Circespeaks

…I may now be cured, until another WordPress update comes along, or it seems sensible to upgrade to iOS 7,of creating posts in my iPhone. 700 words gone into the ether.

Fractured, Refracted, Diffracted…distraction. How can two adults who are neither interested in watching television, nor working a crossword puzzle spend the evening? We watched an excellent three-part series on PBS–presumably a BBC production about British barristers–called Silk a couple of months ago. PBS has since disappointed with an absolutely awful knock-off of Downton Abbey called Paradise, which I cannot recommend to any but the truly desperate.

Out of my writing struggle not to mix metaphors, came the idea to actually see diffracted light. The hook in the first sentence developing my thought was the word “facet.” When reviewing my work, I discovered a classic example of mixed metaphors. In the very next sentence, a theorist was “untangling braided, hopelessly intertwined ideas.” The facets of the theory, and not their condition of being hopelessly intertwined was my subject, so I followed with “fractured light.” and resident scientist were both fairly clear that I could have fractured metal, or stone, but not fractured light. The light being shed would have to be refracted or diffracted. Searching definitions forced me not to improperly diffract that meaning of the word “fractured.” It also led to links and YouTube videos explaining light diffraction–the bending of light–and, at last, to a simple science experiment. I think what I actually saw was refracted light, not diffracted, but I’m not sure. The horizontal bar I saw between the tiny slit in two pencils held tightly together, was a multi-hued bar code of lights. Further research may reveal whether this was due to near-sightedness, astigmatism, or not conducting the experiment correctly.

Tonight’s plan, despite the fact that it is Monday, and both work and Monday night football could cause complications, is to bring out the potato, lemon and penny. My jumper cables were well-used last winter. Not only did I rescue other drivers, but I was also rescued because I had the cables in my trunk. Honestly, though, I still don’t understand why some people insist on grounding one of the cables on plastic. Is it on plastic? Something about batteries exploding and acid in the face and eyes. So I put on glasses or sunglasses and jump back quickly, but that may not be the best plan. It seems I haven’t really learned the third-grade science lesson about electric currents and how they flow. Update tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have easy ideas for science fair experiments for your third-grader (who isn’t intent on winning first prize or in a science magnet school.) Do you have ideas for easy science experiments that I can do at home?

3 thoughts on “Science Fair

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    You can do all kinds of things to alfalfa sprouts – change their lighting conditions, put various amounts of salt or sugar in their rinse water, etc., without them failing completely to sprout.

    We did a lot of experiments with yeast, too, collecting the gas bubbles (methane) in inverted tubes, where the gas rises and pushes out the water, so you can measure it. Yeast needs sugar and warmth, but after that, there’s lots of things you can add – and see how it affects the production of gas.

    Convince yourself the bell curve distribution is correct: take 10 pennies, shake and dump them out, see how many are head and how many tails.

    And one we never figured out: why do birds on telephone wires perch facing one way or the other?

    1. Circe

      You are a real scientist! I may need help from the boy who is taking chemistry again (college level, this time) to do the yeast & methane experiment. I have everything at home for that one except a ptoper test tube: the kind with a bunble at the top?
      If nothing else this will surely help me submit another chapter of that dissertation by Monday šŸ™‚

      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        Any graduated cylinder will do. You fill it with water, and then, without taking the mouth of the cylinder out of the water, invert it.

        Then run the tube from the sealed jar (that’s where my hoarded baby food jars went) that has your yeast/water/sugar mixture at a particular temperature under the water and up into the inverted cylinder.

        Each gas bubble the yeast give off (this is what raises bread) is then collected, rises to the top of the inverted cylinder, and displaces some water.

        You keep a table of time since the experiment starts vs. volume of the gas bubble – and graph it.

        Your experimental design (the various combinations you try) should give you different volumes/time. And then you can say something about which conditions are best/worst for the yeast.

        It’s best to read the yeast package – and work around that. A little cooler, a little warmer, more sugar, a bit of salt… lots of variations.

        Try to think ahead of time of what you’re trying to test, and for these simple experiments, keep everything else constant.

        You can also plot, say, the size of the bubble at X seconds for different initial conditions – that gives you a feel for how fast the yeast works under different conditions. Or the final volume – once it levels off and stops changing. Or how fast each combination reaches, say, 10 ml displacement in the tube.

        The tube could be an inverted graduated measuring cup – anything clear (so you can see the water line). Tall and skinny will give you better readings than fat glass measuring cups.

        Contact me an we can talk if you need more. Didn’t realize it was for your thesis.

        We did all this stuff for fun – and for science fairs.

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