Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
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Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

Travel The World Without Leaving the MidWest!

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The Dayton Museum of Natural History, 1958

While we’re only pretty sure that time travel isn’t an actual “thing” yet, the next best option for aspiring explorers may just be to visit a Museum!  From ancient artifacts and rare oddities to countless extinct specimens of animals that no longer roam the world, you can find a wide variety of history from across the globe at your local Natural History Museum.  Many Daytonians remember the Boonshoft Museum as the Dayton Museum of Natural History, when its cornerstone was its vast Collection of artifacts and specimens.  What many may not know is that our Collections remain a crucial aspect of the Boonshoft Museum today, as many of these items can be found in current exhibits, while the rest are maintained for future use and research.

With 1.7 million artifacts and specimens, there is something for all ages and interests to explore. Some of the most popular items include rare prehistoric fossils, skeletal remains of animals that existed during the Ice Age (Mammoth, Dire Wolf, Saber-Toothed Cat), gorgeous handmade jewelry, meteorites, Native American textiles, mummy remains, historic weapons, ancient pottery, and even a shrunken head.

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Map of the origins of all of our Collection’s pieces, click to enlarge.

Taking a tour of our Collection is literally a trip through time and across the world—which means our staff always jump at the chance to take a tour in order to familiarize them with the Museum. “Each time there is a good number of new staff, you can count on our Curators to host a tour of our Collection. I go every single time because there is always something I haven’t seen and it gives me the chance to experience things that I won’t ever see except for maybe in a book. Our Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, for instance, is extinct, but we have one in our Collection and it is special every time I see it, in addition to all of the other pieces of local and world history,” noted Erika Asher, Development Assistant at the Boonshoft Museum.

So, tell your friends and family to get ready to embark on a world tour through time, except you won’t need to pack a bag or cross an ocean. For the first time, we are opening our collection vaults to the public for extensive, behind-the-scenes tours. These tours are guided by our knowledgeable curators and available to small groups of up to eight people. Tours last 90 minutes and vary between $150-$200, depending on the number of people in your party. All proceeds from the private tours go to the preservation of our artifacts and the Boonshoft Museum’s mission.

You can learn more about the Museum’s Collection here.

You can start the process of booking a Private Tour here.

You can get a jump start on your “world travels” by seeing where all of our artifacts come from by clicking here.

Sky’s The Limit For Spruce, Cypress, Willow & Sequoia!

All four falcon chicks have fledged!  Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have taken their first flights without any reports of trouble.  Daniel is working hard to bring food to the juveniles wherever they are perched.  At this age they are not skilled hunters and still depend on their parents to provide meals and will vocalize loudly if they need food or assistance from their parents. Go this website to hear what the vocalizations of a peregrine falcon sounds like:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/sounds

Within the next few weeks they will be able to capture food on their own.  The young peregrines are difficult to tell apart from their parents but can be seen perching on the Liberty Savings Tower or nearby buildings in downtown Dayton.  This is the first time Dayton and Daniel have raised four chicks.  At this time Spruce, Cypress, Willow and Sequoia have passed many hurdles and this nesting season can be considered a success.  With the state delisting of the peregrine as a threatened species in 2015 the young peregrines are now part of the success story of the recovery of the peregrine falcon population in Ohio.  The Dayton nest is part of a sample monitoring program in Ohio and data from the FalconCam will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife including the continued presence of the pair at the Dayton nest, the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs hatched, and the number of offspring that fledge.  As long as none of the young peregrines need human assistance they will stay in the area until the end of summer.  When the youngsters have enough skills they will leave Daniel and Dayton to find their own territories and hopefully one day raise young of their own.

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The FalconCam stream will be turned off soon but if any significant events occur they will be posted.

A special “thank you” to our sponsor for their support with the 2016 Falcon Cam season.

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Summer is a Great Time to Be a Member!

We’re counting down the minutes until summer begins and we bet you are too. There’s so much to do: plan your vacations, summer camps, family outings, activities, and more. The list could go on forever, even though the summer season is only three months long. If your goals is to have some great summer family experiences that keep the kiddos happy — and probably more importantly, keep you under budget — check out a Dayton Society of Natural History Membership!

New and current Members can maximize their Memberships this summer with so many things to do, see, and experience in just three short months:

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The cost of a Museum Membership, transportation, and snacks (because everyone needs snacks!), can get you an entire summer of entertainment, family memories, and fun.

Here are some Dayton Society of Natural History summer highlights you won’t want to miss (bonus: everything listed below is either FREE for Members or Museum Members receive a discount).

New Exhibitions: Both the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery & SunWatch will welcome new exhibitions this summer. On June 4 the Amazing Butterflies opens at the Boonshoft Museum and Johnny Appleseed opens at SunWatch later on during the summer season. Members enjoy a special sneak preview of Amazing Butterflies from 9:00 a.m. – Noon on June 4 before it opens to the public.

Special Events: From Movie Nights at the Museum to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow hosted at SunWatch by the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, there are some stellar events that you won’t want to miss this summer, here are some of the highlights:

Fort Ancient: Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 19, Nature Hike on July 9, Archaeology Day on July 16.

SunWatch: Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow on June 25-26, Kids’ Days throughout the summer.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Movie Nights at the Museum (A Bug’s Life in June and Frozen in August), Red White & Boonshoft on July 4, and our Meerkat Mob’s Birthday on July 30.

To learn more or purchase a Membership, visit www.boonshoftmuseum.org.

 

 

 

Pollinator Power: Bees, Bats, and Butterflies

We are having a Pollinator Party this weekend and you’re invited! Why pollinators? We’re glad you asked:

What is a Pollinator?

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Our Live Animals Department takes a peek at our Hive.

The act of pollination occurs when pollen moves from flower to flower, typically by a pollinator like a bird, bee, bat, butterfly, moth, or through the elements (like wind). The exchange of pollination from one flower to another creates fertilization, which means plants will successfully produce fruits with a full set of viable seeds.

Why are pollinators so important?

Pollinators are responsible for healthy ecosystems and the production of food for many animals. Unfortunately, pollinators have been dying off in droves, which has a ripple effect to which humans are not immune. The clear and present threat to pollinators affects the global economy, commodities trades, food security, and much, much more. It may be a challenge to think that something so small can have such a major impact on our day-to-day lives, but consider this:

  • Worldwide, about 1,000 plants grown for food, drink, fibers, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods that we depend on.
  • One in every three bites of food you eat are directly or indirectly the result of pollination.
  • In the U.S., $40 billion dollars worth of products are created by honey bees each year, which is supremely important for agricultural states, like Ohio.
  • 90 commercially grown crops in America are dependent on animal pollinators.
  • 795 million people don’t have enough food to lead active, healthy lives.

What’s the Buzz About?

Because we have do many pollinators here at the Museum, we wanted to dedicate Super Science Saturday to exploring the impact pollinators have on our world. Be sure to visit us during Super Science Saturday on May 21 to see our pollinators up close; admission is FREE from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Also, you can learn more about how to be a pal to all of our hardworking pollinators by checking out our infographic below:

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5 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day This Friday!

A recurring theme both at the Boonshoft Museum and our sister sites, SunWatch and Fort Ancient, is conservation. We conserve artifacts and specimens, and we teach children and families about our natural resources and how we can best preserve them. On Earth Day, we are all acutely aware of the impact that humanity has on our planet and its inhabitants, some big (like the Polar Bears at the Columbus Zoo) and some small (like Patience, the Boonshoft Museum’s Two-Toed Sloth).

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Two-Toed Sloths just like Patience face habitat loss due to deforestation of the South American rain forests.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the effort requires to slow down the effects of deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, but the Museum is committed to making sure that everyone, through small changes, has the ability to make a HUGE, positive impact on our environment–and what better way to kick-off a year of “green” living than by celebrating Earth Day on April 22!

Here are 5 simple things you can do that will have a big impact on our environment:

  1. Actively Educate – By attending events like the Boonshoft Museum’s Earth Day Celebration and Super Science Saturday, your family will learn about our natural resources, like the Miami Valley Aquifer, in addition to how we can use science to conserve, preserve, and sustain our natural resources. Most of our special conservation days are included with regular admission or free to the public, so be sure to check our Calendar frequently for upcoming events!
  2. Be a Good Steward – One of the most critical challenges to the world today is climate change. The change in climate affects the world’s ecosystems and has a ripple effect to which humans are not immune. Climate change affects our food sources and the economy. To be a good steward of the environment, try to save energy in your household. Simply turning the lights off when you leave a room, keeping your house a few degrees warmer during the summer, and unplugging electronics when you leave for school and work can collectively have a large impact on your energy usage and wallet!
  3. Purchase With a Purpose – You can shop smart and help fight deforestation by using sustainable alternatives to products that use Palm Oil and are created with recyclable materials. Palm oil is a key contributor to rain forest deforestation and can be found in common household items and food, like candy and cereal—even makeup. Opt into purchasing certified recycled products and support companies that use sustainable practices. Click here to view a list of companies that are dedicated to saving the environment.
  4. Plant for Pollinators – Between honey bees, bats, and butterflies, millions of dollars worth of crops and food are cultivated each year. With one in every three bites of food being indirectly or directly a result of honey bee pollination, something has to be done about their dwindling populations. Many of our pollinators are at risk due to habitat loss, so the best way to combat that is to create a pollinator-friendly place in your back yard! Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, a flowering plant that can easily be planted in your back yard. You can also opt for a bat house or plant a bee friendly garden. Some honey bees are often confused with wasps, so if you have a nest that you wish to remove, ask a professional if it is a honey bee hive and if it is contact a local apiarist (beekeeper).
  5. Get Active – If it’s a beautiful day and you need to run errands, consider riding a bike instead of taking your car. Not only does Dayton have some of the best bike trails regionally, biking to work is a green alternative to a car commute and it keeps you healthy! The burning of fossil fuels from motor vehicles creates both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, both of which affect our atmosphere and add to changes in climate.

Just doing these 5 simple things can help save our environment and its inhabitants! Learn more tomorrow during our Earth Day Celebration!

Cookie Chemistry

You can’t think of the holidays without thinking of cookies! From gingerbread houses to sweet sugar cookies, everyone has a favorite—including a certain someone who is responsible for magically bringing presents to kiddos across the world!

It just so happens that National Cookie Day was last week, and because science and baking go hand-in-hand, we are going to explore the chemistry behind the perfect cookie! Too much flour, different fats, baking soda, and liquids, they all play a roll in crafting your cookie favorites.

First, let’s consider what holds our raisins, chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts together: the dough. Depending on the cookie, the dough can be created using different ingredients. For this example, we’ll use the classic chocolate chip cookie which requires eggs, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, flour, salt, and vanilla. How do these things mixed together go from gooey to great? The answer: Heat causing a series of chemical reactions.

  1. You’ve just placed your dough on the cookie sheet and popped it in the oven. The heat causes the butter inside the dough to melt, which is what causes the cookie to go from a doughy ball to a round flat cookie.
  2. Next, your cookies will blow off some steam—literally! At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the water in your dough turns into steam and the water vapor rises through the dough. Additionally, the baking soda starts to turn into carbon dioxide gas which will raise the cookie up even further.
  3. By now, you’ll start to notice that your cookie is turning golden brown in color, which means your cookie is just about done! Some tasty reactions are happening, including caramelization, when sugar reaches a high enough temperature, it begins to break down from clear crystals and transforms into a brown liquid, and the Maillard reaction.  This reaction combined with reaction from the combination from the sugar and protein from the eggs and flour creates a simply scrumptious result.

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You can conduct your own experiment by making a batch yourself and trying different ingredients, but if you want to make the classic chocolate chip cookie—look no further than this Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.