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.
Wintogreen_Video

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.

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Science @ Home: DIY Glow In The Dark Slime

We have a theory that has been well tested at the Boonshoft Museum; most children love gross, sticky goop. This theory isn’t quite as fleshed out as, say, Einstein’s theory of relativity or Newton’s Law, but we’re pretty sure it rings true—especially during Halloween. Zombie goo, vampire blood, witch’s brew—each monster or spook has some sort of gross fluid that completes their persona, and while we don’t necessarily believe in spooky monsters, we certainly celebrate the science behind them!

giphy

Credit: Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures

This month’s Science@Home is a homage to one of the most popular ghosts of all time. Casper is the obvious choice, but he’s not quite gross enough—so we’re going to go with our favorite mischievous, hot-dog-eating ghost, Slimer, of Ghostbusters fame.

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Credit: Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures

Slimer is green, almost suspiciously green—as if he glows in the dark. So, why not make some Slimer slime? This glow in the dark goop is easy to make and only requires a few household items. See the complete experiment below:

DIY Glow in the Dark SlimeSafety First:

This experiment requires the supervision of an adult. Please remember to not eat/drink the science! Borax, glue, and paint should not come into contact with the mouth and/or eyes.

Ingredients:

½ cup glue

½ cup water

Borax solution (1 tsp. borax with 1 cup water, mix until borax is dissolved)

3 tbs. non-toxic glow in the dark paint

Directions:

In a bowl mix ½ cup glue and ½ cup water.

Once this solution is mixed add 3 tbs. glow in the dark paint.

In another bowl, mix 1 tsp borax with 1 c. water until the borax is completely dissolved.

Add the glue mixture to the borax solution, stirring slowly.

The glow in the dark slime will start to form immediately; stir this as much as possible, then with your hands, knead the slime until it gets less sticky.

Pour extra water (if there is any) out of the bowl.

Hold your glow in the dark slime under a light to expedite the “glowing” process.

Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

ghostbuster in training

Who you gonna call?

What is happening?

There are two reactions happening when you make your slime, one is the absorption of light and one is a polymer reaction. Think of the glue like long strands of spaghetti; now imagine trying to fit all of those spaghetti strands next to each other; difficult, right? This is where the borax comes in. Once the borax is added, it immediately creates a reaction that fuses the “glue strands” together—and poof—slime!

Well, what about the glow in the dark part? There are many reactions that can cause a glowing reaction, but for this purpose, phosphorescent paint does the trick. One your slime is exposed to energy from the light in a room, it releases it at a slower rate—which results in a “Slimer-esque” glow.

This experiment not only gives children an opportunity to explore chemistry, it gives them the opportunity to experience tactile learning, which is especially important for early learners.

Take it further: Halloween is around the corner and whether you are trick or treating as a mischievous ghost or a Ghostbuster in training, this completes the costume.

For some Halloween fun before trick or treating starts, visit the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Dayton for Spooky Science Saturday and the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield for their Halloween Kick-Off.