Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Power of the Air!

 

How did the can get crushed? You could see in the video it wasn’t pushed in by the tongs, so what did it!? This very simple experiment works because of something called Charles’s Law. Charles’s Law says that a gas will get bigger if it gets hotter, or smaller if it gets colder, as long as the pressure doesn’t change.

One thing that you can’t see in the video is that the water in the can is boiling. This means that the can is full of water vapor that is around 200℉! Next, the can is placed open-side down into a container of cool water, probably about 50℉. Note that we aren’t changing the pressure, so Charles’s Law tells us what happens next. The cold water cools down the water vapor, causing it to contract (and even condense!), but this is not what really crushes the can. The real culprit….is air.

Can.jpg

Air doesn’t seem to weigh anything. We can’t see it, or pick it up and hold it in our hands very well. However, that doesn’t mean it is light! The atmosphere weighs a whopping 6,000,000,000,000,000 tons! The earth is pretty big, but that means that at sea level, there is about 15 pounds of air pushing down on every single square inch!

However, not everything gets crushed by the atmosphere. Your body effortlessly pushes back on the air to not get squished, just like the hot air in the can pushed out to keep the can from imploding. However, when the cold water cooled and contracted the air, there was nothing to push out against the atmosphere, and no way for the atmosphere to get in. So yes, the air just crushed it!

This is a great DIY experiment to do at home or try in class! It requires few materials, and can teach a lot of science! Charles’s Law is a very powerful idea, and is half of the Ideal Gas Law, which is seen in both chemistry and physics classes!

Note that this is the same principle that we used to get our egg into the bottle experiment!

Future of CDs and DVDs

CDs are dying.  It’s an unfortunate but inescapable fact as the world transitions to digital downloading.  But while the end may be in site for CDs and DVDs, it hasn’t come yet.  Before that day actually comes, perhaps we should take a quick look at this awesome technology and how it works.

A CD’s base a a polycabonate plastic material that is transparent.  It provides the structure and protection for the layers above it.  Above the polycabonate is a thin layer of aluminum reflective coating followed by another thin layer of crylic and then the label.  The most important part of a CD is that the polycabonate sheet is imprinted with a series of miniscule bumps.  The details of the bumps is a code that is what stores the data on the disc.  The bumps move outward from the center of the CD in a spiral pattern all the way to the edge.  The CD reader move along this track using a precise laser to detect the changes in the bumps and decode the data stored on the CD.

As CDs become less and less useful, perhaps we need to find other uses for them.  One entertaining DIY science trick we can do is to melt part of the polycarbonate sheet and blow it out to create a giant bubble.  Make sure to scrape off the aluminum sheet or else it won’t expand to its full amount.  Enjoy!

Gear Up for Summer Giveaway

Are you ready for school to be over and for summer to start?!?! Well, we are here at AstroCamp! In honor of the amazing summer to come we have decided to giveaway some awesome stuff to help you get ready!

AstroCamp Gear Up for Summer Giveaway prize includes an AstroCamp hoodie, t-shirt, frisbee, and water bottle, AstroCamp created 3D Print, fun science t-shirt, as well as a large poster and NASA Goodies. AstroCamp instructors not included.

You can earn entires by registering for camp, writing a camp review, submitting Throwback Thursday Photos or commenting on our blog post. Please take a look at the contest and feel free to make multiple entries to increase your chances! Prizes can only be delivered to those within the United States and photos submitted will be shared on AstroCamp Social Media sites. Fun science t-shirt and poster sizes and pictures vary. When submitting photos please email them to Alisa VinZant at alisa.gdi.org. Happy contest entering and Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss the video below of just some of the cool things you can do at AstroCamp!

DIY Experiment: Egg in a Bottle

You might be asking yourself why you would want to put an egg in a bottle. The answer is, of course, for science! This is a great experiment for explaining the basics of the ideal gas law. Mainly, that gases expand and contract when they change temperature. Here we will explore how to actually do this simple DIY experiment, and what the science is behind it.

Materials:

  • Peeled hard boiled eggs. Note that if they crack during peeling, they will likely not survive the ordeal!

  • Bottle with a neck smaller than the egg. Erlenmeyer flasks work great!

  • Matches, or a small piece of flammable material

  • Workspace clear of burning hazards

That’s it!

Doing the experiment:

  • Read the steps first. They have to happen quickly!

  • Light a match or something small and flammable. A small piece of paper works great!. In the video, we use four strike-anywhere matches.

  • Drop your flaming object of choice into the flask. With matches, do it quickly! If you wait too long, there wont be enough fire to heat the air!

  • Put the egg on top of the flask so it completely covers the opening. This must be done quickly

  • Watch!

You should see the fire go out and the egg get sucked into the bottle shortly thereafter.

What happened?

The fire rapidly heats the air in the flash. Then, the fire should quickly become starved of oxygen and go out. Once the fire stops and the air begins to cool. The molecules in the gas slow down as it cools, decreasing the pressure inside the flask. The air pressure outside is then greater, and pushes the egg down the seemingly-too-small neck of the bottle. Because the air pushes equally from all sides, the egg stays intact, unlike if you had done it with your hand!

How do I get it out?!

There are three good ways to do this.

  1. Get something pokey, like a butter knife, and chop the egg into bits and dump it out. Messy. Not my favorite.

  2. Blow in behind the egg. The hot air on your breath should be enough to push it out.

  3. Flip the flask over so the egg covers the opening from within. Run hot tap water over the base of the flask. As the air inside heats up, it pushes the egg out, simply doing the experiment in reverse!

Observing the Opposition of Jupiter

 

Jupiter is one of the marvels in our solar system. Appropriately named after Zeus, it has a tremendous mass. In fact, it  outweighs the rest of the planets of the solar system by a factor of two–and it knows how to throw its weight around! Its gravity holds 67 confirmed moons in orbit, including the largest four moons first discovered by Galileo known as the Galilean moons.

It also spins with incredible speed. Despite being large enough to hold 1300 Earths inside, it completes its daily rotation in only 10 hours! This means that at the equator, it is moving at 28000 miles per hour! Slight deviations from this speed cause its atmosphere contains incredible bands of clouds of different colors, including the famous Great Red Spot, a hurricane-like storm several times the size of Earth where two of these bands meet that has been raging on for at least 300 years!

Due to its larger orbit, Jupiter takes just shy of 12 years to go around the sun. This means that once every 13 months it forms a line with Earth and the Sun. With Earth squarely in the middle, the Sun and Jupiter are on opposite sides. This means that Jupiter is up while the sun is down. It is also the closest that the two planets get in their respective orbits. This year, it happens on February 6th and due to the shape of each planets’ orbit, it is the closest they will be until 2019! This arrangement is known as “Opposition”. Thirteen months later they will be back in opposition, so if you miss it, check back on March 8, 2016!

Due to the closeness of the two planets and the fact that Jupiter is up during the middle of the night during the time of greatest darkness, this is a great time to look at Jupiter. In fact, on a very dark night it is actually possible for the light from Jupiter to cast a shadow! With the 12” telescopes that we have at camp, we have a pretty big advantage over Galileo. His improved telescope in 1610 had a magnification of about 20x. The 12” telescopes are around 100x, allowing us to not only pick out its four Galilean moons, but also make out two reddish bands in Jupiter’s atmosphere, known as the North and South equatorial belts! It is truly an amazing sight.

WELCOME TO OUR ASTROCAMP BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampschool.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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