Exploring Chemistry with Fire & Ice

Exploring Chemistry with Fire & Ice

Can you change the speed of a reaction just by changing the temperature? That’s what we’re going to find out! First, we need to understand the reaction: This balloon is filled with hydrogen, and then it is lit on fire. This is known as a combustion reaction, where hydrogen combines with oxygen. This means that

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Survival Skills: Pocket Firestarter

Survival Skills: Pocket Firestarter

 To start a fire, you need three ingredients: fuel, oxygen, and heat. Friction is a good source of heat (think striking a match, or rubbing two sticks together). Heat can also come from flowing electricity! Have you ever noticed that electronic devices get warm after they’ve been running for a while? This is the

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We Set Fire to the Clouds

We Set Fire to the Clouds

This isn’t your typical cloud, and not just because it’s trapped inside a bottle! We chose rubbing alcohol as the raw material for our homemade tabletop cloud because it vaporizes so easily: Rubbing alcohol is also highly flammable. Let’s explore this property by creating some combustion reactions! Every fire (or combustion reaction) requires fuel, an

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Aerodynamics, Fire, & the Coanda Effect

Aerodynamics, Fire, & the Coanda Effect

Imagine a torpedo in a wind tunnel. Incoming air slips around the torpedo’s nose, slides along its surface, and flies off its blunt back end. The air stream can’t navigate sharp corners, but as long as a smooth contour is available, it clings to that curve. This is called flow attachment, or the Coanda effect.

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Explore Hydrogen: WARNING DANGER!

Explore Hydrogen: WARNING DANGER!

Hydrogen: it’s the most common element in our universe, the main ingredient in stellar fusion, and the lightest element of them all. We love to play with hydrogen in the classroom because it’s highly combustible, which means it’s great for explosions! In this experiment — which is not one we recommend for home DIY —

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Cloud in a Bottle

Cloud in a Bottle

Let’s take a look at the science of clouds! Pockets of warm air near the Earth’s surface naturally float up through the atmosphere like hot air balloons. As an air pocket rises, it expands and cools down. This causes the water molecules within it to group together, creating droplets large enough to see. When a

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CO2 Fire Extinguisher

CO2 Fire Extinguisher

“Fire… begone!” These words aren’t magic, they’re science! We’ve harnessed the unique properties of a certain gas, carbon dioxide, to make our own version of a fire extinguisher. To understand how this works, we need to start with an understanding of fire. Fire requires two things in order to continue burning: fuel and oxygen. Without

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A Scientist’s April Fools

A Scientist’s April Fools

 Warning: Don’t do this at home!  When a scientist decides to play an April Fools prank on someone, it gets pretty serious.  We pull out all the stops.  One experiment that is guaranteed to both terrify and delight is the classic alcohol money burn. The experiment is pretty simple.  Mix some rubbing alcohol and

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Fire & the History of Matches

Fire & the History of Matches

 NOTE: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Humans have been creating and controlling fire for almost a million years! Our early ancestors used friction – essentially rubbing sticks together – to create their first fires for cooking food and making tools. Today we can carry fire making tools around in our pockets.  Every year

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