Jaydeep (7) asked “Why do sponges absorb more hot water than cold water?””

Thanks team. I agree with you I don’t have an answer to Jaydeeps question. I think the best I can do is try to carry out an experiment to test the observation that you have made.

I would need a sponge (natural or manufactured), a fixed amount of water and a way of drying the sponge. If we are going to do a fair test the sponge must be the same for both the hot water and the cold water test. It also must be in the same condition (preferably dry). I would also need to be aware that you should weigh the water, the weight of hot and cold water must be the same. As water is heated the volume gets bigger.

Jaydeep …maybe you could also try the experiment above and see whether a sponge does absorb more hot water than cold water. You could let me know the result by telling me your result in the comment box below.


“What does “eco” in ecosystem mean?” asks Austin (8)

I will just add a few words myself. Thanks for your input.

I like the idea of an ant’s nest being an example of an ecosystem. The nest is ‘everything’ it’s a home, a place to live and to work from, a creche for baby ants, a food store, a food production place, a protective environment, maybe an ant hospital, and lot’s more. It is an ecosystem.

The word ‘eco’ also combines with ‘logy to form ‘ecology’. This is like the word ‘bio’ combining with ‘logy’ to form ‘biology’.  The word ‘logy’ is a word which originally described lots of learning.

I will stop now. For an eight year old I think everything gets very complicated. I very much like the ant’s nest described as an ecosystem.Maybe you could let me know of other ecosystems?


“How does speed affect the energy of motion during a collision?” asked Damián Muñoz (9)

Thank you for your question Damian. I asked my friends about it and they had the following thoughts.

Sorry Damian it doesn’t really answer the question you asked. They have just presented you with more questions.
Let’s look at what they said.

Firstly energy is about work. The Energy or Work associated with a moving car is its movement. This type of energy is called Kinetic Energy. We could change the car’s Kinetic Energy by making the slope steeper (move the slope up a rung). It will make it go faster.

How do we measure the energy it is gaining as it moves faster and faster down the slope? Yes it does go faster while it is on the slope (we say that it is accelerating). Remember it starts with no energy at all (not moving). When it reaches the bottom of the slope it is going at its fastest speed.

We could measure the energy by seeing how long it takes to stop moving when it reaches the bottom of the slope. Try it. Make sure the test is fair. Fairness is very important in science investigations.

Alternatively you could involve it in a collision at the bottom of the slope…..say some cardboard or paper and see how far the car can push the shape it collides with. That would be another way to measure the ‘work’ that the moving car could do.

Damian, think about it. Experiment, and let me know how you got on.

Science Master

“Questions about the Universe” by Lewis Jordan Sexton (13)

Questions about the Universe??????

Lewis, thank you very much for your thoughts and the questions in your own mind that you are thinking about. Wow.

I’m tempted to tell you a story about a question that my wife asked to her mother when she was about your age. “Mother what is the Universe and what was the big bang?” Her mother’s reply was “They are very big questions, I think your time is better spent making sure that this planet we are living on lasts as long as possible, rather than worrying about the Universe”

For readers who are interested here is the what Lewis submitted. Lewis, if you would like me to remove it send a request in the comment box below.

My thinking is that we have no idea, at the moment, whether any of the the thoughts put forward by various scientists are valid. It seems to me to be a classic case of a set of developing scientific ideas as the tools and thoughts of the the scientists develop.

For example notable scientists like Newton and Einstein developed ideas relating to your thoughts  which were effectively disproved. This is in fact the way that all scientific arguments progress. For example ……When Albert Einstein was formulating his ground-breaking theory of gravity in the early 20th Century, at a time when astronomers only really knew of the existence of our own galaxy, he used the simplifying assumption that the universe has the same properties in all its parts, and that it looks roughly the same in every direction wherever, in the Universe, an observer happens to be located. Like Sir Isaac Newton two hundred years before him, he assumed an infinite, static or “steady state” Universe, with its stars suspended  motionless in a vast void.

One of the driving forces behind the development of science thinking is to disprove earlier scientific thinking. It is called falsification.

It was a philosopher,Karl Popper who said you can only have a scientific theory if it can be proved to be false. This is what has happened to the scientific theories of Einstein and Newton. Some of their ideas/theories on gravity and the nature of the Universe have been successfully disproved. New theories by Hubble (the telescope scientist) disproved the stable Universe idea’s of Newton and Einstein. This led to new scientific ideas of an expanding (rather than a stationary static state)  Universe …which could be false? To illustrate how scientist are challenging Hubble’s ideas it is now known that the Universe is expanding at an accelerating  rate than rather than a steady rate …….the mystery continues. 

Have a look at this website The Physics of the Universe.

I shall continue thinking and possibly updating.

Thanks again for your thoughts.




Jaydeep (7) asks “Why do sponges absorb more hot water than cold water?”

Jaydeep. An interesting question, which I need to think about. I suspect it might be a question of ‘testing’. How did you arrive at the question? Did it include elements of ‘fair testing’? I shall start by passing it over to my friends.

Thanks team. Yes, I agree, science knowledge is based upon fair testing. Jaydeep’s question suggest that he has evidence that sponges absorb more hot water than cold. It is and interesting thought BUT is it true? That’s what a scientist would ask.

What do I think? My initial thought is that as water gets hot it expands, so…., the sponge might absorb less water. From another viewpoint it might be argued that the hot water ‘warms up’ the sponge and causes the sponge to expand, thus absorbing more water. Another argument might be that because both the water and the sponge expand when they get hot …..things cancel out.

The important point is that if the original investigation was not fair all the arguments about Why are meaningless.

Jaydeep ….do a fair test`and then ask the question. Many thanks for an interesting input.

Lachlan(12) asks “How does a trebuchet work?”

Lachlan – my first question is what is a trebuchet?

Simple answer …It’s a type of catapult.

Here is an image of  a very early trebuchet


Here is an image that may help your understanding and give you some clues on how the trebuchet works. When the mass 1 is released it begins to accelerate towards the ground. In doing so a force is applied to the beam pulling it down. That force is then applied, via the beam to the mass 2. What do you think will happen to Mass 2?

The support for the beam, the fulcrum, is in a particular position. Any thoughts on that? You could create a see-saw and investigate the application of forces when the fulcrum  changes position ……altering d1 and d2.

“Why does soft serve ice cream increase in volume in a milkshake as it’s melting?” asked Tim (13)

Thanks for your comments team. I’m afraid you are wrong. My research suggests that Soft Serve has less fat than ordinary Ice Cream. The real difference is the amount of air in the ice cream and the temperature at which it is stored. In my view it is the amount of air that is crucial.  When Soft Served is warmed I would suggest that the air in the fat which makes up the ice cream makes the ice cream expand to a greater extent than the ordinary ice cream.

You could try a little experiment to confirm this. Take two equal samples of ice cream (soft serve and ordinary) of the same weight (use kitchen scales). Let them warm up. Allow the ordinary ice cream to reach the same temperature as the soft serve (ordinary ice cream is usually kept at a lower temperature than soft serve). Make sure that the two samples are in the same kinds of containers. Do they expand to the same degree?

What do you think the role of the air is in this process?

I hope that this gives you a clue to any differences that you see.

Liam Astra asks “Why does Mentos lollies make coke spurt everywhere?”

Liam, thanks for the question. Are you sure that you wanted to talk about Mentos lollies? I couldn’t find any mention of them …..only sweets …so I have focussed on them. 

Let me start my answer by showing you my favourite clip of the Mentos/Diet Coke reaction.

My first question is ….is there anything special about diet coke and the Mint Mentos tablet?

Firstly there is evidence (somebody has done some experiments) that diet coke contains more carbon dioxide gas than ordinary coke. When they make coke they add carbon dioxide gas to it. Lots of gases are absorbed by liquids. Oxygen gas is absorbed by water…..this allows fish to breathe. The manufacturers add carbon dioxide to the coke because it enhances (makes better) the taste of the coke. Carbon dioxide, like oxygen is a safe gas  – it is the gas that you and I breathe out – it is created by our bodies.

Experiment 1.  Add a Mentos to a bottle of Coke and one to a bottle of Diet Coke….is the reaction the same? Make sure that it is a fair experiment (talk with others about how you can make it fair). Make sure that it is a safe (if you have them wear goggles) and a tidy experiment. (think about your parents or teachers)

Experiment 2. Now let’s look at the Mentos tablet. Is the tablet smooth or rough to the touch? Try and find something (maybe an adult can find you a little bit of sandpaper) that will change the surface of one of the Mentos tablets (more rough or more smooth) and drop it into a diet coke bottle. What happens? Do the rough and smooth tablets both give exactly the same ‘spurt’?

You could also carry out this experiment with Fruit and Mint Mentos tablets?

Here are some magnified photographs of the surface of a Mentos tablet.


So what have we found out? What has roughness to do with surface area? Why does the dissolved gas decide to come out of solution when it meets the tablet?

Let me know your thoughts in the box below.

Will (8) asks “What makes seeds grow?”


Will, thank you for your question. Let’s start with some interesting questions. Answers to these might help in answering your question. Firstly is a fruit a seed?  If it is not a seed then what is it for? Does it help the seed grow? How will we know if the seed is growing? What does a seed need to grow? Does it need soil? Do seeds grow when it is cold? Do different seeds grow at different speeds? What do you think? Are there any more questions? Remember questions are what science is all about. By investigating questions you are building knowledge of the world around you.

So, let’s think about how we could investigate some of these questions. Shall we look at just one type of seed, or choose a variety of different seeds to investigate? Maybe looking at one type of seed would help us begin to answer some of the questions. We could then look at another type of seed and compare the results. Maybe one seed would grow faster than the other?

Now we have to think about the conditions for our growing experiment ….. soil/no soil, wet/dry, light/no light, hot/cold. Even for our selected seed this can be very complicated. Can you see why?

The investigation equipment could probably be obtained at home. A empty plastic bottle, with the top cut off, would be a good holder for the seed. Some cotton wool could act as soil. A cupboard and a refrigerator could also help you create the right environment.

Let me know how it went?

Some Questions about the Solar System by Rishi, Ned, Maya, Thomas, Jackson, Adam and Pug.

Many thanks for the questions, and they are all about the Solar System. Amazingly I have just (three days ago) visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Orlando so they come at a time when I am excited by the science associated with space and space travel. I had questions before my visit and after it I had more. That’s the brilliance of these exhibitions, they raise questions. So let’s look at yours.

Rishi asked “How does the solar system work?”

I immediately think of why does it work in the way it does? The centre of the Solar System is the Sun. The Sun is one of a group of stellar objects called stars. Our star was named, by somebody, in the past, as the Sun.  Our star (the Sun) seemed to have attracted to it some massive lumps of matter/material which we call planets (planets are the biggest ‘lumps’ , the smaller ‘lumps’ are called asteroids and meteorites. What has given the Sun the ability to attract these ‘lumps’?

You then have the amazing thing that these lumps move around the Sun. They are attracted to the Sun but do not fall into it. They rotate around it, why do they do that? . Or does the Sun rotate around them?

So Rishi, your question is a great science question. From it lot’s of other questions arise, and that is what science is really about.

Ned asked “If the world split in half, would there still be a gravitational pull?”

Ned, thanks for the question. Gravity is one of those strange things called ‘forces’. Most forces are easy to define. You push things, you pull things by physically applying a force. Magnets  can push and pull so they can apply a force. So how can you explain the fact that things are somehow ‘pulled ‘ towards the Earth?  This seems to be something called a gravitational force. It’s strange. Nothing seems to be pulling or pushing you. Scientists have created a word called ‘gravity’ which describes the process of one object (of a big mass) pulling towards it a smaller mass.

We know that there is this force called gravity that exists. I am not sure that we have yet found out what causes it. We know that a very big object (of great mass) will attract a much smaller object (of smaller mass), however we have no idea why.

So at last to your question. My hypothesis (find out what that means). Slitting the world in half would mean that both halves of the Earth would move closer to the Sun because, the Sun is the biggest object in our Solar System.

Maya asked “What is the milky way?”

Maya, it’s a good question. I wonder who first used the name ‘the milky way’ and why? I firstly think about stars in the night sky, they produce white light (I wonder why – why not red or yellow light?). Does our star (the Sun) produce white or yellow light?

It is for a lot of us to really observe the night sky in all its glory. Why? It seems to be all the background light that we are experiencing when we look at the night sky. Go to a very dark place, away from the city, away from a near town and look at the night sky. You will see things you have never seen before. It is magical. You will see more stars than you have ever seen in your life. Only then will you see the Milky Way and only then will you know what it means.

Thomas asked “How many Suns are there in the universe”?

Thomas, thanks for the question. My first question is . What do you mean as Universe? As yet the investigation of the Universe in which we live is incomplete. We do not know how big it is. We do know, that the Universe consists of groups of stars that we have called Galaxies. We are in a Galaxy called the Milky Way (see Maya’s question). There are millions of stars in our Galaxy. So Thomas, in answer to your question ….we do not know …but the important thing is that you asked the question. By asking the question the quest and research for an answer continues. That is science.

Jackson asked “How big is Jupiter?

Jackson, a great question. It raised a question which I tried to find the answer to “Why do we want to know the size of Jupiter?’ I suspect it is to try to answer an even bigger question linked to Risha’s question. Why do the planets orbit the Sun? Is there some reason in there order of orbit …Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune?   Jupiter is the biggest planet in terms of mass and size in our Solar System . It would be nice if the size and mass of the planets and their orbital position was a straightforward order …but not so. That seems to be the outline of another question.

Adam asked  “How old is the Sun”

Adam, an interesting question, thanks.  It is thought that the Sun is 4.6 billion years old that is …would you believe it 4,600,000,000 years. Scientists reckon it was formed by the sudden compression of hydrogen and helium gas caused by the explosion of nearby star. Wow. This leads to lots of other questions …..think about them and let me know. The scientists also reckon that the Sun is about halfway through it’s life.

Pug asked “If all planets crashed into each other would it affect other Solar Systems?”

Pug, a good question. What do you think would happen if all the planets crashed into each other? How would it happen? Here is ia hypothesis. The most likely scenario would be the outer planets moving into a lower orbit and crashing into the lower orbit planets. They would then be affected by the gravitational pull of the Sun. They might then crash into the Sun. The Sun may therefore gain more energy and explode into a supernova. Pug, a hypothesis is an idea, can you come up with an alternative one? Let me know.