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.

“Why do spiders make webs and what are they made of?” asks Emily (7)

 

Thanks Team and thank you Emily. My first thoughts are about catching a spider and trying to keep it at home or somewhere else or finding a spider in the wild so that you can see it making, or looking after its web. I am however reluctant to suggest both catching a spider or keeping it in an indoors.

In some countries spiders can be dangerous so please do not interfere with it until an adult has identified it and  said that it is OK to collect it, or observe it closely.  If, with an adults permission, you can keep a spider then a large plastic aquarium would probably provide a good home for it.

A spider’s web is made of a type of silk, so ask an adult if they could find some silk for you to investigate. Maybe you could use it to make a web and see how strong it is?

If you do keep a spider, at home, or in the classroom you will have to decide how you will feed it. That will be an interesting investigation.

Look at this video of a garden spider building its web. In the first part of the video everything is slowed down. In the second part of the video things are at the real speed of web building.

Mason (7) asks “Why is water wet?”

Thanks team. Let us start with a investigation. Let us look at the way water interacts with different materials.

 

Let us now look at the properties of water drops. Firstly let me define ‘cohesion’ and ‘adhesion’. The term ‘hesion’ means  … to stick. Cohesion is is the attraction and sticking together of the same things while adhesion is the attraction and sticking together of different things.

Look at the image of the water drop below. Each water particle is attracted to the other water particles around it , this is cohesion. Now add a different surface and the water particles are attracted to that rather than each other, this is adhesion. When adhesion occurs we get the spreading of the water drop and wetting,  providing the adhesive forces are greater than the cohesive forces.

So what about your investigation? Is there any evidence of cohesion or adhesion?

Here is a thought. it has been suggested that water is ‘wet’ because you can feel it’s wetness.

Maybe another little experiment.

You could let me know by clicking on the ‘Reply’ box below.

“How does a magnet become a magnet?” asks Ava (11)

A brilliant question Ava. I asked my team for their thoughts.

Yes team you are quite right there are some limitations to magnet making. The main one is that only certain metals can be made into magnets. These metals are called ferromagnetic metals.

Included in this group are the metal iron and the alloys of iron with the metals cobalt, nickel and some other rare earth elements .

It is thought that in these metals (including iron) have some electrons called ‘free electrons’ (not sure what an electron is, then go to Science Master Special – Atoms and Atomic Structure). It is these ‘free electrons’ that are involved in magnetism. In the alloys the  ‘free’ electrons align themselves with the magnetism of the external magnet, making a (for the alloys) a permanent magnet. For iron alone the magnetism is only temporary and you can test this in the experiment below.

 

Look at the short video I have made below. In the ferromagnetic metal (iron alloy) crystal domains you will see free electrons. In the metal these will be moving freely. As they begin to interact with the external magnetic field, they begin to align themselves, making a permanent magnet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete (10) asks “What is the pitch of a sound?”

Thank you team.  Lets first look at the motion of the particles. You suggest that the motion of the particles is in the form of waves. I think that is quite difficult to imagine but I think I have an example that will help illustrate this type of motion. Look at what happens when you drop a pebble in a pond. The pebble, when it hits the water, it creates  one vibration.

 

 

 

In this image the sound is produced by the piston creating the waves. Notice the wavelength, that is important. If we can manipulate the piston, make it go slower or faster  we can change the wavelength. Changing the wavelength is changing the pitch, think about that.  How does the sound change?

Try blowing over, or tapping, some bottles.

 

Pitch and Frequency ..Test your hearing a little bit more …….

In the video below you can see and hear how the pitch of the sound and the wavelength change together.  We measure wavelength in units called Hertz. 1 Hertz is one cycle per second. In the image above imagine that it takes one second to get from the flute to the ear. Then there are 8 cycles in the top sound is so frequency is 8 hertz and there are 3 cycles in the bottom sound so the  wavelength is 3 Hertz.

You can now test your hearing.    Take Care….make sure you have control of the volume.

 

 

Thanks to
Orion Lawlor, for the water ripples video, Published on 9 Jan 2011
Earmaster at https://www.earmaster.com/music-theory-online/
The ISVR from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton.
The Sound Video, unknown but thanks.

“How do people survive in the jungle?” asks Lachlan (8)

Thank you team, for your comments.

You are right Homo Sapiens survived because of their hunting and gathering skills.They were better at it than their fellow humans  Homo Neanderthal and the other human groups (Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo rudolfensis …..)

Some clever people have found, that we still have hunting and gathering skills in our blood. So there you are, we will/might be able to cope in a jungle environment.

Revised 11/11/17 – added other homo species.

“Why does the sky go green when it hails?” asks Swifty (11)

What a question? Thanks  team for your thoughts. To me it seems to be a unique mixing of the colours from our sunlight. We know that the blue sky is because of the blue part of the spectrum of colour that comes from the white light from the Sun.

Some of the blue part of that spectrum of light is scattered when it hits the molecules of Oxygen and Nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. So blue coloured light illuminates the daytime sky. We know that when we see a sunset we can see a red sky in the distance and that is because we are looking at the Sun through a lot more atmosphere than we would do in a normal day. This is the dust that is in the atmosphere. In the experiment the milk acts as a ‘dust’ in the water.

I attach a NASA video that explains this then I will tell you my ideas about a green sky.

My thinking, and that of some others, is that the green sky is linked to the storm clouds (the background image above, was a pause in the hailstorm that the cyclists were experiencing). These were preventing some of the sunlight reaching the viewer who saw a yellow light mixed with the blue sunlight. the mixture of these lights could have caused the green light (a cyano type of light, like that below).

Very happy to hear comments and questions. Remember science development is about admitting your ignorance and my thoughts above are just thoughts. You and I need to do some further investigations.

Revised 10/1/18 to include experiment and colour example.

Keith (13) asked a question about thermal papers in cash machines.

Keith’s question
More and more places are using thermal paper as a form of receipt paper for customers. With time the information fades. How can one scientifically go about recovering information which may have faded from thermal paper.

Keith, many thanks for the question. I never realised that thermal(heat sensitive) paper was used in so many places and that it is also the basis on which the polaroid camera worked.

Thermal paper is made using a collection of dyes which exist as colourless crystals that become coloured when they interact with an acid.


For those who enjoy their chemistry you might have come across adding a dye called phenolphthalein to an acid solution. The dye changes from colourless to a deep purple.

The applied heat (from the cash register machine) melts a layer in the paper which contains acid crystals. The liquid acid then interacts with the layer below it which contains a colourless crystalline dye which changes colour as the acid interacts with it.  The print then shows. The acid quickly becomes crystalline again.

Over time the print does begin to disappear.

A little investigation.

Obtain an old till receipt which your adults do not want to save. Put it onto an ironing board and with a hot (care) iron, iron it.

Stop

To make it more scientific predict what you think might happen before you carry out the experiment. Any ideas, if so you have a hypothesis.  Now find a very old (fading) receipt and using a hair drier blow warm air onto the BACK of the receipt. Again predict.

I think I’ll stop there. Many thanks for the question Keith. Please comment or ask another question.