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?

“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
The ISVR from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton.
The Sound Video, unknown but thanks.

Braiden (9) asks “What makes a diamond so hard?.

Braiden, my question (before I turn you over to my team) is how do you detect ‘hardness’? Can you create an order of hardness with some common materials?
Lets say:

wood (balsa)
wood (oak)
plastic object
bath sponge
china(cups and saucers)
concrete pathway
metal fork
rock (sandstone)
piece of coal
pencil rubber 
For obvious reasons I have not included diamond in this list. I think that would be an interesting experiment to carry out. You will have to make sure it is a fair test 

Now over to my team.

Graphite has a layered structure with weak forces between the layers, This is a weaker structure than the close bonding of the diamond. The carbon atoms like the tetrahedral arrangement of the bonds with other carbon atoms. It is a very strong force.

Hope that makes some sense. If you have questions about the explanation please ask them. If you want to see my ‘hardness’ list go to Science Master Special-Hardness Results

Updated 15/1/2018  Experiment added.

William (9), Erika (10) and Alissa (10) asked some questions on fossil fuels

Erika asked “Why are fossil fuels so expensive?”

Alissa asked “How were fossil fuels found?”

William asked “how is oil made?”

I asked my friends to to talk about this however firstly I would like to talk about what makes a good science question.

science question is a question that may lead to observations, an idea and help us in answering (or figuring out) the reason for some observation and the question.

Erika’s question is a good economics question.

Miners (those who look for oil and coal) have a variety of clever tools to help them find the fossil fuel. For example they can use ‘sniffers’. The  sniffers can detect small amounts of oil vapour which might find their way out of the rocks that are hiding the oil. They also use seismic detection methods. Seismic waves were used to investigate the Earths core however the oil explorers do not use earthquakes to create the seismic wave – they use special guns or explosives. The shock waves (seismic waves) travel through the rock and at some point they are reflected back and return to the surface. The waves are recorded and examined and they tell the explorer what type of material (rock, water, oil, coal) they have traveled through.

So the question from William has led to further observations and thoughts which lead me to another question……If I left my garden rubbish for a year would it turn into coal? If not why?

Edited 20/10/17 – image changed, link added and seismic waves discussed

Some questions on Gold from Chantelle (7), Shelby(9) and Mary(9)

Chantelle asked “Why is gold so hard to find?”

Shelby asked “Why is gold so heavy and hard to pick up ?”

Mary asked “Why is gold so expensive?”

Chantelle, Shelby and Mary some great questions , thank you. But are they science questions? Lets look at what a science question is.

science question is a question that may lead to an idea and help us in answering (or figuring out) the reason for some observation.

For example ‘Why is gold so heavy?” …so firstly let us look at what gold is. Gold is a solid –  Is it a rock? Is it wood? Is it plastic? Is it a metal? ……it seems to fit into the group called metals (it’s cold to the touch, it’s solid, it can be scratched, it’s shiny, it’s heavy) it’s a metal. So Shelby’s second question is a good science question.

Is it heavier than other metals?  It doesn’t seem to be heavier than other metals but how do I test this?  Fair tests are important in science investigations. Being fair I compared my gold with with metals of comparable size? It is heavier, why? Maybe the bits which make up the gold are heavier than the bits that make up other metals?

Chantelle. I think gold is quite easy to find compared to other metals. Lots of other metals, iron, silver, copper and aluminium exist as minerals  so they are quite difficult to find. What is a mineral? Look at the following page.

Science Master


“How does sound travel in things other than air?” asks Lilly(12)

Hello Molly, Science Master here. Lets’ check that we understand how sound is produced and what it is. Sound is a form of Energy ( see Science Master Special).  It is transmitted by particles hitting each other.

So what do you think? Could you hear the sound underwater?  Could you hear the sound further along the metal tube?

Lets improve the experiment by making it fairer. How could we do this?

Let us look at the particle arrangement in the air, water and metal.

The average distance between particles for a gas is 4 nanometers (1 nanometer = 10-9 meters), for a liquid it is 0.2 of a nanometer and for the solid 0.0002 of a nanometer.

So. If the first line of particles in the gas starts moving it has to travel 4 nanometers before it hits the second row. For the liquid this would be a smaller distance and for the metal it would be hardly any distance. What does that tell you about the speed of travel of sound?

Does your experiments support your thoughts? Maybe it needs to be modified? How could you modify it to really test your thoughts.

Just a thought of my own. The sound source (drum, spoon tapping, violin) gives the particles around it ENERGY. Those particles in air have to travel a long distance before they hit another particle and pass the sound on. All this time they are losing ENERGY. For the metal the particles only have to travel a little way before passing on the vibration.

(added 27/10/16)

Not sure of something Lilly…ask another question.

(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)

“What was the first plant that ever grew on Earth?” asks Mahdiyat (8)

So what now? Thanks team, some good answers.

It would be great if we could do some small investigations using Moss.

1.Firstly let us confirm that the moss has no stems or flowers.

2. Secondly a more long term experiment. Try ‘planting’ your moss on a rock. Before planting look closely at the surface of the rock. compare the surface 6 months after planting (and not disturbing the Moss).

Now a story ……..

The moss was the Earth’s first plant and it took over the world. It damaged the rocks it settled on and it took all of the Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere. This made the Earth very very cold (the first ice age). The coldness killed most of the moss and as the Carbon Dioxide built up again it allowed other plants to share the Earth with it.

(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)

“Why does my banana skin go brown when I peel it off? asked Gina (10)

Gina, it seems to be something about the ‘breaking’ of the skin of the fruit, which lets  in oxygen and allows it to react with some of the fruits chemicals.

We could test that idea. One way to test it might be to try and stop the ‘breaking’ of the skin of the banana. Can you think of a way of removing the skin without breaking or damaging it?

We could also test the role of oxygen. Any ideas how? If you have an idea why not try it  by comparing the speed of ‘browning’ for your oxygen and ‘no oxygen’ banana skin?

Remember to try and make the tests as fair as possible. Think about what that may mean. Remember a fair test means only changing one thing at a time while you try and keep all other things constant.

Let me know how you got on by Leaving a Reply in the box below.