Speedy Experiment – Lemon Volcano20/08/2020

I can’t say I’m a big fan of lemons. They’re just like oranges, but a more boring colour and with a horrible taste. But, like them or hate them, with a few simple ingredients, you can turn them into a lemon volcano! You don’t need time or a laboratory for this one; like the tremendous teabag rocket, the test takes less than ten minutes. Furthermore, it uses entirely household materials, so won’t harm the environment!

You will need:

  • A lemon – mine was quite an old one, which was good as it stopped me from wasting food.
  • A spoon
  • A knife (get a grown-up’s help for this one!)
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A spare container; the second ramekin (little dish) in my photograph has a dash of washing-up liquid under the recommendation of another experimenter; however, I found that I didn’t need this.

The method:

1) Cut the two ends off of the lemon with the knife.

2) Use the spoon to core out some of the middle.

This should make a “bowl” shape like the image above.

3) Squeeze out the lemon juice from the lemon-ends into the spare container.

4) Add some bicarbonate of soda to your lemon-bowl.

The lemon juice will react with the soda and create an eruption. If your reaction is underwhelming, add a little of your spare lemon juice…

If you like, try testing the lemon volcano method with other citrus fruit. Does it work with lime? Orange? Grapefruit?

The science:

Bicarbonate of soda contains carbon – it’s in the name (bicarbonate) . When the citric acid in lemon juice reacts with the soda, those carbon dixoide atoms gain two oxygen atom companions each, and become carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas, so that creates bubbles in the juice-and-soda – and because quite a lot of it is being produced, the lemon seems to erupt!

Speedy Experiment – Alien Goo05/08/2020

Alien goo. What is it? Why do aliens use it? When did aliens discover it? I can’t answer any of those questions, because as far as we know, alien goo doesn’t exist. But I can tell you how to make something a lot like it! This goo will magically change form before your very eyes. You don’t need time or a laboratory for this one; like the tremendous teabag rocket, the test takes less than ten minutes. Furthermore, it uses entirely household materials, so won’t harm the environment!

WARNING: This is an extremely messy experiment, especially if there are any excited children involved. Make sure you’re wearing clothes you don’t mind getting stained!

The alien goo ingredients:

  • Some water
  • As much cornflour or cornstarch as you can acquire
  • Some food colouring – I used orange.
  • A bowl
  • A measuring jug
  • Some newspaper to cover any surfaces

The alien goo method:

1) Measure out some water – perhaps 100ml – and pour that into the bowl.

2) Dry the jug, then add four times that amount in cornflour to the water.

3) Add seven or eight drops of food colouring.

4) Mix it all together and let if flow!

“Alien goo” is… strange. You can pick it up like a solid, roll it up into balls and shapes, but the moment you suspend it in the air, it seems to “melt” like a liquid.

Be warned – siblings seek this stuff out like they can smell it. Perhaps they’re aliens too…

The alien goo science:

This “alien goo” is a “non-Newtonian fluid”. Isaac Newton, who calculated loads about gravity, made a “law”  – that’s a prediction about physics – that liquids will always behave in a certain way. But, naturally, we’ve discovered more since he lived 400 years ago. One of the things we’ve discovered is liquids that don’t follow that law he made – alien goo being one of them. And because they don’t do what Newton said, they’re non-Newton-ian fluids!

Speedy experiment – nervous coins22/07/2020

Your pocket money is alive! Well, sort of. Well, not really. But your coins will certainly seem alive after this experiment. You don’t need time or a laboratory for this one; like the tremendous teabag rocket, the test takes less than ten minutes. Furthermore, it uses entirely household materials, so won’t harm the environment!

You will need:

  • An old bottle – I used an old wine bottle; if your parents don’t have one of those about, you can use any any tall glass container
  • Coins – I tested two, but aim for multiple sizes (as long as one is large enough to cover the mouth of the bottle)
  • Some water
  • Access to a freezer

The method:

1) Remove the bottle cap, and place the empty bottle in the freezer.

2) While you’re waiting (at least five minutes), immerse your coins in water.

3) Remove the bottle from the freezer, and place one of the coins on top.

The coin should jump around and make strange clicking noises, like some sort of especially nervous robot. Try testing with other sizes of coin. Does it work if the coin doesn’t cover the entirety of the hole? What about with different coin materials? Do you have any coins from other countries that you could test?

The science:

As the helpful diagram below shows us, hot air rises.

Warm-Up: Why does hot air rise and cold air fall downward ...

On top of that, it also takes up a larger volume of space than cool air. This means that if you put cool air inside a container – for example, a recycled bottle – it will try to escape as it warms up.

When you take the uncapped bottle out of the freezer, the air inside the bottle begins to warm up, rising and expanding. The coin on top moves simply because the new larger air is pushing past it.

So, no, as far as we know, coins aren’t sentient. But they can jump about when air warms up behind them, and that is very fun to watch.

The BIG EXPERIMENT results!14/07/2020

You dunked. And you dunked. And you dunked, and dunked, and dunked…

In our big experiment, we asked young scientists and their parents across the country to dunk three types of branded biscuit. With this data, we’ve been able to work out which is the most dunkable. But who was the winner? Let’s take a look…

Five simple science experiments to do at home09/06/2020

Lockdown can be frustrating, boring and repetitive, especially if you’re a scientist. Here’s some of our favourite simple science experiments to do at home!

1. The Tremendous Tea rocket

Time: 10 minutes

Grown-ups like to say that they enjoy tea because it “tastes nice” or “wakes them up”. I’m now able to exclusively reveal that this is not true. The real reason that grown-ups enjoy tea is because every tea bag is actually a tiny space rocket!

For the first of our simple science experiments to do at home, you’ll need a parent to supervise you, not just because it’s do with the tea, but because there are scissors and fire involved. You’re going to need four things:

  • A plate
  • A tea bag, one of the posh ones with a little label
  • Some scissors
  • Some matches or a lighter

This is super fun and super quick. Snip off the top of the tea bag, then, carefully empty the contents out into a bin or container. Put that aside.

Stand the now empty tea bag upright, so it’s in a cylinder shape with a hole at each end, like a pipe.

Then, light either side of the tea bag at the top. The fire will trickle down the sides, and then the tea bag will be propelled into the air!

The science behind this one is satisfyingly simple. The air inside the tea bag is heated up by the fire. When air molecules are heated, they become less dense and begin to rise up. As the air inside the tea bag rises up above the air outside of it, the teabag goes with it, like a burnt parachute.

This one was almost too fast to capture on camera!

2. The Brilliant Bin Bag Balloon

Time: 25 minutes

Rockets not your flying vehicle of choice? Hot air balloons more your thing? Then dash into the kitchen and fetch:

  • A bin bag
  • String
  • 8 paper clips
  • Hair dryer

hot air balloon bag

Prepare your bin bag – you may want to use a plain one, or you could draw on it or add decorations . Tie the bottom of it (the end that that isn’t “open”) with some string, and turn it so that the string is facing upwards. Then, attach the paperclips at equal intervals around the edge of the opening of the bag (now facing downwards) to weigh it down. Get someone to hold the end with some string, and blast air from your hair dryer under the opening of the bag. Your bag will float into the air!


3. The Incredible Invisible Ink

Time: 25 minutes

Spies in films spend huge amounts of money on complicated equipment and complex procedures. This is a little unnecessary, really, because all you need to complete spy work is one of these simple science experiments to do at home. Grab these:

  • Paper
  • A lemon
  • A knife *adult assistance needed*
  • A bowl
  • Cotton buds
  • An iron *adult assistance needed*

These are the ingredients for invisible ink, so have a secret message ready!

To make your concoction, cut the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Take a cotton bud and dip one end into the bowl of lemon juice. Dip the cotton bud in the lemon juice, and write the message on the paper. Let it dry for fifteen minutes. Then, with an adult’s help, iron over the message. It will become visible!

invisible ink experiment

Write a message to your fellow spies – though you should probably make it more informative than ours!

This simple science experiment has, once again, fairly simply science. Lemon juice contains the chemical element carbon. When heated, the carbon bonds break, and the carbon is released. Carbon turns a different colour when it reacts with the air. Hence, your message.

4.  The Outstanding Orange Observation

Time: Five minutes

If combustible rocket ships and spy-talk seems all a bit much, why don’t we do an experiment that’s a little calmer. Let’s explore an orange’s buoyancy in water.

This one is the simplest of our experiments. All you need is:

  • An orange
  • A deep bowl or container
  • Some water

Pour the water into your bowl and plop the orange in. Have a look at what it does.

Now try peeling the orange. What happens then?

Assuming your unpeeled orange floated, and your peeled orange doesn’t, you’ve just observed the effect of air pockets. There are many tiny air pockets contained in the peel of an orange. This means it has a lower density than the water, and floats above it – this is also how pool floats work. When you peel an orange, you’ve taken away its air pockets, so its density becomes much greater than that of water. Thus, it drops!

5. The BIG Fun Science biscuit dunking experiment!

Of all our simple science experiments to do at home, this might be the one we’re most excited about; it’s the perfect introduction to the scientific method and gives the perfect opportunity to eat lots of biscuits. The Fun Science BIG experiment launched on the 1st of June, and the only things you need are:

  • A glass
  • Some water
  • Three brands of biscuit

Then, check out our worksheets here to conduct your very own observation and test the strength of your favourite biscuits. Children from all across the country will be contributing their results to this – nobody should miss out on the biggest collaborative science project since the moon landing!

Looking for more experiments? Click here to visit our shop and find our home learning science kits for parents and teachers.