Our third MEL Science box arrived back in August, when we were on vacation. We have already tried two experiments from the box, both perhaps more suitable for winter. Instant Snow, using sodium polyacrylate (the stuff you can find in diapers):
Laser beam retracting and its reflection visible in water:
A plastic prism as a beam splitter:
Laser beam reflection visible in water steam:
One or two balls in the bowl?
Yet another cool experiment inspired by Physics Girl. Simon tries stacking balls to increase the bounce of the top ball (that gets extra energy from the bottom ball/balls).
Simon’s second attempt at this experiment, unlisted:
Simon learned about this experiment from Physics Girl and tried several variations with a number of plastic plates and frisbees. He even got kicked out of a fashionable pool in Southern France for doing weird stuff with a plastic plate in the water. “Are you stupid or something?” the guard yelled at me when I tried to explain that it was a science experiment.
This video is a rather short visual summary of what two connected
vortices actually look like.
If you want to hear Simon explain the Physics behind the phenomenon, check out this longer video:
And here is yet another video with Simon trying (not extremely successfully) to add food colouring to emphasise the vortices’ shape. We actually set up a huge inflatable kiddy pool specifically for that last try. Anything for science!
Although vacation is a vague notion in our family, where days are devoted to doing favourite things 365 days a year. For Simon, that means that his days are filled to the brim with science experiments, practicing math and devouring books and videos on quantum mechanics, also when he is on vacation (away from home). The past three weeks in Southern France and Spanish Sitges also involved a lot of swimming and enjoying the outdoors of course, but science remains Simon’s top priority. He also felt like he had grown unaccustomed to the beach overkill (while at home, we only went to the beach something like once a week max) and couldn’t bear the sand sticking to his wet feet for a while. By the time we settled at our Spanish Airbnb he gradually got acclimatised to this continuous sensory ordeal though and I was happy to see him relax at the seashore, especially on the last day of our stay. He had spent about two hours in the water (experimenting with vortices, swimming after a ball and just playing silly), and didn’t even want to get the sand off his feet anymore. We just sat there on the beautiful retro beach in Sitges, hugging and watching the sea, in absolute tranquility. Simon had even forgotten that Daniel Shiffman’s live stream was due that evening!
Made a lot of “binary calculators” (above)
Helped little sis learn fractions
Introduced little sis to infinite fractions
Checked out his new lathe tools and tried sawing
Experimented a whole lot (with surface tension, forces, water and gases)
Yet another experiment
Followed tutorials by Physics Girl, Up and Atop, PBS Space Time, Veritasium, Reactions, PBS Infinite Series
Loved his new Larry Gonnick Calculus book and did quite a lot of… Calculus. It was quite funny when a restaurant owner noticed Simon differentiate at dinnertime and was very impressed. He trend out to be a former high school science teacher. Interesting how Simon’s giftedness is usually only openly appreciated by those who have some understanding of the subjects he elaborates upon. People with less understanding show less tolerance, like a guard at the French swimming pool who told us off and snatched Simon’s (clean) plastic plate away, not allowing Simon to carry out his beloved vortices experiment in the public pool (resulting in a huge meltdown and Simon being afraid the pool would close or change rules every day).
Launching propeller rockets on the beach
Simon’s first chemical equations. He first thought they worked like linear equations 🙂
More Physics Girl inspired experiments
Favourite one: burning matches in a glass results in all the water in a shallow plate getting sucked into the glass (water level rising). Has a physical and a chemical explanation!
Favourite evening activity
Loving the waves
If you put a cereal flake in a bowl of water you can steer it with a strong magnet. The magnets above aren’t strong enough, but the really powerful ones below (that are dangerous to pull apart as they can actually injure you) are:
And if you grind the cereal into powder, the powder sticks to the magnet because of the iron atoms in the cereal:
Inspired by the Veritasium channel.
Today we opened our second MEL Chemistry box with two experiments using tin (Sn). We made a tin dendrite and grew a tin hedgehog. Both experiments involved preparing a tin chloride SnCl2 solution (by mixing tin chloride with a sodium bisulfate). In the first experiment, we had electric current flow through the solution (by connecting it to batteries via crocodile clips), so it acted like an electrolyte. A tin reduction reaction took place: Sn2+(solution) + 2e–→ Sn(solid)
The tin dendrite grows in the direction that the electric current flows through the solution; from one clip towards the other:
In the second experiment, we simply dropped a piece of zinc into the tin chloride solution. What happened as a result was a substitution reaction: some zinc dissolved into the solution, while tin precipitated on the surface of the zinc pellet in the form of lovely needles:
SnCl2 + Zn → Sn + ZnCl2
We have received our first MEL Chemistry box, something the kids were really impatient to start. And guess what, finally something to be proud of being a Russian from St.Petersburg – that’s where MEL Science kits are actually being made! It’s been a while since I have seen a “Made in Russia” on anything awesome.
The first two experiments we tried today were part of the Artificial Sea Set: Chemical Seaweed and Chemical Jellyfish. They both involved working with metal salts (sulphates) and watching them react with different solutions. The time lapse video above shows the seaweeds “growing”: “Metal salts gradually dissolve and react with the potassium hexacyanoferrate(II). Insoluble copper, iron and zinc compounds form. These don’t just precipitate out but form “bubbles” because of the osmotic pressure. The fancy chemical seaweed grows from these bubbles”.
It was fun to watch the metal salts change colours: iron turned bright blue and blue copper sulphate turned brownish red!
The funny little things in the petri dish are the “jellyfish” we made as a finishing touch to our artificial sea. We created theses by firing metal salt solutions into sodium silicate (liquid glass). “An ion exchange reaction occurs between the sodium silicate and the metal salts. As a result, insoluble metal silicates form. These resemble jellyfish!”
Metal salts starting to grow in potassium hexacyanoferrate:
Unboxing the first kit:
Busy with the experiment(s):
We also dived into the MEL Chemistry app that allows you to see all the molecules of the reagents involved in 3D.
Inspired by a Numberphile video with Tadashi Tokieda.