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Particle Plushies June 30, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Physics, Weird Gadgets.
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Particle Plushies

I’ve always been a fan of toys and I don’t think I’ll ever grow too old for this kind of neat novelty stuff. The toys in the picture above are called Particle Plushies and were created by Julie Peasley with the help of science consultant and physicist Derek van Westrum.

Tau Neutrino Strange Quark Photon

According to Julie:

I have had a lifelong interest in cosmology, the quantum world and theoretical physics. The Particle Plushies idea came about after attending a physics lecture at UCLA by Dr. Lawrence Krauss entitled ‘The Beginning and End of Time.’ A couple of difficult physics books later (including Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages), I realized that the individual particles seemed to have various ‘personalities’ that could be ‘felted out’ with relative ease.

The toys aren’t meant for really young children but they’re a fun item to have hanging around the house. Better still, these plushies combine art and science to provide education and understanding.

Particle Plushies 2

As for the weird science blog, these cute, smiling toys are hereby approved for coolness!

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Cooking Up Plastics October 3, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Cool Experiments, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Think About It.
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Video Credit: New Scientist.

This is one of those surprisingly simple science experiments that gives a very cool, unexpected result from some basic ingredients found in your kitchen! As with any experiments, you should have a parent around to help you, especially with the heating aspect. Have fun and give it a go!

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Fizz, Bubble And Pop July 23, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Environment, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Think About It.
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Most of us have seen the intense pictures of an erupting volcano, which shows scorching hot lava flowing down the steep terrain. But what about those volcanoes that just seem to bubble, froth and fizz without ever properly erupting? Well, scientists think that the reason for this occurrence can be found deep in the volcano. The problem is-who wants to climb into the volcano to check? Not me! Fortunately, there are safe ways to find out.

stromboli4.jpg stromboli2.jpg stromboli.jpg

Good Old Stromboli

Stromboli sounds like the name of a pizza but in this case, I’m way off the mark! One specific volcano in Italy called Stromboli has been spluttering up several hundred meter high jets of red hot lava for thousands of years. Patrick Allard, a researcher at the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (that’s a mouthful!) in Catania, Italy and his colleagues have been studying the gases to determine their types. How’d they do that? Well, it’s actually really cool.


They directed infrared light into the gases and then analyzed the spectra of light that the gases emitted. When a gas becomes excited, it emits a line spectrum. Different kinds of gas will emit different kinds of line spectrums so researchers can use this information to identify the gas. They also looked at models of Stromboli and it was then that they realized the jets were actually coming from gas bubbles way deep down from the volcano floor. How deep? Try 3 kilometers deep!

So What Does This Mean?

It could mean that the gas bubbles are forming at cracks on the volcano floor and then sort of fizzing up-kinda like a can of pop when you shake it just a little-before breaking the surface of Stromboli. I don’t know about you, but frankly, I’m relieved that there are safe scientific ways to learn about this stuff. As beautiful as the volcano pictures are, I really didn’t want to imagine anyone getting too near that burning lava.

Credit: Pictures were generously provided by Jürg Alean, Roberto Carniel and Marco Fulle from www.stromboli.net. Their project involves educating people about volcanoes and the Earth Sciences through images and other media.

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Fizzy Powerful Fun With Mentos July 3, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Cool Experiments, Easy As Pie, Physical and Chemical Reactions.
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You might have tried out the Mentos Eruption yourself. It’s the one where you drop a roll of Mentos candy into a bottle or can of Diet Coke. The frothy idea is the work of a quirky science educator called Steve Spangler. The video above was made by Mentos after Steve suggested that they slow down a recording of the reaction, so we can see all the nifty stuff that happens.

There are different ideas about how the reaction occurs. Various additives and properties give the reaction its powerful kick. The caffeine, aspartame, potassium benzoate and gases all fuel the eruption. The Mentos have lots of air holes-or pores-which are the perfect place for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. When the Mentos drop into the Diet Coke, loads of these bubbles form on the candy surface. As the Mentos quickly sink down through the Diet Coke, carbon dioxide gets released by the Diet Coke. All that temperamental pressure sends the liquid shooting up into the air!

You can see more about the Mentos Eruption on Steve Spangler’s website.

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