Marshmallows in a vacuum

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Hi everyone, its the mom here, with my first Stuff to Teach Our Kids post.

I really like baking, the kids like mixing and licking the bowl. I also like teaching them how and why we mix the ingredients together and the reactions that take place when certain things mix. Baking really is just science. So I went looking for some fun baking experiments we could try.

I came across this video by The Crazy Russian Hacker about what happens to marshmallows in a vacuum. It looks like a really fun experiment to try at home and you can find a vacuum box like the one he uses on Amazon here. You can also make your own vacuum box using a wine bottle and a wine saver pump/stopper (instructions here).

According to the science behind the growing marshmallows is as follows:

Marshmallows have small bubbles of air trapped inside them. These bubbles are at atmospheric pressure. When the air inside the glass container is sucked out, the volume of the container remains the same although there is much less air inside – so the pressure is reduced. The air bubbles inside the marshmallows are therefore at a much higher pressure than the air surrounding the marshmallows, so those bubbles push outwards, causing the marshmallows to expand. When air is let back into the glass container, the surrounding pressure increases again, and the marshmallows deflate back to their normal size.

As soon as we get the vacuum boxes we are going to try this out for ourselves and I will post a video of our results. Please let us know if you try it out too.

Image credit: Marshmellows by Maryam Abdulghaffar, licensed CC BY 2.0

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and it’s Mars mission

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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One of the amazing vehicles humans have sent to Mars to explore the red planet is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. What is the MRO? According to Wikipedia:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. The US$720 million spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is managed by the California Institute of Technology, at the JPL, in La Cañada Flintridge, California, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase. As MRO entered orbit, it joined five other active spacecraft that were either in orbit or on the planet’s surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, 2001 Mars Odyssey, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity); at the time, this set a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars. Mars Global Surveyor and the Spirit rover have since ceased to function; the remainder remain operational as of March 2016.

MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring Mars’ daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system. MRO’s telecommunications system will transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions.

בעברית: בויקיפדיה

The official NASA MRO website also has a great overview of the MRO’s mission which you should read for more background information and links to more information about aspects of the mission.

I noticed a terrific video commemorating 10 years of the MRO’s mission which includes some wonderful imagery:

You can also find a huge gallery of high resolution imagery in the NASA JPL Photojournal that is worth spending some time exploring. Here are some examples:

Wind at work
The Ares 3 Landing Site: Where Science Fact Meets Fiction
Aeolian Features of Scandia Cavi

Image credit: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Audio clips and a companion Facebook Page

I have some news to share with you quickly.

Audio clips

Firstly, I have added audio clips to each of the articles on the site with a short overview of what the article is about. It occurred to me that many of the kids who may visit the site may not be able to read and all the text would be lost on them. Here is an example:

Please let me know if any audio clips don’t work for you? I used an HTML audio tag to embed the clips and the audio clips themselves are hosted on Amazon S3.

Now on Facebook

I created a companion Facebook page to go with this site and make these articles more accessible through the single biggest social network on this planet. I’m still deciding how to use Facebook best but, for now, I’ll share articles from this blog on the page and use Facebook to share quick updates too.

I have also added AMP and Instant Articles support for this site so articles should display that much better on mobile going forward.

The Royal Institution is awesome for kids

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I just watched another episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (finally available on iTunes!) about Michael Faraday and his discoveries about electromagnetism. Faraday was the director of the Royal Institution and started its annual Christmas Lectures back in 1825:

Begun by Michael Faraday in 1825, the CHRISTMAS LECTURES are now broadcast on UK television every December and have formed part of the British Christmas tradition for generations.

The Lectures have taken place every year since they began, stopping only from 1939 to 1942, when it was too dangerous for children to come into central London. The theme changes every year, and they are delivered by an expert in their field.

The reason why I am telling you this is because the Royal Institution has a wonderful collection of videos available on YouTube and its website, many of which are great for kids. One example is this Christmas Lecture by the late Carl Sagan about human space travel:

If you haven’t subscribed to their YouTube channel, definitely do that. It looks like it could be a source of inspiration for sure. Here is a playlist titled “RI Talks” which includes a collection of talks about a range of fascinating topics:

This talk by Andrew Szydlo titled “Fireworks and Waterworks” looks like a lot of fun and I can’t wait to watch this with our kids.

I have a feeling this channel will become my Saturday morning entertainment once I finish watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (again).

Image credit: Royal Institution by David Skinner, licensed CC BY 2.0