Friday, October 3, 2008

Experiment of the Week - Chromatography

Chromatography is the science of separating chemicals, based on how much they stick to paper. We are going to use this interesting science to look at the differences in inks.

To try this, you will need:

- watercolor paper or similar absorbent paper
- several black ink pens from different manufacturers
- a cup
- isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol
- scissors

Cut several strips of the paper, about one inch wide and as long as the cup is deep. On the first strip, use one of the pens to make a black dot about half an inch from one end. That end will be the bottom. At the top of the strip, make a mark that will help you identify which pen made the mark. For example, one my my pens had a blue cap, so I put a “B” on that strip. Do the same thing, using a different pen on each strip.

Put about a quarter of an inch of isopropyl alcohol into the cup. Then place the strips into the cup, with the dot side down. Be sure that the dots are above the level of the alcohol.

Then wait...and wait....and wait. All in all, you need to wait about 20 minutes. You should check on the strips every few minutes, and notice what is happening to the ink.

You should see the alcohol soaking into the paper and slowly rising up the strip. As it passes the ink, it should carry some of the ink with it, but instead of seeing black ink rise up the strip, you will probably see a mixture of several colors. Those colors will separate into bands, with one color at the top, and other colors beneath that. Why does that happen?

The pigments in the ink are supposed to stick to the paper, to keep the ink from rubbing off. Some of them stick better than others. As the alcohol moves across the ink, it carries some of the pigments along with it. Pigments which are very sticky will not move very far or very fast. In fact, if they are sticky enough, they may not move at all.

On the other hand, pigments that are less sticky move farther and faster. You wind up with a band of color (the least sticky) at the top, followed by the pigment that is a little stickier, and so on, until you get to the most sticky at the bottom.

You can try this in other ways too. Try this experiment with several pens, until you find two that are very different. Then make a dot with one pen, and then color the dot again with the other pen. You have mixed the pigments from the two, so now you will get bands for all the colors from both. The more inks you mix, the more complex your chromatography will be. You can also try it with other pigments, besides ink. You can even rub colorful fruits and vegetables on the paper to make the spots, and then use chromatography to see if their color is made up of more than one kind of pigment.

Have a wonder-filled week!
Copyright © 2006 - 2008. Robert Krampf's Science Education Co. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Tonight's Sky - Highlights of the October Sky

Each month we will feature a movie about the night sky. In order to view that movie, just click on the link below. You'll need Flash Player 7 (or better) to watch the movie. Get the Flash Player plug-in.
These movies are taken from the web site:

This month's feature is "Highlights of the October Sky". Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Experiment of the Week - White Balance

Have you ever taken a photograph indoors and found that all the colors turned out wrong? Everything may have looked far too yellow or far too blue. It was not the fault of your camera. Instead, you probably forgot to set the white balance. What is white balance? Lets find out.

To try this, you will need
- a camera. You can use a digital camera, cell phone, etc.
- different kinds of lighting
- a white object

Start outside, in a well lit area. You don’t need to be in bright sunlight, just enough light to give you a good photograph. Hold a sheet of white paper or some other white object and have someone take your photograph.

Then take the same white object indoors. Find a room where you have several incandescent lights. These are the lights that we normally use in our homes. Again, pose with the white object and have your photo taken again.

Last, find a place where there is bright, fluorescent lighting. Often kitchen lighting is fluorescent. Usually these bulbs are long tubes, but recently, you can find bulbs where the tubes are spiraled, to make them fit into a regular lamp. Once again, pose with the white object and have your photo taken.

The results will vary a lot, depending on your camera. Most cameras have some software built in, to help correct color, but you should still be able to see quite a difference when you compare the three colors. The outdoor shot should have good color, while everything in the incandescent shot will look yellowish, and everything in the fluorescent shot will have a blue tint.

Why don’t you see that with your eyes? Well, actually you do, but your brain automatically white balances what you see. You brain knows that sheet of paper is white, so it color corrects what you see to make it register as white. If you really stop and pay attention, you can see the color difference, but if you don’t really look, you will see the object as white in all three kinds of lighting.

I even found that I could watch my cell phone camera do the white balance. Place a white sheet of paper in a room lit by incandescent lighting. Turn on your cell phone camera and hold it close enough for the paper to fill most of the screen. Watch closely. At first, the paper will look quite yellow, but after a second, the screen will shift, making the paper look white. Your camera just white balanced itself, to make the photo look better.

I just wish that video cameras worked as fast and as well as our eyes. That would make my job a lot easier!

Have a wonder-filled week!

Taken from Robert Krampf Science Education Co.
Visit this site for more experiments and science fun!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Inventor of the Week - Adrian Chernoff

Rubber Bandits®

A seemingly simple idea sometimes can become an incredibly successful, mass-market product that makes life a little bit easier for millions. Such is the case with Rubber Bandits®, oversized rubber bands equipped with tear-resistant, waterproof labels, created by self-described “idea czar” Adrian Chernoff in 2004.

Chernoff was born in 1971 and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1996, followed by an M.S. in Manufacturing Engineering, as well as an M.B.A., in 1999, all from the University of New Mexico. He began a career in product development, first working for NASA as a mechanical engineer, with one-year stints at Walt Disney Imagineering, Sandia National Laboratories, and Los Alamos National Labs before landing at General Motors Corp. in 2000, where he spent five and a half years working as Chief Vehicle Architect. At GM, Chernoff developed a variety of innovative vehicle designs, including several powered by alternative forms of energy.

In 2004, he received a phone call from his mother who had heard of a competition held by the office supply store chain Staples®. The competition, called Invention Quest, invited entrants to submit ideas for products from which judges (including Staples founder Tom Stemberg and Post-It Note® inventor Art Fry) would choose several to go into production. Cash prizes would be awarded, along with licensing agreements.

Chernoff didn’t have much time, but he told his mother he would enter. Just one week before the deadline, while sitting on a bus in Colorado on the way to visit his brother, he began brainstorming ideas. He thought about the challenges he faced himself when it came to organizing files and media at work and remembered that he had once tried to attach a sticky note to a rubber band, but that the sticky note had fallen off and gotten lost. That’s when he had the idea of adding a label to a rubber band. He began sketching illustrations of how it could work, simply wrapping a rubber band around bunches of documents, disks, scrolls, tools, even flowers, and having a foolproof label attached to the band for easy identification.

Chernoff submitted his idea and made it through several rounds of competition, continually improving his design with each round. In the end, Staples chose his Rubber Bandits from among more than 8,000 entries; they awarded Chernoff $5,000 and signed him to an exclusive two-year agreement. In 2005, the company began selling the colorful bands in retail stores across the country. The bands were sold through late 2007.

Meanwhile, Chernoff left GM to start his own ideas company, 2 Smart + 1, where he serves as CEO. Later he founded a think tank called Ideation Genesis, where he is Chief Innovation Officer. He serves a variety of clients through these entities in industries ranging from entertainment and consumer goods to manufacturing and automobiles.

Chernoff holds over 75 patents with more than 20 others pending and has been recognized with a number of honors for his achievements. He was recipient of a General Motors Chairman’s Award during his tenure there and was named a Distinguished Engineer in 2007 by his alma mater. In addition to his startup ventures and consulting work, he runs the website, devoted to inspiring individuals who have each, in some way, changed the world.

Science Project of the Week - Make a Fossil from Glue!

By Mike Calhoun

Your fifth grader will be learning all about fossils this year. Fossils are ancient plant, animal and microbe life that lived in the distance past preserved in stone. You can make your own fossils at home with a little modeling clay and glue.

What You Need:
White glue
Modeling clay
Seashell or other hard natural objects like bones, or small tree branches.

What You Do:
Have your child collect 2-3 objects like seashells, bones, tree limbs, etc.
Place one of the selected objects on a flat surface like a table top. Press the clay into the object. The impression should not be too deep (the deeper the impression, the longer it will take for the glue to dry).
Slowly and carefully pull the object out of the clay. Try not to have the clay stretch or smear when you remove the object. The impression of the object in the clay forms a “mold” of the object even if the object is gone.
Next, take white glue and fill in the mold. In a real fossil when animals rot beneath the soil, the space they filled can be filled with minerals from groundwater. The glue is like those minerals.
Let the glue dry. The time it takes to dry depends on the depth of the impression.
When the glue has dried, peel back the glue shape from the clay. The glue shape is a “cast” of the object. Many fossils are preserved as casts and molds. Sometimes there is excess glue around the “fossil.” Cut away the excess glue with your fingers or scissors. Many natural fossils have excess material around them and have to be cleaned to see the original fossil.
Follow up this activity with a trip to your local science museum so that they can see a real fossil!
Mike is a 20-year veteran science teacher, and runs an online business ( Over the years Mike has studied trends in science, education, and finance, conducting research, developing programs, and writing articles on these topics.
© Copyright 2006-2008 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ecosystem of the Week - Coral Reef

Coral reefs are aragonite structures produced by living organisms, found in marine waters with little to no nutrients in the water. High nutrient levels such as those found in runoff from agricultural areas can harm the reef by encouraging the growth of algae.[1] In most reefs, the predominant organisms are stony corals, colonial cnidarians that secrete an exoskeleton of calcium carbonate. The accumulation of skeletal material, broken and piled up by wave action and bioeroders, produces a massive calcareous formation that supports the living corals and a great variety of other animal and plant life. Although corals are found both in temperate and tropical waters, shallow-water reefs are formed only in a zone extending at most from 30°N to 30°S of the equator. Tropical corals do not grow at depths of over 50 m (165 ft). Temperature has less of an effect on the distribution of tropical coral, but it is generally accepted that they do not exist in waters below 18 °C.[2]. However, deep water corals can exist at greater depths and colder temperatures. Although deep water corals also form reefs, very little is known about them. --Taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Video of the Week - The Science of Balance

You can shift your center of gravity by moving your arms and legs, or by bending and twisting your body. That is the reason that you flail your arms to keep your balance. Your body is trying to reposition its center of gravity over its base.

When you do things that you normally do, such as standing or walking, your body knows how to keep your center of gravity over your base. You learned that as an infant when you learned to walk. When you try something new, like Tree Pose, it takes practice for your body to learn how to keep your shifted center of gravity over a smaller base. The more you practice, the easier it gets to balance. Also remember that adding or removing weight will also shift your center of gravity. Holding the book in your hand will shift it a bit. The closer the added weight is to your center of gravity, the easier it will be to balance. With that in mind, adding a bowl of ice cream to my middle should make Tree Pose a bit easier. That is something that will require repeated experiments to test. Sounds fun to me. Click below to see "The Science of Balance" video.

Taken from Robert Krampf Science Education Co.
Visit this site for more experiments and science fun!!

Answer to Last Week's Famous Scientist

James Watt (19 January 173625 August 1819[1]) was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both Britain and the world.

For more interesting information on James Watt go to

100% of you answered correctly!! Way to go!!

Famous Scientists

Below are 5 clues to who I am. Read through them and then vote below. Next week, I will give you the answer. Good luck!!

Clue #1: Nationality - English
Clue #2: Lived: 1791 - 1867
Clue #3: I was a bookbinder apprentice and gained much knowledge from reading the books.
Clue #4: I was the first to describe the element chlorine and the compound benzene.
Clue #5: Below is a picture of me.

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

I am the Famous Scientist