Science Saturday – Magical Science

Science has been the foundation for many awesome magic tricks. By understanding how the physical universe works, it is possible to explore things that are invisible to the naked eye, predict how something is going to work, or combine things to make something new and magical!

Your magical science kit has all the ingredients to leave your friends and family in awe of your skill. Click here for detailed instructions on how to use each piece of your science kit (for a Spanish translation click here).

To watch instructional and entertaining videos for each experiment check out the Ott Planetarium page, or check out some of the experiments below!

Still don’t have a kit? You can pick one up at any Weber County Library locations!

Grab & Go Science for Lunch

Special announcement! We have new, FREE grab-and-go science kits being dropped off at all of the Ogden School District Summer Food Service Program sites* today, Thursday, August 6th, some time in the 11:00-Noon hour. We’ll be heading out to distribute lots of new at-home inquiries and investigations.

Please understand that we do the best we can to spread these out, but they are limited. We’re trying to learn the best way to do this in these socially distanced times.

Stay tuned for more integration with other materials and “magic” in upcoming Science Saturday activities.


*Here is the list of Summer Lunch Service locations:

Ben Lomond High
1080 9th Street

Bonneville Elementary
490 Gramercy Ave.

Heritage Elementary
373 S 150 W

James Madison Elementary
2563 Monroe Blvd.

Lincoln Elementary
550 E. Canfield Drive

New Bridge Elementary
2150 Jefferson Ave.

Odyssey Elementary
375 Goddard Street

Ogden High
2828 Harrison Blvd.

West Ogden Park
24th Street & E Ave.

All children under the age of 18 are eligible for the free lunch program Ogden School District.

balance magic

You’re probably familiar with seeing how objects balance. But do you know how to find where an object will naturally, almost magically balance? There are probably a few ways you can discover, but Adam likes to show this trick where he simply moves his fingers towards one another while supporting the object he wants to balance.

Balancing sticks, spoons, and shovels.

Can you balance your own sticks, spoons, shovels, brooms this way? Can you design your own investigation to see how the balance point moves when you add something to one end? How do you think this works?

a walk on the rocks

I like to walk in rocky places. Fortunately, we have lots of this terrain here in our mountains overlooking Ogden and the surrounding area on the Wasatch Front. From here in my backyard mountains (as I like to think of them), I’m looking up at rock cliffs, or maybe across a canyon at a pile of broken rocks, or sometimes in a creek to see the wide array of rounded rocks in the water. I think of this all as “at-home” science observations because it’s so marvelously close to where I live. It’s a good way to get out of my house, go for a walk, and observe and wonder about nature, all at the same time.

A little farther away, in the Uinta Mountains, there are other places to go on a long hike or a shorter walk. I see all of the same things I do here in my “home” mountains, but also some other interesting new observations. Often I’m walking right on top of large rock slabs at high elevation.

When I was walking in this area above Ryder Lake, I loved to see all of the high ridges surrounding me, but the ground I was walking on in this wide open area was very flat and very smooth, as if the bottom of this big, wide bathtub shaped valley had been sanded. But there were also lots of big rocks that were sprinkled around on top, as though they had been dropped from above like a giant had a giant salt shaker that sprinkled really big boulders all around.

There are other areas like this one in the High Uintas, and I think they’re really fascinating and mysterious. Feeling the rock and seeing it firsthand make me that much more curious about how this all came to be. Here are my wonders:

  • Why was the ground I was walking on so flat, even though the mountains around me were so high and steep?
  • How did the rock slabs I was standing on get so smooth and almost shiny?
  • How does a high elevation basin like this one get so wide with lots of ponds and lakes? (The canyons in our backyard mountains are narrow with a single stream running through.)
  • And how did these boulders get here as though they’d been sprinkled around? Were they part of how the slabs got flat and smooth, or did they come later?
  • And the more I looked at the rocks, the more I wondered about the patterns I saw inside of them: layers and stripes, pockets and crinkles, hard edges and corners and cracks. I wonder how these rocks were made in the first place.

What do you imagine happened to make all of this? Can you tell a story that helps us put all these observations together? How does it fit with other things you know about rocks, mountains, and valleys?

I like to talk to my geologist friends about what I’ve found, and they help me to imagine what happens in these mountains and everywhere else. But the most important thing they tell me is that they, too, walk in these places and study these formations and have these same kinds of wonders. I think this is what makes them good scientists.

sky nuggets

A few days ago some late afternoon clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and then stuff started falling out of the sky really violently. It was a big thunderstorm with hail.

The first thing I noticed after the storm passed is how these little chunks of ice stayed on the ground, but they disappeared fastest on the hard surfaces and stayed the longest on the soft grass and other plants:

Hail remains on the plants on the left, but it has already melted on the rocks.

I thought this was interesting enough, but it was even more interesting when I looked more closely at some of these hail remains:

A little hail nugget resting on the small leaves of some thyme.

When I saw this hail up close I noticed a few more features that surprised me. First, it wasn’t round. It looked like a tooth or a candy-corn or a mini-pyramid. And also, it looked like it had stripes or layers. I thought I might just be imagining this, or maybe this was just a random strange piece of hail. So I started looking around in the grass more. I started to find these striped “teeth” hail all over!

I expect to see layers in rock or sand sometimes, but it’s funny to see it in ice that’s fallen out of the sky. It made me wonder:

  • Why are these hail pieces shaped this way, like a candy-corn or a tooth? How did they form?
  • When they fell, were they pointed with the pointy side up or down? And how could we figure this out without waiting for the next hail storm? Is there an experiment we could create?
  • And where did those stripes come from? Are the clear stripes made differently from the white stripes? Are these different layers made at different times, or did they come off of some other big chunk, or were they made in a whole different way?
  • Why have I not noticed this kind of hail before? Is it rare? Or does it happen all the time and I just wasn’t paying attention? I thought hail was round most of the time, but maybe I wasn’t looking carefully. If there are different kinds of hail, what makes them?

Have you ever observed hail like this? Or have you seen different kinds of hail or did you make different observations of the same kinds of hail? I think there’s a lot more we could observe and wonder about. Now, I can’t wait for it to hail again in my backyard so I can go see what it looks like next time!