On hot summer days you might really enjoy a glass with ice, just because you like a cold drink. Have you watched the ice in your glass up close?
We’ve done a few investigations just watching ice melt. By taking some video and speeding it up, you get to see the whole process in just a few seconds. Here’s an example where we take ice that’s made from water with red dye. This way, as the ice melts you get to trace where that new liquid goes.
When you watch the ice melt, it’s funny that it goes from the top of the glass and falls to the bottom. What makes it do this? Why did it float in the first place? What would make it sink?
There are other liquids besides water that we can’t drink, but we can still put ice in them (as long as we’re very careful and label these liquids so we don’t accidentally put them in our mouths). We decided to compare what regular (water) ice does when it melts in water compared to when it melts in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) that you can get at a pharmacy or grocery store.
Here’s a fast timelapse of these two, side-by-side. We think there’s a lot of interesting things going on, even at the beginning before any melting has happened. We added some salt at the bottom of the isopropyl alcohol to make it a little easier to see and to make some salt water as the ice melted.
We like making these videos because then we can replay these episodes really quickly and make comparisons. But it’s also great just to see how ice melts in different ways in real time. You could make videos; or, you could write notes or take pictures or just observe and talk to your family about what you’re seeing. And then you can try melting the ice in other ways. We’d be excited to hear what you observe!
When we’re in the parks, we often find that there are great critters to look at hiding in the grass or in the bark of trees. It’s great that on See It! days we have lenses and microscopes to see these crawling things up close.
Lately, since we’re not in parks, I’ve been paying more attention to the strange alien forms that I find in my own neighborhood and yard, especially at different times of day. Like, this fantastic creature:
I wonder why the wings are shaped this way? Why are there 4 of them? Can it see me through those eyes? Why does it like to land here on the top of this small tree? Why don’t I see it other times of year? And where did it come from?
A few days later I found a few of these babies scrambling around on some leaves in my garden:
Do they look familiar to you? How big do you think they might get? And what are they doing on my lettuce?
And most mysterious of all, I found this empty bug. Really! The outside of the bug was there, but the inside seems to have escaped and left behind this shell!
Isn’t it funny how the outside of this creature is still clinging to this plant? I wonder what the inside of this alien looks like. And where did it go? And why would it do this kind of escape from its own body, anyway?
What I’m learning is that there’s lots of really interesting life outside that I can discover if I just take the time to watch for it. I’m starting to notice more and different kinds of bees than I remember; and there are birds stopping by that I haven’t seen before. And I’m sure that this will continue to change throughout the summer.
It was a nice morning, and I thought it would be a good choice for me to sit in my backyard and read a book. But it’s easy for me to get distracted, and soon I was really interested in a spot of light that was on my chair:
I wondered what made this spot and I turned around to see how sunlight was coming through this tree behind me:
What I think is really amazing is how all of these leaves and the gaps between them are different shapes, but the light coming through makes circles. I used a white notecard to find more of them:
You’ve probably seen spots like this before, maybe without even knowing it. (Once you start to see them in a few places, you might have a hard time not seeing them!) Sometimes under a tree we say that there’s “dappled light,” but it doesn’t matter what you call it. There are funny shapes and a kind of light that photographers and artists like, all made by the overlapping circles of light like this.
Can you find circles of light like this in other places? What do you think makes these circles? Why are there so many? Are there other ways to make these sunshine spots? Could these circles be a picture of something else?
Some science investigations are especially fun to do at home. Playing with light and playing with jello are each great activities for indoors. This investigation prompt puts these two things together.
Here’s a video that Adam made himself, in his own home, with no fancy lab or equipment — the kind of setting we that is our favorite for making science. This is just to give you some ideas of where you can start, but there’s lots more you can play with and do.
In summary, all you need to do is make a gelatin dessert in your choice of flavor/color. Plain gelatin works great, too, but it doesn’t smell as good. When we make it, we just use half as much water (or don’t add any chilled water) and let the gelatin set in the refrigerator overnight. Then, cut out any shapes you’d like and put them on a surface like wax paper, a cutting board, or even just a clean table. Use a small flashlight or laser pointer to shine through the jello from the side, and observe what the light looks like as it goes into, through, and out of the jello. In my investigation in the video, I discovered some new things about how the light gets bent and focused; and I learned that my yellow jello lets through certain colors of light, but not others. I thought this was all really surprising and interesting, especially knowing that it was all caused by my 99 cent box of generic, lemon dessert.