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MAKE A BALLOON ROCKET

You will need

  • 1 balloon (round ones will work, but the longer “airship” balloons work best)
  • 1 long piece of kite string (about 10-15 feet long)
  • 1 plastic straw
  • tape

What to do

  1. Tie one end of the string to a chair, door knob, or other support.
  2. Put the other end of the string through the straw.
  3. Pull the string tight and tie it to another support in the room.
  4. Blow up the balloon (but don’t tie it.) Pinch the end of the balloon and tape the balloon to the straw as shown above. You’re ready for launch.
  5. Let go and watch the rocket fly!

How does it work?

So how does it work? It’s all about the air…and thrust. As the air rushes out of the balloon, it creates a forward motion called THRUST. Thrust is a pushing force created by energy. In the balloon experiment, our thrust comes from the energy of the balloon forcing the air out. Different sizes and shapes of balloon will create more or less thrust. In a real rocket, thrust is created by the force of burning rocket fuel as it blasts from the rockets engine – as the engines blast down, the rocket goes up!

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the shape of the balloon affect how far (or fast) the rocket travels?
2. Does the length of the straw affect how far (or fast) the rocket travels?
3. Does the type of string affect how far (or fast) the rocket travels? (try fishing line, nylon string, cotton string, etc.)
4. Does the angle of the string affect how far (or fast) the rocket travels?

Science Bob

MAKE PLASTIC MILK

You will need

  • One cup of milk
  • 4 teaspoons of white vinegar
  • A bowl
  • A strainer
  • Adult help

What to do

  1. Ask your friendly adult to heat up the milk until it is hot, but not boiling
  2. Now ask the adult to carefully pour the milk into the bowl
  3. Add the vinegar to the milk and stir it up with a spoon for about a minute
  4. Now the fun part, pour the milk through the strainer into the sink – careful it may be hot!
    Left behind in the strainer is a mass of lumpy blobs.
    When it is cool enough, you can rinse the blobs off in water while you press them together .
    Now just mold it into a shape and it will harden in a few days. – Cool!

How does it work?

Plastic? In milk? Well, sort of. You made a substance called CASEIN. It’s from the latin word meaning “cheese.” Casein occurs when the protein in the milk meets the acid in the vinegar. The casein in milk does not mix with the acid and so it forms blobs. True plastics, called polymers, are a little different. If you want to make a true plastic and learn more about polymers, try the Homemade Slime experiment. Have fun!

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

  1. Will more vinegar make more casein?
  2. Will you get the same results with low-fat milk, soy milk?
  3. Do all types of vinegar work?
  4. Will other acids, such as lemon juice and orange juice work?

Science Bob

CLEAN PENNIES WITH VINEGAR

You will need

* A few old (not shiny) pennies
* 1/4 cup white vinegar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* Non-metal bowl
* Paper towels

What to do

Pour the vinegar into the bowl and add the salt – stir it up.
Put about 5 pennies into the bowl and count to 10 slowly.
Take out the pennies and rinse them out in some water. Admire their shininess!

How does it work?

There is some pretty fancy chemistry going on in that little bowl of yours. It turns out that vinegar is an acid, and the acid in the vinegar reacts with the salt to remove what chemists call copper oxide which was making your pennies dull. You’re not done yet, though, lets try another experiment:

Add more pennies to the bowl for 10 seconds, but this time , don’t rinse them off. Place them on a paper towel to dry off. In time the pennies will turn greenish-blue as a chemical called malachite forms on your pennies. But wait, you’re still not done yet.

Place one or two nuts and bolts in the vinegar and watch – they may become COPPER in color! The vinegar removed some of the copper from the pennies, if there is enough copper in the vinegar, the copper will become attracted by to the metal in the nuts and bolts and they will take on a new copper color – cool.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Will other acids (like lemon juice or orange juice) work as well?

2. Does this cleaning chemistry work on other coins?

3. Do other amounts of salt make a difference in the chemistry of the experiment?

Science Bob

CHICKEN SOUNDS FROM A CUP!

You will need

* A plastic drinking cup
* Yarn or cotton string (nylon string will not work well)
* 1 paper clip
* Paper towel
* A nail
* Scissors
* Water

What to do

Cut a piece of yarn about 20 inches (40 cm) long.
Ask an adult to use the nail to carefully punch a hold in the center of the bottom of the cup.
Tie one end of the yarn to the middle of the paper clip.
Push the other end of the yarn through the hole in the cup and pull it through as shown in the picture.
Get a piece of paper towel about the size of a dollar bill, then fold it once and get it damp in the water.
Now it’s time to make some noise! Hold the cup firmly in one hand, and wrap the damp paper towel around the string near the cup. While you squeeze the string, pull down in short jerks so that the paper towel tightly slides along the string. If all goes well – you hear a chicken!

How does it work?

This is an example of how a sounding board works. The vibrations from the string would be almost silent without the cup, but when you add the cup, it spreads the vibrations and amplifies them (makes them louder.) Pianos and music boxes use wood to act as a sounding board to make the instrument louder.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. What types of string or yarn makes the loudest sound? Which ones make the quietest?

2. Does the size of the cup affect the volume of the sound?

3. Try materials other than a paper towel to see if it affects the volume of the sound.

Science Bob

ROLL A CAN WITH STATIC ELECTRICITY

You will need

* An empty soda can
* blown-up balloon
* A head of hair

What to do

1. Place the can on its side on a flat smooth surface like a table or a smooth floor.

2. Rub the blown up balloon back and forth through your hair really fast.

3. Now the fun part – Hold the balloon close to the can without actually touching the can. The can will start to roll towards the balloon without you even touching it!

Try This Too: While you’ve got the balloon out, tear up part of a tissue into tiny pieces about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) big. Rub the balloon in your hair again and bring it close to the tissue pieces. They will be attracted to the balloon and then jump away.

How does it work?

This works a lot like our bending water experiment. When you rub the balloon through your hair, invisible electrons (with a negative charge) build up on the surface of the balloon. This is called static electricity, which means “non-moving electricity” The electrons have the power to pull very light objects (with a positive charge) toward them – like the soda can.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the size of the balloon change the power of the pull?

2. Does the length of the persons hair effect the power of the static electricity?

3. How much water can you put in the can until the balloon can’t pull it anymore?

Science Bob

Make Slime with Glue and Borax

You will need

  • Elmer’s glue (most kinds of white craft glue will work)
  • 2 disposable cups
  • Food coloring (you pick the color)
  • Water
  • Borax Powder (available at most large grocery stores near the laundry detergent)
  • A plastic spoon (for stirring)
  • A tablespoon (for measuring)

What to do

  1. Fill one small cup with water and add a spoonful of the Borax powder and stir it up. Then set it aside.
  2. Fill the other small cup with about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the glue.
  3. Add three tablespoons (20 ml) of water to the glue and stir.
  4. Add a few drops of the food coloring and stir it up until mixed.
  5. Now the fun part…Add one tablespoons of the Borax solution you made earlier and stir well. Watch the slime form!
  6. After the slime forms let it sit for about 30 seconds and then pull it off the spoon and play with it!

Tip: Keep your slime in a tightly closed plastic bag when you are not playing with it, and keep it away from carpet and your little sister’s hair.

How does it work?

Now for the SCIENCE part…. This POLYMER is unique because it has qualities of both a solid and a liquid. It can take the shape of its containers like a liquid does, yet you can hold it in your hand and pick it up like a solid. As you might know, solid molecules are tight together, liquid molecules spread out and break apart (drops) POLYMER molecules CHAIN themselves together (they can stretch and bend like chains) and that makes them special. Jell-O, rubber bands, plastic soda bottles, sneaker soles, even gum are all forms of polymers. The polymer you made should be kept in a sealed plastic bag when you aren’t playing with it. Also, be sure to keep it away from young kids or pets who might think it’s food. Have fun!

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

  1. How can you make the polymer stretch the farthest?
  2. Does the amount of Borax added change the slime?
  3. What method of storage will make the polymer last the longest?
  4. What brand of glue makes the stretchiest polymer?
  5. Does the amount of water added to the glue affect the gooeyness of the slime?

Science Bob

The Incredible Hoop Glider!

You will need

  • A regular plastic drinking straw
  • 3 X 5 inch index card or stiff paper
  • Tape
  • Scissors

What to do

  1. Cut the index card or stiff paper into 3 separate pieces that measure 1 inch (2.5 cm) by 5 inches (13 cm.)
  2. Take 2 of the pieces of paper and tape them together into a hoop as shown. Be sure to overlap the pieces about half an inch (1 cm) so that they keep a nice round shape once taped.
  3. Use the last strip of paper to make a smaller hoop, overlapping the edges a bit like before.
  4. Tape the paper loops to the ends of the straw as shown below. (notice that the straw is lined up on the inside of the loops)
  5. hat’s it! Now hold the straw in the middle with the hoops on top and throw it in the air similar to how you might throw a dart angled slightly up. With some practice you can get it to go farther than many paper airplanes.
  6. How does it work?

Can we really call that a plane? It may look weird, but you will discover it flies surprisingly well. The two sizes of hoops help to keep the straw balanced as it flies. The big hoop creates “drag” (or air resistance) which helps keep the straw level while the smaller hoop in at the front keeps your super hooper from turning off course. Some have asked why the plane does not turn over since the hoops are heavier than the straw. Since objects of different weight generally fall at the same speed, the hoop will keep its “upright” position. Let us know how far you were able to get the hoop glider to fly. Tell us on the Science Bob Facebook Page.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

  • 1. Does the placement of the hoops on the straw affect its flight distance?
  • 2. Does the length of straw affect the flight? (You can cut the straws or attach straws together to test this)
  • 3. Do more hoops help the hoop glider to fly better?
  • 4. Do the hoops have to be lined up in order for the plane to fly well?

Science Bob

The Lincoln High Dive!

You will need

A Lincoln penny (or other small coin)
A piece of card stock or stiff paper
A film canister, baby food jar, or other similar size container with an mouth slightly larger than a penny
Pencil or pen
Scissors

What to do

Cut the cardstock paper into a long strip about .75 inches (2 cm) wide and form it into a hoop as shown. The paper should be stiff enough to hold the hoop shape on its own and the hoop works best when it is between 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) across.
For dramatic effect, fill the film canister with water and place on a level surface.
Place the hoop on the film canister as shown and balance the penny on the top of the hoop.
Time for Lincoln’s big moment! Place a pencil through the center of the hoop and in one swift motion fling the hoop off to the side as pictured. If you do this correctly, the hoop will fly out of the way, and the penny will fall straight down into the canister with a splash. 10 points for Lincoln!

THE SETUP

THE DIVE

How does it work?

This is science? You betcha. Part of Newton’s first laws says, in general, that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The energy of your movement with the pencil was passed on to the hoop, making it fly out of the way quickly, but the hoop moved too fast, and there was not enough friction to affect the penny (at rest) on top of the hoop. The penny ended up above the film canister with nothing to hold it up. It was about then that gravity took over, and pulled the coin straight down into the waiting water. Yep, Issac Newton and Abraham Lincoln, together in the name of science…sort of.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the size of the hoop affect the accuracy of the falling coin?
2. Does the shape of the object on the hoop affect the accuracy of the drop?
3. Is the coin affected by how fast you fling the hoop out of the way.

Science Bob

The Magic Ketchup Experiment!

magic_ketchup_header

Amaze your friends and family when you make a pack of ketchup float and sink at your command while it’s sealed inside a bottle! It looks like magic, but it’s totally science.

You will need

  • A 1 liter plastic bottle or a water bottle
  • Ketchup pack from a fast food restaurant
  • Salt (using Kosher salt helps keep the water from becoming foggy)

What to do

  1. Remove any labels from the bottle and fill it all the way to the top with water.
  2. Add a ketchup pack to the bottle.
  3. If the ketchup floats, you’re all set – go to step 4. If the ketchup sinks in the bottle, go to step 5.
  4. For the floating ketchup pack simply screw the cap on the bottle and squeeze the sides of the bottle hard. If the ketchup sinks when you squeeze it, and floats when you release it, congratulations, you’re ready to show it off. If it does not sink when you squeeze it, try a different kind of ketchup pack or try a mustard or soy sauce pack.
  5. If the ketchup pack sinks, add about 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of salt to the bottle. Cap it and shake it up until the salt dissolves. (Kosher salt will keep the water from getting too cloudy, although it will usually clear up over time if using regular table salt.)
    Continue adding salt, a few tablespoons at a time until the ketchup is just barely floating to the top of the bottle.
    Once it is consistently floating, make sure the bottle is filled to the top with water, and then cap it tightly.
  6. Now squeeze the bottle. The magic ketchup should sink when you squeeze the bottle and float up when you release it. With some practice you can get it to stop in the middle of the bottle.

How does it work?

This experiment is all about buoyancy and density. Buoyancy describes whether objects float or sink. This usually describes how things float in liquids, but it can also describe how things float or sink in and various gasses.

Density deals with the amount of mass an object has. Adding salt to the water adjusted the water’s density to get the ketchup to float. Sound complicated? It is, but here’s the basics on the ketchup demo…there is a little bubble inside of the ketchup packet. As we know bubbles float, and the bubble in the ketchup sometimes keeps the heavy packet from sinking. When you squeeze the bottle hard enough, you put pressure on the packet. That causes the bubble to get smaller and the entire packet to become MORE DENSE than the water around it and the packet sinks. When you release the pressure, the bubble expands, making the packet less dense (and more buoyant) and, alas, it floats back up. This demonstration is sometimes known as a CARTESIAN DIVER.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT
The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

  1. Do different food packs (ketchup, mustard, soy sauce) have the same density?
  2. Does the temperature of the water affect the density of the ketchup packet?
  3. Does the size of the bottle affect how much you have to squeeze to get the packet to sink?

Science Bob

Rapid Color Changing Chemistry!

YOU WILL NEED

Sometimes it’s hard to tell SCIENCE from MAGIC – and this little demonstration is a great example of that. In this experiment you will watch an almost clear liquid suddenly turn dark blue in a flash. It takes a bit of preparation, and probably a trip to the pharmacy for materials, but we think it’s worth it.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: This experiment should only be done with the help of an adult. Iodine will stain just about anything it touches and it can be hazardous. Hydrogen peroxide can cause eye and skin irritation – safety goggles are needed throughout the experiment. Be sure your helpful adult reads the caution labels on each container.

3 clear plastic cups 4 ounces or larger
A 1000 mg Vitamin C tablet from the pharmacy (you can also use two 500mg)
Tincture of iodine (2%) also from the pharmacy
Hydrogen peroxide (3%) yep, also from the pharmacy
Liquid laundry starch (see below for alternatives)
Safety goggles
Measuring spoons
Measuring cup
An adult helper

What to do

Put on those safety goggles and mash the 1000 mg Vitamin C tablet by placing it into a plastic bag and crushing it with a rolling pin or the back of a large spoon. Get it into as much of a fine powder as possible. Then put all the powder in the first cup and add 2 ounces (60 ml) of warm water. Stir for at least 30 seconds. (The water may be a little cloudy) Let’s call this “LIQUID A”
Now put 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of your LIQUID A into a new cup and add to it: 2 oz (60 ml) of warm water and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of the iodine. Notice the brown iodine turned clear! Let’s call this “LIQUID B.” By the way, you’re done with LIQUID A – you can put it aside.
In the last cup, mix 2 oz of warm water, 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of the hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of the liquid starch. This is, you guessed it, “LIQUID C”
Okay, that was a lot of preparation, on to the fun part. Gather the friends and family and pour all of LIQUID B into LIQUID C. Then pour them back and fourth between the 2 cups a few times. Place the cup down and observe….be patient….somewhere between a few seconds and a few minutes, the liquid will suddenly turn dark blue!

How does it work?

This is an example of the chemical reaction know as the IODINECLOCK REACTION. It is called a clock reaction because you can change the amount if time it takes for the liquids to turn blue. (see experiments below) The chemistry of the demonstration gets a bit complicated, but basically it is a battle of chemistry between the starch which is trying to turn the iodine blue, and the Vitamin C which is keeping it from turning blue. Eventually the Vitamin C loses and, bam! – you get instant blueness.

Note: If you do not have liquid starch, you can also use 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch or potato starch. The liquids will be more cloudy and the reaction will happen a bit more slowly, but it’s still impressive.

Clean up: Carefully pour all liquids down the drain with plenty of water and wash your hands. Recycle the cups or dispose of them in the trash.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the temperature of the water affect how quickly the liquids turn blue?
2. Does the amount of Vitamin C added (Liquid A) affect how fast the liquid turns blue?
3. Does stirring the liquids more affect how fast the liquids turn blue?

Science Bob

BUILD A TABLETOP HOVERCRAFT!

You will need

An old CD or DVD disc
A 9” balloon
A pop-top cap from a liquid soap bottle or a water bottle
A hot glue gu

What to do

If you are using the cap from a water bottle, cover the center hole of the CD with a piece of tape and poke about 6 holes in the tape with a push-pin or small nail. This will slow down the flow of air and allow your hovercraft to hover longer.
Use the hot glue gun to glue the cap to the center of the CD or DVD disc. Create a good seal to keep air from escaping.
Blow up the balloon all the way and pinch the neck of it. (Don’t tie it.)
Make sure the pop-top is closed and fit the neck of the balloon over the pop-up portion of the cap. (This is usually easier with 2 people)
That’s it! When your ready to commence hovering, simply put the craft on a smooth surface and pop the top open.

HAPPY HOVERING!

How does it work?

The air flow created by the balloon causes a cushion of moving air between the disc and the surface. This lifts the CD and reduces the friction which allows the disc to hover freely. Large scale hovercraft are capable of traveling over land, snow and water.

Make it an experiment

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the size of the balloon affect the CDs ability to hover?

2. Does a helium balloon work better than an air filled balloon?

3. Do larger discs make better hovercrafts (plastic picnic plates, old record albums) ?

BUILD YOUR OWN PERSONAL FOG TORNADO!

You will need

A copier paper box
A small 12 volt computer fan from a computer or electronics store. It should be at least 3×3 inches (8cm X 8cm).
A piece of clear plastic 10 X 17 inches (25cm X43cm) If your really in a hurry, you can test your fog tornado with clear plastic food wrap.
A small plastic food container
Dry ice (or other source of fog – see below)
Black paint
9-volt battery (if your fan doesn’t plug in)
Optional (but cool) battery-powered tap light
Adult help

What to do

Parts of the cardboard will need to be cut out using an exact-o blade.This part is definitely for an adult – kids hurt themselves every year trying to cut foam core and cardboard – don’t let that be you – know when to ask for help.

Follow the diagrams below, cutting away the areas marked in gray. IMPORTANT: Pay special attention to the placement of the slots. In order for the tornado to work, the slots will need to be in the correct place.

fog_tornado3
The opening at the top should be just a bit smaller than your fan.
The opening at the bottom should be bigger than the plastic food container.

Paint the inside of the box with flat black poster paint and allow it to dry.
Tape (or hot glue) the clear piece of plastic into the large window on the front. Be sure to keep the nearby slot open so air can flow through it.
Attach the tap-light to the inside of the top of the tornado box near the fan opening.
That’s it! Your Tornado Chamber is ready.

A note about the fog. I have found 3 decent sources of fog:

DRY ICE – Dry ice makes the best looking tornado, in my opinion, which is why I give the directions for it here. Dry ice should only be handled by adults. It can cause instant frostbite. Never handle dry ice without thick gloves and always wear safety goggles. Only someone familiar with dry ice and its dangers should handle it.
HUMIDIFIER – Many small humidifiers create a continuous source of mist that works well for the tornado chamber. You will need to find a way to mount the tornado chamber above your humidifier.
FOUNTAIN MISTERS – A fountain mister uses ultrasonic vibrations to create a light mist. They can often be found in stores that sell small fountains and in some pet shops.

FOG TORNADO TIME!

Turn on the battery powered light if you have one, and power up the fan. (red wire goes on the skinnier lead of the 9 volt battery) and place it on the top of the chamber with the breeze blowing up.
Place some small chunks of dry ice into your food container and add some warm water to create fog.
Put your tornado chamber over the container and watch the wonders of vortex currents at work!

How does it work?

As the fan forces air out of the chamber, air from outside the box is forced in through the slots on the sides. The position of the slots causes the incoming air to create a VORTEX (spiral) of air as it is drawn up and out of the box. Real tornados form in a similar way using updrafts and wind-shear (wind from different directions at different altitudes)

Make it an experiment

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Can you control the shape of the tornado by covering up parts of the slots?

2. Does a faster or more powerful fan change the shape of the vortex?

3. Do bigger boxes make bigger tornados?

 

Blobs In A Bottle Lava Lamp

The World’s Easiest Lava Lamp.

This is an easy, fun science activity that is great for any age. In fact, our video crew ended up taking the extra bottles home to show their friends. It is also a great demonstration of liquid density, the release of gases in a chemical reaction, acids and bases, intermolecular polarity, and well, just plain science coolness. Watch the video, read the instructions (link below) then TRY IT!

CLICK FOR THE BLOBS IN A BOTTLE INSTRUCTIONS

The Leyden Jar

“Shocking” science with actor Kevin Pollak.

This is a clip from a show that highlighted some of Ben Franklin’s science experiments. The host is actor/comedian Kevin Pollak. Here we are demonstrating one of Franklin’s favorite gadgets called a Leyden jar. It was invented in 1745 by Pieter van Musschenbroek and it became an important invention for studying electricity.

A Leyden jar is able to store large amounts of static electricity. The more it is charged with static, the stronger the voltage becomes in the jar. In this clip, actor Marc Evan Jackson is really getting shocked by the Leyden jar, and his reaction is quite real. While the charge in this clip was harmless, a large leyden jar can hold enough of a charge to actually kill a person.

The Screaming Quarter!

Spooky Science

So why is dry ice called dry ice? Dry ice is the “frozen” form of the gas, carbon dioxide. While it may be called ice – it never melts – it goes right from being a solid to being a gas. This is called SUBLIMATION. When I put the quarter on the dry ice, it cause it to turn into a gas very quickly. As the gas escaped around the sides of the quarter, it caused it to vibrate quickly and make that cool screaming sound.

Who Wrote The Bill Nye Theme Music?

rp_mike_greene.jpgIn an elementary school in a Boston suburb, a group of third graders enters a classroom after lunch. The teacher is loading a DVD into her laptop hooked up to a projector emerging from the ceiling. “What are we watching?’ asked one student as he sat down with a thud.

“It’s a Bill Nye video,” she responded. What happened next was remarkable; it was as if a part of their 8 year old brain had been triggered by an electrical probe and they immediately began chanting, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” in a familiar melody while moving their body to a non-existent house beat. Just days later, I heard that same familiar tune emanating as a ring tone from the cellphone of a good friend, except he’s 25. It turns out most people I know recall at least part of the theme song for, “Bill Nye The Science Guy,” and they aren’t afraid to sing it. The hugely popular children’s science show has not aired an original episode in, get this, almost 15 years. But the show, and perhaps even more so, the theme music, lives on. Take a listen:

Few shows have managed to have an epic theme song that stands the test of time; think Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Friends. But if there was a Hall of Fame for theme songs, an almost certain inductee would be the theme to “Bill Nye The Science Guy.” So who wrote the music? Who’s voice chants, “Bill! Bill! Bill!” and how did a children’s science show end up with such a funky, off the wall theme? It turns out the man with the answers is a music writer, and former math teacher, named Mike Greene. He’s the guy who wrote and scored the theme into the conscience of young scientists around the world. I asked Mike when the last time was that he heard the theme. “It’s been months.” So we took a listen.

Bob: So, as you’re listening to the theme, what is going through your head?

Mike: [laughs] You know, I always liked that song. I still enjoy listening to it. It’s lucky that, in many ways, the song holds up because there are a lot of times that you do a theme song and the song, five or ten years later, sounds dated. Certainly you can tell that it wasn’t written today. But it’s not embarrassing. There was nobody who didn’t like Bill Nye the Science Guy. It’s one of those things that just kind of brings a smile to most people’s faces if I say, “Oh, yeah, I wrote the ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ theme.”

Bob: Let’s go back to 1992. When you get the call, what did they tell you they were looking for? What kind of guidance did you get?

Mike: The thing that they told me was they did not want it to sounds like a kid’s theme song. They didn’t want it to be safe, basically. They didn’t want to make it sound like stuff that’s already been done. They wanted it to be something that was adventurous and a little bit more daring than what a theme song, at that time, would be. It was much more common to have a song that would be like, [singing] ‘”Bill Nye’s gonna teach you some science.” Something that’s a little bit cheesier. They wanted to go as far away from cheesy or safe as they could get.

Bob: So how did you end up approaching the theme with that kind of guidance?

Mike: Well I’ve done tons of dance beats and bass lines. So, coming up with that was fairly easy. But you know what? Now that I think about it, the first thing I came up with, I think, might have been the main melody, [sings] “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” I started thinking of [the band] Oingo Boingo. I had that in my head. The melody sounds like something that Danny Elfman from “Oingo Boingo” would sing. The little twirl on the [sings] “Science Guy.” I thought that sounded kind of Oingo Boingo‑ish.

Later I thought what might be kind of cool would be a guitar part. Kinda rocky, but with a weird bizarre melody. So I started riffing on guitar until I came up with this one line and recorded it onto my sampler. A sampler lets you play recordings back on your keyboard, so whenever I hit that one key, it plays the guitar riff.

Bob: Who sings the theme?

Mike: [laughs] It’s actually me. I used my voice for the first demo to send to the producers, Jim and Erren. After they approved it, I hired singers because I wanted to make it better. I hired a guy to sing it who sounded pretty cool. He had like a rock‑and‑roll kind of voice, so it sounded pretty slick. Then as another option, I hired a girl to sing it to give it a bit more R&B kind of sound. Then I sent those versions to Jim and Erren, and they said, “Why have you got them on it? We want your voice. It’s funnier.” I thought, “My voice is funnier??? Good thing I’m not touchy about my singing!” [laughs] So we kept my voice on there.

The woman who says, “Science rules” and “Inertia is a property of matter” is a very talented actress and voiceover artist named Leslie Wilson. I was told at the time that Bill wanted to replace her with his voice, because he thought it was weird in the open that he was mouthing her words, but I guess everybody else liked it as is. Definitely sounds better with her voice.

Bob: So who is the voice behind the famous, “Bill, Bill, Bill”

Mike: Believe it or not, those are rappers. I can’t name them, because it was against their contract to do outside things without permission from their record company. It was kinda funny, because they were in my studio one day to record a song. I was working on the Nye theme as they walked in and I told them, “Hey, do me a favor and go in the booth and chant ‘Bill, Bill, Bill’ over and over again.” They had no idea what it was for, but they’re cool, so they did. It sounded great, so that’s the version we kept. The show didn’t air until a year later, so it wasn’t until then that they understood what this was really for.

Bob: Have you connected with Bill Nye and chatted about the theme at all?

Mike: We’ve had short little conversations about the theme. I run into Bill every once in a while because he lives in Studio City which is where I live as well. We run into each other about once every year, once every two years or so. There’s a funny video on YouTube of him, where I guess somebody in the audience asked him to sing the theme song or something like that. I can’t remember exactly what his response is but it’s kind of funny because he says, “Well, you know, that’s not me singing the theme song. You wouldn’t ask the stars of ‘Bonanza’ to sing the theme song of ‘Bonanza’.”

One time I flew up to Seattle for a couple of days to meet everybody and that’s the first time I met Bill. I remember one comment with Bill that I thought was pretty cool. He said, “All we want to do is change the world.” I must say, I think he succeeded.

BONUS AUDIO! – Turns out Bill Nye The Science Guy was translated into Chinese. Listen to the Chinese version of the theme song: Beer, Beer, Beer!

Robot Reference Guide

Robots_small1

There’s something about robots that people connect to. I knew as soon as I left the theater after watching Star Wars that I would someday have my own R2-D2, (which I now do!) So I decided to ask the followers of my Facebook Page to tell me their favorite robot, and I got a huge response. Below are some of the favorites, and the approximate time that they made their first appearance. I included cyborgs (robotically modified humans) as well as some real robots that were mentioned. Thanks to all that posted! Click the image or links for a larger view. What’s your favorite robot? Did I miss any?

Larger Image (1794X1197)

Poster Size (10,800X7200)

World’s Largest Van De Graaff Generator!

Serious Sparks…

Check out the worlds largest static generator. This generator is located at the Museum of Science in Boston. It was originally used to smash atoms, but now it’s used for impressive electricity shows. It’s also used to teach about electrical safety.

Did you know that the safest place to be in a lightning storm is your car? It’s true, and it’s not because of the rubber tires, it’s because the metal in the car keeps the electricity safely on the outside of the car if it gets struck. Also, it’s good to know that during Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment, his kites were never struck by lightning.

If it was, good ol’ Ben would probably be dead. He was, however, able to see sparks and that proved that lightning was a form of electricity – now you know!

What is the difference between a frog and a toad?

Frogs and toads are both amphibians and they are similar in many ways, but they are also different in a few ways. To be completely accurate, toads are actually a classification of frog. That is to say that, technically, toads are a kind of frog.

Generally, frogs spend most of their lives in or near water. Toads on the other hand, get out on land a little more and find their way into gardens and yards. Frogs also usually have moist slimy skin, while toads have dry bumpy skin. That is usually the best way to tell them apart.

By the way frog eggs are found in a mass while toad eggs are more in a chain. And, just so you know, toads cannot give you warts.

NOW YOU KNOW!

What is the difference between food chain and a food web?

FOOD CHAINS FOLLOW A SINGLE PATH AS ANIMALS EAT EACH OTHER.

EXAMPLE:

  • THE SUN provides food for GRASS
  • The GRASS is eaten by a GRASSHOPPER
  • The GRASSHOPPER is eaten by a FROG
  • The FROG is eaten by a SNAKE
  • The SNAKE is eaten by a HAWK.

FOOD WEBS SHOW HOW PLANTS & ANIMALS ARE INTERCONNECTED BY DIFFERENT PATHS.

EXAMPLE:

  • TREES produce ACORNS which act as food for many MICE and INSECTS.
  • Because there are many MICE, WEASELS and SNAKES have food.
  • The insects and the acorns also attract BIRDS, SKUNKS, and OPOSSUMS.
  • With the SKUNKS, OPPOSUMS, WEASELS and MICE around, HAWKS, FOXES, and OWLS can find food.
  • They are all connected! Like a spiders web, if one part is removed, it can affect the whole web.

FOOD WEBS show how plants and animals are connected in many ways to help them all survive. FOOD CHAINS follow just one path of energy as animals find food.

Click below to download the PDF of this information.

food_chain_food_web

 

Can you please tell me how Pop Rocks (the candy) are made?

Pop Rocks are a great candy that pops and crackles when you put it in your mouth. To make Pop Rocks, the Kraft food company mixes up a batch of hard candy by heating up sugar, corn syrup, and flavor until it is a very hot liquid. Then they take the whole mixture and put it under pressure with carbon dioxide gas. It is a lot of pressure (about 600 pounds of pressure per square inch) When the candy cools, it is filled with tiny bubbles, and each bubble has carbon dioxide under pressure inside of it. When you put the candy in your mouth, you melt the candy and the bubbles pop! It is similar to opening a can of soda.

There used to be a story about a boy who ate Pop Rocks and then drank soda and his stomach exploded…don’t worry, soda and Pop Rocks actually go pretty well together.

NOW YOU KNOW!

 

Make a Simple Duck Call

You will need

One plastic straw from your kitchen or local fast food restaurant
Scissors
Lungs (don’t worry you already have them)

What to do

1. Use your fingers to press on one end of the straw to flatten it – the flatter the better.

2. Cut the flattened end of the straw into a point (see below).

3. Flatten it out again real good.

4. Now take a deep breath, put the pointed end of the straw in your mouth and blow hard into the straw. If all goes well you should hear a somewhat silly sound coming from the straw. The smaller you are, the harder it may be to get a good sound – sometimes adults can get more of a sound thanks to their bigger lungs. If you still have trouble, try flattening it out some more or cutting the straw in half.

5. Don’t stop there – try cutting the straw different sizes to see how the sound changes, or make another identical straw and add the pointed end of the new straw to the uncut end of the first straw (to make the first straw longer) The sound will be very different, (more like a moose call!) and you will have to blow even harder, but give it a try.

How does it work?

This is science? It sure is. You see all sounds come from vibrations. That little triangle that you cut in the straw forced the two pieces of the point to VIBRATE very fast against each other when you blew through the straw. Those vibrations from your breath going through the straw created that strange duck-like sound that you heard. Now you will never be bored again when you go to a fast food restaurant! Have fun!

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Which size straw call sound the most like a duck?

2. Which length of straw is the easiest to get a sound? Which is the hardest?

3. Does the diameter of the straw affect the sound it produces?

Science Bob

Make a Cartesian Diver

You will need

A clear ONE liter plastic soda bottle and cap (not the big 2 liter bottle)
A ball point pen cap that does not have holes in it
Some modeling clay (“sculpey” works too)

What to do

1. Remove any labels from your bottle so that you can watch the action.
2. Fill the bottle to the very top with water.
3. Place a small pea-size piece of modeling clay at the end of the point on the pen cap. (see drawing)

4. Slowly place the pen cap into the bottle, modeling clay end first. (some water will spill out – that’s okay) It should just barely float. If it sinks take some clay away. If it floats too much add more clay.
5. Now screw on the bottle cap nice and tight.
6. Now for the fun part. You can make the pen cap rise and fall at your command. Squeeze the bottle hard – the pen cap sinks…stop squeezing and the pen cap rises. With a little practice, you can even get it to stop right in the middle.

Want an easier diver? Click here to Try The Magic Ketchup Experiment

How does it work?

Impressive, but how does it work? This eaxperiment is all about DENSITY. When you squeeze the bottle, the air bubble in the pen cap compresses (gets smaller) and that makes it more dense than the water around it. When this happens, the pen sinks. When you stop squeezing, the bubble gets bigger again, the water is forced out of the cap, and the pen cap rises.

If it doesn’t work: play around with the amount of clay and be sure the bottle is filled to the very top before putting on the cap.

Soy Sauce Diver: That’s right, next time you go to your local Chinese Food restaurant, ask for a packet of soy sauce (the kind they use for take out orders) Don’t open it – just put it in the bottle the same way instead of the pen cap. When you squeeze the bottle the air bubble inside the packet compresses and become more dense. The bubble in the packet makes it rise and fall just like the pen cap. This sometimes works with ketchup and mustard packs too. Have fun!

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the size of the bottle affect how hard you have to squeeze the make the diver sink?
2. Does it matter if the bottle is not filled all the way with water?
3. Does the temperature of the water affect the density of the the diver?

Science Bob

Bend a Bone with Vinegar

You will need

A jar large enough to fit a chicken bone
A chicken bone – a leg or “drumstick” bone works best
Vinegar

What to do

1. Have a nice chicken dinner and save a bone. Leg bones work best.

2. Rinse off the bone in running water to remove any meat from the bone.
3. Notice how hard the bone is – gently try bending it. Like our bones, chicken bones have a mineral called calcium in them to make them hard.

4.Put the bone into the jar and cover the bone with vinegar. It might be a good idea to put the lid on the jar or cover it – let it sit for 3 days

5. After 3 days remove the bone. It should feel different. Now can rinse it off and try bending it again. Is it really a rubber bone?

How does it work?

So what happened? What is so special about vinegar that it can make a hard bone squishy? Vinegar is considered a mild acid, but it is strong enough to dissolve away the calcium in the bone. Once the calcium is dissolved, there is nothing to keep the bone hard – all that is left is the soft bone tissue. Now you know why your mom is always trying to get you to drink milk – the calcium in milk goes to our bones to make our bones stronger. With some effort and you can really get the bone to bend.

MAKE IT AN EXPERIMENT

The project above is a DEMONSTRATION. To make it a true experiment, you can try to answer these questions:

1. Does the length of time the bone is in vinegar affect how much the bone bends?

2. Do smaller size bones become “bendy” sooner?

3. Do different types of vinegar affect how bendy bones become ?

Science Bob