Thursday, June 26, 2014

Science & The 2014 World Cup Ball

Despite all of the buzz surrounding the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, scientists are keeping a very close eye on the ball.

As NPR reported, this year's ball, known as the Brazuca, has been the subject of intense and careful study, especially after the unpredictable performance of of its predecessor in the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

Though traditional soccer balls have 32 black and white panels, the rule book doesn't actually specify how many panels are on the ball or what shape the panels will be. So, in 2006, the maker of the World Cup balls, Adidas, started producing balls with fewer panels. The ball for the South Africa World Cup in 2006 just had eight. 

While Adidas claimed the new ball was state-of-the-art and rounder, John Eric Goff, a physicist at Lynchburg College in Virginia, explained that it got off to a rough start.

"When the players would try to kick the ball straight...there would be an erratic knuckling effect that would take place." 

This would infuriate goalkeepers, one calling it it a "supermarket" soccer ball. After more complaints started filing in, NASA's Ames Research Center in California got involved. After taking a look at the roundness of the 2010 ball, Ames found that the difference in the number of panels had changed the seams between the panels, and that in turn radically altered the ball's behavior. 

Bring on the 2014 World Cup, and Adidas has changed the design of the ball again. Now, it appears that the new ball has longer, deeper seams that keep it from swerving.

Read NPR's full report on the World Cup soccer ball here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Science: Magic with Milk

Beat the heat with this great summer science experiment! Grab these typical household items and start a journey full of exploration and discovery. In this popular Dr. Mad Science experiment, you and your young scientists will observe how milk reacts with food coloring and soap.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Milk (it is recommended that you use 2%)
  • A bowl
  • Food coloring
  • Q-tips
  • Dish Soap (it is recommended that you use Dawn)
Now let's get started:
  1. Start by filling the bowl with milk and waiting for all the bubbles to go away.
  2. Put a large amount of food coloring in the center of the milk.
  3. Take Q-tips and dip them into the dish soap. Then put them in the middle of the bowl for 15 seconds.
  4. Watch as the food coloring expands on the surface of the milk.
So what about the science? Well here it is: milk contains protein and really small amounts of fat in it. Both proteins and fat are sensitive to chemical changes. The chemicals in the dish soap weaken the chemical bonds that hold the protein together in the milk solution and the food coloring allows us to visually see the changes in the protein molecules. Likewise, the soap molecules cause the fat in the milk to mix and swirl until the fat has been distributed across the entire amount of the milk.

Watch Dr. Mad Science do it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's Summertime: Melting Ice Experiment

It's that time of year again: school's out for summer! That means your kids are at home and when they're not away at camp or outside enjoying the warm weather, they need something to do. So why not work a little learning into their schedule?

Give this ice melting experiment a try and you'll stay cool in the summer heat. Here's what you'll need:
  • Bowls or Dishes (for making the ice)
  • A large tray with sides
  • Salt
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring
  • Droppers or a spoon
Once you have your materials together, get started!
  1. Fill all of your bowls or dishes with water and freeze them overnight. Shallow bowls work great with this experiment!
  2. The next morning, loosen the ice in the bowls with a little bit of warm water and place them face down on your tray. A large baking sheet that has sides will work fine.
  3. Give your kiddos a small bowl of their own salt - and regular table salt works great - and have them sprinkle it over the top of the ice domes.
  4. Once you start to see that the salt is melting the ice and little ravines and crevices are forming, bust out the liquid watercolors. (Or water dyed with food coloring.)
  5. Put your liquid watercolors in small jars and place one dropper in each.
  6. Squeeze the watercolors on the ice in small sections and don't be afraid to use more than one color on an ice dome.
  7. Observe how the color highlights all of the ravines, crevasses and tunnels that are forming as the ice melts. 
  8. Discuss what reaction takes place that makes the ice melt in the way that it does. 
Once you're all finished, go outside and check out the ice light catchers you created while you watch them melt some more. Throw in another discussion about the differences in the ways that the ice melts when salt is applied and when heat from the sun is applied. 

The Artful Parent did this experiment with her girls. Check out how it went!