Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Chemist in the Kitchen: What is Basic?

Well, we've just had all kinds of exciting things going on here at bugaboo, mini, mr & me!  First, there's the whole SYTYC thing (eeeek!).  And I hit 300.  Then I had my blogiversary... and later this month I've got something super duper fun coming!  

And today?  Today I have for you, the very first installment of:

That's right!  Back at the beginning of the year, I had a little preview of things to come.  I mentioned I wanted to start an ongoing series called "A Chemist in the Kitchen" where mr takes you on all kinds of experimental adventures with items you can find around the house (or easily located at a normal store).  My purpose in this is two-fold.  First, I love that it combines mr's passion - chemistry - and my passion - creativity.  Plus it draws him into my blog, and it's always cool to share the same interests.  SECONDLY - I want to share fun, easy to accomplish, LEARNING activities that you can do with your kiddos.  

And so, I present to you:  The feet on the ground to my head in the clouds... the cerebral to my visceral... the logic to my illogic... the chemical to my theatrical:

mr!  Take it away, mr:

This is a fun and accessible science experiment for all members of the family.  It uses fun color changes to learn about all kinds of every-day substances.  All you need is a red cabbage and whatever you'd like to test.

We gathered a nice range of liquids and powders: soda, drano, baking powder, lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar.

We had red cabbage for dinner, so we saved the cabbage juice that was left over after cooking.  If you don't plan on having a meal with cabbage, you can simply chop up a head of  cabbage and boil it until the water is dark red/purple.  One thing to keep in mind is that if you add anything like vinegar when cooking the cabbage (like we did) it can have an effect on the experiment (it will still work, but the colors will be somewhat different).

You'll need a dish to perform the experiment in.  We used this transparent pie dish to make it easy to photograph, but an empty ice cube tray may work better.  Whatever you use, make several puddles of the cabbage juice to test with.

We used a dry-erase marker to show which puddle we'll use to test each substance.

First up was baking powder.  Simply spoon or pour each substance in or near the cabbage juice and mix.  Note any color changes.

Baking powder turned a blue/purple color.

The lemon juice turned the cabbage juice into a lighter orange/pink color.

Drano turned into a blue/green color.  Parts of the liquid actually turned colorless, which is probably because drano contains bleach and is unrelated to the other color changes in the experiment.

Its hard to see in this picture, but in the bottom right of the dish is where we mixed soda and cabbage juice.  The color change was slight, but it did make the liquid lighter.

The vinegar turned the cabbage juice into a lighter pink.

Finally, the baking soda mixture turned a dark purple color.

Can you guess what was happening in the experiment?  Lets recap.  Three substances turned the juice a lighter color: lemon juice, soda, and vinegar.  The other three turned the mixture darker: baking powder, drano, and baking soda.  If you guessed that this experiment tests for acids and bases, you're right!  

Acids and bases are common chemicals that we use every day.  Acids and bases are essentially chemical opposites, but they can both be very useful or very dangerous depending on how concentrated they are.  These chemicals are measured on the pH scale where low numbers are very acidic (our stomachs have a pH of 2), 7 is neutral, and higher numbers are basic.

There are a number of chemicals that change color when they react with acids and basis.  These chemicals are called indicators and cabbage juice has a naturally occurring indicator.  Litmus strips are small strips of paper treated with an indicator.  We just happen to have some litmus strips, so we tested our chemicals with them too.

The litmus strips gave similar results to the cabbage juice.  In order of most acidic to most basic: lemon juice, vinegar, soda, baking powder, baking soda, drano.

Although some chemicals need to be treated with caution (drano), this is a great hands-on experiment for kids.  They can mix the powders and liquids and see what happens.  Its fun and colorful and easy to do.  You really don't need to know much about the chemistry behind it, although learning about that can be fun too (check out this link for more info about the experiment).

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!


Jill said...

Two summers ago I worked at a kids science camp and we did a super fun chemistry workshop for grade 3&4 kids. This experiment was one of the ones we did. My favorite part was "tricking" the kids by first getting them to guess what would happen when I would pour the first clear mystery liquid (vinegar) into the cabbage juice. Then I'd get them to guess what would happen with the second mystery liquid (water), which was always kinda funny. Then I'd do one more with baking soda dissolved in water. Lastly I'd show off what happens when you mix the 1st and 2nd ones (vinegar & baking soda) and compare it to the water mixture after they'd neutralized! Alright... so yes, I'm a giant nerd who's looking forward to the rest of this series.... lol

Hani said...

WOW!! I don`t know where to start.. I first bookmarked a post of yours.. then I started liking each and every.. Amazing girl! your soooo creative and superb cook.. so many mouthwatering treats I am so going to try your combos.. :)

Ashley said...

OMG you guys are too cute! This cracked me up but I loved it. What a fun project to do with the kids. XO

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