Copyright©2010 Antony Williams
Please note the headline, and don’t waste your time trying this at home
A couple of days ago I came across a video on YouTube about “Water Marbles”. I’ve inserted it below…I recommend watching it…it’s excellent!
It’s excellent because by time I had finished watching this I was both excited and confused. Confused because how could I not of heard of this experiment. Even if it was to work why were those spheres so big and uniform? Excited because I’d been looking for some good kitchen chemistry to do with my kids and this would be a great example. I couldn’t really get my head around how the observations were working but on a rushed grocery expedition prior to going into ScienceOnline2010 #scio10 this part weekend I threw everything necessary into the grocery basket to repeat the experiment.
At ScienceOnline2010 I was involved in a number of discussions, as usual, regarding data quality, curation and assertions….this being based on my experience with curating the ChemSpider database. Today I sat in on a discussion entitled “Getting the Science Right: The importance of fact checking mainstream science publications — an underappreciated and essential art — and the role scientists can and should (but often don’t) play in it – Rebecca Skloot, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and David Dobbs.” it was an interesting exchange with comments such as “newspapers and magazines don’t check facts” and the urban myth that a one minute kiss burns 26 calories while the fact is that a Hershey’s Kiss contains 26 calories.
Post ScienceOnline2010 I got home this afternoon to find my kids desperately wanting to do kitchen chemistry so, with pessimism I started to work through the experiment with them. They mixed and stirred and cooled and heated. They got to see a lot fizzing and to see crystals grow which they thought was great. It of course failed dismally as it has for many other people, including this guy, but they had a great time. In parallel I was doing some fact-checking to see whether or not to prepare them for disappointment.
There have been a lot of exchanges online about this topic of water marbles with chemists exchanging concepts about the science behind it if it did work. See here for example. The video has gone viral across many sites. Very impressive for a hoax really…and it did get me interested in doing kitchen chemistry. The truth is a lot easier though…and still good chemistry! Watch Steve Spangler in action below…
The polymer beads can be bought here.
There’s more Kitchen Chemistry to come but I think I’ll stick to some of Theodore Gray’s guidance …maybe time for some Mad Science at home…Stumble it!