The best place in the world for science experiments is inside your kitchen. Cooking is just one big delicious chemistry lesson. From mold to the brown crust on bread, here are some interesting science facts you can learn while you eat.
The Maillard reaction is a complex chemical process (so complex scientists are still learning about it) that happens when sugars and fats get nice and hot. It is how bread gets its nice brown crust and steak gets that crispy outside layer. To make a Maillard reaction happen, you need dryness and heat. Take, for example, a potato. If you cut that potato down into chunks and throw it into a hot oven, first the moisture will cook off. Then the starch of the potato will break down and re-form, starting to get brown and crunchy. To watch the Maillard reaction in action, take a piece of bread and put it into the toaster. When it pops up brown, that’s your Maillard reaction.
Acids and bases
Your kitchen is filled with acids and bases. What’s that? Good question. Well, in 1887 a scientist named Svante Arrhenius discovered that some liquids release hydrogen when you put a molecule in them, and some release hydroxide. The pH scale was developed to measure the different levels of hydroxide or hydrogen in the liquid and, depending on how much you have of either element, determines if it’s an acid or a base. Vinegar, lemons and oranges — those are acids because they have a lot of hydrogen. Soap, toothpaste and bleach — those are bases because they have hydroxide.
A fun experiment with acids and bases is putting lemon juice or vinegar (acids), into milk. It will make the milk curdle up into cottage cheese because the acid changes the pH balance of the milk, and the milk proteins stick together.
Mold is usually part of the kitchen you don’t want to see. It’s the green fuzzy stuff that grows on your food when you leave it in the fridge for too long, or on your bread when it’s out on the counter for days. But don’t be afraid of mold — cheese is a type of mold and so are mushrooms. You see, mold is a fungus that grows from tiny spore that float in the air. The spores float around and attach to our food and, if left long enough, can grow colonies. Some mold ruins food and can make you sick. Other mold is made to make medicine such as penicillin. There are not many mold varieties that can grow when it’s below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, so that’s why we refrigerate food. With your parent’s permission, take a piece of fruit or a piece of bread and let it sit in a Tupperware container on the counter for days. Watch the food slowly change. Did it grow mold?
How to make a volcano
By Trey Young, for The Gazette
To build a volcano in a bottle here is what you will need! (This will cause a big mess so make sure you do it outside.)
• 1/4 cup of dish soap
• 1/2 cup of cold water
• 2 cups of white vinegar
• Food coloring (you should pick your favorite or mix two!)
• 1 cup of baking soda
• 1 cup of water
• empty 2 liter pop bottle
1. Mix the vinegar, water, dish soap and a few drops of food coloring into the bottle.
2. In a separate bowl, use a spoon to mix up 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup water together until it is all a liquid.
3. Dump the cup of baking soda and water into the bottle.
4. Back away fast because it will explode!