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How to Cook That, YouTube

10 Science Experiments You Can Eat with Your Kids

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How to Cook That, YouTube

There's very little about cooking that doesn’t involve chemistry, physics, biology, or even math. But don’t tell your kids that. Sneak education into your kitchen with these 10 experiments, gathered from the websites of creative teachers and parents.

1. Corncob Popcorn Experiment

Technically, you can learn this lesson with your average depressing old bag of microwave popcorn. But using a cob of popcorn and a paper bag adds a little bit of class to the whole operation. The experiment is simply done: cob, bag, microwave, and a hundred little starch fireworks.

Fun Quotient: Any kid knows food that has to explode before you eat it is the best food.

Lesson Taught: Lots, really. First, kids can learn that of the four types of common corn, only one kind—which is actually called Popcorn!—will pop, off the cob or otherwise (it’s the only one with a hull that’s just the perfect thickness for explosions). Popcorn explodes because each kernel has a perfect drop of water inside it. Your microwave quickly raises that water to the steaming point, and the pressure of the steam rips open the hull and inflates the starchy mush inside.

2. Edible Amber Fossils

The likelihood that prehistoric monsters will be cloned from DNA stuck in amber is pretty slim. But this experiment is good way to get your little monster started down the path of manipulating nature in ways no man was ever meant to.

Fun Quotient: Stuffing slimies into jiggle-goop, then eating.

Lesson Learned: Amber is the gold of archeology. This experiment, where kids “fossilize” gummies in gelatin, helps parents explain how amber can preserve prehistoric creatures in ways more delicate than any other form of fossilization.

3. Rock Candy Geodes

Rock candy on a stick? You call that kid science? Let’s see some style! Combine chemistry and geology lessons at once and make delicious rock candy geodes, as shown by this video at How to Cook That.

Fun Quotient: Pretty edible rocks inside non-pretty edible rocks. Something for all tastes. Plus, lots of mashing and squishing.

Lesson Learned: Supersaturation! Rock candy forms because you’ve dissolved so much sugar into your water that it can’t really hold it all. So, the water evaporates, the sugar precipitates, and tiny crystals of sugar cling on to one another until you’ve got a delicious geode. It’s also a good way to study the non-edible kind of geode, where crystallization happens much the same—except with minerals dripping into the hollow space of a lava bubble over millions of years. Well, sorta the same.

4. Edible Earth

Science has yet to prove that the earth’s core is not made up of gooey marshmallow crunchies. Take advantage of this shortcoming to teach your children about earth layers, via rice krispie treats.

Fun Quotient: Let’s see. Frosting, sprinkles, krispie treats, and a molten core that looks a little bit disgusting. The only thing missing to make it kid heaven is a giant trampoline to bounce on while you eat it.

Lesson Learned: A great way to show the proportions of our earth’s interior. And it offers some philosophy, too: In the grand scheme we’re only but a thin layer of frosting, and Mt. Everest is nothing but a sprinkle.

5. Eat a Dandelion

Is that really science? Heck yeah! Finding out that weeds contain enough food substance to be made into a a delicious soup is quite a discovery.

Fun Quotient: Holy cow you can eat these? I specifically remember getting in trouble for eating things I found in our yard. This is a new birth of freedom.

Lesson Learned: Children learn plant anatomy (and how much of our diet is actually either a leaf, root, or seed), how food exists outside a grocery store, and how to ask Dad three times that he’s absolutely sure he hasn’t sprayed pesticide in the side yard yet.

6. Making Butter and Whip Cream

Just because it’s something people have been doing for thousands of years doesn’t mean it won’t be a fresh, new concept to your kid.

Fun Quotient: Mess made via electric beater.

Bonus: Highly lickable.

Lesson Learned: Emulsion! You’ve whipped so many air bubbles into your cream that the fat globules are sticking together and forming tiny protective coverings over the air pockets. But what if you don’t add extra air and just knock all those fat globs around together? They start to clump into the delightful fat-spread we call butter.

7. Eat a Candle

This one might be slightly more fun to do for the kids before you do it with them. Because it will make them think your constant threats to go mental have finally become real. All you need is an apple, a nut, and some gum.

Fun Quotient: At first, not apparent. Why is Dad making me watch this candle burn in a dark room? But then, after you blow it out and pop the whole thing into your mouth, it will become their favorite sleepover staple.

Lesson Learned: First, in science you can’t assume anything. Second, nuts burn, because they are full of oil, which is fire food. Third, never trust the old man. He’s shifty.

8. Jell-O Laser Optics

You know how your eyes work? They work like Jell-O. And this experiment will prove it.

Fun Quotient: The laser pointer alone is enough to fulfill the fun criteria. Add knives and Jell-O, and you got yourself a party.

Lesson Learned: Jell-O has the awesome distinction of both allowing light to pass through, and having enough tiny solid bits inside to reflect the light. So you can see what path light (the laser) is taking when it hits the Jell-O. The more interesting shapes you cut your Jell-O into (concave and convex especially), the more different paths the light will take.

9. Treasure Hunt the Iron in Your Cereal

What does “fortified with iron” really mean? Are you really eating iron? Grab a magnet and some industrial strength cereal and find out.

Fun Quotient: Well, buying the chocolate kind of fortification is a good start. Plus there will be pulverizing.

Lesson Learned: We eat metal, the very same metal inside rocks and rusty gates. We have to, in fact, because our bodies don’t make it and we need it to carry oxygen through our blood. Also, a chance to learn that just because a sugary cereal boasts healthful looking additives on its box doesn’t make it healthy.

10. Homemade Marshmallow Chemistry

Matter is neither created nor destroyed; it’s just rearranged—in this case, from powder and liquid into puffy dollops of happy.

Fun Quotient: All the best of kitchen science: Boiling stuff, electric mixer-ing, greasing, powdering and slicing!

Lesson Learned: Molecules like to stay together. But when you use extreme heat to pull them apart, and then introduce a whole bunch of new molecules to the party, everyone has to find new buddies. The end result is often marshmallows.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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iStock
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Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
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iStock

Dyslexia is often described as trying to read letters as they jump around the page. Because of its connections to reading difficulties and trouble in school, the condition is often blamed on the brain. But according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.

As The Guardian reports, a team of French scientists say they've discovered a key physiological difference between the eyes of those with dyslexia and those without it. Our eyes have tiny light-receptor cells called rods and cones. The center of a region called the fovea is dominated by cones, which are also responsible for color perception.

Just as most of us have a dominant hand, most have a dominant eye too, which has more neural connections to the brain. The study of 60 people, divided evenly between those with dyslexia and those without, found that in the eyes of non-dyslexic people, the arrangement of the cones is asymmetrical: The dominant eye has a round, cone-free hole, while the other eye has an unevenly shaped hole. However, in people with dyslexia, both eyes have the same round hole. So when they're looking at something in front of them, such as a page in a book, their eyes perceive exact mirror images, which end up fighting for visual domination in the brain. This could explain why it's sometimes impossible for a dyslexic person to distinguish a "b" from a "d" or an "E" from a "3".

These results challenge previous research that connects dyslexia to cognitive abilities. In a study published earlier this year, people with the condition were found to have a harder time remembering musical notes, faces, and spoken words. In light of the new findings, it's unclear whether this is at the root of dyslexia or if growing up with vision-related reading difficulties affects brain plasticity.

If dyslexia does come down to some misarranged light-receptors in the eye, diagnosing the disorder could be as simple as giving an eye exam. The explanation could also make it easy to treat without invasive surgery. In the study, the authors describe using an LED lamp that blinks faster than the human eye can perceive to "cancel out" one of the mirror images perceived by dyslexic readers, leaving only one true image. The volunteers who read with it called it a "magic lamp." The researchers hope to further experiment with it to see see if it's a viable treatment option for the millions of people living with dyslexia.

[h/t The Guardian]

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