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How to Cook That, YouTube
How to Cook That, YouTube

10 Science Experiments You Can Eat with Your Kids

How to Cook That, YouTube
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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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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entertainment
Why Our Brains Love Plot Twists
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Getty Images

From the father-son reveal in The Empire Strikes Back to the shocking realization at the end of The Sixth Sense, everyone loves a good plot twist. It's not the element of surprise that makes them so enjoyable, though. It's largely the set-up, according to cognitive scientist Vera Tobin.

Tobin, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University, writes for The Conversationthat one of the most enjoyable moments of a film or novel comes after the big reveal, when we get to go back and look at the clues we may have missed. "The most satisfying surprises get their power from giving us a fresh, better way of making sense of the material that came before," Tobin writes. "This is another opportunity for stories to turn the curse of knowledge to their advantage."

The curse of knowledge, Tobin explains, refers to a psychological effect in which knowledge affects our perception and "trips us up in a lot of ways." For instance, a puzzle always seems easier than it really is after we've learned how to solve it, and once we know which team won a baseball game, we tend to overestimate how likely that particular outcome was.

Good writers know this intuitively and use it to their advantage to craft narratives that will make audiences want to review key points of the story. The end of The Sixth Sense, for example, replays earlier scenes of the movie to clue viewers in to the fact that Bruce Willis's character has been dead the whole time—a fact which seems all too obvious in hindsight, thanks to the curse of knowledge.

This is also why writers often incorporate red herrings—or false clues—into their works. In light of this evidence, movie spoilers don't seem so terrible after all. According to one study, even when the plot twist is known in advance, viewers still experience suspense. Indeed, several studies have shown that spoilers can even enhance enjoyment because they improve "fluency," or a viewer's ability to process and understand the story.

Still, spoilers are pretty universally hated—the Russo brothers even distributed fake drafts of Avengers: Infinity War to prevent key plot points from being leaked—so it's probably best not to go shouting the end of this summer's big blockbuster before your friends have seen it.

[h/t The Conversation]

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