Let there be light!

Chemiluminescence Demo Video

Read on to learn about what’s happening in the video above:

Our scientist pours two solutions, labeled Solution A and Solution B, into two separate beakers (these solutions are respectively a Luminol mixture and Hydrogen Peroxide). [NOTE: Luminol is a “versatile” chemical that happens to be very good at demonstrating the turning of chemical potential energy into radiant, or light, energy.] He empties the two beakers into the tube apparatus, turns the lights off, then the magic happens as the solutions combine to make a glowing liquid! THIS is chemical potential energy turned radiant energy.

Some glowing “stuff” gets its light by way of a reaction called chemiluminescence. Chemiluminescent reactions are chemical reactions that yield light without producing much heat, which we think is pretty amazing. What else undergoes chemiluminescent reactions? To list a couple of common occurrences: fireflies and lightsticks.

Firefly

Firefly. Photo courtesy of nativeplantwildlifegarden.com

Why are we particularly excited about glowing stuff? Because Pajama Jam is almost upon us (tomorrow night), and there’s going to be a ton of glowing stuff there – glow-in-the-dark bowling, glow-in-the-dark ring toss, glow-in-the-dark bead necklaces, and more! AND now you know why these things can glow without burning us – they are undergoing chemical reactions which yield light with the production of very little heat…unlike, say, the light produced by a conventional lightbulb.

Tickets for Pajama Jam are available online here. We hope to see you there!

 

Happy Pi Day!

About Pi:
Pi is defined as the distance around a perfect circle, or the circumference, divided by the distance across it, or the diameter. It is also involved in calculating the area of a circle, the volume of a sphere, and many other mathematical formulas you might need in the sciences. Or not. And it goes on forever, starting with 3.14 (get it, March 14?).

Chocolate Pie

Martha’s Chocolate Pi Pie

Celebrate Pi with pie!

Our Director of Education wanted to share her chocolate pie recipe for the occasion:

2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 stick butter
1 scant cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
dash salt

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler, take off heat and stir in sugar. Stir in beaten eggs, then vanilla and salt. Pour into graham cracker crust and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Top with a dollop of whipped cream for that Albert Einstein look (because it’s his birthday, too)!

Albert Einstein

Photo courtesy of aaj.tv

Pick Up an Ice Cube with a String

Pour salt over ice cube and string

Pour salt over ice cube and string

Materials
Full cup of water
Ice cube
Salt
~12 inches of string

Procedure
Put your ice cube in your cup of water.
Drape your piece of string across the ice cube; make sure there are a few inches of slack on each side.
Pour salt on top of the ice cube and string.
Wait for 60 seconds, then, taking the ends of the string in each hand, slowly lift the ice cube out of the water.

Results

Carefully lift ice cube

Carefully lift ice cube

You’ve picked up an ice cube using just a piece of string! How? According to explorable.com, the addition of the salt disrupts the state of equilibrium that existed between the ice cube and the water. The salt molecules begin to dissolve and mix with the water molecules; this changes the water’s rate of freezing. The rate of melting is now far quicker than the rate of freezing, causing the ice to melt rapidly. In order to restore the state of equilibrium, the water’s freezing point drops, causing the ice to freeze. The salt begins crystallizing and the ice ultimately refreezes around the string.

Tux and Apollo: A Love Story

Tux and Apollo

Hanging out with my boyfriend, Apollo in the SciQuarium!

Hi, friends, it’s Tux again. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share a little bit about my relationship with Apollo. We have lived together since we were chicks, but really didn’t take much notice of each other at first… He was kind of the boy next door, you know? He and I traveled to Greensboro together from Boston and that’s when our relationship really grew! We bonded together during our travels and our time together in quarantine and luckily, our pairing was approved by a Species Survival Plan (SSP). We just have so much in common!

We both love water sports, particularly swimming and diving. Many of our dates take place in the water, in fact. Sometimes we are in it for a good workout, but other times we just like to splash around and have a little fun. We also both enjoy long waddles on the beach and fine seafood dinners. We are hoping to start a family in the future, but we’ll just have to wait to see what happens with that!

Tux and Apollo

Doesn’t he have a great butt???

Not all of my African penguin friends are as lucky as Apollo and I. In some parts of our native range, there just aren’t enough of us left to find suitable mates.

Even if we are lucky enough to find the right bird, we can’t always start families successfully. We’ve lost some of our nesting grounds. In the wild, we like to burrow in guano (or bird poop), but humans collected an awful lot of it over a century ago to use as fertilizer and we just haven’t recovered. It has led some of my friends to nest right out in the open where they are subjected to severe weather, like flooding and extreme heat, as well as predators.

Oil spills have also interfered with some of my friends’ plans to start a family. Some of their mates have been oiled and some, sadly, did not survive. Even if they are rehabilitated from an oil spill, studies have shown that their babies just don’t thrive.

And, I know we’re awesome and humans love to check us out, but in the wild, that has caused us problems as well. Sometimes our people friends accidentally collapse our burrows and our newlyweds in particular are sometimes a little skittish about starting a family with an audience around.

The humans aren’t all bad, though. Many of them are trying to save us. Efforts are underway to protect our breeding grounds, prevent oil spills and maintain the SANCCOB oil spill rehabilitation center for when they do occur, and increase food supply near our homes. That’s why we need your help. 100% of proceeds from Tuxedo Trot: Run for the Penguins go to conservation initiatives. Won’t you consider signing up for this event and give my wild penguin friends a bit more hope for their future?

How Salt Melts Ice

Materials & Equipment:

Water, salt, 2 pie pans, a freezer

Procedure:

Setup

Setup

Fill each pan with water to about 2/3’s capacity. Place the pans on your freezer shelf, then wait for the water to freeze. After the water has turned to ice, set your pans side by side, and choose one to sprinkle with sea salt.

Results:

The salted ice will begin melting immediately. This is very similar to the way that our cities brine roads in anticipation of a snow or ice event. The science behind this method? Salt lowers the freezing (and also melting) point of water; therefore, the outside temperature must decrease significantly in order to maintain the salted ice.

Results - Salted Ice

Results – Salted Ice

Results - No Salt Added

Results – No Salt Added

Waiting for the Snow to Start? Make a Snow Measuring Stick!

Decorated Measuring Stick

Decorated Measuring Stick

Materials:
Paint stir stick
Ruler
Marker
Assorted Decorations (paint, foam shapes, pipe cleaners, etc)

Procedure:

Paint your stir stick, if desired (we used white paint for our snowman).

Create a base line a couple of inches above the bottom of the stir stick to mark zero inches. From there, use your ruler to mark off each inch going toward the top of the stir stick.

Decorate your measuring stick as desired.

Once your measuring stick finishes drying, find a nice open spot that will receive the most snow. Press your measuring stick in the ground up to your base line.

Snow Stick in the Ground

Snow Stick in the Ground

Results:
As the snow falls, periodically check on your measuring stick. We’d love to see how much it snows in your area, so please take pictures and share on the Greensboro Science Center’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreensboroScienceCenter!

Erin with Snow Stick

Erin with Snow Stick

Amphibian Lab

For the last year or so, the “Sea Lab” located on the lower level of the museum has been closed off from view. In the months leading up to the opening of the Carolina SciQuarium, this room was used to house fish before their exhibits were finished. Now that these animals have moved to their permanent homes in the SciQuarium, the old Sea Lab has been transformed into an Amphibian Lab.

Greensboro Science Center visitors can now take a peek into the lab to view the slimy residents therein. Currently, the Amphibian Lab is home to a young Hellbender, White’s Tree Frogs, and Yellow & Black Dart Frogs. All of these animals are displayed in the window for visitors to see. The remainder of the lab will be used as quarantine and holding areas as new animals arrive.

Yellow and Black Dart Frog

Yellow & Black Dart Frog

DID YOU KNOW
The class Amphibia is made up of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians. But what on Earth is a caecilian? These are amphibians who appear to be superficially similar to earthworms or snakes.

During Phase II of the GSC’s Master Plan, the Amphibian Lab will continue to metamorphose. The current plan is to convert this area into an educational wing featuring underground animals. In this “wUNDERWORLD,” visitors will encounter mysterious inhabitants of the dark, such as spiders, scorpions, leeches, and snakes.