Chemistry for kids: Make a DIY bubble snake!

A fun and completely safe experiment for the family to try during quarantine.

  • Most of us are staying home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, but that doesn't mean there isn't learning and fun to be had.
  • It's important to take a break from screen time. Kate the Chemist, professor, science entertainer, and author of "The Big Book of Experiments," has just the activity: Creating a bubble snake using common household ingredients including dish soap, food coloring, rubber bands, a towel, and a small plastic bottle.
  • In this step-by-step tutorial, Kate walks us through the simple process of building the apparatus and combining materials to bring the fun snakes to life.

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Study: Life might survive, and thrive, in a hydrogen world

When searching for extraterrestrial life, astronomers may want to look at planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres.

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As new and more powerful telescopes blink on in the next few years, astronomers will be able to aim the megascopes at nearby exoplanets, peering into their atmospheres to decipher their composition and to seek signs of extraterrestrial life.
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Ask a Chemist: How does handwashing kill coronavirus?

The physical action of handwashing plus the properties of soap is a one-two punch for the virus.

  • A common recommendation from experts to help protect against coronavirus is to wash your hands often, but why? It turns out that each time you do it is an effective two-pronged attack.
  • As Kate the Chemist explains, the virus has a weak outer membrane. By using the proper handwashing technique, you're actually breaking through that membrane and ripping the virus apart.
  • Soap is an important part of the equation because of its two sides: the hydrophobic side (which grabs onto the virus), and the hydrophilic side (which grabs onto the water). Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds allows the virus to be rinsed away.

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Kate the Chemist: Water is a freak substance. Here’s why.

Dr. Kate Biberdorf explains why boiling water makes it safer and how water molecules are unusual and cool.

  • University of Texas professor and science entertainer Kate the Chemist joined Big Think to talk about water molecules and to answer two interesting and important questions: Why does boiling water make it safe to drink, and what happens to water when you boil or freeze it?
  • According to Kate, when water is heated to a certain temperature (100°C/ 212°F) the hydrogen bonds break and it goes from a liquid to a gas state. Boiling for a minimum of 5 minutes kills any viruses and bacteria that were in the water.
  • "Water is a freak and so it is one of my favorite molecules ever," Kate says. "It has these unique properties and we are surrounded by it constantly. We also are made of water. We have to drink water to survive...It's a really, really fun molecule to investigate."

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Lizards develop new chemical language to attract mates in predator-free environments

Researchers decoded the love signals of lizards "spoken" through chemical signals.

Photo Credit: Colin Donihue
  • Scientists discovered that lizards developed novel chemical communication signals when relocated to tiny island groups with no predators.
  • Male lizards began to rapidly produce a new chemical love elixir, not unlike cologne, to call on potential mates.
  • With new technology we're increasingly able to detect and identify the chemicals that make up much of the language of non-human nature.

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