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It always amazes me to see so many people think they need expensive equipment to teach the basics of science. Newton did not need a digital scale to study the effects of gravity and Einstein did not even use a calculator to construct his famous equation – E=mc2.
In fact, many of the historical giants of science never had access to expensive equipment and used nothing more than a pencil and some paper. It was ideas that made their science come alive.
And you can do that too! All you need is a curious mind and the following four concepts that will change the way you look at the natural world.
Follow These Science Themes:
- Atoms: Everything is made of atoms.
- Density: The number of atoms within a specific area of an object.
- Diffusion: Areas with lots of atoms tend to move to areas with fewer atoms.
- Law of Conservation: Atoms cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged.
These four simple concepts can be easily applied to nearly every scientific explanation that you encounter. Let me prove this to you over a bowl of cereal. Go grab a box of Cap’n Crunch or Cheerios and let’s get to work!
Atoms for breakfast
First, you should know by now that everything within a bowl of cereal is made up of atoms. The bowl, spoon, milk, and cereal itself are all made up of atoms. Within each solid piece of cereal you may find billions of atoms, all vibrating against each other. That’s right! All atoms within a solid, even the ones that bind together to make Corn Flakes, are moving a little bit.
Atoms within liquids act a little differently – they move around a lot faster because they contain a lot more energy.
Density Dilemma or “Why does my cereal sink so quickly?”
To begin with, what happens when you pour your milk over a bowl of cereal – does the cereal sink or float? It probably floats! But why?
Well, if you compare a spoonful of milk with a spoonful of dry cereal, the number of atoms within the milk would be far greater than those of the cereal. This is because the density of the cereal is less than the density of the milk. When you mix two objects together of different densities, the one with the lower density floats.
Quick!!! Eat your cereal before diffusion takes over!
You can thank diffusion for the unfortunate (and soggy) end for those last few pieces of cereal in your bowl. This squishy transformation takes place when the huge amount of fast-moving atoms inside the milk slams through the vibrating atoms within the cereal. Simply put, the atoms within the milk diffuse into the atoms within the cereal.
And with all the milk being absorbed, it quickly increases the density of the cereal. This is the reason why your cereal sinks to the bottom of the bowl as a spongy pile of goo.
Now if you choose a more sugary cereal you may have a few more minutes until your bowl becomes filled with a dissolved gummy slime. Why? It takes a little longer for the milk to diffuse into the cereal because it has to dissolve the sugary coating first.
That’s why your Cap’n Crunch will float on top of your milk a little longer than your Cheerios!
You can’t break the Law at the breakfast table…
All those soggy chunks of cereal may sink to the bottom of the bowl, but they cannot disappear after soaking all day in the sink. They might break apart and change shape, but your soggy Corn Flakes will never lose a single atom. Don’t forget the Law of Conservation – atoms cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged into new structures.
Written by Scott McQuerry. During the day, Scott (aka – Mr.Q) is your average, everyday high school science teacher humbly going about teaching the masses for the past decade or so. He loves hearing from families who use his Classic Science Curriculum and looks forward to providing many more resources in the years to come. Check him out at The Lab of Mr.Q – www.eequalsmcq.com