February 16, 2001
Science Is Fun!
by Judith Brand
Is Fun!" was a popular symposium organized by chemistry professor
Bassam Shakhashiri from the University of Wisconsin--Madison. Among
the participants were members of the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute,
who entertained and enlightened the AAAS audience with Exploratorium-style
activities. These were two of the favorites:
|Click to watch a RealPlayer video clip of how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. |
What to Do When You Don't Have a Corkscrew
Exploratorium teacher Modesto Tomas showed that a bottle of wine can be opened
without benefit of a corkscrew: Just bang it against a wall! Padding
the wall with his jacket, Modesto hit the wall with the bottom of the bottle
until the cork began to emerge. "What's going on?" he asked
first law: inertia," someone said. The wine doesn't want to move,
so as the bottle moves, the wine pushes against the cork. "Newton's
third law: for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction."
bottle pushes on the wall, the wall pushes back on the bottle. And
finally, as the emerging cork creates space in the neck of the bottle,
rushes in, forced to flow rapidly as it moves from the wide part of the
bottle to the narrower neck.
few more bangs, and Modesto lifted the cork out of the bottle! An
open bottle of wine shouldn't be wasted, so Modesto poured a glass
of wine for a volunteer to taste. He dumped the rest of the wine into
a blender and turned on the machine, adding air to the liquid. The
tasted the wine again and pronounced that it was smoother.
explained that cheap wines often taste harsh because they contain
a lot of tannins. Oxidize the tannins, and the taste will improve.
Can You Find Your Blind Spot?
Exploratorium's Linda Shore passed out Popsicle sticks and brightly
colored stickers so people could experiment with their blind spot.
(Each eye has a blind spot because no light can be detected on the
part of the retina where the optic nerve enters.)
With stickers affixed to the ends of their Popsicle sticks, people
closed one eye, and held the sticks at arm's length so that the stickers
covered up part of Linda's head. Still looking at Linda, they moved
their sticks to the side until the bright stickers vanished from their
sight. By wiggling their sticks around, they could discover the height
of their blind spot.