In general, the most dramatic changes to the mass, color, and shape of the eggs will occur within the first 24 hours of the experiment. Eggs submerged in corn syrup will have lost considerable mass and have the appearance of flabby sacks. Eggs soaked in distilled water will gain mass and appear dramatically swollen. Eggs in dilute salt solutions will gain mass, and even those in very concentrated solutions might gain mass. Eggs buried in salt or other dry media should lose mass.
The de-shelled eggs serve as good models of human cells. After the eggshell is removed, a thin membrane (actually, two membranes held tightly together) remains. This membrane, like those in human cells, is selectively permeable, allowing certain substances to pass through while blocking others.
Substances that can pass easily through the membrane of the egg will follow the principles of diffusion. They will move through the membrane from the side where they are at a higher concentration to the side where they are at a lower concentration (click to enlarge the diagram below). This movement will continue until the concentration on both sides is the same. While random molecular motion will cause individual molecules to continue moving back and forth across the membrane, the overall concentration on each side will remain in equilibrium, with equal concentrations on both sides.
The egg’s membrane is permeable to water. Movement of a solvent (such as water) across a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated one is called osmosis. When an egg is soaked in a solution that has a higher solute concentration (the relative amount of dissolved stuff) than the solute concentration inside the egg, water moves out of the egg and into the solution (see diagram below).
As a result, the egg loses mass and ends up looking deflated. An egg naturally has a lot of stuff inside, so the outside solution has to be very concentrated for this to happen. That’s the case when an egg is treated with corn syrup or buried in salt. By contrast, when an egg is treated with distilled water, or a dilute salt solution, the solute concentration is higher inside the egg than out, so the water moves into the egg, increasing its mass. It may be easier to think about osmosis in terms of water concentration rather than solute concentration. If the solute concentration is high, then the water concentration will be low by comparison.
Rubbing, or isopropyl, alcohol is at least 70% alcohol and therefore less than 30% water. This should cause water to move from the egg into the solution, and the egg should lose mass. In addition, the egg may appear white and rubbery. Alcohol that diffuses into the egg can denature the proteins, unraveling their three-dimensional structure and causing them to coagulate or join together. Egg proteins turn from translucent to white when they are denatured. In cooking, temperature is used to denature these proteins, but you may have noticed that alcohol has also "cooked" the egg and caused it to look hard-boiled.
The plasma membranes of your cells behave much like those of the egg. All of the trillions of cells in your body are like busy seaports with materials coming in and going out. Water, oxygen, and nutrients must pass through the plasma membrane into your cells, and wastes must leave. When the concentration of oxygen is higher in your lungs than it is in your blood, for example, the oxygen diffuses into red blood cells through capillary walls. Your flowing blood then transports that oxygen to your tissues. From there, the oxygen diffuses into other cells to be used in cellular respiration. Through a similar process, water in the stomach moves into the bloodstream and is then carried to the cells, where it supports a variety of essential bodily functions.