Do-it-Yourself Mad Science

Video highlights from Street Genius Season 2

Who doesn’t love a good experiment? The thrill of (maybe) not knowing what’s going to happen, the expectation that the result will be the promised one, the feeling of doing something important. Try these 4 experiments you can easily do at home

Who doesn’t love a good experiment? The thrill of (maybe) not knowing what’s going to happen, the expectation that the result will be the promised one, the feeling of doing something important…

The best part is when you don’t need to be an outstandingly skilled chemist or physicist to be doing all of this, because you can play mad scientist at home very easily. Most of the things you have lying around at home can be used to try out astonishing things, and you don’t have to set your house on fire… necessarily.

With no further ado, here are four nice experiments you should definitely try out:

1. Lava lamps

Lava lamps always look cool, no matter what age you are—at least I’ve always wanted to have one. The best is, you can make them on your own! Fill 2/3 of a vase with oil, the rest of it with water. Add food colouring and 1/4 of an Alka Seltzer tablet (or the antacid of your choice), so that the chemical reaction can begin. And what exactly happens, you might ask? Well, antacids consist of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid, and when those two mix, they release carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles and, in turn, mixes the oil and the coloured water together. Instead of antacids, you can also try other things, for example salt.

2. Cloud in a bottle

Ever wondered how clouds work? This experiment can give you a hint. What you need is simple: A bottle, a foot pump, warm water and rubbing alcohol. And safety glasses, just in case. Pour enough warm water into the bottle so that it covers the bottom and add some drops of rubbing alcohol. Swirl everything around so it covers the sides and start pumping carefully, about 30-35 times. And there you go—you’ll have your own cloud in a bottle, easy as that! The pressure infused by the pumping makes the air expand, and the water temperature drops. The water molecules condense, and so we get our clouds—groups of tiny water droplets.

3. Transparent egg

A raw egg and vinegar are the key components for this curious, little experiment. Aside of that, you’ll also need a jar. Fill the jar with vinegar and put in the egg. Leave it for one day, change the vinegar the next day and leave it for another day. Afterwards, rinse the egg carefully and voilà—the vinegar will have reacted with the egg shell and will have turned it transparent. It’ll be flexible and even able to bounce—just don’t do it from too high, or it’ll splatter.

4. Smokey soap bubble

For this experiment, you’ll need dry ice, a bowl, dish soap, a piece of cloth, a plastic cup and warm water. And how does it work? When you drop dry ice into warm water, the result is a combination of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the form of gas. Actually, it’s a cloud of tiny water droplets. Now, if you draw a cloth soaked in soap across the rim of the bowl to create a soap film over it, the soap will trap the expanding cloud and it’ll create a giant, smokey bubble.

Of course, there are many, many more things you can try out at home. This was just a small taste. But if you liked this, maybe you’d also be interested in science on a bigger scale. How about taking science to the streets? Breathtaking experiments and people trying to guess the outcome, everyone’s participating and having fun. For example, how many water balloons does it take to stop a bullet? Well, you’ll find out about that and so much more on Street Genius, premiering in January on NatGeo! 

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address