Thanksgiving Science

by Kim Moldofsky, The Maker Mom

At home or in a classroom, these seasonal delights will leave you thankful for science!

Like Turkey in the Straw, only Different

Instead of Turkey in the Straw, think, Straw in the Potato. All you need is a couple of sturdy plastic straws with any bendy elements snipped off and a raw potato for this quick demonstration. Grasp the plastic straw and attempt to poke it into the potato. Chances are you won’t make more than a dent and your straw may crumple. Now cover the top opening of the straw with your finger and stab the potato with the open bottom end. This time the air inside the straw will compress rather than simply escaping getting pushed out the top. As a result, the straw is more stable. It won’t collapse in on itself and will be strong enough to penetrate the potato.

Can You Pull this off?

Demonstrate inertia by pulling a tablecloth out from under a place setting. For this demonstration you need a table with a smooth top and straight edge, a tablecloth without a hem, and any number of dishes, cups and utensils. Set the table. Grab the edge of the cloth that’s hanging over the edge of the table and quickly pull it down toward the ground. The table settings are at rest, and if you do this correctly, there won’t be enough force to move them from their resting position. Practice makes perfect, so stick with unbreakable dishes and run a few trials before you fill the cup with water.

Them Bones

For every beautiful brimming platter of turkey on the holiday table, there’s an ugly carcass left behind in the kitchen. Boil up those bones and clingy bits of meat into a tasty broth. But set aside a couple of bones in the name of science.

Rubber Bones

Take a small bone and find a jar large enough to hold it. Remove any traces of meat and rinse it under running water. Not the condition of the bone, especially its texture and hardness. Place the bone in the jar and fill it with white vinegar. Leave it site, covered. After three or more days, remove and rinse the bone. Note the changes. Vinegar leaches calcium from bones, so it now likely feels soft and rubbery.

Make a Wish Upon the Furcula

The furcular, more commonly known as the wishbone, is formed by the fusion of a bird’s clavicles in its chest. The bone’s elasticity helps hold and release energy as the bird flies. Legend has it that the story of the wishbone’s magical powers date back to the Etruscans, an ancient civilization in what is now Italy. Two people play the wishbone game. Each person grasps one of the bone’s prongs, makes a silent wish and then pulls until the bone snaps in two. The person with the longer bit wins.

Wishing and magical thinking won’t earn anyone the title of America’s Top Young Scientist, but maybe one of these Thanksgiving science ideas will provide the inspiration for a research project that will!

Have a happy holiday!