Spooky Science for Halloween

Halloween may look a little different this year, but we can still engage in some fun, sweet and and spooky experimentation at home! Try these experiments and share your results with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. You may end up with a treat in your mailbox!

Sweet Science: Unlocking the Chemistry of Candy: The color of food has always been a part of the culinary arts. The early Romans believed that people not only eat with their palate, but also “eat with their eyes.” For centuries, humans have used dyes from natural ingredients to add color to food, drink, clothing and other products. In addition to these colorants, foods can contain dyes to give them vibrant colors. This NGSS-aligned experiment lets students investigate how agarose gel electrophoresis unlocks the color code used by food scientists to make colorful candies. Students will extract color activities from common candies and separate the dyes on agarose gel electrophoresis. A fun lab extension involves the use of candy to build a DNA model. We will be featuring this experiment in next week’s YouTube Live Stream, so be sure to subscribe for alerts.

Teach Chemistry with Puking Pumpkins: When mixed together, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and acetic acid (vinegar) react with one another, resulting in vigorous fizzing and frothing. When the two are mixed, they undergo a series of chemical reactions that result in the production of carbon dioxide gas (for the chemical reaction NaHCO3 + HC2H3O2 → NaC2H3O2 + H2O + CO2). We can use this reaction at home to create a fun and gross visual! First carve a jack-o-lantern (you can use our DNA template if you want a science pumpkin). In a large measuring cup, mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 tsp of dish soap and a few drops of food coloring. (The soap captures the gas and result in a foamier “vomit” for your pumpkin.) Next, place four tablespoons of baking soda into the cavity of the pumpkin. Pour the vinegar solution into the pumpkin and be ready for some gross-out fun!

Vampire Science: Learn more about detecting and testing for blood: Forensic scientists — and vampires — are adept at detecting, collecting, and analyzing blood. Blood is often found at crime scenes, in spatters, drops and drips.  Analyzing these patters is a field of study in itself!  Most blood spatter evidence is found around the victim or where the violence occurred.  Blood itself can be found on clothes, skin, in the get-away vehicle.  So, before we test those samples, we need to confirm that they’re blood.  We test them using a simple chemical test that distinguishes between blood and non-blood.  Then, we’d use blood group typing to allow us to 1) confirm the sample is blood and 2) start to narrow down the suspects based on their blood group. You can try these experiments at home using our Forensic Blood Typing Kit. Now, to be clear, these are simulated blood samples so there’s no biohazard to bring into your home.