KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Are you looking for a way to enjoy the cold weather or entertain the kids while they are out of school? We gathered some science experiments to keep the chilly weather exciting!
Almost everyone who is on the internet in some capacity has seen videos of people throwing cups and pots of boiling water in freezing cold weather to create a cloud. While it is still an impeccable trick, there are plenty of other fun things to do when it’s below freezing outside. Here are some of our favorites that we found online.
1. Frozen bubbles
With minimal supplies, you can blow bubbles and watch them freeze. All you need is either bubbles or some soap and water with a tool to blow bubbles with. While the amount of soap to add into water varies by recipe, a ratio of one part liquid dish soap and three to six parts of water seems to be a fair estimate. If you are mixing your own bubble liquid, having a few mixtures with different concentrations of dish soap can also make the experiment more interesting by finding out which one freezes fastest without breaking.
If you don’t have a bubble wand, no problem. Many people find luck using a straw and dipping one end into a soapy water mixture. Another idea is to use a plastic cup with the bottom cut out and a rubber banded a piece of fabric over the top, which can create a tower of bubbles.
After blowing a bubble, catch it with the tool used to blow the bubbles. As you watch ice crystals should begin to form, although the time it takes may range depending on how cold it is outside.
2. Shrinking balloons
If you have a balloon, blow it up and tie it in a nice warm area. If you are doing this experiment with kids or others, you might have them guess what would happen if you take it outside and leave it. Then, take it outside and watch as the balloon seems to deflate! Depending on how cold it is, it could take a little while for this to happen. Once you are ready, take it back inside, and as the air in begins to warm up, the balloon will re-inflate.
Air takes up different amounts of space based on temperature, with hot air taking up more space and colder air taking up less. If you’ve ever noticed that the tires on your car seem to go flat when the weather gets cold, this is the same reaction that happens.
3. Banana hammer
A banana that can be used as a hammer sounds absurd, but if the weather is cold enough, a snack accidentally left outside can become a useful tool. The ingredient that is often associated with smoothies can become so hard if it is frozen cold enough and long enough that it becomes incredibly hard. Although the exact science behind why frozen bananas become so hard is not certain, one might assume it has something to do with the water and sugar contents of the fruit.
The Weather Network featured a video of a banana being used as a hammer after it was frozen by the Canadian weather. Although Tennessee typically does not get as cold as Canada, it might be possible to freeze your own banana hammer overnight during one of the extremely cold nights that are forecasted as a blast of Arctic air moves through.
A member of the WATE Digital Team decided to try out this experiment, and it worked with bananas, squash, and cucumber which were all frozen solid.
4. Maple Syrup Taffy
Little House on the Prairie is typically credited as the source for this fun activity. All you need to make this is maple syrup, a pot, a thermometer, something to stir with, a tool to wrap the taffy onto, and some nice clean snow. The instructions are pretty simple: heat the maple syrup to around 240 degrees Fahrenheit, then pour it into snow and it should create a sticky, taffy like candy as it cools that can be picked up with a popsicle stick.
Some people suggest getting a pan of snow to bring inside and place in the freezer while boiling the syrup while others simply take the boiled syrup outside. A New York Times author also noted that if the syrup is not heated to the 240 degrees, it may not turn out correctly. The author’s syrup boiled at 220 degrees and then turned the snow into a slushy mess.
5. Towel sledding
Among one of the most interesting suggestions is using a towel as a sled. While one right out of the linen closet will not work, one source said that if you take a towel that you do not mind messing up, soak it, and freeze it flat over night, it works perfect as a sled.
6. Burn ice or snow
If you have a lighter and some snow or ice, safely try to light it with a lighter. While it is not suggested to try to clear concrete with fire, ice quickly melts leaving behind a black substance, and snow will disappear.
Back in 2014, a conspiracy theory went around that snow was not real. WATE’s sister station KFOR reported that people trying to burn snow with lighters, and being confused when it seems to disappears. According to KFOR’s report, when burning snow with a lighter, the snow melts and quickly evaporates before it can become a liquid. Another source explains that others might say that ice or snow being burnt and leaving a black substance or weird smell is simply a result of the fuel burnt by the lighter.
If there isn’t any snow on the ground where you are, simply use an ice cube. Just be cautious not to light anything else on fire.
While doing these experiments, please keep in mind to wear the proper clothing to keep warm, stay safe, and take regular breaks to get out of the cold. The WATE 6 Storm Team says that East Tennessee is expected to remain under a Wind Chill Warning until 1 p.m. Saturday.
One experiment that should be left in the past is licking metal poles, as this can cause injuries. A medical website from Alberta, Canada suggests that if you do stick your tongue, lip, hand, or another body part part to a frozen metal surface and get stuck, do not pull, as this can cause an injury. The website says to have someone pour warm water on the metal and stuck body part and to try breathing or blowing warm air on the area, and if those steps do not work, call 911. The website also includes information for what to do if the area is bleeding or if the tongue rips or tears.