Day 276 – Scared Pepper Experiment

Today had been a long and tiring day where I didn’t have enough time to complete my planned new thing. No worries, I have a long list to choose from right? Well, if you include things like “swim in the Pacific”, or “be in two countries at once” then sure, but I’m running pretty low on the quick and easy new things. Thankfully, I knew where to turn for inspiration. I’ve done a few little science experiments from the James Dyson Foundation challenge cards (small science and engineering projects, mainly aimed at children) and enjoyed them a lot. Making a bridge out of spaghetti was fun, but I liked the paper water balloons and the paper helicopter the best. After a quick scroll through, I found an experiment that looked interesting – getting pepper to move without touching it.

Stage 1 – Dry finger

All I needed was a bowl full of water, some ground pepper, and some washing up liquid. When I put a dry finger in the water, the pepper stayed on the surface, and either clung close to my finger or didn’t move. As soon as I put washing up liquid on my finger, the pepper immediately spread as far away as it could from my finger. It was so strange!

Stage 2 – Washing-up liquid on finger and the pepper has spread to the edges (it looks like not all of it has, but they’re the bits that have sunk)

The washing-up liquid changes the surface tension of the water, causing the pepper to spread – so cool! I spoke to my sister about this, and she mentioned that early on in the pandemic, she’d use this experiment to teach my four-year-old nephew why he needed to wash his hands so often. I think that’s a fantastic idea, and although the importance of hand-washing is already well-drummed into us, it’s still a great and effective way to show young children how viruses and vaccines work.

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