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Amanda Lamb: Weird science

Posted April 20, 2014

I fully admit it. As a family we have never been good at science projects - coming up with the idea or the execution.

I can't forget the year we let cheese mold under a light, or put sunblock on a seed and then planted it, and then there was the do-coins-dissolve-in nail-polish-remover year. You get the idea. Epic failure.

So, this year is destined to be no different. Thankfully, we have the internet and instructional videos on YouTube to thank for nudging us along. But even with all of this help, somehow we still cannot make even the simplest experiments work.

"Elephant Toothpaste" is what we are trying to duplicate. It looks simple enough in the dozens of videos we have watched. You mix food coloring, dish liquid, yeast and hyrdrogren peroxide together in a container and you are supposed to get a colorful, foamy geiser.

So far, we have failed to replicate this on multiple occasions. Each time we set up the experiment on a table on our driveway, I poise the iPad to record the action. This is the day, I say in my head. This is the day it will work. No dice.

We have tweaked the amount of the ingredients multiple times. We have even secured a higher test hydrogen peroxide, albeit a small amount, to see if that was the answer.

At the time of this writing, we are still treading water without a reaction. I am in search of an even higher grade hydrogen peroxide and am willing to try again. But it does beg the question, when should we as parents give up, and throw in the towel?

I'd hate to think my daughter's grade would suffer because of my inability to get her what she needs to make the experiment work. So, I persevere and hope for a visit from the science fairy...

Amanda is a mom of two, reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.

4 Comments

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  • kittiboo Apr 21, 2014

    This is not failure! This is science in action! Tweaking, and researching, and changing approach...all vital parts of experimentation. Perhaps, for a child, The most valuable part. Keep trying!

  • Bob Tarleton Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    The yeast is what makes this work. The yeast needs to be fresh, mixed with warm water, and stirred for about 30 seconds. For the yeast, you might try getting some from one of the local breweries. Then you will be sure it is "live."

  • br549znc Apr 21, 2014

    You know when you should throw in the towel....never.

  • Shelly McChesney Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    In your list of ingredients you didn't mention warm water. Are you using any or was this just left out of the article? If you aren't using any, try mixing the yeast in 3 Tablespoons of warm water for about 30 seconds in a separate small container. When you add it to all the other mixed ingredients it should foam. Also, the peroxide should be the 6% solution you get at a beauty supply store. Hope this helps! Science experiments are fun!