Okay, that’s kind of a lie. Please do not coat yourself in soap before entering a burning building. I am not responsible if you do that.

But hey, there’s some truth to the awesomeness of soap!

Julie talked about soap in her blog post found here:

 “So the main ingredients are triglycerides and  alkali. triglycerides are hydrophobic and alkali are hydrophilic. The triglyceride bonds with the dirt, and the alkali stays and washes it off. “

We recently used it in our Flaming Hands lab in a solution with water and methane bubbles. Under many VERY SPECIFIC safety conditions and precautions, the soap helped create a barrier on our hands!Image

This image here illustrates the hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions of soap molecules and shows how this can help form a barrier. Pretty cool, right? Just please don’t set your hands on fire. Please.




Maybe the Wicked Witch was made of styrofoam, and Dorothy threw a bucket of acetone on her! Check out what happens when packaging peanuts and nail polish remover meet:

When the polystyrene dissolves in the acetone, the air in the foam is released, causing it to look like you’re dissolving this massive quantity of material into a small volume of liquid. Pretty cool, right?


Shine Bright Like… Your Teeth?

I need to stop using that joke.

Dhara recently blogged about teeth whiteners! Check it out:

It was pretty interesting to learn about how teeth whiteners work.

“…tooth whiteners contain a bleaching agent which removes the stains on our teeth. hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the main bleaching agents. When this agent is applied to our teeth, oxidizing reactions are made that pierce two layers of our teeth- the enamel and dentin.”

My dad uses products like this to whiten his teeth all the time, but he still drinks coffee and tea, staining his teeth yellow again!

You know, that’s interesting: why do coffee and tea stain teeth in the first place? I found the answer on Colgate’s website! (That’s pretty good marketing, if I say so myself.)

Apparently, your tooth enamel it is not flat and smooth, but actually contains microscopic pits and ridges that can hold particles of food and drink! Pigments from dark-colored drinks such as coffee, tea, and soda can become embedded in those cracks and ridges. This will stain your teeth yellow! Adding creamer to your coffee won’t help— it still has the same amount of pigments that can seep into your enamel.

Make sure you brush your teeth! Herbal, green, and white teas are less likely to stain your teeth than black tea and coffee, so try those out too.

Sweaty Socks

Dhara made a cool post on her blog about sweat! Check it out here!

But why does sweat make people and their gym socks smelly? Sweat, when it’s just plain sweat, doesn’t smell. But sometimes sweat bonds with a particular group of proteins, and it’s those proteins that smell, not the sweat. 

Watch this video to find out more!

And here’s something interesting: does your sweat ever smell worse when you’re stressed out?

When stressed, hormones including adrenaline and cortisol flood the body, resulting in things like increased heart rate and tensed muscles. That rush of adrenaline can also cause another physical side effect—sweat.

Stress sweat contains a lot of the nutrients that bacteria feed off of, and it’s the bacteria feeding off of sweat that produces most of the resulting odor. That means that stress-induced sweat smells worse than sweat from other causes. Read this article for more: Wear deodorant, guys!

What did one ion say to the other ion?

I’ve got my ion you!

Look how cute this science fabric pattern design is! I would totally use a pattern like this to make a pillowcase, and a bag, and a shirt, and a scarf, and a book cover… Check it out here!

Speaking of fabric and science, we’ve recently had to investigate the chemistry of common materials for our Photography Project! Ever wonder what fabric is made out of? What makes one fabric soft and another rough, what makes one shirts color pop like it’s hot and another absorb stains like it’s… not?

Why don’t you check out Project Cotton by the University of Missouri?

“The chemical composition of cotton fiber consists of ninety-five percent cellulose, one point three percent protein, one point two percent ash, point six percent wax, point three percent sugar, and .8 percent organic acids, and other chemical compounds that make up three point one percent (Wakelyn pg. 15). The non-cellulose chemicals of cotton are usually located in the cuticle of the fiber.”

I know, very cool. Cotton is plant based while other fabrics, like wool for example, are animal products. Still other fabrics are synthetic like polyester and nylon. This means that dying and staining clothes made of different materials can have very different results!

Polyester is actually made up of a lot of polymers. Check out this diagram from this page:

The same kind of stuff that makes up the water bottle you’re drinking from can be making up your clothing right now! Crazy stuff.

Textile chemistry is actually a really cool and special discipline. Look into it if you like fabrics and science!



Bubblegum, gubblebum, let’s talk about gum! But not in the candy way, the chemistry way!

Click here to read a cool post Angie made about gum.  Apparently, chemists define gum as any thick substance that comes from a plant and consists of polysaccharides, which are multiple chains of sugar molecules. (Wow, chemists will eat anything, it appears)

“Gum arabic is used as a coating for self adhesive postage stamps, while gum tragacanth makes toothpaste come out of the tube. Guar gum is used to to stop ice crystals from forming in ice cream and chewing gum is made from chicle. “

Cool, right? Who knew gum had so many uses. Here’s something interesting: you know Chiclets? The candy coated little chewing gum pieces? Their name is derived from the substance chewing gum is originally made from, as Angie mentions.

Now that we’ve mentioned gum and toothpaste, here’s a question: why do Big Red chewing gum wrappers, Hot Tamales candies, Atomic Fire Balls, toothpastes, and mouthwashes burn your skin/mouth/etc? The answer lies in the bark of evergreen trees that are native to Sri Lanka, a tiny island just off the coast of India. These trees are used to make cinnamon and extract cinnamon oil. The main ingredient of the oil — and the one that produces a burning sensation — is called cinnamic aldehyde. Certain compounds like cinnamic aldehyde activate nerve sensors in our skin that detect cold. Your brain registers it as a burning sensation! For more information, check out this article:



Julie made a post on her blog Julie’s Chemistry Connections about Pop Rocks last Wednesday!


According to her blog, carbon dioxide is trapped in the candy, which is what makes pop rocks do tht awesome popping in your mouth. Mmmm~ So cool! I love the sound pop rocks makes. Pop rocks apparently has less CO2 than soda. I don’t even like the carbonation in soda that much at all, but I sure do love pop rocks! In fact, the carbonation is about 1/10th as much as you would get in a mouthful of cola!

Here’s more information I learned about pop rocks, candy which ahs been gasified with CO2 using a patented process.

Pop Rocks are made by heating a solution sugar, lactose, corn syrup, water, and artificial colors/flavors until the water boils off and combining it with carbon dioxide gas at about 600 pounds per square inch (psi). When the pressure is released, the candy shatters into small pieces, each containing bubbles of pressurized gas which can be seen if you examine the candy with a magnifying glass.

While Pop Rocks are totally safe, artificial colors, flavors, sugar, and corn syrup aren’t too safe to have large amounts of. Brush your teeth and eat healthy, kids!