Category: Science (page 2 of 2)

Things of Science #322 — Buoyancy

Another Things of Science unit that requires very few “things” for the person wanting to re-create it. I received only the booklet on eBay so I have none of the things. But, as with other Things of Science units, the contents are listed (usually) on the first or second page.

Again I am amazed at how “buoyancy” can fill a 24-page booklet and 19 experiments. But as usual Things of Science goes beyond the norms — in this unit covering buoyancy as it relates to ships stability among other topics.

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #322 — Buoyancy

Things of Science #331 — Linkages

Things of Science #331 - Linkages.xtraThis Things of Science unit covers some of the same ground as the Straight Line unit but goes into even more in depth. In addition to Watt’s Linkage, the Peaucellier Cell and the Cissoid Curve, this unit adds pantographs and angle trisection linkages.

This kit may be more or less complete (as purchased from eBay). From the photo above you can see the extensive linkages that were included. Lengths for the linkage bars are given in the booklet, so you can easily (and inexpensively) duplicate this kit.

The booklet:

Things of Science #331 — Linkages

Things of Science #323 — Chromatography

Things of Science #323 - Chromatography_thingsAnother very extensive Things of Science unit — this time on chromatography. The one I got from eBay did not include all the “things”, but there was some sort of egg-shaped plastic container that appears to have once contained some sort of dye.

I remember learning about chromatography when I was in school and being fairly fascinated by it. It surprised me as a boy to find that what appeared to be a black marker was actually a mixture of violet and green ink. The booklet in this unit goes way beyond (and in much greater depth)the little experiment I remember.

Something else I found browsing the booklet was a little “product placement”. Things of Science was a non-profit. I don’t know what their subscription roster looked like in the 1960’s but no doubt they needed large quantities of the “things” in order to box up and mail out a new unit. Likely, by mentioning a company that provided the material for a unit they got the stuff either for free or at a steep discount. One product named in this booklet is the PAAS company that provided the dye for this unit. Yes, the Easter Egg dying company….

Enjoy this unit:

Things of Science #323 — Chromatography

Things of Science #321 — Magnetism

Things of Science #321 - Magnetism.materialsThis Things of Science unit is heavy on the text (if a little light on the things). The booklet first gives a brief history of magnetism and then launches into 35 mini-experiments that are structured to take you on an understanding of magnetism.

The included reed switch might be the only thing a little difficult finding — the rest of the ingredients in the kit should be easily found in a middle-school science classroom.

Enjoy this unit:

Things of Science #321 — Magnetism


Things of Science #234 — Sextant

Things of Science 234.9One of the older Things of Science I have is this one that covers how a sextant works.

You can build a functioning sextant with small amount of items included in the unit. There were  small mirrors, a bit of cellophane, a brass fastener and a few other small items. Most important was probably the large stiff paper pattern of a sextant you were to cut out.

When I first recalled these kits and how fascinated with them I was when I was young, I was a little saddened to think that they no longer exist. But as I began to examine some of the kits like this one, I have begun to see how very easy it would be for a motivated parent or teacher to put together a “clone” of any one of these Things of Science kits. I’m often surprised at how inexpensive and  easily obtainable many of the items are.

Perhaps this was a popular unit because it was repeated (re-issued) a few times in later years by Things of Science.

Here is the booklet from this unit:

Things of Science #234 — Sextant

And here is the pattern for the sextant printed on it:

Things of Science #234 — Sextant Pattern

Things of Science #232 — Herb Seeds

Things of Science 232.1Here is another Things of Science from the 1960’s. If Things of Science is  unknown to you see this post. This unit is called herb seeds and seems to have originally contained seeds for six different herbs (the one I purchased from eBay contained only the booklet).

As usual Things of Science is stuffed with short, concise experiments. This unit additionally covers history of the various herbs, talks about plant classification and taxonomy, describes what a perennial is, discusses how the various herbs are used in cooking, etc. A very enjoyable unit.

I’m inclined to pick up packets of these seeds from the local hardware/nursery and grow some herbs. I think there is something magical about watching a plant grow from a seed. It is a valuable thing especially for children because it can also introduce them to the virtue of patience.

If you would like to re-create this Things of Science unit you will need packets of these seeds:

  • Anise
  • Chives
  • Coriander (also called Cilantro)
  • Summer Savory
  • Sweet Basil
  • True Lavender

Also, some small pots and soil to grow them in.

I tried to find the items at my local hardware store and then nursery and was able to find all but the Summer Savory and Anise. I was able to get both online however. It may be a regional thing though (I’m in California) or even seasonal, so your mileage may vary….

The booklet is here for you to enjoy:

Things of Science #232 — Herb Seeds

Things of Science #222 — Atomic Energy

Things of Science 222.1

Back in the 70’s, there was one year when I got a subscription to Things of Science. What a fascinating, nerdy thing that was.

If you haven’t heard of Things of Science let me explain to you what it was. Every month you received a small blue box in the mail that contained a booklet and often some other small items. The booklet would explain some scientific or mathematical concept and the small items in the box would be used for a series of experiments explained in the booklet. It was a sort of lab science lesson in a box.

One month the topic might be probability and the items in the box would be a pair of dice and some colored tokens. The experiments would involve the dice, etc. If you followed the instructions in the booklet you might learn quite a bit about probability by the time you finished.

Next month is might be about plants of some kind and the box would contain seeds you can plant.

One that I received that stands out in my memory was about Xerography. I now know that the mysterious black powder that came in the bag (in addition to a sheet of acetate and some sheets of white paper) is what we call printer toner. I remember the final experiment had you building up a static electrical charge on the acetate and then “writing” on it with dish soap (not included). Then there was a step where you transferred the electrical charge to a sheet of blank paper. I believe you sprinkled the toner over the sheet of paper and, lo and behold, the toner was attracted to an area on the paper representing the image you had “drawn” with  dish soap. The final step to cure the image involved using a clothes iron (also not included)  to melt or fuse the toner to the paper. I was blown away to see it actually work.

I no longer have my Things of Science units I’m afraid. I have since though picked up a few from eBay. One older unit I picked up involved Atomic Energy (unit #222). Unfortunately the kit was not complete and the uranium oxide and lead sheet were missing.

If a teacher wanted to re-create this unit for the classroom, there are going to be modern difficulties.

The unit begins with experiments in electrostatic (static) electricity. For this you need:

  • 2 balloons
  • Thread
  • A sealing wax rod
  • Saran wrap
  • Either fur or wool

They then move on to constructing an electroscope. For this they suggest:

  • a glass jar
  • a length of stiff copper wire
  • foil (from chewing gum wrapper)
  • a penny

You can throw money and buy an electroscope for about $30. Or search around the internet for a tutorial (if the booklet below doesn’t describe it well enough for you). Here is one I found with a few minutes searching: build a simple electroscope

Soon though the unit calls for Uranium Oxide impregnated paper (the radiation source). I have not found an inexpensive source for this. Nonetheless, I am aware that home smoke detectors contain a radioactive source (Americium, I believe). You can easily get a cheap smoke detector or an old one and open it up for it’s radiation source. While I haven’t tried the experiment in the unit by substituting the radioactive source from a smoke detector, it seems like it should work.

Perhaps you have access to an old watch with a radium on the tips of the hands?

The unit talks about autoradiographs and while do-able (again, if you can find an adequate radiation source) photographic film and the means to develop it are getting to be a more difficult hurdle to overcome. There was a time of course when schools (well, middle schools and high schools anyway)  probably had a darkroom and the necessary film and chemicals. So perhaps autoradiographs can be skipped.

The unit discusses cloud chambers. Building one of these is not as simple as an electroscope. But the construction is discussed. But also, like the electroscope, there are plenty of sites on the internet that detail building a cloud chamber. The chamber should not be expensive to construct and if you do build one, the result of operating one is fascinating.

Here is a page showing how to build a cloud chamber. It was one of the first ones I clicked on.

The unit describes a spinthariscope and how to build one. A double-convex lens is easy to find (a magnifying glass) but the activated Zinc Sulfide will have to be ordered. I found a place that sells the Zinc Sulfide for $10. It turns out they also sell a completed spinthariscope for $35.

Finally, the unit discusses the Geiger counter. They give an electronic parts list and a schematic but it really shouldn’t be attempted by anyone not extremely familiar with electronics. It uses mains-power (household current) and can be dangerous to use if incorrectly wired. Instead, if you have $99 to spare, a clever, modern kit like this one would be a fun addition to a science classroom.

Here is a scan of the booklet that came with this unit:

Things of Science #222 — Atomic Energy

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