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The Science of Hugs

February 14, 2017



hug candy valentineIt’s Valentine’s Day! A day all about appreciating the ones we love, which can include giving gifts, having special meals, and spending time together. But none of those would mean as much without a big ol' hug!

Hugs from loved ones and friends make us feel good - we feel more connected and supported. But the benefits don’t stop there.

Science tells us that hugs can actually make us healthier.


For example, hugs make us less stressed. Now, we think of stress as a bad thing, but evolutionarily it’s really quite ingenious. The hormones released during stress help us to be at our peak in fight or flight situations, like running from a lion (back in the old days). Our heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, muscles get energized, and you even think more clearly.

lion causes stressMost of us aren't trying to escape from lions nowadays. Today stress is more likely to be the day to day worries we carry around with us.

Neurologist Robert Sapolsky says, "For 99 percent of the beasts on this planet, stress is about three minutes of screaming in terror after which it’s either over with or you’re over with.  And we turn it on for 30-year mortgages.”

The effects of having our bodies bathed in stress hormones long term are devastating. Along with increased heart rates and prolonged high blood pressure, other nonessential systems get turned off, like your digestion, growth, and notably, your immune system.

When your body is always in high gear, the risks go up for diabetes, digestion issues, heart problems, and susceptibility to illness.


girls hugThe challenge is to find ways to turn off those stress signals and give our bodies a break. Valentine’s Day is a chance to try out one of the best ways – hugging.

Turns out hugs reduce stress both directly, and psychologically. The benefit of hugs may seem obvious on an emotional level, but let's take a look at the science too:

  • Hugs involve putting pressure on the skin, which contains receptors called Pacinian corpuscles. These little bio triggers send signals to a nerve bundle in the brain called the vagus nerve. A hug tells the vagus nerve to slow down the heart, which then decreases blood pressure.

  • Hugging makes us feel part of a supportive social network. According to the World Health Organization, feeling part of a community is a major determinant of health. A recent study shows evidence that hugging conveys social support, which is directly linked to healthier immune systems, and better antibody responses to vaccines. Hugs can literally help to ward off the common cold!

  • Hugging decreases the stress hormone cortisol, calming us down.

    girl hugs dog
  • Hugging triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust, bonding and loyalty. Known affectionately as the ‘cuddle hormone’, this little chemical is the foundation for human connection.
So there you have it:  hugging is good for your health! And for you pet lovers out there, hugging and contact with your pet counts, so take time for cuddles from your dog and cat too!



How would you rate your science knowledge? Think you'd do well on a science quiz? How you answer may depend on whether you are male or female. If you're female, you may think you aren't that good at science.

Is that because boys are better at science than girls? NO!

In fact, women and men (and girls and boys) are both equally capable in all STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

So what's the critical factor? Confidence.


There are many studies showing that women underestimate their abilities in science, and this lack of confidence affects their willingness to pursue STEM subjects and careers. This can start as early as age 6!

A Cornell/Washington State University study gauged confidence in both male and female college students. The students were given a science quiz, but first asked to rate themselves on scientific ability on a scale of 1 to 10. Women said 6.5; men 7.6.

After the quiz, they were asked how well they thought they did. Women said they thought they got 5.8 out of 10 questions right, men figured about 7.1.

So how'd they really do? Turns out, their scores were very close. Women got 7.6; men 7.9.

So what can you do to help boost the confidence of the young girls in your life?

Here are five things we, as parents, can do to set the stage for raising STEM-confident girls.


Okay, this one hit home for us, so we had to start here.

If you've visited a large toy store recently, you'll notice that there are specific "boy" sections and "girl" sections. Girls get pink princess dolls and makeup kits, and boys get connector sets and exploding volcanoes.

Science kits are usually marketed to boys, with pictures of boys on the boxes and a blue color scheme. And they're usually shelved in the boy section of the store.

A simple Google image search for 'science kits for girls' brings up a barrage of beauty labs and spa kits. This kind of messaging tells girls that real science is not for them, and reinforces the idea that science is 'a boy thing'.

Thankfully, companies like Goldieblox, Roominate, and Little Bits (and Yellow Scope, too) are working to counteract this trend by creating quality STEM toys that appeal to girls.

These kinds of hands-on toys expose girls to engineering, coding, building and experimenting early, so when girls encounter STEM topics later in school they'll think: "I know that, I can do that, I'm good at that."

So tell girls that science is for them by surrounding them with toys and projects that challenge gender stereotypes.


Sports are a great way to burn energy and develop social skills, but there's another benefit that may not be so obvious. Though winning is the goal, losing can actually be a good thing!

In a world where girls feel pressure to be perfect, learning to shrug off failure can help prepare them for the real world.

Being able to own it when she wins, but knowing that life goes on when she loses, can help her feel less intimidated to take on "hard" subjects, like science and math. If she get the answer wrong, she'll have the grit to try again. No big deal.

After 1972 Title IX legislation, studies showed that girls who played on team sports were more likely to graduate from college, secure a job, and work in traditionally male industries.

Confidence isn't thinking you won't fail, it's not being afraid of set-backs.


Have you seen Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad? The video follows one girl growing up being told "Don't get dirty." "Be careful with that." "Why don't you hand that to your brother." Subtle statements like this can discourage girls from pursuing STEM subjects in school and beyond.

Studies show that both teachers and parents give more attention to boys than girls in math.

And in museums, parents explain science concepts to boys three times more than to girls.

So, take her to your local science museum for some hands-on play. Go out of your way to ask her how many legs that insect has, if she wants to help repair the fence, or to calculate the cost of two boxes of her favorite cereal.

Incorporating math and science into your every day life will build her confidence and show her that she can do it!


Remember that video of British school kids who were asked to draw a firefighter, a surgeon, and a fighter pilot? Of the 66 pictures the kids drew, only 5 of them were women. The children were shocked when a real firefighter, surgeon, and fighter pilot walked in and they were all women!

For girls to think they belong in traditionally male jobs, they need to see women in those jobs. This will help them realize, "If they can do it, I can do it."

Know any female scientists, engineers or FBI agents? Take your child on a tour of their workplace. Or ask them to visit to your child’s classroom to give a presentation.

Reading the stories of real women in science is another great way to expose girls to the important role that women have played in science throughout history. Some great book recommendations:

Don't forget movies and TV shows, too!

  • Hidden Figures. The true story of three black, female mathematicians who were instrumental in NASA’s big ‘60s moon launch.

  • xploration stationXploration Station. A TV show about real scientists solving real puzzles, hosted by marine biologist Danni Washington, and ‘the Space Gal’ Emily Calandrelli, former NASA employee and field correspondent for Bill Nye Saves the World.  



Stories about girls solving puzzles, being detectives, and using their brains are popping up everywhere.

Bring home books with science girl heroines, like Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Harry Potter.

moon girl devil dinosaurCheck out comic books like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur...

Anthologies like Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets...

Or shows like Project Mc² (on Netflix), PBS's SciGirls, and the rebooted Magic School Bus (coming soon to Netflix!).

In addition to our new ACIDS, BASES & pH SCIENCE KIT, here are 10 other great STEM and STEAM gifts that have caught our eye this holiday season.

We chose these toys because they're from brands we trust. They're high quality and were created with real science in mind. They'll keep girls inspired and engaged. We think they're the kind of toys kids will come back to again and again. Plus they're all super fun! 


  Goldiblocks Invention Mansion

Winner of an Oppenheim Platinum Award, this new kit from our friends at GoldieBlox encourages budding engineers to build their own dollhouse – complete with trap doors, bridges and zip-lines!

Ages 6+. $59.99.


    Pirasta space poster

      Space-loving girls will go crazy for this giant coloring poster from Pirasta. It’s chock full of aliens, spaceships and robots. Tape it to the wall or spread it out on the floor. Color alone or with friends. Any way you do it, this poster will provide hours of coloring fun for your little astronaut.

      All ages. $19.95.


         Rule Your Room kit Little Bits

        From the creators at Little Bits, the new Rule Your Room kit comes with all the bits and instructions for 8 different inventions that allow kids to control their stuff.

        Ages 8+. $99.95.


         ada twist scientist book

        From the creators of Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, comes this new story of Ada Twist, a young scientist exploring the world around her. An inspiring story of science, finding your passion and sticking with it, young readers will be inspired to start experimenting too!

        Ages 5-8. $17.95 at your local bookstore


          Roominate carnival toy

          Created by female engineering grads from Stanford, Roominate toys encourage girls to design, build and wire their own dollhouses. With Cotton Candy Carnival, kids can build a Ferris wheel or carousel, then add circuits and wires to start them spinning.

          Ages 8+. $44.99.


            science set tattoos

            We love the artist-designed temporary tattoos from Tattly. The Science Set contains eight different designs including a DNA strand, a microscope and a beaker set.

            All ages. $7.50.

            7. HAPPY ATOMS KIT

                Thames & Kosmos happy atoms kit

              The new Happy Atoms science kit from Thames & Kosmos allows kids to build molecules, then snap photos and use an app to identify the molecule and learn about its properties. Pretty cool!

              Ages 9+. $159. Preorder at


                periodic table blocks

                For the young chemist in your life! This set of wooden building blocks includes 20 six-sided blocks displaying each of the 118 elements from the Periodic Table. Hand made in the USA.

                Ages 2+. $32.95.

                9. PIPER COMPUTER

                  Play piper minecraft computer kit

                  The Minecraft fan in your family will love the Piper computer kit. The kit encourages kids to build their own computer and learn about electronics - all while playing a Minecraft mod!

                  Ages 7-13. $299.

                  10. STEM DOLLS

                    Lottie dolls STEM

                    We love these award-winning dolls from Lottie, designed with bodies based on an average nine-year-old girl. With inspiring background stories, this collection encourages girls to learn about science - from butterflies to astronomy to paleontology!

                    Ages 3+. $9.95 - 24.95.

                    pH GirlIt's an acid, it's a base ... it's pH Girl!
                    Faster than a chemical reaction,
                    Able to turn cabbage into a scientific tool...
                    Meet Isabel, otherwise known as pH Girl!

                    YELLOW SCOPE'S NEW SUPERHERO

                    When curiosity strikes, Isabel dons her goggles and cape, and in a flash transforms into ... pH Girl!

                    pH girl's hydrangeasFueled by the power of Hydrogen, pH Girl is always on the lookout for acids and bases. Whether she's planting hydrangeas in the garden, polishing her safety goggles, or baking cupcakes, she can tell you the pH of everyday items faster than you can say "pipette"!



                    pH girl Did you know that pH stands for the power of Hydrogen?
                    Hydrogen is an element, one of the building blocks of everything in the universe. Scientists use a piece of equipment called a pH meter to measure the amount of hydrogen ions (H+) in a liquid. This tells them whether the liquid is an acid or a base. Strong acids have lots of H+ ions, weak acids have less, and bases have even less.

                    MEASURING pH WITH CABBAGE...?

                    If you don't have a pH meter, you can approximate pH using chemical indicators. Red cabbage is a natural acid-base indicator. Pigment chemicals in red cabbage change color when they mix with acids and bases. Red cabbage juice turns red or pink when mixed with acids, and blue or greens when mixed with bases. Pretty cool, right?

                    pH kitTo do some fun acid-base experiments at home, check out our new Acids, Bases & pH Kit. With pH Girl as their lab partner, girls will have fun uncovering the mysteries of acids and bases all around them! The detailed and creative lab notebook outlines 19+ new and exciting chemistry experiments - with plenty of supplies and ideas for girls to design their own.

                    So grab your test tubes and get ready to explore your world!

                    little labs yellow scope
                    BALLOON ROCKET!

                    THINKING ABOUT MOVEMENT

                    Watching a rocket propel itself into space is one of the most exciting things to see. But did you ever wonder what makes it go?

                    Well, yes, fuel of course. But fuel is only pushing against the ground. Why does the rocket move in the opposite direction, up?

                    You might have heard this famous phrase before:

                    "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

                    That’s from Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion. This law helps us to predict how things will move.

                    Wanna test this yourself? Let’s make a balloon rocket!

                    WHAT YOU’LL NEED

                    • Yard stick/measuring tape
                    • String
                    • Balloon
                    • Masking tape
                    • Straight drinking straw
                    • Data table on paper that looks like this:



                      Distance Traveled


                    You may also want a friend or parent to help as your lab partner!

                    LET'S GET STARTED

                      1. Blow up a balloon as big as you can. Pinch it off, but don't tie it closed.
                      2. Wrap a piece of string around the middle of the balloon. (Your lab partner can hold the balloon closed while you wrap the string around it.)
                      3. Measure the length of the piece of string. This is the circumference of balloon – or how big around the balloon is. Enter this length in the data table.
                      4. Thread a long piece of string (10-15 feet) through the drinking straw.
                      5. Attach the straw to the balloon with two pieces of masking tape.
                      6. Attach one end of the string to a doorknob, a wall, or have your lab partner hold it.
                      7. Pull the other end of the string tight and make sure it is level. Move the inflated balloon toward this end of the string.
                      8. You're ready for launch! Let the balloon go and watch it fly like a rocket!
                      9. Measure how far it went with your yard stick or measuring tape. Record the distance in your table.
                      10. Now change the size of the balloon by blowing it up less, say half full, and repeat the steps. Try again with the balloon about a quarter full. Record your results in the table.


                    What's going on?
                    When you let go of the balloon, the air inside rushed out creating a force called thrust. Since the balloon is so light, the air is enough to propel (or push) the balloon forward.

                    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction:
                    Physicists call the air that came out of the balloon the ‘action force’ and the force that pushed the balloon forward the ‘reaction force’. When an action force goes in one direction, the reaction force goes in the opposite direction. The bigger the action force, the bigger the reaction force. This is why the balloon with most air in it went the farthest!

                    With real rockets, thrust comes from the force of burning rocket fuel as it blasts from the rockets engine. As the engines blast down, the rocket goes up! Just as Newton predicted: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, when you push on something, it pushes back on you just as hard!

                    SHARE WITH US!

                    Let us know what you did. Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

                    For more exciting experiments, check out our Science Kits on the Shop tab of our website!


                    INVISIBLE GLASS!

                    SUPERHERO POWERS

                    What's your favorite superhero power? When we ask this question, a favorite choice is: "Invisibility!" What if you could invent something that could make you invisible?

                    superman SYou don't need to be a superhero when you have science!

                    Today's Famous Female is Katharine Blodgett, who invented invisibility! Well, kind of. Let's find out more:

                    KATHARINE BLODGETT (1898-1979)

                    katherine blodgettRemember our last Famous Females blog about Agnes Pockels, who founded surface science with nothing but household objects in her kitchen? Well, today's famous female built upon her work!

                    Katharine Blodgett was much luckier in her upbringing. Her private school in New York offered classes to girls and boys equally, and she excelled in math and physics.

                    She graduated college, got her PhD in physics, and was quickly hired by General Electric (GE), where her father had also worked.

                    DIPPING GLASS

                    Remember how Agnes Pockels invented a trough to study detergents in water? Then you know that detergents are molecules with a water-loving (hydrophilic) head and a water-fearing (hydrophobic) tail.

                    Well, Blodgett began working with scientist Irving Langmuir. Langmuir had been improving on Agnes Pockels's trough, and proved that those molecules really don't like to get those tails wet, so they make a layer on top of water only one molecule thick!

                    Working with Langmuir, Blodgett discovered that you could add layers of oily substances one by one to a solid surface like metal or glass. Kind of like dipping a strawberry into chocolate, letting it dry, then dipping it again.

                    Here's a video to show how this all works:



                    katherin blodgett in the newsBlodgett found that one layer reflected a different color of light than two layers, which was different than three, and so on.

                    Therefore, you could measure how many layers there were on a surface by matching them up to a color wheel. This color gauge is still used today!

                    INVISIBLE GLASS

                    Five years later, she discovered that 44 layers of liquid soap on a plate of glass allowed for 99% of light to pass through without bouncing back in a reflection!

                    It so happens that 44 layers is four millionths of an inch, which is about one-fourth the average wavelength of white light.

                    So when light bounced back, the tops of the reflective waves met the bottoms of the incoming waves, and canceled each other out in destructive interference.

                    Meanwhile, soap is a great conductor of light, so almost all of it passes through with no reflection, making the glass ‘invisible’!

                    This discovery has led to the glass we now use in cameras, picture frames, computer screens, car windows, eyeglasses, and even submarine periscopes! Gone With the Wind was the first film to use this technology, and knocked audiences socks off when they saw how clear everything looked!


                    Blodgett was the first woman scientist hired at the GE research lab (1918). She was also the first to be awarded a PhD in physics from Cambridge University (1926). 


                    Look at all the other things her work led to!

                    • More effective smoke screens for WWII
                    • Method for de-icing airplane wings
                    • Poison gas absorbents
                    • More effective gas masks
                    • Device to measure humidity

                    little labs logo

                    BOTTLE CRUSHER!


                    If you hold out your hand, how much air are you holding? How much does it weigh? You might think 'none' and 'nothing', because air doesn’t weigh anything. Or does it?

                    display of air moleculesActually, it does. Air is made of molecules like nitrogen, oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide.

                    Though tiny, these molecules do have weight, and they add up! The weight of air is called atmospheric pressure, or how many air molecules are in a specific area.

                    Have you ever climbed a mountain and became short of breath? That’s because the atmospheric pressure is lower up there, and therefore those life-giving air molecules are fewer and father between. There’s just not enough molecules to breathe in!

                    One of the things that can change atmospheric pressure is temperature. Wanna see how? Let’s do an experiment!

                    WHAT YOU'LL NEED

                    • Two plastic water bottles of the same size
                    • Hot and cold tap water
                    • A refrigerator

                    You might want to label each bottle as 'hot' or 'cold' so you don't mix them up!

                    LET'S GET STARTED

                    1. Fill the first bottle with the coldest tap water you can get. Put the cap on.
                    2. Fill the second bottle with the hottest tap water you can get (you could also heat water on the stove or kettle and pour it in the bottle. If you do this, ask an adult for help). Put the cap on.
                    3. Shake ‘em up! Shaking the water inside the bottles will help make the container become the same temperature as the water.
                    4. Now, pour out the water from both bottles at the same time.
                    5. Put the caps back on both bottles.
                    6. Quickly put them into the refrigerator and close the door.
                    7. Wait 5 minutes, then check on your bottles. During the 5 minutes, think about what you think will occur!

                    bottles at different pressuresWhat happened? Are they different?


                    So why did the hot water bottle crush itself?

                    The answer lies in what molecules do when they are cold or hot. Cold molecules tend to cluster together and not move very much. Hot molecules jump around and spread out.

                    Sort of like when you see penguins all huddled together, you know they're freezing! If you could crank up their heat, they’d spread out and have a big ole party. 

                    penguinsInside your cold bottle the molecules didn’t move much and didn’t need much space. They went from cold to cold, so the molecules didn’t change, and the pressure stayed the same.

                    However, your hot water bottle’s molecules were spreading out and bouncing off each other, so it started out with a high air pressure.

                    When you put it in the fridge, the cold made the molecules slow down and not exert as much force (or take up as much space).

                    This decreased the pressure and sucked the walls of the bottle inward!

                    MORE IDEAS FOR EXPERIMENTS

                    airplaneTry a similar experiment on your next airplane ride! Instead of testing temperature, test altitude. But instead of climbing a mountain, let a plane do the work!

                    Bring an empty bottle (with its lid screwed on tight) in your carry-on. What happens when your plane goes high up in the air? What happens when you land again?

                    SHARE WITH US!

                    Let us know what you did. Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

                    For more exciting chemistry experiments, check out our Science Kits on the Shop tab of our website!


                    Famous Females Logo

                    SURFACE SCIENCE!

                    INSPIRING WOMEN

                    Welcome to Yellow Scope's ‘Famous Females’ series, where we highlight amazing women scientists of the past and present!

                    Throughout history, women have struggled to find a place in the world of science. Even if a woman made a scientific breakthrough, a man would often end up taking the credit (*cough* Rosalind Franklin, *cough* Nettie Stevens...).

                    However, this edition depicts a great example of men showing encouragement and honesty toward the brilliant woman they saw making important strides.

                    AGNES POCKELS (1862 – 1935)

                    Agnes PockelsWomen interested in STEM can struggle with opportunity, but it was worse back in the day. In the late 1800s, Agnes Pockels had everything taken away from her but the kitchen sink, literally! She did science with dishwater!

                    Agnes lived in Germany and loved physics in school. She wanted to study it in college, but girls weren’t allowed into higher education there at the time. Even when that changed, her ailing parents prevented her from attending.

                    So Pockels stayed at home to care for them, mostly cooking and cleaning. Water became her constant companion, and she started noticing things and asking questions.

                    Agnes wanted to know how the surface of water worked. What happened if she added soap? Oil? Salt? How could she find out?

                    POCKELS' TROUGH

                    infographic on pockels troughFrom household supplies, Pockels created a trough to hold water filled to the brim, then separated the top of the water in half with a tin strip. By sliding it back and forth she could change the surface area of each side.

                    Using a small button hanging from a wooden balance, she was able to measure the difference in surface tension under various conditions. This (modified) method is still used today!

                    Her big discovery? Surface tension dropped when she added detergent to one side!

                    Why is this? Well, we now know water is very attracted to itself. It doesn't like air nearly as much, so water molecules in contact with air at the surface hold on desperately to their watery neighbors instead, creating a strong surface tension.

                    Soap molecules have chemically different ends. One is a water-loving (hydrophilic) head and the other a water-fearing (hydrophobic) tail.

                    soap molecule

                    When you add soap to water, all the heads dive in, but the tails stick out into the air. They all line up at the surface like buoys so that the tails touch the least amount of water as possible, covering the surface.

                    Water is attracted to the water-loving heads of the soap. Now that the top water molecules have soap above them instead of air, they can be attracted upwards too, instead of just side to side. This weakens the attraction between the surface water molecules, reducing surface tension.

                    GOOD MEN NOT HARD TO FIND

                    By now her younger brother became her ally. He was in college studying physics and sent her books and papers on the subject so she could teach herself.

                    agnes pockels painting

                    She eventually wrote to a man studying similar properties named Lord Rayleigh. Luckily his wife knew German, and was able to translate the letter to English.

                    Check out Pockels' fancy prose:

                    “My lord, will you kindly excuse my venturing to trouble you with a German letter on a scientific subject? Having heard of the fruitful researches carried on by you last year on the hitherto little understood properties of water surfaces, I thought it might interest you to know of my own observations on the subject.”

                    lord rayleighTo his great credit, he sent her observations to be published in the journal Nature. He wrote that Pockels:


                    "...with very homely appliances has arrived at valuable results...The later sections seem to me very suggestive, raising, if they do not fully answer, many important questions.”

                    Lord Rayleighs signature

                    And so, Agnes Pockels became a founder of ‘surface science’. Without ever holding a single job, she published many more papers.

                    Brunswick uinversity logoIn 1931, at 71 years old, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Technology University of Brunswick. She died at 73.

                    As you’ll see in the next edition, her trough was improved upon, and eventually led to another famous female inventing invisibility. Wait, what? Stay tuned!

                    TASTE TEST!

                    When you eat a delicious cinnamon roll, apple, or piece of garlic bread, you probably thank your tongue for letting you enjoy these delicious flavors. Though the tongue deserves some credit, it’s another part of our body we should thank for experiencing delicious foods: our nose! How much so? Let’s find out using vanilla!

                    WHAT YOU'LL NEED

                    • Real or imitation vanilla extract
                    • Stirring stick (or eyedropper or something similar)
                    • A willing friend! (You can do it by yourself, but it’s more fun with someone else, and more scientific!)

                    Don’t tell your friend what’s coming! This will help them to stay unbiased.

                    LET'S GET STARTED

                    1. hold your nose for the experiment!Before you start, tell your buddy to close their eyes, plug their nose, and stick out their tongue. This will take some trust! Tell them they’re not allowed to open their eyes or their nose until you say so.
                    2. Take a stirring stick and dunk it in the bottle of vanilla extract. Then place one or two drops on your friend’s tongue.
                    3. Ask them what they think they're tasting. Did they scrunch up their face in mild disgust?
                    4. Now let them unplug their nose, and give them another taste.

                      Did they immediately recognize the vanilla? Why?


                    Your tongue can only tell if something is sour, sweet, salty, or bitter. Groups of tastebuds arranged separately are in charge of recognizing these variations. However, ‘flavor’ is something else entirely.

                    Vanilla extract is usually made up of 25% - 35% alcohol, which is what your friend was tasting. When your friend unplugged their nose, they allowed that odorific air from their mouth up into their olfactory receptors in their nose, which is what recognizes the flavor we associate with vanilla.

                    Your nose is responsible for 75% of the flavors you think you are ‘tasting’. Tasting without smelling is a lot like looking at a rainbow in black and white!

                    For example, sometimes when people have an accident and experience head trauma, they lose their sense of smell. These folks say that food has lost its taste, when actually they can still taste foods (know if it’s salty, sweet, bitter, or sour) but it’s the aroma that’s been lost!

                    MORE IDEAS FOR EXPERIMENTS

                    fruit to experiment withTry it the same experiment with other things!

                    • A slice of apple vs a slice of potato
                    • A lemon peel vs an orange peel
                    • Garlic vs onion

                    Some things you don’t have to actually put in your mouth, but you could breathe in with your nose plugged:

                    • Cedar wood vs pine
                    • Perfume-soaked cotton ball vs alcohol-soaked cotton ball
                    • Roses vs irises (or any other flowers)

                    EXTRA FUN FACT

                    What’s the difference between real and imitation vanilla extract?

                    real vanillaReal extract - comes from vanilla bean pods soaked in alcohol (min 35%) to extract the flavor of the bean. This flavor mainly comes from a compound called vanillin, but also from tons of other aromatic compounds as well, giving foodies that ‘nuanced’ taste they go gah-gah over.

                    Imitation extract – uses the same compound vanillin, but makers get it from clove oil, pine sap and even wood pulp, which are much cheaper to come by. Then they mix it with alcohol and some other things. Therefore, you get the base taste of vanilla, without the fancy extra aromatic compounds.

                    However, both the extra aromatic compounds and alcohol burn off in heat! So if you are baking cookies or cooking, imitation vanilla will taste just as good as the real stuff.

                    However, if your treat stays cold, like a pudding, the expensive vanilla might be worth it.

                    SHARE WITH US!

                    Let us know what you did. Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

                    For more exciting chemistry experiments, check out our Foundation Chemistry Kit at

                    Yellow Scope experiment


                    Last week, Yellow Scope got to test out some ideas for their much anticipated next kit! And what better focus group than a local Girl Scout troop? Thirteen girls from Portland Oregon had a blast with Marcie and Kelly’s newest idea: testing acids and bases.

                    Girl Scout excited about scienceGirl Scout excited about scienceMarcie and Kelly could barely get through their introduction before the girls eagerly interjected to share their own experiences at science fairs or home experiments.

                    One had tested the pH of different soil types provided by her landscaper mother; another worked with dry ice.

                    When Kelly mentioned her love of high school dissection, the groans of disgust were overpowered by shrieks of excitement: "That sounds so fun!"

                    “We won’t be doing any dissecting today”
                    “AWWW!” rang the crowd.

                    Marcie and Kelly told the girls our culture thinks that science is for boys - how silly is that?  “We want to change that message and show the world that girls are just as capable.” So let’s do this thang.

                    INTRODUCING CHEMICALS

                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentMarcie asked the girls what they associated with the word ‘chemical’?

                    “Non-organic food,” said one. A true Portland response. A general negative association was agreed upon. But Marcie and Kelly had chemicals’ back, and explained that we are all made of chemicals, in fact, everything on Earth is made of chemicals!  

                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentNow, what about the word ‘acid’?

                    “Eating things...”
                    “Citrus, like fruit.”
                    “I got citrus in my eyes once, it really hurt!”
                    “Stomach acid?”

                    Pretty on point really. Marcie and Kelly then talked a bit about the opposite, bases, then the fun began. And what is more fun than making things change color?


                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentTurns out the liquid from a boiled red cabbage is a great indicator of acids and bases. A chemical in the cabbage called anthocyanin turns different colors when mixed with acids versus bases. The girls cut their own slivers of the underrated vegetable - the tedious boiling was skipped, cooking show style - and they were given the end product of the cabbage 'juice'.

                    The girls moved to the experiment tables and all got to add the cabbage juice to various liquids, like window cleaner and detergent. First though, like good scientists, they made hypotheses and wrote down their predictions.

                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentSoon paint palettes were filling with liquid testing, and the girls got some good lessons about contamination. Woops. It’s okay, all was salvageable.

                    NOW TO THE pH SCALE

                    After supporting or disproving their hypotheses on which liquids would be acids or bases, they tested where the liquids fell on the pH scale.

                    pH test papers were passed around in a flurry of nail polished fingers and color matching sheets.

                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experimentIt was a bit of a chemistry chaos convention there for a while, as the excitement over color changing and pH diagnosing sparked debate and further experimentation.  

                    They learned some new vocabulary like anthocyanin, chemical, acid/base, pH scale, and pipette.

                    There were surprising colors, smells, and results...

                    Girl scouts do Yellow Scope experiment


                    Afterward, celebratory science cupcakes (made by troop member Piper!) and vegetables in the shape of a human skeleton were distributed among the future scientists, but the talk of science and environmental interest didn’t stop. I kid you not, I heard one group discussing signs of pollution and endangered species.

                    Girl Scout excited about science

                    So keep an eye out on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or this site for news on the release of this awesome new chemistry kit!

                    I do think I can at least offer this word of advice before you bestow your girls with the next kit: stock up on red cabbage (and by stock up we mean buy one red cabbage, which is ‘stocking up’ in the cabbage world.)

                    (photos by Chelsea Schuyler,
                    shown by permission from parents)

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