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Making Fake Snot!

based on 3 ratings
Author: Beth Touchette

Molecules, as you may already know, are groups of atoms bonded together.  Water, or H2O, is a molecule made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The oxygen gas we inhale (O2) is a molecule made of two oxygen atoms bonded together. Water and oxygen gases are made up of small molecules, but many complex molecules found in living things are gigantic by comparison! For example, each molecule of the sugar found in many of our favorite treats contains 12 carbon atoms, 24 hydrogen atoms, and 12 oxygen atoms.  But molecules can get a whole lot bigger than that, especially when they form long chains of identical smaller molecules repeated over again called polymers. The proteins, carbohydrates, and fats we eat are all polymers, which our digestive system breaks down into smaller, more useful pieces. Our body also makes big molecules, including the sugars and proteins dissolved in water that form the mucus that sometimes fills our noses.

The not so nice, but better known word for nose mucus is snot. Would you like to learn how to make fake snot by mixing together some common ingredients in your kitchen? After you gross out yourself, your family, and your friends, you can investigate how to break down the pretend snot you created. Who knows—maybe someday, you’ll invent the next great cold medicine!

Problem: How can a model of nose mucus be made and how can it be broken down?

Materials

  • Stove or microwave oven
  • Saucepan or microwave-safe bowl
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Hot pad
  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • Big spoon
  • Another bowl
  • Whisk
  • Green food coloring
  • Light corn syrup
  • Reseal able 1-gallon plastic bags
  • 12-cup muffin pan (or two 6-cup pans)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Paper and pencil
  • Vinegar, baking soda, meat tenderizer, pineapple juice, orange juice, salt—whatever safe kitchen chemicals you are interested in.
  • 1 teaspoon measurer
  • 11 small spoons

Procedure

  1. Measure 3/4 cup water into saucepan or microwave safe bowl.
  2. Bring the water to boil on the stove or in the microwave.
  3. Remove the pan or bowl from heat.
  4. Add each package of unflavored gelatin to the hot water one at a time, stirring to make sure that the mixture has no lumps before you add the next package.
  5. Just for fun, you can add 3-4 drops of food coloring to mixture, if desired.
  6. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 minute.
  7. Measure 3/4 cup light corn syrup into other bowl.
  8. Slowly stir the gelatin mixture into this bowl. You should notice long strings of material that resemble human mucus (snot). Feel free to play around with it for a while!
  9. After your mixture has been allowed to cool for about 10 minutes, put a tablespoon of the mixture into each of the three muffin cups.
  10. Assign a number to each muffin cup, so you can keep track of what you are going to do to each cup.
  11. Create a data table. Here’s a suggestion:

Cup Number

Treatment

Observations after ½ hour

  1.  

None

 

  1.  

Water

 

  1.  

Oil

 

  1.  

Baking Soda

 

  1.  

Meat Tenderizer

 

  1.  

Fresh Pineapple

 

  1.  

Rubbing Alcohol

 

  1.  

Orange Juice

 

  1.  

?

 

  1.  

?

 

  1.  

?

 

  1.  

?

 

  1. Now, you can start doing experiments!
  2. Cup #1 won’t have anything added to it—we’ll leave this cup alone. What purpose do you think this cup serves?
  3. In Cup #2, add 1 teaspoon of water. What purpose do you think this cup serves?
  4. Using a clean spoon, stir the water into the mixture.
  5. In the other cups, add 1 teaspoon of whatever substances you are interested in. Stir, using a clean spoon for each cup. Why do you think it’s important to use a clean spoon for each cup? Why do you think you were asked to add the same amount to each cup?
  6. If you want, you can also consider add the same substance to multiple cups to see if you get the same result each time.
  7. Set the muffin tin in a quiet place for one half hour.  
  8. Examine the mixture in each cup. Has the mixture changed? How? You might try lifting up the snot with the spoon. Is it thicker or thinner than the control (cup 1)? Record your observations in your data table.
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