Mini-erals; pt. 3

I waited a few extra days to record this third and final crystal in the series because it’s arguably the coolest. That being said, I am proud to present the glow-in-the-dark moon crystal!



I was unable to locate any information regarding what the “moon-base” actually consists of, but I’m assuming it’s packed with phosphors (particles that radiate visible light after being energized). Basically, after exposing these particles to light for a period of time they will slowly release their stored energy, emitting small amounts of “glowing” light.

So then the aqueous monoammonium phosphate solution was poured into the container.


8 days later:


Time to shed some light on the experiment (haha!). I exposed the crystal in the aqueous solution to a strong light for a about a minute and then I turned out the lights.


After basking in the glow of these crystals, I poured out the aqueous solution and arranged the crystals in a protective housing. The sans-solution crystals were then exposed to light once again.


Unfortunately, due to my extremely graceful nature, this experiment does not end happily.


On the bright side, I still have the little glowing moon disk for future use..





Mini-erals; pt. 2

The next mineral I would like to showcase: aluminum potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, & brilliant blue FCF (aka the aquamarine crystal)!

Not much to explain about this mineral; I simply put the crystal compound containing aluminum potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, & brilliant blue FCF into a container. Next, I poured the same monoammonium phosphate solution from the previous post into the container.


After four days of anxiously patiently waiting I discovered the crystal had grown, and was trying to escape.


A fair amount of liquid had evaporated already, but in order to see the crystalline structures in the container I poured out the rest of the sapphire blue solution.



I extracted the crystal structures that had grown in the container, and set them out to dry. After about five minutes I arranged them together into one little aquamarine crystal mass:




Up Next: Mini-erals; pt. 3





Mini-erals; pt. 1

Over the holidays I was given some pretty cool crystals—the only catch was I had to grow them myself.

The lab kit included enough material to grow three different types of crystal; we’ll focus on just one for now, since each one grows at a different rate.

The set up was so simple a child could have done it (ages 10+, adult supervision required).
Materials included:
•A mixing bowl & spoon
•Plastic containers for mineral growth
•Monoammonium phosphate
•Crystal compound: aluminum potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, & brilliant blue FCF
•Glow-in-the-dark moon crystal base
•Cardboard tree


First, the crystal solution had to be made. This was done by dissolving the monoammonium phosphate in boiling water. After letting the solution cool down to about 40°C (104°F), it was poured into a plastic base in which the constructed cardboard tree was then placed:


*the solution in this picture appears blue because I accidentally got some of the crystal compound containing brilliant blue FCF in it.. oops!

In the picture above, you can see the solution begin to get absorbed up into the cardboard. This process is called capillary action; as the solution gets wicked up through the tiny fibers in the cardboard the water evaporates, leaving behind the small crystal particles that had previously been dissolved.

24 hours later: All of the solution has been wicked up and evaporated, leaving behind a snowy-white crystal tree!


*LaCroix for scale

Coming Soon: Mini-erals, pt.2


Germination (Not as Gross as it Sounds)


This is a little experiment I conducted to compare the rate of germination between seeds that were initially given access to light versus seeds that were left in the dark.


Paper Towels • Beaker • Pipet • Water • Petri Dishes • Aluminum Foil • Scissors • Soil • White Beans • 2 Cardboard Trays • Pen • Sticky Notes

I needed the paper towels to fit inside the petri dishes, so I drew a circle around the dishes on the paper towels. I found out my scissors were literally not quite ‘cut out’ to cut the paper towel circles, and I ended up jaggedly tearing the circles out (science isn’t always pretty).

Once I placed the paper towels into the petri dishes I saturated them with water; not enough to pool water in the dishes, but enough to make the paper towels moist.


Next, I arranged ten white beans into each dish; I covered one petri dish with foil, and labeled them accordingly.


And then I waited. Each day I would check to make sure the paper towels were still moist, and add water as needed.

Five days later, the magic began! The beans had begun to germinate, and it was time to plant them!


As you can see, it appears the beans that were given light during the germination have more sprouting. Interestingly enough, germination & sprout growth aren’t actually affected by light exposure. It’s hard to tell in the picture above, but more bacteria colonies were present in the seeds that were kept in the dark. Coincidence?

I then prepared the soil beds the seeds would be calling home.

germination5How cute is this tiny shovel?!


After the seeds were planted into their appropriate containers, I moistened the soil and left them both in a sunny spot. And then waited again.

Three days later, the real sprouting began!


It appears the beans that were given light during germination are growing more rapidly, however that may be due to the fact that they had more of a sprout when planted.

One day later, the ‘dark’ beans began to wake!


And the morning after that, I woke up to this:


I believe it is time to transplant these little guys and start harvesting some beans! Maybe I’ll give the ‘dark’ beans another day..

Side note: Happy 50th blog post!


Partying is Contagious

I threw a party the other day, and it was a riot! The exclusive guest list included my roommates Anthony, Sarah, Michael, & Lincoln, as well as my friends Elsa, Kayla, and Dylan; my cousin Emma even showed up! Other invitees included Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law–they couldn’t make it for some reason–and Matt Damon, but he was out of town or something. Nonetheless, fun was had!

Here’s a picture of the party set up!


After the party, it was brought to my attention that one of the guest had contracted a contagious disease within the last 24 hours, but were unaware at the time because they weren’t showing symptoms yet.

I thought back to the events of the party and recalled much sharing of drinks (my friends are very generous), and if one person at the party had a disease-causing microorganism, surely it got spread to at least one other person.

I took samples of everyone’s drink from that night, and tried to remember who shared who’s drink.


If I remember correctly, the night went something like:

Anthony shared his drink with Michael first, and then with Kayla and Emma after that. Elsa also shared her drink with Kayla, and then with Lincoln. Sarah isn’t big on sharing, but she did give Dylan some of her drink at some point. Michael dropped his beverage, so Emma offered him some of hers and after that let Dylan have a drink. Kayla and Sarah also mixed up their drinks on accident.

In case that’s confusing, I made a diagram (which also might be confusing):


To each drink sample I added a few drops of phenolphthalein, which turns pink in the presence of bases, such as sodium hydroxide (which was identified as being the contagious disease). Here are the results:



It’s unclear who showed up with the disease, but half of the guests ended up leaving with surprise party favours.

The lesson to be learned here is don’t share drinks; anyone could be carrying something contagious on the down-low.

And you should also probably avoid Sarah, Lincoln, Elsa, & Kayla for the next few weeks..


Owl Pellet

Here are some pictures from my recent dissection of an owl pellet. If anyone is unfamiliar with what an owl pellet actually is, it’s all of the fur, bones, teeth, feathers, and insect shells that owls can’t digest. After eating small rodents, birds, and bugs owls spit out these parts.


Initially the pellet was dry and hard, so I let it soak in warm water for about 5 minutes.


Then, I began to carefully break apart the pellet with forceps and a probe, pulling out tiny little bones.


I ended up with a lot of tiny bones! They included ribs, scapula, jaws with teeth, hind-limbs, fore-limbs, vertebrae, and other bone fragments.



I extracted some DNA from peas (which was not quite as exciting as it sounds).

First, I had to let the split peas soak overnight in distilled water. Afterwards their soak I added the peas to salty water.


Next, I transferred the peas to a mortar, and began to mash! When the peas were properly mashed up, I strained the liquid through a cheesecloth. To that liquid I added a few drops of dish detergent, and let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.


After pouring the chilled, green liquid into a test tube, papain powder (meat tenderizer) was added, followed by an amount of cold isopropyl alcohol. The whitish liquid about the green in the test tube (pictured below) is the DNA. Hard to see here, the DNA was a cluster of stringy white filaments.


I extracted a drop of the whitish DNA liquid and prepared a slide in order to view it under a microscope. The image below, though not a great quality, shows the little clusters of DNA (the dark ‘spots’) at 200X.