Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cloud in a Jar - Tips and Tricks

While we're still waiting for some really good, sunny weather, to try out a couple more solar projects, I decided it might be a good time to take another look at the old "cloud in a jar" experiment. 

We've done this experiment before  - placing a pan of ice, over a jar filled with an inch of warm water, and shining a light through, to see the "cloud" forming inside  - about four years ago, with good success (click here read a more detailed account of that attempt).  At the time, we were living in a very dry climate.

Ticia, over at Adventure's in Mommydom, who lives in a very humid climate, tried the experiment recently, with her children, and it failed.

We live in slightly more humid climate now (meaning we no longer have to bathe in lotion, and towels don't always dry in the bathroom, even when they've been hanging overnight).  So, we decided to give it another try, to see if humidity makes a difference.

I'm guessing that it does, because we did have a harder time with the experiment this time around.

We tried using warm water, but the jar just steamed up, and we couldn't see a cloud. 

Then, we tried boiling water, or rather tonic water, because I was hoping we'd get a glowing cloud, under UV light (which would have been really cool).  Once again, the jar steamed up, making it impossible to see into it.  This time though, we removed the pan for long enough to wipe the condensation away from the inside of the jar, with a clean, dry towel, and continued on.

In case your wondering, don't bother with tonic water.  The water glows...

...but the cloud does not (apparently the quinine doesn't get lifted up into the steam).  Oh, and if you do decide to boil tonic water in an electric tea kettle - let it go flat, before you boil it, unless you want a fountain, that would make Mentos and Coke jealous.  It's actually pretty awesome, like putting bubble bath in a whirlpool tub (you might not want to try that one, either), but a little messy for an indoor experiment (especially if the Man of the House happens to be home at the time).

Anyway, once we had mopped up the kitchen, and wiped the condensation from the inside of the jar, we tried turning off the lights, and shining a flashlight through it. The results with a normal flashlight were less than impressive.

But, when we switched to a tactical (really bright) flashlight, we could see...

...a pretty good, swirling, whirling... mist, in the beam.

So, our recommendations for creating a cloud in a jar, if you live somewhere humid, is to clear any condensation away from the inside of the jar, before looking for the cloud.  And, if after shining a light through the jar, you still don't see a cloud - try a brighter light, or perhaps, move to a darker room.

It's a neat effect when it works, and worth a little bit of fiddling.

Linked with Science Sunday at All Things Beautiful.


Phyllis said...

You know how we are always doing the same thing, right? Guess what next Sunday's Science Sunday is going to be about?

claireshomeeducation said...

Giggling! I'm imagining all sorts of messy shenanigans going on when the man of the house is out!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - No way! Can't wait to see how it worked out for you.

Claire - You have no idea :)

Dawn said...

We have made some pretty big messes with the man at home. He thinks learning is very messy ~ giggle. We tried the cloud in the jar and it failed. We live in a pretty humid climate. Now I know why it failed for us. We are always learning.
Blessings, Dawn

Ticia said...

So many attempts gone wrong. Considering our house is "climate controlled" you'd think it would have worked better.

Lucinda said...

Oh my goodness - I LOVE that you boiled tonic water in the kettle! :-D Still laughing... (sorry) Fantastic experiments, as ever. We haven't done this and I'm wondering how we would get on with it over here.

MaryAnne said...

Thanks for the tips! This is on my "experiments to try" list. Along with most of your blog...