Walking ‘Water’?

Life of science

I always try to factor time in to run my experiments before using them in my study sessions or Clubs.  Firstly, because that’s good practice, but secondly, because experiments can be different when using products at home.  In school, I had wonderful technicians who would trial things for me, and check we had all of the equipment and so on.  In the wonderful world of business-ownership and home Science, I have me, and a few plastic bowls and measuring jugs, and the occassional infant-school aged child assitant…

Anyway, walking water is a fun experiment (which can be seen here or here), relating to colour mixing and understanding surface tension/capillary action.  It can be made as easy or as complicated as you like.  Glasses, jars, beakers, essentially, any type of vessel can be used, as long as it isn’t too tall.  In the experiment I trialled below, the beakers I used were a little too tall. It required a bit of ‘assistance’ to get the coloured water high enough on the paper towel for the capillary action to overcome gravity and continue down into the middle beaker.  It was also hindered by the diluted ink turning to a weird goopy consistency, which you can just about make out in the image.  In this instance, common-or-garden food colouring bought from the supermarket came up trumps, with a good colour achieved AND no goop.

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We tried it out at Science Unschool Club today and it seemed to work, albeit a little slowly.  Food colouring produced a lovely, vibrant coloured liquid, and a sheet of Plenty cut into 3rds and folded seemed to allow water to move nicely.  However, it take a bit too long for our young Scientists (and the hour long Club session).  I would probably try different amounts of paper or wetting the towel more thoroughly to see if we could speed up the process.  It certainly looked the business at the beginning though.

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