The Mount Airy Public Library’s first gathering of aspiring scientists Thursday evening was more about curiosity than young scientists driven “mad” by a passion for knowledge. According to spokesperson Angela Llewellyn, this was the first science experiment session done by just the library itself.
Sisters Hope and Hannah Lichvar were smiling as they waited on the workshop to begin. Nine-year-old Hannah was hopeful the experiment on invisible ink writing would work better than their attempts at home.
“We had a chance to try (invisible writing) at home,” said Lichvar. “Let’s just say it this way, it was not one of my favorite things to learn about.” She said she particularly likes science about plants and making the ecosystem better.
Mercy Rock brought her children Isaac, Daniel, Mary and Naaman to the library so they could have a chance to experiment as well. She said they had attended science demonstrations at the school staged by other groups last year.
Llewellyn quickly noticed participants reacting to a noticeable smell of pine in the air.
“You can really smell the Pine-Sol,” said Llewellyn. “This experiment really makes the library smell good.”
She and library intern Hallie Fields explained how the group would dip strips of paper treated with plant-based chemicals in cups filled with liquids including household cleaners, bottled and well water, lemon juice, dish washing detergent and milk. Llewellyn led the group in writing down the color changes to the papers for later comparison.
Fields told the group the experiment would help them find out if the liquids were acids or bases and explained that PH values are a measure of the potential hydrogen that can be attracted by the liquids. High PH means a base and lower is an acid.
“Some of these liquids will be neutral and we may see no change at all,” added Llewellyn. “Remember, to be a scientist you have to be precise. You have to be really careful. We will keep track of our results and as scientists we will later talk about it and see if we agree.”
Some of the findings of the young researchers indicated that milk was an acid but not a very strong acid. Diet Mountain Dew, on the other hand, left the red paper red and turned blue test paper red, indicating it was an acid. Both waters tested neutral.
“What do you think this might mean if you drink a lot of sodas?” asked Llewellyn. “I do, and this probably means we all might want to drink less sodas that are adding more acid to our stomach and maybe we should drink more water. Maybe that would be a good thing.”
Fields and Llewellyn told the group their experiments indicated most of the household cleaners were bases and not acids.
“We thought most cleaners would be an acid,” said Llewellyn. “We’ve found what you did. Most cleaners are really strong bases. Even oven cleaner turned out to be a strong base. Don’t spray anything that’s really strong, acid or base, on your hands it can hurt the skin. Acid is as bad as a base.”
The young scientists experiment also found out that glass cleaner and dish washing detergent were bases and the Pine-Sol was an acid. Llewellyn told the group before it began the secret writing using lemon juice, they had not been able to heat the paper and cause the writing to turn brown and appear.
“As a scientist we must try all possibilities,” said Llewellyn. “Perhaps our craft gun is not hot enough. Have your parents help you try a hair dryer or an iron to see if more heat will make this work.”
The group plans to meet the second Thursday of each month at 4 p.m. at the library for the free workshops. Llewellyn said she hopes to include some experiments using a microscope at the next meeting.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.