Helium

We have had a few birthdays around the lair this week. Zaltu turned three, along with a few other mini-minions around the neighbourhood. And with birthdays come the parties, and with parties come balloons.


At one party, Zaltu became enamoured with a big bright blue balloon. It had a shiny skin and a sparkly silver tail trailing down to her tiny little wrist. It was almost as big as her eyes.

And then she stepped outside.

And whichever numpty tied the balloon to her wrist was clearly not a knot-expert.

<it was me>

There is nothing as forlorn as a small child watching their big bright blue balloon float up into the big bright blue sky.

Well, except for seeing said child staring helplessly at the balloon stuck in a tree just out of reach. 

To Zaltu’s credit, she didn’t freak out or throw a tantrum, or collapse into a meltdown. She was upset, and there were some quiet tears, but instead she turned to me and asked: “why does my balloon fly away?”

So I SCIENCED!!

<insert dodgy 80’s music>


And we talked about Helium (remembering she is 3yo):

We talked about how the air we breathe is made of lots of different gases; some gases we want to breathe in like Oxygen because it is how we live. Some gases we breathe out, like Nitrogen because we don’t need it in our body in such a large dose. Another gas is Helium, which we can neither see, taste, nor smell. 

Helium is really light compared to other gases. For example, the nitrogen we breathe out is about 8 times heavier than helium. When we blow nitrogen into a balloon, the balloon weighs it down so it only has a light buoyancy – enough to sort of bounce, a bit.

Helium, however, is light enough to lift a lot of things, at a rate of about 1 gram to every litre of helium you are using.

This also means you can weigh down a helium-filled balloon, without impacting on its buoyant appearance. This could be a rock, or a tree, or a person. 

Over time, the helium will leak out the balloon – it is a gas do it can leak out even the smallest gap. The more that leaks out, the less helium available to float the balloon.

While we were having this discussion, the lovely hosts of the birthday party brought Zaltu another balloon. They also taught me how to tie a better knot. Because evidently, I suck at it.

However, Zaltu stopped them from tying it to her wrist.

Instead, she looked at the balloon. Then looked at her body, then looked at me.

Back to herself. Back to me… 

“Mum. You better hold my balloon. Your bigger weight is better to hold my balloon down.”

Yeah. Thanks for that. 

Fine. I’ll have another piece of cake, thanks – for Zaltu’s sake, of course. 

Sidenote: there’s a bit of debate on whether helium balloons are environmentally friendly. The Surfing Scientist said it best with his fairly detailed answer. And yes. We did go back to collect the ribbon once the first balloon came down from tree.


Forensic Friday #6 – All I have is static

There is nothing funnier than sneaking up on your sibling, all charged with static electricity – and letting rip with a ZAP!

Well, maybe one thing – watching on as an EG Parent while the spawnlings learn this!

Here’s the basics of Sinister’s Balloon Static Electricity Experiment:

Materials:

  • Balloons
  • Wall
  • Sibling (this may take time to prepare – talk to other EG Parents if you need advice on this one – can be replaced with some other unwilling participant)
Image (1)

How to build up some static electricity

  1. Blow up the balloon
  2. Rub against the wall
  3. Step away from the wall – like magic, the static electricity will hold the balloon to the wall.
Image

Like magic! Scientific magic!

Now, the question of “Why?” will come up – so here is the answer, to help you still look EG in front of the spawnlings:

Everything around us is made of tiny little parts called atoms. Atoms are made up of even smaller parts, which are called protons, electrons, and neutrons.

The protons, electrons, and neutrons are very different. Protons have a positive charge. Electrons have a negative charge. Neutrons are pretty easy going either way with no charge. Usually, atoms have the same amount of electrons and protons. When the atom has no charge, it is ‘neutral’. This also means that negatively charged things will be attracted to positive-charged things, and vice versa.

However, if you rub things together, electrons can move from one atom to another. Then some atoms get extra electrons and the other atoms might have a negative charge or no charge at all. The extra electrons will then be attracted to either neutral or positive-charged things. Like the walls or other people. When charges are separated like this, it is called static electricity.

Now, sometimes you can rub your feet on the carpet and build up some static electricity in yourself. Being dry helps out too. If you build up enough, you can then pass this static to another person – like a sibling, just as an example. You don’t HAVE to, of course. I am totally leaving this one for your own free will.

 

Forensic Friday #3 – Weatherman

It’s a dangerous day in Evil Genius Lair – a restless, rainy day.

LEGO dominates our lounge-room. But even today there is a certain passive approach to it. The Tank’s turret is short; the ninja’s armoury looks neat and tidy; the obstacle course for LEGO men has… flowers?!?

Desperate times require desperate measures. So today’s ‘Forensic Friday’ is about the weather and using the elemental forces to my favour… mwahahaha.

Make Your Own Thunder

  1. Blow up a balloon

    Step 1 – Blow up the Balloon

  2. Put a hand on each end of the balloon and push your hands towards each other until the balloon POPS!!

    Step 2 – Pop the Balloon… Not as easy as you think…

(Obviously this last step is hilarious to 6yo Sinister and 3yo Nefarious who then continue to do this experiment around the lair – further testing the limits of entertainment versus the limits of EG Mum’s patience…. results to come).

The lesson here – You create your own thunder because the air inside the balloon moves so fast when you pop the balloon. Same as thunder. Boom boom.

So what is so evil about this experiment? Nothing – on face value.

But now I have a whole weekend ahead me… and two young evil-genius-in-training who are all enlightened with the idea of creating loud noises in the name of science.

Aw crap.