Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Serendipitous Science

Thanks to Miss Priss, we had a bit of unplanned science fun yesterday. On Sunday evening, Tiny Girl found a mug of week-old coffee milk in the basement, left there by Miss Priss. The entire surface was covered with mold and a gelatinous substance.

Both girls gagged and wanted to toss the contents immediately; but I swiftly intervened. "Wait! Let's look at it under the microscope!"

Aside: In the interest of full disclosure, I must add that no one was as interested in this activity as much as I was. We did it anyway.

I was elected to lift the mold off the coffee surface and place it in a petri dish. (More disclosure: it smelled fairly gross.)

Our microscope is a 3D stereo model, and we got some really neat views of the growths. Unfortunately, I can't show you. You'll just have to imagine the awesomeness.

Tiny Girl held her breath while she viewed our sample. When she ran out of air, she'd run out of the kitchen, inhale deeply, and run back in to see more.

The girls were more impressed that they'd expected to be. The 3D effect made the white mold look like hills of snow, and we could really appreciate (if that's the right word to use) the gooey gelatinous look of the oozy substance.

But I was still the most excited about the whole thing.

So if your kids leave plates of food or cups of drinks sitting around forgotten, capitalize on the opportunity for an impromptu science lesson. As an added benefit, your children may never forget their plates or cups again. I'm certain the experience made an impression on Miss Priss!


  1. This is great, Ellen. In the seventeenth century Robert Hooke and others were doing just the same: looking at the new worlds opened up to them through the telescope and debating abiology, or the spontaneous generation of life from putrefied matter. Obviously this was a theological as well as a scientific debate. There is some amazing stuff on Hooker and the images he drew (which made his work famous) online:
    and a digital copy of his Micrographia, which is much more impressive in real life (the local library might have copy):

  2. Thanks for the links, Tanya! I know I'll check them out, but I can't promise the girls will follow suit. HA!


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