Friday, November 23, 2012

Matter of Choice

The floating Brick Boat
Science in a Van have been looking at materials lately. We know that scientists/builders/cooks (just to name a few) look carefully at the properties of a material before they make a decision on whether or not it will be good to use. Basically, what does the material look like and how does it behave?

Materials have different properties that make them useful for different jobs. You can find a great list of different properties here

Peter sitting on overturned brick boat
However, in this blog we will look at a few cases of how people have used the wrong material for the job. Are you ready for some surprises?

First up is new Zealand Artist Peter Lange (Emily's Uncle). He uses bricks in a way you would not imagine!  Check out the pic of the boat he made out of bricks with a corrugated iron sail! The surprise is – it did float!  How the hell?  Well, it’s all to do with water displacementClick here to read the post that explains the science behind this art piece.     

An inflatable mattress made of bricks is a fine example of choosing the wrong material for the job!  Surely you would need something that would be soft and comfortable enough to sleep on? 

Peter Lange has a habit of choosing strange materials.  He has also made a kiln to fire pots in …. out of ice!  Check out more of Peter’s stuff here

Interested in pottery and the materials they use?  Why not attend the Big Clay Out?  A fun day for everyone at the Auckland Studio Potters held every year at the beginning of December.   

However, as we have seen using the ‘wrong’ material can have great results.  We found this when using chocolate spoons to stir our tea.  One of the properties of a chocolate spoon is that it will melt when coming into contact with hot stuff.  Yet, they make your Earl Grey taste really yummy! 

We’re not sure the following spoons would taste as great.  They are made out of a metal which melts at around 30 degrees Celsius.   

So if you have a chocolate tea pot or a sponge hammer or if you have an idea that is as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike – Science in a Van want to know about it.  Post your pics, videos or comments/ideas here J


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  1. Love the teacup and hope to be coming with you to Napier.

  2. How exciting that you are coming with us our our Napier and Hastings Tour - 8th-11th April 2013. Even more exciting as your comment was anonymous - be like a blind date/tour :)

  3. Hi! Does the rate of updates of your blog depend on specific things or you work on blog articles when you have a specific mood or free time on that? Can't wait to hear from you.

  4. Hi Robert, it partly depends on how much free time we have. However, we do try and work on themes. We really push the boat out during NZ's Primary Science Week and try and post an experiment up each day. We are hoping to post some blog up soon based around our volunteer work in India at - so watch out for that.

    Emily & Alan


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