Invest in CDs: A Christmas Story

Data Dump
Creative Commons License photo credit: swanksalot

In a society that is occasionally inundated with free CDs (and now DVDs) from many different vendors plying their software, sometimes it’s good to sit down, gather them all together, and recycle them.

In the Christmas spirit I have another shiny idea. And that is reusing CDs as holiday decorations. During my college years (long ago in the Early Middle Ages), my roommates and I decorated a “Christmas” tree with CDs. We made sure that the shiny, reflected side was out so that the tree would shine (but not like Roger Young). However, being a poor college student living off dish rag soup and being allergic to real Christmas trees, it was not a real Christmas tree Charlie Brown. It was, however, a plastic fichus which I still have today*.

But decorating a Christmas tree is not the only thing you can use CDs for. There was one crafty individual that made furniture from AOL CDs although it does not look as comfortable as the iron throne. You can also use them in packing presents to help confuse children that are especially good at puzzling out what is wrapped under the tree. While the weather outside is frightful, and when you’re near that fire that is so delightful, you could put candles on the CDs to add to the ambiance (NOTE: always be careful and responsible when using fire). If you add some string and holiday colored markers you could make some nice hanging ornaments. CDs can even serve as coasters for hot chocolate and wassail.

All this to say, it’s the holidays! Enjoy food, friends, and family. Lets all be thankful for what we have and ready to give without hesitation to those around us. And ready to use what we have been given to the best of our abilities. Including old CDs. Send us your ideas and pictures of your creations.

Happy Holidays Y’all!

*Now that I’m out of college and gainfully employed, we have a real fake Christmas tree which we will put out as soon as we unpack that pile of boxes we have left sitting there for a year.

HOW TO: Marvelous Marbled Ornaments

 Materials needed

Cheap shaving cream – we use Barbasol
Liquid watercolors (available at art supply stores)
Cookie sheet
Shapes cut out of cardstock (heavy paper)
Popsicle stick (note cards will work too)

We decided to use three different colors

What to do:

1. Cut different shapes out of cardstock (we cut out a dinosaur!)

2. Dispense about an inch of shaving cream onto the cookie sheet about the approximate size of the shape you cut out.

3. Put drops of liquid watercolors directly on top of the shaving cream.  Two colors works well, but use three at the most.

4. Use a sharpened pencil to swirl the colors together very gently (use the sharpened tip of the pencil).  Do not push down into the shaving cream too far.  Swirl the paint on top until you have a nice marbled look.  Don’t swirl for too long or you will get brown!

5. Put your cutout on top of the shaving cream and press so it comes in complete contact with the color.

6. Peel the cutout off.  It will appear to be a mess of shaving cream and color until you do the next step.

7. Lay the cut out down and use the Popsicle stick to scrape the shaving cream off the paper.  You will be left with a marvelous marbled masterpiece. 8. Let it dry, punch a hole, tie a ribbon, and hang it on your tree!

 Swirl it all together!

 Scraping away

What’s going on here anyway?
Shaving cream has a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobictail.  What in the world does that mean?  Well, the water-based watercolors are attracted to the water-loving (hydrophilic) head (top of the shaving cream pile) and repelled by the hydrophobic (water-hating) tail (bottom of the shaving cream pile).  This limits the motion of the watercolors and suspends them on the top of the shaving cream.  When you then place your paper on the shaving cream the absorbent paper captures the watercolor image that is suspended on the top of the shaving cream.

 The final product!

HOW TO: Christmas Chromatography

Crayola Washable markers
Large coffee filters
Spray bottle with water
Newspaper to cover your work area

What to do:
1. Cut fun Christmas shapes out of coffee filters.  Stars, angels, or snowmen are great ideas. 
2. Make large dots (about an inch in diameter) on the coffee filter shape using the washable markers.  Place the dots about an inch apart.
3. Place your coffee filter shape flat on a pile of newspaper and squirt it with the spray bottle until the entire filter is damp.
4. Wait five minutes and observe what happens to the dots you made!
5. Allow your filter to dry.
6. Punch a hole in your filter and tie a ribbon through to hang it on your Christmas tree.

What’s going on here?
Different colors make up ordinary ink. Colored dyes can be separated when dissolved in a liquid like water. This process is called chromatography. Different dye mixtures are used to make various inks. When you spray water on the filter paper it dissolves the dyes in the ink. The dissolved dyes move through the filter paper by capillary action and form color patterns.  Did some of your colors travel further on the filter paper than others?  Can you design an experiment and see? 

Attach a ribbon to make a pretty ornament!

HOW TO: Christmas Chemistry Creations

This holiday season, we’re bringing you a series of fun science projects you can do at home – all with a holiday theme. In the first part in the series, Kat teaches us how to make the holidays sparkle!

Use this wonderful chemistry concoction to “grow” your own amazing Christmas decorations!

Things you will need:
20 Mule Team Borax – available at the grocery store with the laundry detergents
Pipe cleaners (also known as craft stems)
Wide mouthed Mason jar
Parental Guidance

How to do it:
Shape the pipe cleaners into various shapes such as simple star shapes, circles, diamonds, angels, or whatever shape you wish.  Make sure the ornament shape fits easily inside your mason jar.
Tie a piece of string to your ornament and the other end of the string to the pencil. 
Fill your jar (with parental guidance of course!) with boiling water.
Add borax to the jar a tablespoon at a time.  Stir until it is dissolved before adding another tablespoon.  The formula that works best is 3 tablespoons of borax to each cup of water used.  Don’t worry if some un-dissolved borax is at the bottom of the jar.
Hang your pipe cleaner creation in the jar with the pencil across the top of the jar to suspend it.  The pipe cleaner should be fully immersed in the solution and hang freely without touching the bottom of the jar. 

Find a safe spot for your jar and leave it alone overnight.

The next morning you will have a beautiful crystal creation that you made yourself!

What’s going on here?
When you add borax to the hot water and stir you are creating a saturated solution.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that the water can hold no more borax (this is obvious when there is un-dissolved borax at the bottom of the jar).  Hotter water can dissolve more solute (in this case borax) than colder water can. When our saturated borax solution begins to cool, it can no longer hold as much borax as it could while hot (it is temporarily a supersaturated solution).  This “extra” borax attaches itself to the pipe cleaners in the form of crystals.