What I learned from my grandson’s science project

My grandson needed to do a science project for his 7th grade class. He was going to put a fast food chain burger and fries in a large jar versus homemade ones in another jar, but he waited until there wasn’t enough time to let them rot to see if there was a difference.

That’s where I came in. I suggested he do the vitamin C and baking soda drink as an example of mixing an acid and a base (alkaline) to get a fizzy drink that was neutral as far as acids and bases go.

I’d been drinking this mixture, 1 teaspoon of vitamin C and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda sometimes with a little lemon juice for flavor and sometimes also with a little maple syrup to sweeten it, for about a year. What got me started was reading Thomas Levy’s book, Stop America’s #1 Killer. That’s heart disease, by the way.

In that book, Levy takes up Linus Pauling’s work that demonstrated heart disease is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Pauling, by the way,     is the only man on Earth to ever win two Nobel Prizes on his own. in 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work in discovering the pattern of DNA (the chemical in cells that controls our heredity). And in 1962 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his work which resulted in the US and Russia banning above ground nuclear testing, which had been shown to cause radioactive fallout to get into babies’ teeth from cows’ milk.

But I’m getting a little off the subject, back to my grandson’s science project. He learned that you can measure how acidic (sour) and how alkaline (slippery) things are by using a pH strip that turns different colors. He also liked that the mixture of vitamin C and baking soda makes fizzy carbonated water.

As we talked about how he was going to write up these results, he got interested and wanted to test other liquids. We ended up testing vinegar (acid), lemon juice (acid), cream (mildly acid), egg whites (mildly alkaline) and some mysterious ash from the stove (acid).

It was exciting to see him get interested in this topic and really investigate to learn new things. He had learned what the scientific method was all about: testing things in the real world to see what actually happens.

What did I learn from his science project? That making science understandable is the key to helping people improve their lives with knowledge. Memorized words don’t do anything.

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