Science Chefs At Home: Magic Milk Experiment

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Like all of you, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home recently. This unexpected “new normal” has been (at times) awesome and (at other times) challenging. Caroline has charged head-first into Toddlerhood and all of its trappings. She’s got a lot of energy (like, a LOT) and so I’ve had to get creative with activities. Bath toys! Playdough! Puzzles! Oh, my!

Thankfully, this time at home has also given me the opportunity to work on my latest Science Chefs manuscript (albeit in short nap-time increments). (For you newbies, Science Chefs is about four friends who use everyday food science to help them solve creative culinary questions. It’s inspired by the original science chef in my life, my sister Jane.) I’ve been testing a lot of cool food science experiments for my characters to perform in the book. The experiments are all hands-on, easy to do at home, and kid-friendly. Turns out, they’re just the quarantine creative outlet I needed!

I’ve decided to share some of my favorites with you, in case you’re looking for something new to try with the kiddos at home. (You can only listen to so many Moana sing-alongs, right? You’re welcome!)

First up: Magic Milk!

This experiment is neat because it shows off an everyday household item that you’ve probably never thought too much about: dish soap!

The Science: Molecules in dish soap have a head and a tail. The head is hydrophilic, meaning it mixes well with water. The tail is hydrophobic, meaning it does not. Basically, when you wash a greasy pan, the hydrophobic tail runs away from the water and attaches to the grease and fat, breaking it down into smaller pieces that can be washed away.

Don’t notice this during your nightly dish duty? That’s because you need an added ingredient to bring it to life. Enter, food coloring!

The Culinary Question: Can food coloring help you see dish soap in action?

Hypothesis: When you mix dish soap with food coloring, the food coloring will help you see the hydrophobic tail of the molecule search for the fat in the milk.

Materials: 

4 cups whole milk

2 pie dishes (or flat dishes with a rim)

Food coloring (assorted colors)

Dish Soap

Q-Tips

Small dish

Procedure:

Step One: Pour two cups of whole milk into a pie dish. Dip the Q-Tip into the dish soap. Swirl the Q-Tip through the milk. Did anything happen?

Step Two: Pour two cups of whole milk into a second pie dish. Add droplets of food coloring to the surface of the milk.

Step Three: Dip a second Q-Tip into the dish soap. Swirl the Q-Tip through the droplets of food coloring. Did anything happen? (SPOILER ALERT IN NEXT VIDEOS!)

Are you seeing these fireworks?!

Conclusion: The food coloring worked! It helped us see the hydrophobic tail of the dish soap molecule search for the fat in the milk. Excuse me, MAGIC milk!

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Science Chefs At Home! I plan to post more of my favorite food science experiments in the coming weeks. (Next time, you can actually eat the results!) Try these at home with your kids. They’ll love rolling up their sleeves and getting science-y in the kitchen. (The 20ish minutes where you get to sit, watch, and sip a beverage is a bonus!)

Show us your science! Please share/tag your favorite Science-Chef-inspired kitchen chemistry moments on Instagram (@brigittehenrycooper ) and Facebook (Brigitte Henry Cooper).

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