The Landolt Clock Reaction

By Anupum Pant

Steve Spangler Never ceases to amaze me. Once again I found this old video of him on the Ellen show. These are a few experiments he does on the stage…

  • Lights a tube light with his bare hands and Ellen’s.
  • A transparent liquid suddenly instantly changes colour.
  • Blows the hydrogen and oxygen mixture on Ellen’s hand.
  • And makes someone from the audience walk across the table on a non newtonian fluid.

Steve doesn’t exactly explains what happens there, but the second experiment is my favourite. It is the one in which he asks Ellen to pour two transparent liquids into each other and mix them well. Then Ellen waits for a few seconds and the liquid instantly turns into an ink like colour.

The magical effect is actually a chemical reaction known as the Landolt Clock Reaction. It actually involves 3 different solutions (read about them). The reaction happens quicker once the mixing starts and leads to a third reaction which happens immeasurably fast. It’s totally instantaneous and thus the transparent solutions turn into a bluish black iodine starch complex. As steve’s website puts it…

The sudden change from a colorless solution to the blue-black solution is the result of four sequential reactions. First, the bisulfite ions (HSO3-) reduce some of the iodate ions (IO3-) to form iodide ions (I-). Next, the iodide ions (I-) are oxidized by the remaining iodate ions (IO3-) to form triiodide ions (I3-). The solution now consists of triiodide ions (I3-) and soluble starch. In the third reaction, the triiodide ions (I3-) get reduced by the bisulfite ions (HSO3-) to become iodide ions (I-). That continues until all of the bisulfite has been consumed. Finally, the triiodide ions and starch combine to form the dark blue-black starch complex that looks like ink.

See more at: SteveSpanglerScience

Spicy Food for a Happy Stress Free Life

By Anupum Pant

Today I’d like to start with something called Morphine. There is great chance that you already know about Morphine, may be through House MD, or other things. If you do, you could skip if you want to. But reading through a couple of lines never hurt anybody.

Morphine: is one of the most effective drugs used in medicine to relieve severe pain. It acts directly on the central nervous system, relieves anxiety and produces euphoria – intense happiness. That is the reason, it is also widely used illegally as a recreational drug. Wait! It is highly addictive too. But what makes me talk about morphine today?

Endorphins: And then there are Endorphins. Endorphins, short for Endogenous Morphine, is a morphine like substance made by the body – Where endogenous means that it originates inside the body. The amount of it released in the body is completely dependant on how you live your life and the kind of food you eat.

Like morphine, Endorphins have some function in the body too. In simple words, they relieve pain and stress. For instance, in a body builder’s body, these are the natural chemicals which keep them going in the gym, by mitigating pain sensation. And of course, since it is nothing but Morphine occurring naturally in the body, it creates Euphoria, or a state of intense happiness.

Runner’s High: People who are engaged in strenuous activities often have high amounts of Endorphins being released inside their body. As a result, they develop something called a runner’s high – An addiction to exercise and other strenuous activities. May be this is how workaholics are born. I’m guessing, endorphins is the chemical that gives the Tarahumara people the ability to run for 400 miles. And may be Marathon Monks of Japan also have unlocked a technique to produce high amounts of Endorphins in them (meditation!).

Whatever it is, healthy amounts of Endorphins released in the body make you happy, and a greater amount than that only takes you to a super human level. Of course, using morphine without prescription is not legal. But, there’s no law that can stop you from creating it in your own body. After all, it can completely change you as a person.

How to: Now, there are a couple of natural ways you could train your body to make more of it for you. Some of them are – strenuous exercise, a lot of sleep, eating chocolate and meditation (marathon monks!). But, among these techniques, in my view, adopting excessively spicy food is the most accessible and healthy way to go about it. Heck, just eat chillies and be happier. So simple. If you think that is hard, well, the human body can easily be trained

Among scientists, it is a well-known fact that eating chilli peppers can lead to enhanced secretion of endorphins. It is also noteworthy that spicier the chilli, more endorphins are released. And to find the spiciest chillies, you can probably watch the video below…

So, go, rev it up to 16 Million Scoville Scale unit and lead a happier and stress free life. Use science and get addicted to happiness.

Note: Do whatever, but do not over do it. You don’t want to try the deadly cinnamon challenge to be happy.

Einstein Couldn’t Figure How the Drinking Bird Worked

By Anupum Pant


DrinkingBirdThe Drinking Bird is a toy which almost every one of us has heard of. If you haven’t, may be this picture of it rings a bell. Otherwise, it is a funny looking bird-head made of felt, mounted atop a glass or plastic straw, with a little bulb at its lowest point. The whole contraption is suspended at two points, which allows it to swing smoothly like a pendulum – drinking water at regular intervals, from a glass, for ever.

The amusing thing about this little toy is that, once it starts, it keeps swinging and “drinking” for ever. Upon giving it a cursory look, it seems to be a perfect perpetual machine – a contraption that can run indefinitely without an external source of energy. In reality, it isn’t a perpetual motion machine. There is a complex physical and chemical activity going on inside the toy, which keeps the simple heat engine running forever without a battery – Something so complex to deduct, that even one of the greatest Physicist ever, Albert Einstein himself couldn’t figure out the correct mechanism that keeps it running.

Don’t worry, it isn’t as difficult to understand the mechanism.

How does it work?

Assuming you have properly understood the parts of the toy, you will notice that the little bulb at the bottom of it has a colored liquid in it. This colored liquid is a chemical called Methylene chloride – A chemical that dissolves caffeine and can be used to decaffeinate coffee, teas and colas. The special property of this chemical which makes the toy work is its extremely low boiling point. It has a high vapor pressure at room temperature.

At room temperature the vapor pressure in the tube and head is high. The fluid remains in the bulb and the bird is upright due to the weight of the fluid.

The first thing you do is, you make its head dip in water. That way, the head made of felt absorbs water. The water cools due to evaporation (like our sweat cools our body), drops the temperature of the head and the bird comes up.

While swinging in the upright position, as the head cools further, the vapor pressure at the head decreases, while the pressure at the bulb becomes relatively higher. This causes the chemical to rise up the tube and it changes the center of gravity (CG). Due to the change in CG the bird tips its head back into the water.

Absorbs water and the process starts once again. It keeps on going till the bird can no longer reach the low water level. You, then have to fill up the reservoir.

Source of energy?

There is a lot going on in the toy so it isn’t really easy to point a single source of energy. However, it is pretty clear that the bird isn’t a perpetual motion machine. Anyway, watch the insightful video now. The simple toy is indeed a beautiful thing to marvel about. [Video]