LAVA BOMBS (and associated products)

If you’re like me, the picture above is reminiscent of someone stabbing someone else in the neck with pen in a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s a fair comparison: incredibly bright red liquid spurts out of a hole, sending streams of said bright red liquid up, only to sail back down. However, this particular brand of, for lack of a better word, spurting, isn’t the result of purposefully comedic SFX.

Classified as a Strombolian eruption, the upwards lava explosions are caused by large gas bubbles bursting, which travel up until they reach a vent. The spurting (oh god I hate this word) effect is further emphasized by the results (also known as tephras): solid bits of lava (splatter), solid bits of bubbly lava (scoria), lava bombs (which are just as cool and badass as they sound), and whole chunks of solidified lava. 

To make them even cooler, Strombolian eruptions are named for the Italian island Stromboli, which has a lot of volcanoes that produce this particular kind of eruption.

And you thought volcanoes couldn’t get any better.


Photo courtesy of: 

volcanoes4. Volcanoes. 28 September 2014. 18 January 2017. <>.

Info courtesy of:

Ball, Jessica. Types of Volcanic Eruptions. n.d. 18 January 2017. <>.


Try Me, Mendel

If you thought genetically engineering a human genome was a little freaky, you’re right. If you think it’s still cool, you’d also be right.

Genetic engineering is exactly what you think it is – the engineering of genes. More specifically, it’s directly changing a genome to make a new or edited organism. This can be accomplished through molecular cloning (cloning of the desired DNA strand, and injecting the copied DNA into the organism so it replicates itself), or gene targeting (removal of a gene, adding a gene, or introducing a point mutation – like purposefully inducing a genetic mutation), but there is now a much more precise way to genetically modify an organism. It’s called CRISPR, and it is being widely regarded as a revolutionary development in science. The thing is, scientists didn’t invent it.

CRISPR stands for “Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”, and it is naturally occurring. It consists of prokaryotic DNA with repeating base sequences, and this initially puzzled scientists, until they realized that they have “spacer DNA”, which means that all these sequences are the genetic makeup of something – it was later discovered that this “something” was viruses. Cells were found to be keeping a sort of database of the DNA of certain viruses, and using proteins (Cas – CRISPR-associated proteins) to target the virus when it entered the cell.

CRISPR takes certain sections of a virus’ DNA and turns it into RNA, which Cas then takes control of and carries it around the cell. If the protein encounters something that matches the RNA, Cas cuts it into two so it cannot replicate itself within the cell. Scientists mostly focus on Cas9, which is the associated protein of strep throat. Cas9 can recognize genetic sequences twenty bases long, so biologists can feed it the RNA of any desired gene and it can go and copy and paste it anywhere you want in the genome.

This technique has been recently used in mice. Gene engineering mostly consists of isolating genes and messing with them a bit, to see what effect they crispr-micereally have on an organism. Normally, to isolate a gene, scientists would have to go through three generations of mice to get the desired phenotype, but now with CRISPR, they need only insert the gene into an embryonic stem cell and it takes one generation to see the gene. It’s also being proposed to be used in fighting inherited diseases – when you inject the copy of a certain gene, but it is non-functional, embryonic stem cells will adopt the new gene and replicate that. The generation born will have a “knocked-out” version of the gene, meaning it does not work. Using CRISPR, scientists may be capable to do the same thing with much more precision and efficiency than ever before.

CRISPR is still in early development, but with more testing, it is definitely possible to witness some incredible advancement in science. However, any form of genetic engineering has always been under mass scrutiny. In 2015, scientists at major academic establishments called for the world to place a temporary ban on editing inheritable human genomes. Also, the term “genetically modified organism” has become almost synonymous with genetically modified food and crops, which are subject to ridiculous amounts of debate, mostly due to GMO-manufacturer Monsanto’s suspicious and unethical activity. CRISPR is being proposed for certain forms of gene therapy (genetic engineering in humans for clinical use), but this is even more controversial than the food. It was only in 2012 that the first form of gene therapy was permitted world-wide after the European Commission cleared the treatment, Glybera, for clinical use. (Glybera compensates for a rare genetic disease called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) deficiency, which can cause severe pancreatitis. Glybera puts the LPL gene into the cell, and it acts as a free-floating DNA strand.)


Glofish – genetically engineered fish that glow

Despite obvious benefits of using CRISPR and other forms of genetic engineering, it is virtually impossible to get anything out to the public. (The biggest genetic innovation that has hit the market so far is probably GloFish or blue roses.) American laws about gene engineering haven’t been updated since 1996, and much has changed since. These regulations were written with only genetically modified bacteria in mind (genetically engineered insulin made it onto the market in 1982), and it was incomprehensible that we could edit the human genome with the simple insertion of isolated RNA. CRISPR still isn’t perfect, but more research still needs to happen. And that doesn’t just apply to this specific technique – when it comes to gene engineering, anything from genetically modified food to certain forms of cancer research are up for intense debate.

Although, it is still important to remember that we’ve come a long way, and it’s amazing what humans are capable now. The more we understand our genes, the better we can make ourselves. I’m not talking edited babies, with chosen hair and eye colour – I’m thinking more along the lines of completely taking the genes that cause negative mutations in humans, such as Alzheimer’s and blindness, out of the human gene pool.

Now imagine if Mendel could’ve seen that.



My research:





Science is Magic – Disappearing Water

Concept: someone, who is obviously very magical (either with a top hat and a small black wand or a giant, pointy hat with stars on it and the most magnificent beard anyone has ever seen) pours water into a cup. The audience can clearly see the water going into the cup, can almost see the water inside the cup, yet when the magician turns the cup over, no water comes out. The magician then tells the audience the water did not come out because it’s gone (“POOF!”) into another dimension. Someone somewhere has probably just been drenched in approximately 50 mL of water. Everyone laughs.

It’s a pretty strange concept. It’s impossible to make water just disappear – sure, it can change into a gas if heated, but the water disappeared almost instantly. There wasn’t any time for this magician to heat all the water up so that it disappeared, so where did it go?

Someone who is not scientifically inclined may say that the concept illustrated in the first paragraph is entirely fictional, but those who care about the events of the world at an atomic level know that that’s not true. Magic can be found in the simplest of places – in this case, diapers.

The sort of powder that is found in lining of diapers is called sodium polyacrylate, more commonly known as polymer powder. It’s an anionic polyelectrolyte, and is highly hygroscopic, meaning it can absorb a lot of water. In the case of sodium polyacrylate (-CH2-CH(CO2Na)), it can absorb up to 300 times its weight in water. When it comes into contact with the water, the polymer powder uses osmotic pressure to absorb all the water, so the water mixes with the powder, and the powder expands, taking the water with it. It then makes the water take on a gel consistency, as demonstrated in the video.

In the video, only enough sodium polyacrylate to cover the bottom of the cup was used, and we poured about 30 millilitres in, enough to fill a quarter of the cup. Within about three to five seconds, all of the water was gel.

We encountered this trick via lots of research into chemistry-based magic tricks. Apparently, it’s quite popular, which makes sense. We can’t be the only ones who have ever wondered how baby diapers never leak!





This amazing, beautiful, astounding project was accomplished by the dazzling expertise of Sara Parker and Logan Willis. Because we’re awesome. 



In our research, we found a way to build a death ray out of a microwave. So we didn’t do that project, for fear of being contacted by the RCMP or any other investigative organizations that think death ray building is dangerous, especially when done by two sophomores.

Lab: Bubble Gum: Hubba Bubba vs Big League Chew

Problem A:

Gum B (Big League Chew) proved to have the superior bubble blowing capabilities, thus disproving our hypothesis that Gum A would produce the largest bubble, due to its tougher consistency. Gum B’s bubbles were an average of 13.3 cm larger than Gum A’s, and the time needed to chew the hum to produce the bubble was significantly shorter than Gum A.


Our initial hypotheses stated that Gum A would prove to be the better gum, as it had a tougher dexterity/consistency than Gum B, and it was thought that this feature would help [the gum] sustain more pressure, such as air and physical stress, than its counterpart. However, this proved to be false as Gum B’s loose, powdery consistency turned out to be superior when it comes to blowing bubbles and stretching the gum itself.

The data we collected can be described as both qualitative and quantitative, as we measured the quality of the gum (how much stress the gum can sustain) and the quantity of volume of the blown bubbles (measured the area that each bubble takes up).

SI units were used in the lab (grams, seconds).

Five variables that my have affected the outcome of this experiment:

  1. Time spent chewing the gum.
  2. Contents of the saliva of the Chewer (based on what they ate, how many liquids have been consumed, etc..)
  3. Time the gum was exposed to the atmosphere of the lab (chewed Gum B was exposed for less time than Gum A)
  4. Faults in measuring (human error)
  5. Unknown amount of influence of the act of practicing blowing bubbles (the theory that the more bubbles blown, the bigger they will get)

The Test Subject (aka the Chewing Gum Inflation Device aka CGID aka Chloe)