Simple Science Tricks – Clouds in a Bottle

Clouds are beautiful! You look up to the sky and you see them in different shapes and sizes. What’s even more amazing is that they have different names for the different shapes; like CirrusNimbostratus, and Cumulus. Though, the biggest question we had when we all saw those beautiful clouds (or sometimes sad clouds) is how are they made?

A cloud is a large collection of water droplets, very tiny ones, or ice crystals. Since the droplets are super small and tiny, they can float up in the air.

Actually, all air contains water to be practice. However, when we are near the ground level, or sea level, water is usually in the form of water vapor, which is invisible to us because of the distribution of water molecule in the space provided (imagine a pea in a football stadium and you are seeing the stadium from a helicopter).

When warm air rises, it expands and cools due to changes in the atmosphere itself. When the water vapor gets cold, the water molecules come together slightly closer and form tiny droplets; just like how we cuddle with someone when we get cold ourselves. This process is called condensation, when air molecules condense due to cold and slowly form into a liquid. When billions of these droplets come together, yet they are spaced not too far from each other, they become a visible cloud.

How does condensation work?

Condensation forms when water changes from a vapor (or gas) to a liquid. Consider the water molecules as people. For people to go around, hang out and meet with friends, they need energy. In the presence of heat, there is energy for things to happen (not extreme heat, of course).

People cannot stand extreme heat; otherwise, this place would have been packed!

So water molecules party it up and rock out everywhere in the air because of decent heat. However, as the water is cooled and there is less heat energy for the individual molecules and particles to move around, it then condenses. Just like cuddling. Therefore, condensation happens because of change in temperature.

How do clouds float?

Clouds are heavy. The water in a cloud can have a mass of several million tons. So, how do they float?

Cloud droplets are also about 1000 times heavier than evaporated (gas) water, so they are much heavier than air. However, they do not fall, but stay in the air, because there is warm air all round the heavier water droplets. You can imagine the warm air being bullies pushing the water to be together into a droplet.

When water changes from gas to droplets, this makes heat. Because the droplets are very small, they “stick” to the warm air. And thus, they float.

The Experiment

The Summary

Make some clouds in a bottle.

What you need:

  • Tea spoon
  • A 2-Liter bottle and a cap
  • Matches/Fire
  • Piece of Newspaper


What’s going on?

As the video mentioned, the increase in pressure and decrease in pressure is increasing the temperature (remember how hot it is when using a bicycle pump?). This phenomena is better explained by this glorious formula, ideal Gas Law:

PV = nRT

No, we don't measure gas with those moles. Nor the moles on your body!

Where the volume (V) is constant because your gas is in the bottle of volume 2 liters, and there is a constant amount of gas (n) measured in moles, R is the ideal, or universal, gas constant, equal to the product of Boltzmann’s constant and Avogadro’s constant. And finally, T is temperature. As pressure changes often to higher pressure on average, it increases the change in temperature, leading to higher temperature (since the original temperature is constant).

Given the increase in temperature, change in pressure, and presence of water molecules in the bottle, clouds are formed satisfying the conditions and explanations mentioned above!

Halloween Experiment – Risk Tolerance of Children

This Halloween I decided to be creative. It is a Wednesday, the Giants are celebrating because they won, and I have nothing better and cannot do much because of work. It finally dawned on me that it is Halloween; a day where children with their parents come knocking at your door to get a bite of that sweet tasty chocolate or candy you have in store.

I decided to conduct an experiment!

While I was doing my work, I realized what a wonderful opportunity it is to have those volunteers be part of my little experiment to test their behavior. There are many research in the world regarding behavior of customers and consumers when deciding on what risks to take. However, what about risk tolerance of kids. Are kids more risk tolerant than their adult counterparts? Do they even know what risk means? I can’t express how excited I was!

The following is the PowerPoint presentation of my experiment, and I hope to create a template in the future so we can test this experiment across the globe.

Simple Science Tricks – Non-Newtonian Fluid

What is a Non-Newtonian Fluid?

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid whose viscosity is variable based on applied stress, or force. Contrast with Newtonian fluids like water, whose behavior can be described exclusively by temperature and pressure (water at -32F/0C turned into ice, or water can be heated over it’s boiling point under high temperature), not the forces acting on it from second to second. Non-Newtonian fluids are fascinating substances that can be used to help us understand physics in more detail, in an exciting, hands-on way.

If you punch a bucket full of a shear thickening non-Newtonian fluid, the stress introduced by the incoming force causes the atoms in the fluid to rearrange such that it behaves like a solid. Your hand will not go through.

If you shove your hand into the fluid slowly, however, it will penetrate successfully. If you pull your hand out abruptly, it will again behave like a solid, and you can literally pull a bucket of the fluid out of its container in this way. You can try and walk on a non-Newtonian fluid if you stomp as best as you could on the surface.

A shear thinning non-Newtonian fluid behaves in the opposite way; where the application of force will make the solution act more as a liquid. In this type, the fluid becomes thinner, rather than thicker, when stress is applied. Also called pseudoplastic, examples of this type of non-Newtonian fluid include ketchup, toothpaste, and paint. The effect doesn’t usually last for long in either type, continuing only as long as the stress is applied. A good example is shaking the shaving cream can so the cream can be released from the can.

A practical application for shear thickening non-Newtonian fluids may be in body armor of the future. Since such fluids are usually flexible, they would allow soldiers to move freely when not under attack. But if confronted with a speeding bullet, they would quickly harder, performing like traditional armor. More research is necessary to see if non-Newtonian fluids are suitable for the military, but until then, it’s sure fun to play with.

The Experiment


Mix corn starch and water to create a non-Newtonian fluid. When left alone it will act like a liquid but when acted upon by a force it will react like a solid. If you hold it in your hand it will run through your fingers but if you punch the fluid it will harden

What you need:

  • Corn Starch (About as much water as you are using)
  • Water
  • Containers
  • Stirring rod (or anything to stir with)
  • Ice
  • Freezer
  • Microwave


Put water in a big bowl/container you adding corn starch until the water becomes extremely tough to stir. It has also been described as a syrupy texture, but you should be able to feel a difference. If you are not sure, you can test it by applying pressure with the poke of your finger or a spoon. You will feel and initial resistance by the fluid and then it will slowly release.

Experiment 1: Texture is Dependent on Ingredient

You will notice if you leave the fluid unattended for a spell, it will separate into two parts and solid will be on the bottom of the container. Simply mix it up once again to regain the non-Newtonian fluid texture.

As you poke and prod at the mixture, you can see and feel (if you use your hands) the mixture turning solid into liquid or vice versa. Get hands on! The texture is great to feel and will keep you occupied for hours on end!

After messing around for a bit, add more corn starch. This results in a more solidified liquid and you can better feel the reactions.

Experiment 2: Heat and non-Newtonian Fluid

The first additional experiment that was tested was by microwaving part of the fluid. I put it in the microwave for roughly 45 seconds on half power (5, in my case). This resulted in what looked like an egg-shaped object, with a yellow center and a white outer ring.

Experiment 3: Cold Temperature and non-Newtonian Fluid

In this experiment, I put a cup of the non-Newtonian fluid into a freezer to see the effects. After leaving it in there, it was examined later. It had some cool line patterns on the surface like it was exerting tension or something of the like.

Additional Random Experiments

Place the non-Newtonian fluid on a speaker that is protected by a layer of plastic. Play different sound frequencies and enjoy the patterns made by the fluid.

“After playing with my mixture a while, I started adding a lot more water then immediately microwaving it. Its almost like ballistics gel now.”

“blow bubles in it with a straw! they aren’t normal”

Credits and Sources

WiseGeek – What is a Non-Newtonian Fluid?

Instructables – How To Make Non-Newtonian Fluid Experiment