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Compact Science is an engaging new YouTube series from WNED PBS and the Buffalo Museum of Science that explores the wonders of science right in our own backyard. Host Sarajane Gomlak-Green investigates the geology of Niagara Falls, discovers the chemistry at work in sponge candy, learns how density plays a key role in lake-effect snow, and more. 

If you’re curious about the world around you, there’s a lot to explore and Compact Science will be your guide.

Compact Science | Promo

Explore the wonders of science in this new digital series that uncovers the mysteries of science with engaging, fun demonstrations and explanations.

 FIND US ON 

 
Sarajane making sponge candy
Sarajane investigates sponge candy chemistry

Geared towards children (grade K-6), their families, and anyone with a curiosity of the world around them, Compact Science episodes frame a scientific concept with a signature regional connection that celebrates the science and history of the Western New York and Southern Ontario region. Journey to Niagara Falls to explore geology, discover the chemistry at work in sponge candy, learn how density is the key to lake-effect snow, investigate the role of friction through the sport of curling, and more.  

Each episode concludes with a Compact Science Viewer Challenge, an experiment aligned with National Science Education Standards, that can be performed at home or in a classroom. Instructions will be available right here on our website. We invite you to share your videos and photos of your results and we'll add them to the website.

Meet Sarajane

Sarajane is a lifelong Buffalo resident and is currently the Director of Museum Programs and Experiences at the Buffalo Museum of Science. She has a passion for understanding the world we all live in - and one way is through science! Equipped with a life-long enthusiasm for all things STEM, she digests and explains concepts in ways that everyone can understand. When not at the Museum, she is an aspiring polyglot, sporadically avid reader, and a mediocre Tetris player.

Some Like It Hot | Watch

It’s the food most synonymous with Buffalo- chicken wings, in fact the rest of the world calls them Buffalo wings.  You may think wings dipped in blue cheese is a match made in heaven but it’s really a match based in science. In this episode of Compact Science we’ll explore the science of wing sauce from the Scoville Scale to capsaicin zero in on how our bodies react when we taste something spicy.

Some Like it Hot | Compact Science

Viewer Challenge

Are you curious about how your brain processes sensory information?  Check out our Compact Science Viewer Challenge for the Some Like It Hot episode.

Some Like It Hot | Biology

Topic: Senses, Adaptation, Information Processing

 

Viewer Challenge/At-Home Version:  

Fool Your Senses?

 

Use water to test your sensory perception of temperature.

 

Materials

  • Three bowls or containers large enough to put two hands in
  • Warm water (NOTE - be careful not to make the water too hot!)
  • Cold water, with a few ice cubes in it
  • Room temperature water
  • Towel to protect your work surface (optional)
  • A clock to time yourself (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Prepare a work surface that can get a little wet by either laying down a towel, or removing any objects that should not get wet.
  2. Fill one bowl with warm water, one with iced water and one with room-temperature water.
  3. Put one hand into the warm water and one in the iced water for one minute.
  4. Take your hands out of the water and put them both into the room-temperature water. How does the water feel? Does it feel hot, warm, room-temperature, cold or very cold? If it is hard to say, pay attention to what you would say if you felt only with your right hand and what would you say if you felt only with your left hand? Do your hands agree or disagree about the temperature of the water?

 

How does it work?

Sensory adaptation is the brain's way of protecting itself from overload. 

When you submerge your hands in hot and cold water, the brain is getting the same message repeatedly. Thermoreceptors in one hand are sending the message, 'Cold, cold, cold,' while thermoreceptors in the other hand are sending the message, ‘Hot, hot, hot.’ And the brain is saying, 'I know, I know. Now leave me alone until you have something different to tell me.’

Your body adapted to heat on one side and cold on the other. The room temperature water is cooler than the hot water, and warmer than the cold water. So when you switch to the room temperature water, the receptors that got used to the hot water, send signals that sense it as cold; and the receptors that got used to the cold water sense the room temperature water as hot, even though they are both feeling water that is the same temperature.

Adaptation can also occur when we repeatedly smell something, like popcorn or when we look at something for a prolonged period. In all cases, the brain has adapted to the constant message it is receiving, and turns down its sensitivity to the particular smell or sight. 

 

New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards

The content in these videos and accompanying activities touch upon various concepts from the New York State Science Learning Standards - Grades 3-5 and Middle School (Grades 6-8).

Grade 4

  • Structure, Function, and Information Processing

 

Middle School (Grades 6-8) 

  • Structure, Function, and Information Processing
Clara ready to experiemnt
one han din cold water and one hand in warm water
Clara reacts to the room temperature water

There's No Business Like Snow Business | Watch

We explore the science of lake effect snow and see why Buffalo, NY is so often in its bullseye. Some may think it’s destiny that makes Buffalo one of the snowiest cities in the US, but it is really density.

There's No Business Like Snow Business | Compact Science

Viewer Challenge

Are you curious density?  Check out our Compact Science Viewer Challenge for the There's No Business Like Snow Business episode.

There's No Business Like Snow Business | Meteorology

Topic: Lake Effect Snow, Density

 

Viewer Challenge/At-Home Version:  

Will It Float?

 

Try your hand at stacking liquids. Pour together different substances to create a colorful density column!

 

Materials

  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Light Corn Syrup
  • Dish Soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Liquid food coloring
  • 1 medium-sized clear glass (16 oz or more)
  • ¼ cup measuring spoon
  • 5 smaller cups (one per liquid)

 

Directions

  1. Pour ¼ cup of each liquid into the 5 smaller cups, one liquid per cup
  2. Add food coloring to the colorless liquids so that you have five different colors (note: the food coloring will not mix with the oil)
  3. One at a time, add the liquids in the following order: soap, corn syrup, oil, water, rubbing alcohol

 

How does it work?

Density is the amount of stuffed that is packed together (density = mass/volume). Things with high density sink, while things that have a low density float! Warm air is less dense, so it floats – hot air rises. Cold air is denser, so it sinks. 

Different liquids can have different densities too. The denser materials at the bottom of your glass are packed with more “stuff” – more atoms and molecules.

 

New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards

The content in these videos and accompanying activities touch upon various concepts from the New York State Science Learning Standards - Grades 3-5 and Middle School (Grades 6-8).

Grade 3

  • Weather and Climate

 

Middle School (Grades 6-8) 

  • Weather and Climate
materials for experiment
Charlotte add color to the liquids for the Will It Float? Viewer Challenge
stacking the liquids
density column

Science Friction | Watch

Curling is a thrilling sport filled with strategy, skill, sweeping, surprise and science!

Science Friction | Compact Science

Viewer Challenge

Are you curious about how friction affects motion?  Check out our Compact Science Viewer Challenge for the Science Friction episode.

Science Friction | Physics 

Topic: Curling & Friction, Inertia and Momentum

 

Viewer Challenge/At-Home Version:  

Make a Mini Hovercraft

 

Get first-hand experience on how friction affects motion!

 

Materials

  • A CD or DVD disc (use one what you’re not using anymore!)
  • A pop-top cap from a dish soap or water bottle
  • Duct tape
  • Balloon

 

Directions

  1. Position the pop-top cap over the center hole of the CD
  2. Secure it in place with duct tape and make sure it is air-tight
  3. Push the cap down to close it
  4. Blow up the balloon and twist the end so the air can’t escape
  5. Stretch the mouth of the balloon over the pop-top cap
  6. Place the hovercraft on a flat surface (floors and tables work great!)
  7. Pull open the pop-top cap to release the air
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 to try it again!
  9. For a challenge, test your hovercraft on different surfaces!

 

How does it work?

Friction occurs when two objects are touching. The air coming out of the balloon creates an area of low friction by creating a layer between the surface and the CD, which allows the hovercraft to glide. When the balloon fully deflates and the air isn’t flowing, the CD will be directly touching the table and will not move as easily.

 

New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards

The content in these videos and accompanying activities touch upon various concepts from the New York State Science Learning Standards - Grades 3-5 and Middle School (Grades 6-8).

 

Grade 3

  • Forces and Interactions

Grade 4

  • Energy

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

  • Forces and Interactions
  • Energy
materials for experiment
Charlotte builds a hovercraft! Viewer Challenge
mini hovercraft

Sponge Candy Chemistry | Watch

Sponge candy, a delicate, yet crunchy toffee confection covered in chocolate, is perhaps the sweetest way to explore chemistry.

Sponge Candy Chemistry 

Viewer Challenge

Are you curious about chemical reactions?  Check out our Compact Science Viewer Challenge for the Sponge Candy Chemistry episode.

Sponge Candy Chemistry | Chemistry 

Topic: Sponge Candy, Chemistry of Baking Soda

 

Viewer Challenge/At-Home Version:Fizzy Fun!

 

Materials

  • Balloon
  • Funnel
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Empty plastic bottle (1L to 2L)

 

Directions

  1. Use the funnel to pour the baking soda into an empty balloon. Rinse and dry the funnel.
  2. Use the funnel to pour vinegar into the bottle
  3. Stretch of the mouth of the balloon around the bottle top
  4. Lift the balloon and gently shake the baking soda into the bottle.
  5. Watch what happens!

 

How does it work?

Instead of adding heat to change the baking soda, we added another chemical! When you combine the baking soda with the vinegar, an acid-base chemical reaction takes place, creating carbon dioxide gas! This carbon dioxide is what made the balloon inflate, and it’s what makes forms the bubbles in sponge candy. 

 

New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards

The content in these videos and accompanying activities touch upon various concepts from the New York State Science Learning Standards - Grades 3-5 and Middle School (Grades 6-8).

 

Grade 5

  • Structure and Properties of Matter

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

  • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • Chemical Reactions

 

materials for experiment
kids try the Fizzy Fun! Viewer Challenge

The Fury of the Falls | Watch

Niagara Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in the world and it also happens to be in our backyard.  In this episode we explore the power of water and its erosive power that shaped this geological wonder.

Fury of the Falls

Viewer Challenge

Are you curious about erosion?  Check out our Compact Science Viewer Challenge for the Fury of the Falls episode.

The Fury of the Falls  | Geology  

Topic: Water & Erosion, the Formation of Niagara Falls

 

Viewer Challenge/At-Home Version:  Candy Erosion

Use water in different ways to see how fast your candy disappears.

 

Materials

  • Two pieces of [fun sized] candy, can be hard candy, chewy candy, or chocolate
  • Two see-through jars with lids
  • Water
  • Clock

 

Directions

  1. Fill each jar half full of water so that candy will be completely submerged
  2. Put one candy in each jar, close the lids tightly, and label jars A and B
  3. Let jar A stand, untouched for the duration of the experiment
  4. Shake jar B for 20 seconds once every hour
  5. What do you notice about the candies in the water after 1 day? 2 days? 3 days?  And what does that tell us about the force of water?

 

How does it work?

Water can erode on its own through the process of dissolution, like in jar A. With added force, or shaking, like in jar B, we can speed up the rate of erosion. This is one of the reasons why areas that have fast water movement, like Niagara Falls, experience a faster rate of erosion than other places where water is standing still, like in a pond.

 

New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards

The content in these videos and accompanying activities touch upon various concepts from the New York State Science Learning Standards - Grades 3-5 and Middle School (Grades 6-8).

 

Grade 4

  • Earth’s Systems: Processes that Shape the Earth

Grade 5

  • Earth’s Systems

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

  • History of Earth
  • Earth's System
Candy Erosion Challenge
Compact Science Viewer Challenge

Compact Science is funded by The Joy Family Foundation.