You Can Try Miss America’s Science Experiment at Home

Article by Knvul Sheikh  | New York Times

When she walked onto the stage for the talent portion of the Miss America competition, Camille Schrier wore a simple white lab coat, stood in front of three flasks containing hydrogen peroxide and joked, “Don’t try this at home.”

Soon-to-be-Dr. Schrier (who is studying to obtain a doctor of pharmacy degree at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond) picked up a beaker of ominous yellow potassium iodide, dumped it into the peroxide and sealed her legacy as a Miss America who would be remembered for winning over the judges with science.

“We are delighted to see a Virginia Tech science alumna shine on the national stage,” said Sally C. Morton, dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech, “and we’re even more thrilled that she is using her success to showcase the value of STEM education for kids and as a catalyst to encourage young girls to study science and do science.”

“You can imagine that it’s like trying to go over a hill,” Dr. Morris said. “It takes some energy to walk up the incline and you’ll sweat a little bit, but once you get past the top, you can keep going really easily.”

Adding a catalyst, such as potassium iodide, essentially bulldozes a path through the hill. The substance helps hydrogen peroxide form less stable compounds that can stroll through the newly opened path to the other side. Basically the catalyst helps produce water and oxygen, while releasing some heat.

Store-bought yeast also contains a chemical called catalase that can help break down hydrogen peroxide, although its effects are not as dramatic as potassium iodide. This means that adding yeast to a solution of hydrogen peroxide will break down the peroxide. The oxygen gas that’s released will form bubbles and try to escape.

Mixing in a little bit of dish soap in the reaction will create enough surface tension that oxygen bubbles will get trapped, Dr. Morris said.

“It helps you visualize what’s happening by creating foam.”

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Science Buddies, so you can try it out for yourself.

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