What to do with Leftover Candy? Learn Some Sweet Science with this STEM Experiment

Are you wondering what to do with leftover candy? You're in for a treat!

This experiment is sugar, and spice, and everything science! Join us as we dive into some chemistry (and our candy stash) and we'll give you a fun trick for what to do with your leftover treats. 

We'll use a little bit of candy to make pictures that swirl like magic, to explore chemistry, and to practice making predictions and observations.

Materials you will need:

  • Candy with a hard shell, like Skittles or M&M’s
  • Warm water
  • Shallow dish or plate that can hold liquid
skittles in a dish and water -leftover candy materials

Directions:

Step 1:

Arrange your candy in a design on your dish.

  • You can try arranging them in a circle around the edge of the dish, or making pictures with them. Since we're using Halloween candy, we made a pumpkin.
skittles arranged in the shape of a pumpkin -leftover candy and what to do with it

Step 2:

Slowly pour your warm water over the candy.

Encourage your scientist to answer these questions:

  • Before you add water, ask your scientist what they think will happen and why. This is called a hypothesis.
  • What happens to the letter on the candy?
  • Why do think the colors are moving?
  • Why do you think the colors aren’t mixing?
  • How do you think you could speed up the reaction
pouring water on leftover candy

Step 3:

Watch what happens! What do you observe?

Make it sweeter!

  • Make different designs. How are the color patterns different based on the design you make?
  • Add another piece of candy after you’ve added water and the colors have started to spread out. What happens?
  • Add a sugar cube to the candy after you’ve added the water and the colors have started to spread out. What happens?
  • Experiment with different water temperatures. What temperature works best?
  • Try using different candies. Which ones do you think will cause colors to spread out across the water
skittles in water with the colors swirling around - what happens to leftover candy

Expand on the Activity! 

The Science

  • The colored shells on Skittles and M&M’s are made out of sugar and food coloring. As the sugar and food coloring dissolve in water, they diffuse (or spread out) across it. This changes the clear water to the colors of the candy.

  • The colors move from the area with the highest concentration of color (the candy and the area right next to it) to the area with lowest concentration (the area farthest away from the candy). Watch how the color moves away from the candies. Molecules moving from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration is called a concentration gradient.

  • The colors don’t mix because of something called water stratification. Each color of food coloring has a slightly different chemical make-up. Because of this, they have slightly different densities. This keeps the colors from mixing as they spread out.

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How to Demonstrate Static Electricity and Shock Your Friends

Learn a phantom-tastic physics lesson while you learn how to demonstrate static electricity! 

How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boo-gie in it!

Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling.

Let us teach you how to demonstrate static electricity, and put a little boogie in tissue paper ghosts to make them dance in this fun and simple science activity.

Materials you will need:

  • Tissue
  • Black marker
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • A balloon
tissue paper, scissors, marker, tape, balloon- materials needed to demonstrate static electricity

Directions:

Step 1:

Carefully separate the layers of your tissue and pull them apart. We want our tissue paper to be very thin for this activity.

separate toilet paper for static electricity demonstration

Step 2:

Draw ghosts on your tissue pieces then cut them out.

cut out ghosts

Step 3:

Tape the bottom of each ghost to your work surface with clear tape.

tape ghosts to floor

Step 4:

Blow up a balloon then rub it against your hair or against wool. A fluffy wool sweater or blanket will work!

  • While you work on your experiment,  ask your scientist some questions: 
    • Before you hold your balloon over the ghosts, ask your scientist what you think will happen. This called a hypothesis.
    • What happened when you rubbed the balloon against your hair or with wool?
    • What do you think would happen if we didn’t pull the tissue apart?
create static electricity

Step 5:

Hold your balloon 3-4 inches above your ghosts and move it around to make them rise up from the grave and dance!
*If nothing happens right away, try moving the balloon closer to the ghosts or rubbing the balloon again.

Take the experiment further:

  • How many ghosts can you lift up at once?
  • How far away can you hold the balloon from the ghosts and still make them move?
  • What happens if you use different thicknesses of paper? What about different types of paper? Why do you think some types and thicknesses of paper work better than others?
how to demonstrate static electricity

Expand on the Activity! 

Learn more about static electricity

  • Electricity is a form of energy that powers our electronics like our TVs, computers, light bulbs, and more.

  • Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling, if you’ve ever zapped yourself touching a doorknob, or if you’ve ever seen lightening before.

  • Electricity is created by teeny tiny particles called protons and electrons. Protons are positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged. Just like magnets, opposites attract. So the positive protons and negative electrons attract each other!

  • When you rubbed the balloon with the cloth, you built up a negative charge on the balloon by adding electrons to it. Our little tissue paper ghosts are positive, so they were attracted to the balloon. This causes them to rise up!

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How to Make Bath Fizzers • Explore Science While you Scrub-a-Dub-Dub

Add some science to your self-care by learning how to make bath fizzers! 

We’re bubbling over with excitement to teach you how to make bath fizzers! With some materials you can buy at the grocery store and a few steps, you can make your own bath fizzers at home.

This recipe is customizable, so you can add whatever color or scent you like, as well as additional treats such as dried flower petals or biodegradable glitter to your DIY bath fizzers. 

Materials you will need:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup citric acid
    • Citric acid can be purchased in the canning department of Walmart, some craft stores, and online through retailers like Amazon.
  • ¼ cup Epsom salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 5-10 drops of scented oil if you would like your bath fizzer to have a scent
  • 1-2 drops of food coloring if you would like your bath fizzer to have a color
  • A large bowl
  • A small bowl
  • Whisk
  • A mold
    • You can use bath fizzer molds, muffin tins, or even plastic cups to shape your bath fizzer.
Materials for hot to make bath fizzers

 Ready to make your own? Watch along or follow the written steps below!

Watch this clip of WESH 2 News’ Adrian Whitsett creating his own moon sand at the Orlando Science Center. After making the moon sand, Whitsett participated in an activity to show how craters are made. With small rocks he was able to make large indents to recreate an asteroid knocking into the moon!

Are you ready to explore the moon, astronaut?

Directions:

Step 1:

Add the baking soda, citric acid, cornstarch, and Epsom salt to the large bowl. Whisk to combine the ingredients and remove clumps. Set the large bowl aside.

how to make bath fizzers

Step 2:

Melt coconut oil and add water, scented oil, and food coloring to the small bowl. Mix them together.

*Coconut oil melts with very little heat, so microwaving for a few seconds or heating the measured amount on a stove over low heat will melt it quickly.

customize your bath fizzers

Step 3:

Now, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a little bit at a time, whisking continually to combine. If the mixture fizzes excessively, you are adding the liquid too fast. You should end up with a slightly damp mixture that has started to clump together and resembles wet sand.

combine all the ingredients in your bath fizzers

Step 4:

Pack the mixture into your mold. If you are using a spherical mold, press the two halves together. Carefully remove the mold so it has room to expand. Let the fizzer dry on a foil-lined baking sheet. Fizzers are usually dry after 8 hours.

put bath fizzers in a mold

The Science: Acid-Base Reactions

Now that you've learned how to make bath fizzers, check out the science behind it!

If you’ve ever made a baking soda and vinegar volcano, you’ve seen a type of chemical reaction called an acid-base reaction. As vinegar (the acid) and baking soda (the base) mix together and react, they fizz and make an eruption of bubbles. This is exactly what’s happening in your bath fizzers, but with slightly different ingredients.

In bath fizzers baking soda is still the base, but citric acid is the acid instead of vinegar. Since both citric acid and baking soda are dry, they have to be dissolved in water to react. Once they’re dropped in the water together, they react and fizz, creating the bubbles you see in your bath fizzer. The bubbles carry any scent in the bath fizzer to the surface of the water, making the bath smell nice.

Cornstarch is the other main ingredient in all bath fizzers, but it isn’t an acid or base. It’s used for several different reasons. It helps keep the baking soda and citric acid from reacting when adding the liquid ingredients, it binds all of the ingredients together, it helps to thicken and harden the bath fizzer, and acts as a non-reactive dry “filler” that slows down the reaction and makes the fizzing last longer.

Expand on the Activity! 

Learn More Chemistry

  • pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic something is. It is measured on a scale of 0-14.
  • A substance with a pH of 7 (like distilled water) is neutral. A substance with a pH of less than 7 is an acid. The closer the number gets to zero, the stronger the acid is. A substance with a pH of more than 7 is a base. The closer the number is to 14, the stronger the base is.
  • There are several different definitions of acids and bases in chemistry.
  • A simple chemical definition of an acid is a substance that releases hydrogen ions (H+) when dissolved in water. A simple chemical definition of a base is a substance that makes hydroxide ions (OH-) when dissolved in water or a substance that takes hydrogen ions from an acid.
  • Ions are positively (+) or negatively (-) charged particles of an element.

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Popular Science Myths Debunked • Clearing Up Misconceptions

Can you tell if these popular science myths are science fact or fiction? 

Orlando Science Center would like to clear the air on a few things. Somehow a few misconceptions have seeped their way into science culture. We would like to explore some of these popular science myths and explain why they are false by using scientific facts.

 

Cracking your knuckles frequently increases your chance of developing arthritis in your hands.

Popular science myths cracking knuckles

While cracking your knuckles may be annoying for those around you, it has no correlation to arthritis in those joints. Several studies that aimed to find a link between the two found no substantial evidence of any correlation. However, those who excessively cracked their knuckles did have slightly weaker grip strength later in life.

This makes sense though - knuckle cracking is a bubble being formed and popped by the liquid that surrounds your knuckle joints. It causes no trauma to these areas that would accelerate the onset of inflammation to these joints, which is what arthritis is.

 

Toilets flush in opposite directions depending on which side of the equator you find yourself on.

Toilet Flush popular science myth

The popular science myths that toilets flushes or other small movements of water move in different directions is often credited to something called the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect is a pattern of deflection that things that are not firmly connected to the earth but travel long distances across the planet. Since the earth rotates faster at the equator than at the polar poles, objects will appear to rotate to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. This is why hurricanes spin in opposite directions in the two hemispheres.

However, the Coriolis Effect only influences things moving great distances of long periods of time on earth, not a 5 second toilet flush. If you want to see the Coriolis Effect in action, grab a buddy, get on a merry-go-round, and toss a ball while it’s stationary. Then spin it and toss the ball again. You will see the ball appears to curve, but in fact the ball is traveling in a straight line. It is you who is moving due to the spin of the merry-go-round.

 

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

lightning can never strike twice science misconception

The idea that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice is a popular misconception but, that’s all it is- a misconception. We know this to be true as lightning strikes are too frequent to not strike the same place on earth multiple times. Studies show that around 500 – 1000 lightning strikes happen globally every second! The Empire State Building was once used a lightning laboratory because the building is struck with lightning around 100 times a year.

The way lightning works supports the idea of multiple strikes. With negative charge collecting in the clouds and positive charge collecting on the ground, streamers (which are collections of electrons racing towards the positively charged ground) descend from the cloud to find the path of least resistance, and when the first one hits the ground 50,000 volts of electricity shoot up from the ground to the cloud following the streamer's path.

 

Bulls become angry when they see the color red.

popular science bull myth

The popular myths that bulls become angry when they see red, or are unsually violent animals, comes from the tradition of bullfighting, where a matador waves around a red cape, or a muleta, and the bull charges the cape with fervor.

However, it's not the color of the cape that angers the bull but it’s the movement of the cape. We know this based on many experiments with different colored capes being stationary and being moved and the bull favored movement over the color of the cape every time. We also know that bulls are actually red-green colorblind and would have a hard time distinguishing red from green, orange, and brown. 

 

A duck’s quack does not echo.

duck quack popular science myths

A duck’s quack not echoing is a myth that stems from the fact that it is simply very difficult to hear the echo. A reverberation chamber helps amplify echoes by giving sounds large reflective surfaces for the sound to bounce back on or echo off of. Using a reverberation chamber and waiting for a good quack is all you need to do to prove that a duck’s quack does indeed echo. But why is it so hard to hear a duck’s quack echo without this chamber?

Many reasons can contribute to creating an echo in the wild. A duck needs to have a large surface far enough away to reflect off of and the strength behind its quack to reach said surface and make it back to your ears at a volume that is loud enough for our ears to hear. A sudden change in volume is easier to hear than the way that a duck quacks - a fading in of volume and fading out of volume over the entire sound.

 

The north star is the brightest star in the night sky.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky

The north star, or Polaris, is the star that is positioned right above the celestial pole. The celestial pole is the axis that the celestial sky rotates around, the point in the night sky that doesn’t move as the earth rotates, therefore showing true north.

Polaris is not the brightest in the night sky - not even close! Polaris is about 50th in terms of brightness. The brightest is the dog star, Sirius. Sirius comes from the Greek word Seirius, meaning, "searing" or "scorching, which is fitting as Sirius is so bright in the northern hemisphere! It is twice as bright as the next brightest star, Canopus.

 

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made thing visible from space.

 

Image to right: This photo of central Inner Mongolia, about 200 miles north of Beijing, was taken on Nov. 24, 2004, from the International Space Station. The yellow arrow points to an estimated location of 42.5N 117.4E where the wall is visible. The red arrows point to other visible sections of the wall.
Credit: NASA

great wall of china from space popular science myths

The Great Wall of China is certainly large, at 13,171 miles long! That’s thirteen times the distance from the Orlando Science Center to the Empire State Building! However, it is unable to be seen from space with just the unaided eye.

On November 24th, 2004, an astronaut named Leroy Chiao was determined to get a picture of the wall from space. With the aid of his camera’s lenses, he was able to capture the first picture of the Great Wall from space. So what things are able to be seen from space? From low earth orbit, astronauts have said they can see cities, major roadways, dams, and even airports. So why can’t they see the Great Wall? It’s all about color. The Great Wall of China is nearly the same color as the area surrounding it, so it's difficult to distinguish the wall from its surroundings.

 

Ostriches stick their heads into the ground when threatened.

ostrich

Contrary to the popular myth, Ostriches don’t stick their heads to the ground when they feel threatened. Their first instinct is to run, and they are fast! Ostriches can outrun most predators that they encounter in the wild. Their top speeds reach 43 miles per hour! If they can't run, they aren’t afraid to fight. An ostrich can kick with their clawed feet so hard they can easily take out a full-grown lion.

However, this myth did have an origin in ostrich behavior. Ostriches will lay down flat to play dead if they feel they can’t win the fight, this combined with their lightly colored head and neck makes it look as if they ostrich has buried its head into the earth.

 

Mice love cheese.

popular science myths mice love cheese

If you’re trying to capture a mouse, cheese isn’t necessarily the best thing to use as bait. While it is true that mice will eat cheese, it’s not necessarily true that they prefer or even like it. Mice will eat anything that has some sort of nutritional value, including cheese. However, studies show that given a choice, a mouse would pick a sweeter food choice like fruit or candy over cheese.

The popular science myths that mice, or other small animals, love cheese originated in medieval times when families didn’t have refrigerators. They hung meat from the ceiling and stored grain in silos, but cheese was simply wrapped in a thin layer of wax or cloth, making it much easier for rodents to find and eat the cheese. In fact, during the bubonic plague, it was common practice to forgo cheese in diets as to not attract mice because people thought they were attracted to it when, actually, it was just the easiest thing to find in an average house.

 

All dinosaurs went extinct by an asteroid hitting earth.

popular science myths dinosaur

We imagine that this one is shocking to hear, but the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs didn’t finish the job. The asteroid, or the K-T extinction event, that happened 65 million years ago wiped out about 80 percent of all plant and animal life on the planet. The effects of the asteroid and the winter fallout that occurred afterward killed all tetrapods (four-legged animals) that weighed over 50 pounds.

However, some small species of dinosaurs survived and evolved into modern-day birds. This is supported but fossils that have been found that are dated past the sedimentary layer of the K-T event. This is why scientists say birds are direct descendants of the dinosaurs. This event, however, did lead to many mammals evolving into larger and more complex species as, during the time of large meat-eating lizards, mammals tended to become meals. With ecological niches open due to the K-T event, mammals were able to evolve.

Expand on the activity!

 

How much do you know about our canine companions? Test your knowledge with these fun science facts about dogs!

Science Facts About Dogs: Unleash Fun Facts About Your Furry Friends!

Put your bee identification skills to the test.

Bee Identification Game: To Bee or Not to Bee

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DIY Moon Sand: An Out-Of-This-World Activity Right at Home

Have a blast with this stellar DIY moon sand recipe!

Have you ever looked up at the moon and noticed that the moon looks sort of like cheese? That’s because the moon’s surface is made up of craters and rocks. Craters are holes in the Moon’s surface formed by impact from an asteroid, which is a chunk of rock and metal in outer space. Using our DIY Moon Sand recipe, you too can experiment and make your own moon craters!

These recipes call for various food items but it is not to be consumed! Keep an eye out for this when little ones are playing with their moon sand. We do recommend doing this activity outside if possible as it does tend to get messy.

Materials for DIY Moon Sand:

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of baby oil
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rocks of various sizes 
  • Mixing spoon *optional
  • Play bin *optional

Materials for Gluten-Free DIY Moon Sand:

  • 2 cups of baking soda/powder
  • 2 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of baby oil
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rocks of various sizes 
  • Mixing spoon *optional
  • Play bin *optional

 Ready to make your own? Watch along or follow the written steps below!

Watch this clip of WESH 2 News’ Adrian Whitsett creating his own moon sand at the Orlando Science Center. After making the moon sand, Whitsett participated in an activity to show how craters are made. With small rocks he was able to make large indents to recreate an asteroid knocking into the moon!

Are you ready to explore the moon, astronaut?

Directions:

STEP 1:

  • First, measure out your dry ingredients and add them to your mixing bowl, this will be your flour or baking soda/cornstarch base. When you scoop these ingredients into your measuring cups, make sure you level off the cup to make sure you get a full cup!
ingredients for DIY moon sand

STEP 2:

  • Next, we will add in our liquid ingredients. Measure out the designated amount of oil to add to your mixture and carefully pour it into your bowl.
Add liquid ingredients to moon sand

STEP 3:

  • Here’s where it starts to get messy! Start to mix all of your ingredients together. You can mix with your hands or a large mixing spoon. Your dry ingredients will absorb the oil and start to stick together while still remaining soft. The best moon sand texture is crumbly, but still able to be molded together.
combine ingredients

Now that you have made your moon sand, you can start making your own craters!

Our moon sand is nice and soft but is perfect for making impressions. Gather a few rocks of different shapes and sizes. Through this activity, children will be able to experiment and make observations about their craters while changing variables of the activity. How will your results change?

Experiment: Even out your moon sand to form a layer at the bottom of your bowl or bin. Stand over your moon sand and gently drop different rocks onto the surface. You can measure the size of your craters with a ruler by how many inches wide or deep it is. Record your results, you can write or draw the way your crater looks and take note of your measurements to compare later.

Try some of these variations and observe how your craters change:

  • Drop your asteroids from different heights
  • Instead of an even layer, build up your moon sand into a mountain and try dropping your asteroid onto it and see what happens.
  • Try making your moon sand look like the moon by forming all kinds of craters of all shapes and sizes in your sand.
  • Mold your moon sand into different phases of the moon

 

Experiment with your DIY moon sand
make a crater
crater in moon sand

Make Conclusions

Which rocks made the deepest impressions? What happened to your craters when you changed the height at which you dropped your asteroids? What did your data tell you about your experiment?

If you had fun making moon sand crater creations and snapped some photos, be sure to submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels.

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Articulated Cardboard Crafts: Create a Turtle-y Awesome Race

Don't be shell-fish! Give boxes a second life with these articulated cardboard crafts!

We all presumably have an empty box hanging around the house - why not use it for something fun before recycling the cardboard and make some cardboard racing turtles?

Online shopping and articulated cardboard crafts go hand in hand! While we definitely want you to dispose of them properly, we encourage you to hone your maker skills by repurposing this common packaging before you recycle them! If you look at it with the right eye, you might find a wealth of possibility in this humble packing material. 

Materials you will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Scissors  
  • Circular object such as a bowl
  • Optional: markers or paint to decorate your turtle
Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

Directions:

STEP 1: 

Trace a circle onto a piece of cardboard. Add a head, legs, and a tail, but make sure the left and right back feet are even so the turtle will balance - my turtle lost his tail because it wasn't balanced enough!

*Optional: Decorate your turtle!

Draw turtle for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 2: 

Cut out your cardboard turtle.

cut out Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 3: 

Poke a hole for your string in the middle of the turtle just below the head.

add string Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

STEP 4: 

Thread a six-foot length of yarn through the hole and tie one end to a table or chair leg about eight inches off the floor.

Pull the string taut so the turtle stands, and then release it so the turtle flops forward. Pull it taut again and the turtle will have moved forward! Keep going until your turtle reaches the table!

Now you can grab a friend, a few more, and have a race!

cut out Materials for articulated cardboard crafts

Expand on the activity!

  • Experiment with different types of thread, like yearn, string, fishing line, etc.. to see if it affects speed.
  • What happens if you put your thread through a different part of the turtle. Does this affect speed or balance?
  • Try another cardboard animal craft like this incredible cardboard pangolin!

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DIY Blacklight: Use This Hack to Turn Any Smartphone Into a Blacklight

Share and decode secret messages with this DIY Blacklight hack!

Have you ever wanted to make something glow under a blacklight? Let us teach you one of our favorite hacks to make glowing highlighter messages and drawings at home with this DIY blacklight tutorial!

Recommended Age: 5+. Younger scientists will enjoy making and revealing their messages and drawings, but may need help putting together the DIY blacklight hack.

Materials you will need:

  • A phone with a camera light
  • Clear tape
  • A blue marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • A purple marker (a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, works best)
  • White paper
  • A fluorescent highlighter (yellow works best)
Materials for DIY Blacklight

Directions:

STEP 1:

Rip off a small piece of tape (fold some of it over to make a tab for easy clean up later) and place the piece of tape over the camera light on the phone. Make sure you place the tape over the LIGHT, not the camera!

DIY Blacklight step 1

STEP 2:

With the blue marker, color the portion of tape over the light. You don’t need to color in the entire piece of tape; you just want to make sure the area directly over the light is colored.

DIY Blacklight step 2

STEP 3:

Place another piece of tape over the first. Color the area over the light blue again.

DIY Blacklight step 3

STEP 4:

Place one more piece of tape on top of the others. This time, color the area over the light purple.

DIY Blacklight step 5

STEP 5:

Draw a picture or message on white paper with your highlighter.

DIY Blacklight step 6

STEP 6:

Grap your picture and turn off the lights or go somewhere dark. Then turn on the camera light on your phone and shine the light onto your picture.

DIY Blacklight end result

The Science Behind This Blacklight Hack:

Many highlighters fluoresce, or absorb then emit light, which makes them glow in the dark. But why?

  • Light is a spectrum. What we can see is called visible light. It ranges from red light to purple light. However, there are other types of light, including infrared and ultraviolet light (or UV) light. UV light is what a blacklight emits.
  • When you colored the tape with blue and purple markers, you created a filter that blocked out all colors of visible light except blue and purple. With the rest of the visible light spectrum blocked out, the resulting blue and purple light were enough to make the highlighter fluoresce because the wavelengths of purple and blue light are close enough to the UV spectrum, even though there is minimal UV light actually present.
  • Highlighters fluoresce under a normal blacklight because the ink absorbs ultraviolet light, which isn’t visible to the human eye, and remits it as visible light.
science of DIY blacklight

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