The Atoms Family
Did you know that your body is made of 7 billion billion billion atoms?! Atoms are smaller than the smallest thing you can imagine, and they're the "building blocks" of all matter. Your body is matter, the air we breathe is matter, the food we eat is matter. Literally EVERYTHING is matter and none of it would exist without atoms. Today, we're going to zoom way, way in on atoms, matter, plasma, and more. You'll get a chance to see how atoms move (kinda) and unleash the creative side of your mad scientist self with some tie-dying. Ready? Let's dive in.
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- A plain white t-shirt
- A bottle of white vinegar
- Food coloring
- An old towel
- A bucket
- A rubber band
- A reusable squirt bottle or water bottle you can pierce at the top
- An old grocery bag
- Ice or cold water
Ask About Today
How do atoms come together to make matter? What is matter, anyway?
If you could create a totally new branch of chemistry, what would it focus on?
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What's an Atom?
Excellent question! Here's a song that will help you answer it.
Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.
The Makeup of Matter
Matter refers to anything in our world that takes up space: Your body, your bed, the buildings we see everyday, even your thoughts! And atoms are the smallest parts of matter—so small that a single strand of hair is 500,000 times wider than one atom! Join Bill Nye on another adventure to understand how this tiny yet massive discovery has changed our world.
Looking at Atoms
What does an atom look like? And if they're so small, how can you even see them? Find out in this video.
Experimenting with Atoms
We wondered how fast some atoms moved compared to others in hot and cold water. Check out this video, then get some water and food coloring and try it yourself!
Pretty cool, huh? So now that we know color is best distributed with warm or hot water, let’s make some mad scientist tie-dye t-shirts. Click the button to see how. You'll need a plain t-shirt, food coloring, some white vinegar, a towel, water bottles, a bucket or pot, a rubber band, and some empty plastic bags.
Be kind! Ask for an adult's permission before tie-dying anything, and do it outside or someplace where you can clean up easily.
Every big thing is made up of billions of smaller things, and we now know those things to be atoms. Let’s read on to learn how atoms stretch further out into the universe. Bonus: There are more pages to click on at the bottom, including a fun quiz!
Meet the Mad Scientist Democritus
Democritus was a Greek philosopher and scientist who first proposed the idea of atoms, almost 2,000 years before physicists found evidence of them. He was perfectly sane, but he came to be known as the "laughing philosopher" because of his habit of laughing at, well... everything. He laughed so much, in fact, that people worried he might be "mad"!
Mad Facts: The Shannon Number
Here's a fact that might make YOU go a little mad: While the number of atoms in the universe might seem unimaginably large, there are actually MORE moves in chess. It doesn't seem possible, but it's true. It's called the Shannon Number. Read more about it right here.
For younger explorers
What Are Atoms?
Well, they're smaller than the smallest thing you can imagine. Read along to find out more!
For younger explorers
Dr. Binocs Zooms In On Atoms
Follow along as Dr. Binocs gives atoms a closer look.
Ready Jet Go Cooking School
Today, you learned that atoms make up everything and they can take on many different forms. See if you figure out how to use these simple ingredients to test different recipes with PBS Kids. (After all, cooking involves plenty of chemistry, too!) Careful—it gets harder, with fewer clues as you go.
For younger explorers
A Pan Balance Challenge
Now that you know all about atoms and matter, head on over to PBS Kids and join Sid The Science Kid in a fun game of Pan Balance.
Atoms are always on the go, so let's get moving, too! Find some space, loosen up, and follow along with this remixed workout. Do it a few times to be sure you master all the moves.
more to explore
Careful with those Chemicals!
Watch this video to learn more about important compounds made of atoms, and the chemicals all around us.
Plasma, Boss of All Matter
Plasma seems like the kind of thing a real mad scientist would cook up in the lab. Let's take a closer look.
Build your own atomic models here and see which element is revealed!