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states of matter

States of Matter

Most people are familiar with three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. Actually, if you dig into the world of physics, there are several more, but for now we will only add plasma to the list, and we will look at the first three states before talking about plasma.


Things like rocks, wood and ice are solid. Solids stay the same size and shape, no matter what container we put them in.


Things such as alcohol, oil, and water are liquids. They stay the same size, but they change their shape to fit their container.


Imagine you have a glass of ice water. If you refrigerate it to keep the temperature at exactly 0°C (32°F), will the water freeze or will the ice melt?


We have seen that we could have an equilibrium between water as a liquid and a solid by keeping the temperature at 0°C. What would you have to do to also have equilibrium with water as a gas?

Growing Crystals from Solution

One way that crystals form is from chemicals dissolved in water. If the water gets cooler, dissolves other chemicals, or evaporates, some of the dissolved chemicals can be deposited as crystals. Often, growing crystals can be a fairly long, involved process, but with this activity, we will grow some nice crystals quickly and easily.

To try this, you will need:

Dew on the Window

This experiment got its start while I was reading Craig F. Bohren's "What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks." It is a book on atmospheric physics, and is written so that you don't have to be a physics professor (or even a physics student) to understand and enjoy it. He writes about the dew that forms on your house windows in the winter, which made me think of other questions about dew drops.

To try this, you will need:

Dancing Raisins

This experiment is another old classic which is still a lot of fun. Now that I think of it, it seems that most of the science tricks I did as a kid have become OLD classics, but this was already an old classic even way back then.