It's official – we're in the homestretch of summer. And while it's not quite time to start studying for the new year, there's no reason you can't sneak a little science learning into these last couple weeks.
These three "experiments" are perfect for summer since they're easy to do – and one of 'em can make your summer BBQ more fun.
Put a Spoonful of Sugar in Your Backyard to Help the Bees
Taking just a few seconds to put a spoonful of sugar in your backyard helps the environment.
How? Because sugar is valuable food for bees and other pollinator species, according to English broadcaster and nature documentary extraordinaire David Attenborough. A simple solution made from two tablespoons of white sugar and one tablespoon of water helps feed weak and tired bees – and could help compensate if your garden is looking a little scorched by the sun.
Helping to save the bees isn't just the humane thing to do. It also helps preserve your local ecosystems, promotes clean air by helping plants, and supports crops (like apples and almonds) that rely on bees for pollination.
Put Salt in Your Coffee to Make It Less Bitter
Soon, your morning ritual might require some caffeine to get you ready for early school day mornings. So why not perfect your coffee now by adding a pinch of salt – a hack that will make your coffee less bitter?
The hack works by changing the way your taste buds respond to coffee. Your tongue naturally contains five types of taste buds: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. Each type of taste bud responds to certain compounds in foods that your brain "translates" into a taste. For example, sour taste buds detect H+ ions, a component of acids, so that very acidic foods, like lemons, taste sour. Salty taste buds detect Na+ ions, a component of, you guessed it, salt.
When a food activates more than one type of taste bud, your brain translates the mix of signals from your taste buds into an overall taste – so oranges, thanks to their higher sugar content, taste sweet despite being almost as acidic as lemons.
Coffee is naturally bitter, but adding salt activates more salty taste buds, leaving you with a more mellow, rounded out flavor. Use just a pinch – your drink shouldn't taste salty, just smoother.
Refrigerate Onions for No More Tears
Don't you just love tearing up when you're slicing onions? Yeah, we didn't think so. Stick your onion in the fridge for a few minutes before slicing, though, and you may not have to.
That's because the compound in onions that causes tears, syn-propanethial-S-oxide, is more volatile when it's warm. Usually, chopping onions releases syn-propanethial-S-oxide into the air – and when it reacts with the water on your eye, it forms sulfenic acids that trigger irritation and tearing up.
Cold onions, though, don't release as much syn-propanethial-S-oxide into the air, which should cut down on your discomfort. Chopping your onions in a well-ventilated area also helps, chemist and onion expert Eric Block told NPR.
So take a few extra minutes when you're prepping for that end-of-summer BBQ. Your eyes will thank you!
About the Author
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.