GeekGirlCon Blog

GeekGirlCon ’13 Programming Round-Up: Edible Astronomy

Written by Sarah Grant, Copy Writer

I worked quite a bit on the program book for GeekGirlCon ‘13, especially in beefing up or cutting down panel descriptions. One of the most intriguing–and the one that most often made me giggle a little bit–was titled Edible Astronomy. The thing that came to mind most often was something about Earth’s moon and Swiss cheese; I was really hoping that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Image from GeekGirlCon Flickr Account

Image from GeekGirlCon Flickr Account

Presenters Nicole Gugliucci, Nancy Graziano, and Amy DaviS Roth started the panel with several packages of Oreo cookies in front of them, along with what looked like fruit, nuts, a bag of rice, and a beach ball. Amy’s first job was to distribute the Oreos to the audience members, who were expected to *gasp* do science! All of the experiments done can be found right here.

The first experiment was called Oreo Moon Phases, which is accompanied with the Moon Phases song in the PDF version of the experiment. Everyone carefully twisted apart an Oreo, trying to make sure all the vanilla filling stuck to one side. Nicole proceeded to demonstrate how, using a fork, spoon, or popsicle stick you can remove the cream to simulate different moon phases. Since she was traveling from the east coast and couldn’t bring a bunch of silverware with us, she showed us how to use our teeth instead. The vanilla cream represented the moon at full; nibbling just part of one side of the cream corresponded to a waning gibbous moon, which means the moon is starting to shrink as the shadow of the earth began to block the sun’s light. Half of the cream left is a quarter moon, and just a curve left on one side is the waning gibbous.

The second demonstration wasn’t so much astronomy per se: Plate Tectonics! This also used Oreos, which meant that Amy ate more Oreos as she distributed them.

Amy Davis Roth. Courtesy of Amy Davis Roth.

Amy Davis Roth. Courtesy of Amy Davis Roth.

Using cracked Oreos, we ground the “plates” together as though they were different tectonic plates throughout the world. Some of these produced “lava”–vanilla cream squirting up between the two shifting plates–while others produced a multitude of crumbs. The crumbs represented the land at the top of the plates moving and shifting and making a general mess–kind of like a real earthquake.

There was much munching of Oreos, of course, and many giggles throughout the room.

Beach Ball

Beach Ball. Photo credit.

The final experiment was the most interesting to me personally: the Edible Solar System. Nicole had a volunteer hold an inflatable beach ball above her head at the very front of the room. Generally Nicole uses a pumpkin for the sun, but she said she hadn’t wanted to attempt to get a pumpkin through airport security.

The first distance measured from the sun was Mercury; a grit–as in the dry material used in making the southern dish grits–was roughly the size of Mercury as compared to the sun, and it was about 3 feet from the sun. The second distance–Venus–was represented by a Strawberry Nerd–the candy!

Nerds

Nerds. Photo Credit.

Not as small as a grit, but still fairly dinky next to the sun, which was about 5.5 feet from the sun. Earth was the third distance at about 7.6 feet from the sun, and it was represented by a Grape Nerd! Mars–also known as a candy sprinkle often found on cupcakes–was 11.6 feet from the sun.

Sprinkles on a cupcake. Photo credit.

Sprinkles on a cupcake. Photo credit.

The next measurement would have been Jupiter, represented by a small apple. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that measurement; the room was too short by about 4 feet! This was a simple and yummy way to demonstrate relative distances between our sun and its various orbiting planets.

This panel was a bunch of fun, and thankfully there was no Swiss cheese in evidence. I can’t wait to see if these presenters, or others like them, come up with more tasty scientific experiments for us at GeekGirlCon ‘14. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out when YOU can submit ideas like this for GeekGirlCon ‘14!

Have you ever seen or done a scientific experiment with food? Tell us; we want to know!

Sarah Grant
“Rock On!”

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