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A sucker’s bet – atmospheric pressure science experiment.

Red or pink drinking straws in a container

A sucker’s bet

Funny how we take everyday activities for granted. Take for instance – sucking through a straw. Have you ever stopped to think about how we are able to suck liquids through a straw? What exactly makes the liquid climb up the straw and into our mouths? Well, we know you’re just itching to know so here we go…

  1. Fill the jar with water.
  2. Poke a hole in the lid just big enough for the straw to fit through.
  3. Put the straw through the hole.
  4. Seal the hole with clay. Make sure it is sealed tight!
  5. Try to suck water through the straw.

What happens? When you drink from an open glass of water, air pressure allows the water to travel up the straw. By sucking on the straw, you are reducing the air pressure inside your mouth. While sucking on the straw, the air pressure in your mouth is less than the air pressure outside of the straw (in the room, in the glass, etc.). The outside air pressure is pushing down on the water which forces the water up the straw. But when air pressure on the water is blocked (when you seal the jar lid), there is no air pressure to help push the water up your straw. The air can¹t get to the water to push on it, so it doesn’t go up the straw. No matter how hard you suck, the water will not go up the straw.

A sucker’s bet atmospheric pressure science experiment advanced notes

Atmospheric pressure is one of the most common examples of pressure. Atmospheric pressure is the force exerted by the weight of air molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere on the surface of the Earth. It is also known as barometric pressure or air pressure.

The pressure of the atmosphere varies depending on the altitude and weather conditions. At sea level, the average atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch (101.3 kilopascals). Typically, as altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases. This is because there are fewer air molecules at higher altitudes, which means less weight pressing down on the surface.

Atmospheric pressure is measured using a device called a barometer, which can be either a mercury barometer or an aneroid barometer. The unit of measurement for atmospheric pressure is the pascal (Pa) or the millibar (mb).

Changes in atmospheric pressure can affect weather patterns and can cause changes in the behavior of gases and fluids. For example, low pressure systems are associated with cloudy and rainy weather, while high pressure systems are associated with clear skies and dry weather.

Understanding atmospheric pressure is important in many fields, including meteorology, aviation, and scuba diving.

Required supplies for the sucker’s bet atmospheric pressure science experiment

Supplies: Clay, Glass jar, Straw

Extra credit: The history of the drinking straw

Drinking straws have been in existence for thousands of years. Ancient Sumerians used straws made from reeds to drink beer, while the ancient Egyptians used metal straws to sip water from the Nile. In the 19th century, people began using rye grass straws to drink cocktails, but these were not durable and often left behind a grassy taste.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the modern drinking straw was invented. In 1888, Marvin Stone, a Washington D.C. inventor, was sipping on a mint julep when he grew frustrated with the natural grass straws falling apart in his drink. He decided to create a more durable, reusable straw and began experimenting with paper tubes coated in wax. By 1889, he had patented the first paper drinking straw and formed the Stone Straw Company to mass-produce them.

Over time, other materials such as plastic and metal were used to make straws. Today, straws are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to suit different beverages and preferences. Despite their long history, straws have recently come under scrutiny for their impact on the environment. Many people are now opting for reusable straws made from materials such as stainless steel or silicone in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

Here are some interesting trivia facts about drinking straws:

  • Plastic straws were first introduced in the 1960s, and quickly replaced paper straws due to their durability and low cost.
  • Americans use an estimated 500 million straws every day, enough to circle the Earth 2.5 times.
  • Plastic straws are not biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose.
  • In response to the environmental impact of plastic straws, many cities and countries have banned their use, including Seattle, Vancouver, and the European Union.
  • The Guinness World Record for the longest drinking straw chain is 10,276 straws, set in Germany in 2019.
  • Some people use reusable metal or silicone straws as a more sustainable alternative to plastic straws.
  • The bendy straw, also called the “crazy straw,” was invented by Joseph Friedman in the 1930s for his daughter who had trouble drinking through a straight straw.
  • Straws have been used in various art projects, such as the Straw Project, which features sculptures made entirely out of drinking straws.

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Red or pink drinking straws in a container via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. October 16, 2018

Featured Image Credit

Red or pink drinking straws in a container via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. October 16, 2018


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