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Five biological experiments you can do at home

Don't worry, we are not asking you to make anthrax, or some new strain of the ebola virus. Just to extract your own DNA, and to stun your friends with crazy stuff like cultivating your own bacteria

On TV they always say: ‘Don’t do this at home’. But we say ‘go ahead and do it!’

Here are five quick, and easy, at home experiments that will have you feeling nostalgic about being in science class as a teen.

Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIY bio), is a movement that consists of making biology in your own house, with almost no cost involved. Why not cultivate the bacteria that grow on your hand, extract your own DNA, or change the color of the boring flowers that your boyfriend gave to you? Here is an illustration of some of the experiments you can try at home.

(If you are more interested in kitchen chemistry experiments then go here, and if you want more kitchen science, then here is the kitchen.)

1. Homemade extraction of your own DNA

Ingredients: transparent glass, salt, liquid soap, grapefruit juice, and alcohol (e.g. disinfectant, rum, vodka, etc.).

The first step consists of spitting on the glass and adding a pinch of salt to it. Then, add some liquid soap (like the one you use for washing the dishes), juice from a grapefruit, and some drops of alcohol. Once you have everything on the glass, stir the mixture, et voilà.

The white mucous filaments you observe on top of the mixture is your DNA. See more on how right here.

Explanation
The saliva contains cells from your mouth that have DNA inside them. The detergent is used to break down the membranes that protect the DNA, and releases it into the recipient. The salt makes the DNA denature* and precipitate, while the grapefruit juice neutralizes the proteins that could damage the DNA.

2. Cultivate the bacteria that grow on your hand

Ingredients: small airtight container, gelatin dessert

If you buy gelatin from a package, follow the instructions to make it. If you do not find gelatin to make, it should be even easier and just touch the gelatin from the glass jar and wait to see what happens.

Check out what gelatin solution looks like

Heat water on the stove and add the package contents to it, stirring the mixture vigorously until the gelatin grains dissolve. While the solution is still hot, pour into container where you want to cultivate your bacteria, and put the lid on in order to avoid contamination. Store the container in the fridge overnight so the gelatin can solidify. Remove from fridge once solid, touch the gelatin, put the lid on again and leave the container at room temp or near the radiator for a few days.

After some days you will see some white spots on the gelatin. These are your hands’ skin bacteria. Even if you try to wash your hands and repeat the experiment again, we will always have bacteria on our hands.

Explanation
Microorganisms are everywhere but we do not normally see them since they are so tiny and dispersed. In this case, they use the gelatin as food, and since there are so many nutrients in it they can divide (reproduce) many times and accumulate in the container until we are actually able to see them.

3. Change the color of your flowers

Ingredients: flowers (preferably with white petals), ink, a glass, and water

One of the easiest experiments you can do. Place the flower in a glass with water and colored ink (red, black, blue, etc.). After a while you will see the petals have colored petal ribs or veins, of the same color of the ink you added to the water.

Are you flowers dying out? Why not give them some color?

Explanation
Normally we give water to plants in order to keep them alive. Plants have a tube system (called xylem) that distributes water and some nutrients to all parts of the plant. Using the colored water we are actually able to see this tube system.

4. Egg ball

Ingredients: eggs, vinegar, and a pot with lid (really important, as this keeps the smell inside!)

Place the egg (including shell) into the pot with vinegar and cover it with the lid. Let it sit for some days. After this, you will have a flexible smelly egg that you can use as a ball.

Explanation
The single cell present in one egg, due to its importance in reproduction, is protected by an eggshell. This shell is made of calcium carbonate that reacts with the acetic acid present in the vinegar, causing its decomposition, and leading to a ‘naked’ egg that has increased flexibility.

Interested in chemical experiments? There is a set here.

5. Cook an egg with no heat

Ingredients: eggs, bowl, alcohol

Want to innovate your cooking skills? Next time you want to cook an egg , place it into a bowl and add some alcohol to it. After some minutes you can see how it slowly ‘cooks’. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that you will find it extremely delicious.

Explanation
Cooking an egg, consists simply on denaturing* the proteins that are present in the cell contained by the eggshell. This protein denaturation is normally obtained by heat exposure (boiling or frying), but another way consists of adding compounds such as alcohol that denature the proteins by interacting with them and altering their 3D structure.

denaturation*= process by which a biomolecule (e.g. DNA, protein), losses its 3D structure.

Follow our photo gallery where we take you through all the steps here.

Any ideas for new experiments? Write them below, and we will try them out for you!

We have a set of new household biology experiments here:

universitypost@adm.ku.dk

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