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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Science In The Gardens

This morning I went to "Science In The Gardens" held at the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden. It's one of the highlights of the six-week-long "science.08" festival and Fresh Brainz is an official media for this event.

I've never been to this garden before, so naturally it's an opportunity to take plenty of photos!

Here's the facade of the visitor centre. You can see that it resembles a butterfly; indeed this design motif is maintained throughout the park in the form of butterfly-shaped signs and information panels.

The centrepiece of the visitor centre is this interesting sculpture - a tree that is made up of numerous interlinked human figures. This ties into the garden's overall theme of "All Life On Earth Depends On Plants".

A couple of hardworking volunteers are already manning the information booth, armed to the teeth with pamphlets.

I took a minute of their time to pose for this photo...

... and then they're back to work guiding parents and children to the activities inside.

I should mention that this is a children's garden, meant for kids up to 12 years old. While admission is free for everyone, adults who are "unaccompanied" by children must register at the information counter for a visit.

It's a weird rule but I guess that's to preserve the kid-friendly environment inside.

I'll talk about the science activities soon, but first - a quick overview of the garden!

This is a really nice place for families, with many facilities for children to play with. Here are some people having a happy-go-pukey good time on a spinny thing.

Kids love treehouses. Here's a big one, complete with neon orange slides.

Need a rickety suspension bridge? They've got one of those too.

The indispensable water fountains for active kids...

... and quiet spots for other kids who just want a relaxing time.

There's even a hedge maze to explore.

Wait a minute... that's an odd-looking pink butterfly. What's it doing there?

*flutter flutter*

Aside from man-made playthings, there is also a lot of nature for the kids to enjoy.

A close up of the ubiquitous "Touch-me-not".

This spikey-looking plant looks a little out of place in a children's garden though.

Dragonflies! Here's a yellow one making a precision landing on a flower bud...

... while this red one balances masterfully on a blade of grass, Chow Yun Fat-style.

These bees really love this flower for some reason.

Oh, the mysterious pink butterfly has reappeared among some flowering plants!

Quick, let's follow it!

*flutter flutter*

Turns out that it's not a real butterfly, but a piece of craft work that the children can create in one of the workshops that the organizers have set up for today.

It's called a "butterfly-on-a-stick", which sort of makes me feel hungry...

The "living classrooms" of the children's gardens have been turned into art and craft workshops, so that the kids can have fun making some cute items.

You can make your own butterfly-on-a-stick using pink paper and scissors...

... ant models using styrofoam balls and colourful pipe cleaners...

... custom-decorated bookmarks using dried leaves and a laminating machine...

... extremely cute-looking bees using pipe cleaners and googly eyes...

... and why not catch up on a bit of socialising too?

In addition to craft work, there are 8 science exhibits in the garden for the children to exercise their brainz while having fun.

Here's a 3D tic-tac-toe game played with red and orange happy-face balls.

As you can see, the game ended in a draw - but only at one level.

This rig is supposed to teach children about the difficulty of guiding a rod through a ring while viewing through an inverting prism, but these kids have turned it into an improvised "whack-a-mole" game using a pipe cleaner bee as the victim.

Bzzz... bzzz...


Never underestimate the ingenuity of children - or their disdain for cute, furry things.

There are also 2D and 3D puzzles for children to solve. These aren't particularly popular because the activity seems rather passive.

Balloons, on the other hand, are all-time favourites.

Here's a tommy gun for... erm.... Tommy!

And here's a daisy flower for... Daisy?

I could have sworn that the balloon artist was colour-matching his creations to the recipient's clothes.

Now for the feature presentation - a science show by award-winning Canadian educator John Eix entitled "Invisible Stuff"!

What are invisible stuff? Let's go find out!

As you can see, some kids are more curious than others...

First up - blowing a balloon.

Nothing special about that.

Except this balloon doesn't fly off when you let go of its mouth - but yet you can still continue to blow it bigger and bigger!

Who knows why?

"ME! ME! ME!"

Some kids always sit in the front row.

Oh, that's the reason why... sneak a marble inside!

Next - how to get the pink balloon into the milk bottle?

It's the old egg-in-a-bottle trick, using a water balloon instead of a hard-boiled egg.

From the audience reaction I can tell that many children already know that burning up one component of "invisible stuff" inside the bottle will suck the balloon into the glass bottle.


Like they always say in the business: "Results are consistent with expectations".

But here's the kicker - how do you get it out again without heating the bottle?

Venture a guess?

Scroll down for the answer...

Blow more air into the bottle!

I'll leave you to figure out why that works.

Of all the demonstrations Mr. Eix performed this morning, the "magic test tube" has got to be my favourite.

Simple set-up: a PVC tube full of water and a white plastic bottle with a string attached. Ribbons on the string mark out the length of the string.

So what happens when you put the bottle into the tube?

The bottle sinks slightly into the tube while displacing a bit of water.

Most people got this right.

It's the next part that's really counterintuitive.

What happens when you invert the whole tube? Will the white bottle just fall out?

I guessed that the bottle will stay on - which for a few seconds seemed to be the right answer.

But no, it did more than just hang on... it started to rise into the tube!!!

Slowly it went higher and higher into the tube, displacing lots of water as it went along.

Eventually it went up so high that the ribbons on the string indicate that it rose all the way to the top.

Invisible stuff exerts a pressure in all directions!

In yet another brain-bending demonstration, John asks the audience if a straight tube or an odd-looking bent tube would be a better blowgun for shooting a marshmallow.

Most people, including me, guessed that the straight tube would have greater range, but actually the bent tube wins by a huge margin.

The reason?

Straight tubes cannot "store power".

These experiments remind us that common sense doesn't always reveal the truth.

We must have data!

Switching gears back to familiar territory, here's a bottle of soft drink about to unleash its invisible stuff - the good ol' mentos-in-coke trick.

We have a young volunteer to release the mentos into the bottle.

Ready... set...


Oh noes, it's a negative demonstration!

Looks like Mr. Eix will have to manually drop the mentos into the bottle.


And it works! The first coke fountain in the history of the children's garden!

And now for the grand finale: John prepares his "poof cannon", which is basically another large PVC tube which uses "poof liquid" to launch an orange poof ball.

It's going to be loud - remember to cover your ears!

Get ready to fire the cannon!

As you can see, veteran photographers appear to be impervious to ear damage.


That marks the end of the science show.

But before I leave the garden, there's one more thing I need to do.

Make my own pipe cleaner bee!

It's too cute. Just look at its stupid googly eyes.

I've decide to call it Stoobee for "stupid bee".

Maybe it will make another guest appearance in a future post...

Would you like to know more?

- About a previous science.08 event:
X-periment! 2008


Along8848 said...

official media , congratulations!

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Thank you Along!

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Mr. Eix, thanks for stopping by!

The comment has been amended.


John Eix said...

Thank you for making the change! Could you also modify my original comment? Please

Lim Leng Hiong said...


John Eix said...

Thank you very much for posting so many beautiful photos of the gardens and for the pictures of me! A job extremely well done!