Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cheetos as Sunblock

The situation is frequent and familiar to most kids in the summer. You are at a picnic enjoying Cheetos. With no place to wipe your Cheeto fingers, you wipe them on your shirt. The question we try to answer in this experiment is, do Cheetos make an effective sunblock? Does wiping your fingers on your shirt increase the sunblock protection of the shirt?

To do this experiment, we first ground up some Cheetos into a powder.

Then we took the Cheeto powder, some 50 SPF sunblock, and some towels and headed to the back yard. We exposed our stomachs to the sun and put a strip of sunblock and a stripe of cheeto powder.

We tanned in the sun for 20 minutes. It is 97 degrees (36.6 C) outside.

Observations: Sister's skin was the most sensitive. After 20 minutes her face and belly were red. The stripe of sunblock was clearly visible. The Cheeto stripe looked more like reverse freckles where the thicker specks of cheeto dust had been. Dad and Brother did not have significant coloring in that time, and only the faint line of sunblock was visible. (Brother almost didn't make it the 20 minutes in the sun. He summed up his the experience commenting, "I'm dying to death!")

Conclusion: Cheetos do not make good sunblock unless you like a pokadot tan. But they do make great treats as you are passing the time in the sun.

Update: As we were getting ready for bed we were again comparing outcomes. The color had set in with time, and we all had red bellies. All of us had a pronounced line where the SPF 50 sunblock had been, and a less pronounced spotty line where the cheetos had been. We were suprised how red we all were after just 20 minutes in the sun. So if you are at a picknic or at the pool and don't have sunblock, smear yourself in Cheetos. It is definitely better than being unprotected.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cheetos as a Bullet Proof Vest

All Ralphie Parker wanted for Christmas was a Red Ryder, carbine-action, 200 shot range model air rifle. "You'll shoot your eye out" was all anyone ever replied. BB guns can be dangerous. Like Ralphie, dad received a Red Ryder BB gun when he was a kid. In this experiment we are going to test a way to make BB guns safer. We ask the question - how many Cheetos does it take to stop a BB?

For the first part of our experiment, we wanted to know how fast the BBs are traveling when shot. This would help us establish their momentum. (Momentum is velocity x mass.)

We thought of several ways we could test for the speed.
  • We could shoot the BB through two laser beams.
  • We could shoot the BB straight into the air and time how long it takes to land.
  • We could shoot a BB at a mobile police radar unit that warns drivers of their speed.
We decided that we could use sound instead. We measured 10 feet from a fence, then recorded shooting a BB at the fence.

We used a program called Audacity to measure the time difference between the sound of the gun firing and the sound of the BB hitting the fence. It was 0.07 seconds.

There are 5280 feet in a mile, so it would take a BB ((5280 / 10) * 0.07 = ) 36.96 seconds to go a mile. To get miles per house we take 60 seconds/minute * 60 mintues/hour  = 3600, and divide that by 36.96 seconds. The total (3600 / 36.96) is 97.4 miles/hour. 

A BB is 5.23 grains, which is .01 ounces.

Next, we pinched a row of Cheetos between two kabob skewers.  

 Then we attached the skewers onto the BB gun.

Then we fired a BB into the Cheetos.

We did the experiment twice. The first time, the BB went through 3 Cheetos and stopped at the 4th. The second time, the BB embedded itself in the middle of the 4th Cheeto.

Are you soon going to be able to go to Cabelas and buy a BB-proof vest made of Cheetos? Probably not. But Cheetos just might have protected Ralphie when he was firing his BB gun.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cheetos as Sidewalk Chalk

Today in Salt Lake City there is a Chalk Art Festival. Artists are using chalk to make drawings of superheros on the sidewalk. That lead us to today's Cheetos experiment. Do Cheetos make good sidewalk chalk?

We approached our empty driveway canvas with a bowlful of Cheetos and a headful of ideas. We set to work drawing...

This wasn't so much of a scientific experiment, but more of a "what if." We learned very quickly that lots of Cheetos are needed to make a drawing as they practially discintigrate in contact with the cement. Most of the drawing was done by the oil in the Cheetos than the coloring.

Observations: Cheetos do not make good sidewalk chalk. For future attempts we will probably follow Silvia's instructutions to make sidewalk chalk with plaster and use Cheetos as the coloring.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cheetos as Thermal Insulators

Suppose you are on a picnic and it's hot outside, and you would like to keep your soda cold a little longer.  You happen to have some Cheetos at the picnic. Could you keep your soda cold by wrapping the can in Cheetos?

For this experiment we took a soda out of the refrigerator, opened it, put a digital thermometer in it, and recorded the temperature every 30 seconds, for 35 minutes.

Then we took some duct tape and put cheetos on it. We learned from our last experiment that Cheetos Puffs really don't stack nicely, so we tried cutting the cheetos into straight pieces. This gave us smaller gaps between the Cheetos.  

Then wrapped the Cheetos around a cold can.

Since the can had been out of the fridge for a while as we wrapped our Cheeto insulation around it, we put the can back in the fridge for 30 minutes to let it cool back down. We then took it out and followed the same procedure, measuring the temperature every 30 seconds for 35 minutes. 

For the last part of the experiment we put a can in a foam can holder designed for the purpose of keeping cans cool. We expected this to work the best. 

During the first 10 minutes of all of the experiments the temperature of the soda fluctuated up and down. We think this had to do with the carbon dioxide bubbles being released from the soda. (If we were to do the experiment again we would use plain water.)

This charts shows our measurements of the temperature rising over time.  

Amazingly enough, the Cheetos were the best insulator with the soda rising only 3.2 degrees. The soda in the foam can insulator rose 3.7 degrees, and the plain can rose 4.4 degrees farenheit. So the next time you want to keep your soda cold, make sure you have a handful of Cheetos.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cheetos Sound Dampeners

Suppose your little brother comes into the room playing with a loud toy while you are eating Cheetos. How well could you dampen the sound with the Cheetos? 

For this experiment we used a decibel meter on a phone to determine the loudness of a toy. It was 74 decibels. 

Then we made a helmet with Cheeto Puffs.

We placed the helmet over the phone and measured the sound level.

We measured 69 decibels. The Cheetos absorbed 5 decibels of sound.

Observations: There were a lot of holes in the helmet we constructed. We think it would have blocked more sound if we were able to fit the cheetos together better.

As a comparison, an average set of passive noice cancelling headphones can reduce noice by 20 decibels. Our Cheeto headphones managed 5. So maybe Cheeto Headphones won't be the next product featured on Shark Tank - but we can dream.

Here is a video of our experiment.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cheetos Flame Test

Will Cheetos Burn? 

Why yes, yes they do. They burn quite well, actually. If you ever have to start a fire with only one match, light a Cheeto first. 

We wanted to get an idea if being flammable was only a property of Cheetos, so we tried burning several other types of chips.

We started by burning Cheetos Puffs.

We burned Crispy Cheetos.
We burned Fritos.
We even burned Doritos - about all of the "itos" we could find.
We had a few observations.

1. While all of the chips burned well, the Doritos burned the best. We think this is because the chips are bigger, and there is a greater surface area to mass ratio.

2. The Crispy Cheetos were the hardest to light on fire. They have the lowest surface area to mass ratio of the chips we burned.

3. There was a yellowish liquid that dripped from all of the chips except the Cheetos Puffs. We weren't sure what it was until we washed cookie sheet we were using as a fire pan, and discovered it to be oil. We think the fire melted the oil, and it was able to drop out of the chip before the fire consumed it.

Finally, we wanted to utilize our new found knowlege. We decided to have a camp fire and roast hot dogs for dinner.

Quite a fire from just a few Cheetos Puffs, plenty to roast the hot dogs. Once the fire was going we noticed that even the Cheetos Puffs were exuding oil. We thought that perhaps the texture of the puffs makes it harder for the oil to excape, so it takes a larger fire.

This was a fun experiment. We learned you can eat your Cheetos and cook with them too!

What's the deal with Cheetos?

As we were finishing the school year we had a discussion as a family what we could do to make the summer both fun and interesting. We happened to be eating Cheetos at the time, and we started thinking of all of the experiments and crafts we could do with them. This blog documents our efforts. Let the Cheeto Summer of Fun BEGIN!!