Ask a Scientist - February 2012

Have a science related question? Ask away! We'll track down an answer from one of our OMSI scientists and each month post the answers. 

Q: What is the scientific reason behind what happens when you put a cup of water in window sill and the water disappears? - Janet

A: Water evaporates over time - the water molecules change from a liquid into a gas. The water becomes part of the air you breathe. And it might condense onto the window on a cold day, turning back from a gas into a liquid!

Q: Why does aluminum not react to a magnet? - Russell

A: Only 3 of the chemical elements are magnetic - iron, nickel and cobalt. Most magnetic metals are made with iron in them. Steel is a very common metal used in many products, so it can seem like most metal is magnetic. But lots of different metals besides aluminum - like copper, silver and gold - aren't attracted to magnets either.

Q: Why do I get a shock when I touch someone going down a slide? - Judy

A: Static electricity! When you go down a plastic slide, the slide takes some of the electrons out of you and your clothes! Your whole body has a positive electric charge, and when you touch someone else you take some of their negative electrons. The transfer of electrons from one person to another is that shock you feel!


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