‘Tis the season to be jolly… scientists!

by Rosie Coates

With Christmas around the corner, we’re feeling festive at science made simple HQ, and for us festivities always mean extra helpings of science.  In this blogpost we’ll delve into some of the science featuring in Yuletide weather, food and fun plus some great science video clips.

Advent calendar

Christmas starts with the build-up, so this year try a science themed Christmas advent! We found some fun activities here, our particular favourite is the Santa’s Magic Milk experiment!



For many of us, Christmas is a time to feast and not everything we eat and drink at this time of year is very good for us. But, there is hope in the form of the glistening bowl of cranberry sauce. Cranberries contain trimeric procyanidins which are believed to be the active ingredients which give them a very handy property. Recent guidelines and eating suggestion published by NetWellness.org say that, eating cranberries makes it trickier for bacteria to stick to our insides, whether that’s our urinary tract, gut or even our teeth, helping to reduce infections, ulcers and dental decay.  The sugar used in making cranberry sauce will probably counteract some of it’s effectiveness when it comes to protecting your teeth but the cranberries might just go some way to offsetting the effect of that kilo of chocolate!  On the flip side a study has shown that the fragrance of cranberries was the least enticing as an aphrodisiac for men, something to bear in mind if you’re choosing a gift of perfume for someone this year!


Cranberries ready for sauce making. Photo: FlickrLickr CC-BY


I’ve got my toboggan ready and I’m checking the weather forecast daily hoping for a white Christmas this year.  But just what is it that means that a rainy day is grey and dreary, but snow, just the same stuff but colder, has that brilliant white glow?


Snowy scene in Finland. Photo: Petritap CC-BY-SA

Like a prism, snow bends light as it passes through the crystals. When snow falls the huge number of crystals and their many facets mean that light is bent in all directions, the light is scattered.  This scattering means that light of all colours reaches us, combining to make the snow appear white.

Snowflakes caught on camera. Photo: Sara2, Public Domain


Snowflakes are beautiful, they always have six sides but they aren’t all unique.  This short movie from the American Chemical Society explains why.  If you want to be guarantee your snowflakes are never #snowfake follow this guide to snowflake making.

What amazing stuff water is, and that’s just when it’s frozen, there’s even more to consider when it melts and boils, as we explore in our It’s only water….Or is it?! show.


If we are lucky enough to have snow this Christmas see if you can catch some snow crystals, or even better photograph them, can you imagine the different conditions the snowflake has passed through to form the shape you see?

Jingle bells

We’ve talked about the taste and the sights of Christmas, what about the sounds?  Christmas carols, crackers popping (more on this in our top ten Christmas demos) and of course, sleigh bells.

Have you ever wondered why a bell playing a middle C note is easily distinguishable from a bassoon playing the same note? Or what about a man and a women both singing carols at the same pitch, but still sounding different? It’s all to do with something called harmonics. Find out how it works here.

There’s heaps of science involved in our favourite festive music and sounds, as we investigate in our Music to your Ears and Sound at the Extremes shows.

We’ll end with something for any of you Christmas bah humbugs or anyone with any doubt about the value of space programmes.  A sighting (and sounding) of Father Christmas by the crew of Gemini 6 on 16th December 1965.


sms group shot with props smallWe are science made simple, a social enterprise who perform science, maths and engineering shows to school, festival and public audiences.
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Posted in Biology, Chemistry, Exploring Science, Physics
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