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Get Cooking


By Ruth Barnard

This is a magic trick and science experiment in one.

With a few basic household items you can perform a bit of magic and discover how it works.


What you need:

  • Dish washing liquid

  • Kebab stick

  • Bowl of water

  • Ground Pepper


Perform a Magic Trick

1. In secret, dip the end of one kebab stick into some dishwashing liquid and colour the bottom so that you remember it's the magic stick.

2. In front of your audience sprinkle pepper onto your bowl of water. Show them how the pepper sits on top of the water and tell them that with one touch of a magic wand and a few magic words you can make the pepper move toward the side of the bowl.

3. Dip a normal kebab stick into the bowl and show them how the pepper doesn't move without the magic words.

4. Secretly swap the normal stick for your magic stick and begin to say a magical spell. Touch the water with the soapy end of the kebab stick and the pepper will move to the sides with one touch.



Top Tip:

You may want to rehearse and practice this a few times before performing and add in a few other magic tricks to keep your audience amazed!


The Science Behind the Magic

When you sprinkle pepper on top of the water it sits on the surface because of the surface tension that water has.

When you add dishwashing liquid to the water it lowers the surface tension of the water causing the water's surface to spread out and carry the pepper to the edge of the bowl.

What is Surface Tension?

Surface tension is a force present on the top layer of a liquid. The molecular structure of a liquid causes the surface layer to behave a bit like a sheet of elastic and when the molecular structure is broken the surface tension is lost.

Surface tension is also the force that enables small insects to walk on water, if you added dishwashing liquid to the water the insect would sink!

What are some other ways you could play with surface tension? Let us know what you discover...

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