Chemistry Now, week 2: cheeseburger chemistry—cheese

As we mentioned last week, NSTA and NBC Learn have teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch “Chemistry Now,” a weekly, online, video series that uncovers and explains the science of common, physical objects in our world and the changes they undergo every day. The series also looks at the lives and work of scientists on the frontiers of 21st century chemistry.

All in celebration of the  International Year of Chemistry, which gets under way this Thursday, Jan 27th, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. If you happen to be there, and see some chemists presenting exciting science, send us pictures or comments. If not, we understand… the excitement of chemistry in your own classroom is simply too alluring.

Speaking of alluring, nothing is more beguiling than the scent of a good cheese. The stinkier the better. So we present week two’s offering, the Chemistry of Cheese. View the video, try the lessons, and let us know what you think.

Photo of girl scrunching her nose by Kaptain Kobold.

Cheese on a burgerVideo: “The Chemistry of Cheese” (part of a 6-part Cheeseburger Chemistry series) uses cheese-making to explain protein denaturing, coagulation, and the difference between chemical and physical change. The video is located at the top left of the collection of resources.

Middle school lesson: in this lesson, students will blow up balloons using yeast, observe a chemical change, and investigate the variables that effect this chemical change.

High school lesson: through this lesson, students will observe a series of chemical reactions involving common kitchen chemicals, and use their observations to design and carry out an experiment to determine the identity of an unknown kitchen chemical.

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  1. Devon Grilly
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I was excited by the premise of your video on physical and chemical changes related to cheese until it started with the very misconception I’m trying to break! Just because a change is reversible does NOT mean it is a physical change rather than a chemical change. Most chemical reactions ARE reversible! This oversimplification that students learn in younger grades is very hard to undo- sad to see NSTA reinforcing it.

  2. Posted February 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    @ Devon Grilly

    You make a good point. There are some isolated physical changes that are not easily reversible (ripping paper or shattering a bowl), but most physical changes (ice melting/freezing or hammering an iron rod into a flat plate) are reversible. And some chemical changes are reversible. As an example, the combustion of hydrogen gas and oxygen gas to form water, which can be chemically reversed into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas by the use of an electric current under the right conditions. But most chemical changes are not easily reversible, and NBC Learn made an effort in the narration to qualify their description of the concept, saying:

    “When a change involves a chemical reaction, it generally can’t be reversed, and turning liquid milk to solid cheese is a good example: the cheese can never go back to being milk again.”

    You’ve argued that is not the case. Perhaps you know of a good online resource that makes the case. Could you point us in the right direction?

  3. Posted September 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

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