Bottle Crush – Heat Transfer Winter Science Experiment

Bottle Crush – Crush a bottle with your mind… and science! My boys love a great magic trick and after watching a recent Mythbusters episode my son desperately wanted to try out a new trick. He wanted to crush a bottle with his mind… and a little science. This is a fantastic winter science project exploring the principles of heat transfer.

Heat Transfer Winter Science Experiment

Bottle Crush - Crush a bottle with your mind, and a little science. Inspired by Mythbusters, a science experiment that seems like magic!

Mythbusters may no longer be in production but it still fills our days with amazing reruns. Adam and Jamie really had the greatest jobs, they did awesome science experiments every day! And while doing so, they fully embraced the adage of “go big or go home”. This makes for some fantastically explosive television. It is also a great show to inspire young budding scientists which is another reason our family loves the show.

For the final season they really went crazy. In this particularly inspiring episode the idea was to see if they could crush a tanker car with negative pressure. As usual they started small scale to provide a proof of concept. In doing so they caused a metal can to collapse in on itself, and Adam being his usual goofy self pretended he was doing it with his mind.

My son was smitten with the idea! He insisted we had to do the same type of experiment immediately.

We watched the rest of the episode and learned about all the science, then set off to see if we could create the same crushing effect.

We came up with the idea of crushing a bottle with our minds! Well, and a little science. Introducing the Bottle Crush Experiment!

The Bottle Crush Experiment – Heat Transfer in Action

Supplies

To do this simple experiment, all you need is:

A plastic bottle (a 2L pop bottle is perfect or a plastic water bottle)
A kettle
Water
A cold day with snow banks, or if you live somewhere warm you can use a pitcher of ice water
Funnel if required to fill bottle

SAFETY NOTE: Since we are boiling water and working with hot water, adult involvement is a MUST. Only a responsible adult should boil the water and fill the water bottle with the hot water.

Directions

To do our version of this experiment we washed out an empty pop bottle. Then we carefully poured in about 1/2 a cup of boiling water. After screwing on the cap tightly we went outside where it was a perfectly chilly -20C Canadian winter day, with lots of fresh, deep snow.

To protect little hands, I had the kids wear mittens, but we discovered that the top of the bottle stayed quite cool and the whole thing cooled off rapidly. Very quickly the mittens disappeared so there could be lots of finger waggling during the magic trick… I mean science experiment.

Alternatives for warmer climates: It’s winter here in Canada, so it was the perfect environment for this science experiment. But if you live somewhere that doesn’t have blistering cold weather, you can still do this experiment but instead of going outside use a pitcher of ice water, or a bowl filled with ice shavings or ice cubes.

After setting the bottle into our snowbank, my son wowed his younger brother with his bottle crushing mind trick!

It worked so well, we were all shocked. Bottle Crush was a success!

Check out the video of our experiment!

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In fact, my youngest son was completely awed and insisted his big brother teach him this amazing, magic mind power!

After leading him on for a few minutes, as he squinted and knotted his eyebrows, desperately trying to focus his mind energy into crushing the bottle, my oldest finally taught him the real science behind the trick.

Bottle Crush - Crush a bottle with your mind, and a little science. Inspired by Mythbusters, a science experiment that seems like magic!

Then they repeated it six times before finally getting bored.

The Heat Transfer Science

This is a great winter time experiment. The greater the temperature difference, the faster the bottle will crush in on itself.

To demonstrate some of the science behind this experiment I had the boys bounce and move about, dancing and being all crazy inside of one of those play tents. I had them note how much space it took and how far apart they had to be as they kept bouncing off of each other and off the sides of the tent. This is like the steam molecules that warm the air in the bottle. Those steamy warm air molecules are busy,  and need lots of space.

The boys also noted they could see this concept when they took a closer look at the bottle right after we added the hot water and screwed on the cap. The sides of the bottle became hard and pushed out.

Next I had the kids settle in nice and close, and compare how little space they needed. This is the same thing that happens as the water cools and the air in the bottle rapidly cools thanks to the cold snow and air outside. The air molecules settle, become less active, and take up less space. Without all that pressure caused by the steam and hot air molecules there is a vacuum or negative pressure created inside the bottle. This causes the sides of the bottle to collapse in on itself. Just like the tanker on Mythbusters!

Our family will definitely miss Mythbusters, but at least we have years of episodes to watch over and over again to inspire my young scientists. Thanks Mythbusters for giving us some great science, like Tanker Crush and Bottle Crush!

Bottle Crush - Crush a bottle with your mind, and a little science. Inspired by Mythbusters, a science experiment that seems like magic!

More Winter Science

These Heat Transfer Projects For Kids provide lots of hands-on STEM activities to promote understanding of the laws of thermodynamics.
Celebrate snow and cold with these winter STEM activities. Hands-on learning that embraces science, technology, engineering and math.
How to Make Snow and explore a cool property of water called the Mpemba Effect. It uses a little bit of science, a little bit of hot water, and a whole lot of cold to make this spectacular snow storm happen like magic.