What would happen if the Earth’s gravity suddenly disappeared?

What would happen if the Earth’s gravity suddenly disappeared?

What would happen if the Earth’s gravity suddenly disappeared?

This was a recent question from my 10-year-old son… it certainly got some interesting discussions going around the kitchen table. When I opened up the question on my Facebook page I got more input from Cathal (5) and Ciarán (7) (from the Bumbles of Rice blog); they reckon that if you were indoors you would float upwards, or feel like you were being pulled up…  and bump your head!  A very good point boys; In fact, the bump on the head would be the least of your worries!

Before I go any further though, it is important to say that this cannot actually happen, we can’t just turn off gravity, so when we discuss what would happen if we did, we are talking more science fiction than science; it is good to keep that in mind!



As Cathal and Ciarán said, you would no longer have a force keeping you on the ground . The Earth would keep spinning, as it does, but you would no longer move with it, you would move in a straight line, upwards. In fact, rather than feeling like you are floating away from the Earth, you would probably feel like the Earth is dropping away from you!


Anything not stuck down in some way would move in the same direction you would. Anything inside a building would get stopped by the ceiling, anything outside would float off into space, pretty quickly.


Not only would solid objects float off into space but our air, our atmosphere would too; which means that unless you had an oxygen tank to hand you’d have no air to breathe.


Liquids would leave the Earth’s surface too, so all the water on our planet, in lakes, rivers and seas would start to float off. A first, water  would probably start floating off in large blobs, but as the atmosphere of the  Earth disappears then the heat of the sun would penetrate to the Earth’s surface even more than it does now and water would probably start to boil off, into steam that would float off into space.


So initially we said that if you were inside a building you would find yourself up at the ceiling; If you had an oxygen tank then you might be OK for a while. But you would start to feel those temperatures rise pretty quickly. The Earth would start to feel an incredible pressure which would ultimately mean that the buildings attached to its surface would start to break up and float away. Then rocks and clumps of earth would break off and float up too.


Eventually, the whole Earth would break apart and float away into space, but we would be long gone by then.

So while the notion of floating around in zero gravity might, at first, seems appealing, when we look at the idea a little more closely we realise it is not a very nice concept at all. Fear not, as I said at the beginning… this cannot happen, it is just an imagining of what would happen if it did.

While scientists cannot really predict what would happen if we suddenly lost gravity on Earth, they can tell us the short term effect that lack of gravity (or weightlessness) has on our bodies… by observing what happens to astronauts while in space.


Image source: pixabay.com
  • Initially astronauts lose their sense of orientation, they find it hard to tell up from down. This disorientation can also make them feel sick for a while.
  • Another issue they report is feeling like their arms and legs are disconnected from their body!
  • The change in pressure can affect their vision a little, this may be due to the altered pressure on the eye ball, brain and spinal fluid (some astronauts report more long term problems when they return to Earth; recent studies have found a genetic link to this problem, but the exact mechanism is still unclear).

They usually get used to these issues pretty quickly but there are greater health effects the longer they stay in space.

  • Due to the lack of weight on their bodies, their muscles and bones begin to weaken; this is why astronauts spend so much time in space exercising!
  • An astronaut will actually get taller in space; without the pressure of gravity on their bodies, they can stretch about an inch or more. Of course, once they return to Earth they soon return to their usual height.
  • Astronauts immune systems can become weak in space too (the number of white blood cells that help to fight infection can reduce) and healing can be slowed down.

Now that we have learned a little about gravity and the lack of it, here is a fun experiment; try out this gravity defying trick with a glass of water and amaze your friends and family!



  • A glass
  • A small piece of stiff paper or cardboard (large enough to cover the mouth of the glass)
  • A basin
  • Some water
  • (Adult supervision)
  • Fill the glass to the very top with water.
  • Place the piece of paper over the mouth of the glass, making sure there are no air bubbles underneath.
  • While holding the glass in one hand, and keeping the paper in place with the other, quickly turn the glass upside-down, over the basin (or ask an adult to do this for you).
  • Once the glass is inverted remove your the hand that is holding the paper in place.
  • The paper should stay in place and the water should stay in the glass.
  • Watch all the amazed faces of your family and friends as they observe your gravity defying feat!


While this appears to be an experiment about defying gravity, it is actually all down to air pressure. The lack of air in the glass produces a difference in air pressure on either side of the paper. The air pressure on the underside of the paper is greater than the pressure on the water side, pushing the air up and keeping the paper in place.

I hope this experiment works for you without anyone getting wet feet! Be sure to let me know if you try it!

How high do birds fly?

How high do birds fly?

This question comes in from twins Sabha and Lile, who can sometimes be found on the lovely Where Wishes Come From blog. They are two wonderful girls that are fairly mad into science, and their mum tells me that they are always full of questions (we love that around here!). This is the first of two questions they have sent in…

How high do birds fly?

Dr. Simple is, as ever, delighted to answer their question. And this week he has his twin sister with him (which is pretty appropriate don’t you think?).  You’ll see below that the regular Dr. Simple post has had a revamp, I love it like this, I hope you do too!



Thanks again to Lile and Sabha for this great question, what super science twins you are!

I hope you like the new layout here, be sure to let me know in the comments below, and remember to send in any questions that you or your family have. We love getting them!

Science News Round up – February 2016.

Even with the extra day the month has flown by. The year is off to a flying start … here are some of the big stories from the world of science that surfaced this month:

1. This big, BIG story of this month was the confirmed detection of gravitational waves.

If you are still unsure of what gravitational waves are and how LIGO detected them, this is a very helpful video:


2. In the last week we heard that viable sperm was grown in-vitro; A team of scientists in China say that they successfully grew mouse sperm  from embryonic stem cells and that the resulting sperm cells have been used to successfully fertilise an egg, producing healthy, fertile young.


3. We all know about the effect of global warming on our planet, but, just in case you were in any doubt… newly reported data shows that … “the modern rate of sea level rise in the 20th century is faster than anything we’ve seen in the previous two millennia“.


Image Credit: Geoffrey Whiteway; Image Source: Freerange Stock;


4. 3D printing took another step forward with this bioengineering transplant. A team of bioengineers in North Carolina revealed that they successfully printed an organic human ear and then transplanted it onto the back of a mouse, where it not only survived, but grew.  


5. And finally… not exactly international news, but a nice little first for Science Wows; you may have noticed that I published a mini science magazine here (and here for a mobile version) all about the science of pancakes! I have had the idea for a children’s science magazine for a very, very long time; this mini magazine was my first realisation of that idea; With a lot of determination, hard work and luck, a full blown magazine may become a reality. So, if you checked it out, I’d really, really love your feedback; Please let me know in the comments below, or get in contact in other ways.


These are only some of the science events from February, have you any more to add?

Free on-line Pancake Science Magazine for children

Free on-line Pancake Science Magazine for children

I am very excited to share this latest project with you; this is an idea I have had for a while so I am delighted to have finally finished and published. I really hope you like it and that your junior scientists get plenty of entertainment from this Pancake Science Magazine.

Science Wows Pancake Science Magazine

Have a look through and see what you think, there are experiment ideas and a video link to show you how. It is crammed full of interesting facts… from who made the first pancake to the mathematical formula for the perfect pancake flip.

You’ll also find puzzles and quizzes and a free printable download if you prefer to print them off and let the children test their pancake knowledge. There are also some pancake jokes to entertain you all and Dr. Simple can be found throughout the magazine, a familiar face with a few costume changes!

There is a little colour coding for all the subjects covered, from chemistry to astronomy, to maths. So your kids can just dip in and choose their favourites, if they prefer.

I would really love to hear what you think and how your children find this magazine, if you have a minute to give me any feedback I’d be delighted.

I haven’t shown this to my own kids yet, but I think I have this rainy afternoon’s entertainment sorted now.


Hope you Enjoy!


Need a mobile friendly version? just click here! And this is a separate link to the free printable.

Breakfast, black holes and spaghettification

Breakfast, black holes and spaghettification

I don’t know what meal times are like in other homes, but in ours they tend to be chaotic and unpredictable. Take a simple breakfast last week as an example. Nothing too fancy… there was literally only cereal on offer. But cereal boxes can be great conversation openers, especially if they are from the BEAR company and are covered in all kinds of interesting facts.

“Are black holes real and what is spa-ghett-if-ication?” Asked the 11-year-old, cereal box in hand.

And so it began… Read more

Take the Science Wows Hallowe’en Science Quiz

Take the Science Wows Hallowe’en Science Quiz

The Hallowe’en break has finally arrived! If you are looking for activities to keep your family entertained here is something sure to please …. Hallowe’en and science combined into one, fun quiz!


Use it to challenge, entertain or inspire your junior scientists, or get all the family involved and see if the children can beat Mum and Dad!

There is even a certificate to print off at the end of the quiz.

Remember to follow the screens right to the end, to find out an interesting fact on each question.

Good luck and have fun!

I hope you have a great Hallowe’en, and remember, there are lots of science experiments you can try too… check out the oozing pumpkin, the spooky cups, or the glowing monster slime; or how about making your own fake blood? All in the name of spooky science fun.


photo credit: via photopin (license)



Behind the scenes – Is Eolaí Mé

Behind the scenes – Is Eolaí Mé

Filming of the Is Eolaí Mé series is well under way… and it looks amazing! I got to see the finished set for the first time last Monday morning, and it was even better than I imagined. Peadar, the presenter, has been working his way through the science curriculum and so far we have managed not to blow anything up, but the experiments are certainly entertaining the whole crew!

Peadar has been joined, each day, by some really enthusiastic young scientists who have helped him with demonstrations, facts, experiments and, of course, the adrenalin fuelled “Science Challenges”.

Do you want a sneak peek?…


Almost ready to begin!



Matt, the man who can “build anything”, makes a few last minute adjustments!



Peadar takes a quick break, after another successful experiment.



Getting ready for another challenge… wonder what this one will be?



The pigs were a big hit!

There is so much more to share… but I guess you will just have to wait for it to air.  It will be a great aid for teachers and classrooms as well as a really fun show to watch at home.


Is Eolaí Mé is a new children’s science programme produced by Meangadh Fibín to be aired in 2016 on Cúla 4, TG4.


Voting in the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 – a post with a plea!

Voting in the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 – a post with a plea!

This blog has made it to the shortlist in the Blog Awards Ireland… Woohoo! Not so woohoo is that fact that public vote counts for 30% of the marks for this round of judging. I hate asking – but I’m asking…  if you like what you see here could you please take a minute to vote. It is very quick, and, thankfully, does not ask for emails or any personal information.

Simply click on this link (or the badge below) which brings you straight through to the Best Education and Science Blog shortlist; Scroll down and choose Dr. How’s Science Wows and then just click DONE.

And that’s it.

Click the badge to start your vote
Click the badge to start your vote

A very big thank you from Dr. How for all your support so far.

Thanks for your support
Thanks for your support
Volcanoes – a bit of science, facts and an experiment to try

Volcanoes – a bit of science, facts and an experiment to try

Who doesn’t love the volcano experiment? We will get to that in a minute, but before you go running for the vinegar and bread soda do you want to learn a little about them?

Firstly, what is a Volcano?

It is basically just a hole in the Earth’s crust. The word Volcano comes from Vulcan, the Roman God of Fire. Most volcanoes occur at weak spots in the Earth’s crust.

Scientists that study volcanoes are called Vulcanologists!

Scientists use a scale to measure the strength of volcanic eruption – it is called the Volcanic Explosive Index (VEI).

The VEI scale ranges from 0 to 8; volcanic eruptions of 8 are called super volcanoes.

photo credit: image49374 via photopin (license)
photo credit: image49374 via photopin (license)


How about a bit of history?

Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii, Italy erupted in 79 AD killing all the inhabitants of the city. Everything was covered in a thick layer of ash preserving the scene as a snapshot in time.

The last super volcano to erupt was Toba on Summatra in Indonesia, 74,000 years ago. It spewed so much volcanic ash into the air that it blotted out the Sun, causing a volcanic winter that lasted nearly six years.

Krakatoa in Indonesia erupted in 1883 spewing hot ash more than 50km into the air. The force of the explosion was heard as far away as Australia and caused a tsunami.

Ever wonder what comes out of an erupting volcano?

When a volcano erupts it spews out hot liquid rock, dust, ash, rocks and poisonous gases. Magma is hot liquid rock contained under the Earth’s surface. When magma escapes from a volcano it is called lava.

Volcanic bombs are hot lumps of molten rock shot out of a volcano when it erupts. As they shoot into the air they
cool and fall to Earth as solid rock.

Did you know… the largest volcanic bombs recorded were from the eruption of Mount Asama in Japan and were
up to six metres in diameter?

How are volcanoes classifying?

Volcanoes can be classed as…

  • active (erupt regularly)
  • dormant (have erupted within recorded history but not of late)
  • extinct (have not erupted within recorded history)

They can also be defined by their shape:

  • shield volcanoes are dome shaped
  • cinder cone volcanoes have erupted from  one single vent
  • strato or compsite volcanoes are tall with layers of magma and rock

What is Pumice?

Pumice is a type of volcanic rock, formed when frothy lava cools quickly? It is a very light rock that can float on water!

photo credit: Airfall pumice (~1065 A.D. eruption of Medicine Lake Volcano's Glass Mountain eruptive center, northern California, USA) via photopin (license)
Pumice; photo credit: Airfall pumice (~1065 A.D. eruption of Medicine Lake Volcano’s Glass Mountain eruptive center, northern California, USA) via photopin (license)

And the largest volcano is…?

The largest volcano on Earth is thought to be Tamu Massiff off the coast of Japan, and is completely contained under the Pacific Ocean.

The largest volcano in our solar system is Olympus Mons on Mars. It is slightly narrower than Tamu Massiff but has a larger overall mass.

Olympus Mons - image source NASA
Olympus Mons – image source NASA

Finally to the experiment – how to make your own volcano:

You will need: an empty jar, vinegar, bread soda, water, washing up liquid, food colouring and modelling clay

What to do: 

You will use the jar as the volcano. If you want to make it look more realistic you can cover it in modelling clay, shaping it like a volcano and let this dry overnight.

To make the volcano erupt, first add some water into the jar (about one third full). Add a big squirt of washing up liquid and a few drops of red food colouring.

Add one large tablespoon of bread soda and stir well. Place the volcano in a clear plastic basin or deep tray.

Finally add vinegar, filling to near the top of the jar. Stand back and watch the fun!

To get the volcano going again just add more vinegar and bread soda!

What is happening?

The vinegar and bread soda react to form carbon dioxide gas. This gas gets trapped in bubbles formed by the washing up liquid making the lava appear thick and foamy.

Walking on Ooblecks – add it to your bucket list

Walking on Ooblecks – add it to your bucket list

What do you get when you mix cornflour and water together? Those of you that are regulars to this blog will know by  now that you get a Non-Newtonian fluid… commonly called Ooblecks.

Cad a fhaigheann tú nuair a mheascann tú gránphlúr agus uisce le chéile? Má leanann tú an blog seo go rialta, tuigfidh tú go bhfaigheann tú sreabhán neamh-Niútanach nó ‘Ooblecks’.

What is a Non-Newtonian fluid? Well we know that most matter is either a solid, a liquid or a gas, but a Non-Newtonian fluid breaks the rules a little. Sometimes it acts like a liquid and sometimes it acts like a solid, and that can make for a LOT of fun!

Cad atá i gceist le sreabhán neamh-Niútanach? Bhuel,  tá a fhios againn go bhfuil an chuid is mó d’ábhar ina soladach, leacht nó gás ach briseann sreabhán neamh-Niútanach na rialacha beagán. Uaireannta gníomhaíonn sé mar leacht agus uaireannta eile, mar sholadach. Is féidir an-spraoi a bheith agat leis, dá bharr sin! 

If it is that much fun, why not make a huge vat of it, right? An interesting theory and one that we just had to try! Thankfully everyone over at Meangadh Fibín felt the same way. They are currently filming a fantastic new science series, for children, to be aired in 2016 on Cúla 4, TG4. The series, called Is Eolaí mé (I am a scientist) is all about exploring the curiosity of science; the what ifs? the whys? and the hows? Best of all it is full of great experiments and a real hands-on approach to science.That brings us back to the subject of ooblecks… what can you do with a huge vat of the stuff? A LOT!

Má tá an méid sin spraoi le baint as, nach mbeadh dabhach mór dhe do-chreidte spraoiúil?! Bhí orainn triail a bhaint as agus bhí gach éinne i Meangadh Fibín den tuairim céanna. Tá siad i lár scanánaíocht don sraith teilifíse eolaíochta nua do pháistí, a chraolfar i 2016 ar Cúla4 ar TG4. Is Eolaí Mé is ainm don chlár a fhiosraíonn ceisteanna móra na heolaíochta; cad má? cén fáth? conas? Tá sé lán le trialacha eolaíochta iontacha agus tá cur chuige teagmhálach aige freisin. Tógann sé sin ar ais ag Ooblecks muid… cad is féidir a dhéanamh le dabhach mór de stuif? NEART!

On Friday, in the small hours of the morning, one tonne of cornflour was mixed with a fair amount of water… using a cement mixer and a lot of time and patience.

I lár na hoíche ar an Aoine, meascadh tonna gránphlúr le méid suntasach uisce… ag úsáid meascthóir stroighne, an-chuid ama agus foighne.



The result was a trough full of Ooblecks… one metre wide, three and a half metres long and 38 cm deep.

An toradh a bhí ann ná dabhach lán le Ooblecks… méadar leathan, trí go leith méadar ar fhaid agus 38cm domhain.



Two diligent young scientists carried out some quality control testing before the crowd arrived. The crowd in question was a few hundred bemused students at Colaiste Lurgan, Inveran.

Bhí beirt eolaí óga díograiseach ann le rialú caighdeán a chur air roimh a thánaig an slua – cúpla céad macléin mearbhallach ó Choláiste Lurgan, Indreabhán.



Once we got the nod from the young science team it was time to for the fun to begin. Peadar, the shows main presenter, had a test run…

Chomh luath is a raibh an nod ón fhoireann eolaíochta óg, bhí sé in am don spraoi tosnú! Bhí rith tástála ag Peadar, atá mar láithreoir ar an gclár…



Then there was ballet, juggling, limbo, hurling and a lot more besides… all on top of the Ooblecks.

Ansin bhí ballet, lámhchleasaíocht, limbo, iománaíocht agus neart eile leis… uilig ar bharr an Ooblecks.



It wasn’t long before everyone wanted a go!

Ní fada go raibh gach éinne ag lorg deis triail a bhaint as!



As far as we are aware, this is the first time anything like this has been attempted in Ireland; it certainly caught the attention of local media and made the day’s news (Nuacht) on TG4, take a look! (It is at the 10 minute point.)

Chomh fada is atá a fhios againn, ‘sé an chéad uair gur baineadh triail as seo in Eirinn; agus tharraing sé aird na meáin áitiúla freisin – gliogáil ar (Nuacht) TG4 le tuilleadh a fheiceáil. (Ar an marc 10 nóiméad.)

It was a fantastic day with lots of surprises… if you don’t have “walking on ooblecks” on your bucket list then I strongly suggest you add it! I can now tick that box!

Lá iontach a bhí ann le an-chuid iontais… agus muna bhfuil ‘siúil ar ooblecks’ curtha le liosta do mhianta mholfainn duit é a chur leis! Is féidir liomsa tic a chur sa bhosca sin anois!



So what happens if you do sink into that much Ooblecks? You’ll have to watch the programme to find out! Is Eolaí Mé will air in early 2016.

So, cad a tharlaíonn nuair a siúlann tú ar Ooblecks? Beidh ort breathnú ar an gclár le fáil amach. Craolfar Is Eolaí Mé go luath i 2016.

Want the science bit? Ooblecks is what we call a Non Newtonian Fluid… meaning that it does not follow the laws of Newtonian Physics.  When left to rest it looks just like a regular liquid.  However when disturbed by strong hitting, shaking or pulling it acts more like a solid.  It is a phenomenon worth studying and although still a bit of an enigma, scientists think that the material normally acts as a liquid but can produce a sudden, local reaction to rapid impact and stress, reinforcing the area and briefly solidifying the suspension.

Ar mhaith leat an eolaíocht taobh thiar de idir an dá linn? Is  sreabhán neamh-Niútanach é Ooblecks, rud a chialaíonn nach leanann sé rialacha Fisic Niútanach. Nuair a fágtar socar é tá cuma leachtach air. Ach, nuair a suaithtear é tríd é a chraitheadh, a bhuaileadh nó é a tharraingt, gníomhaíonn sé cosúil le soladach. Is feiniméin é gur fiú a staidéar agus cé nach bhfuil tuiscint iomlán air, ceapann eolaíthe go gníomhaíonn an ábhar cosúil le leacht de gnáth – ach gur féidir leis frithghníomhú tobann, logánta a chothú i gcoinne brú agus imbhualadh gasta. Treisíonn sé seo an ceantar agus cothaíonn sé fuaidreán soladach gairid san ábhar.

Ooblecks takes it’s name from the green slime that fell from the skies in the Dr Seuss book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck“.

Tagann an ainm Ooblecks ón sláthach glas a thit ón spéir sa leabhar “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” le Dr. Seuss.


A huge thanks to the lovely Sadhbh over at Where Wishes Come From for translating this blog post for me. There seems to be no end to that lady’s talents!