Friday, November 27, 2009

FOR KIDS: The Taste of Bubbles

I imagine that many of us have pondered the age old question: What does fizz taste like? Well, scientists have long wondered how we taste bubbles. It was previously believed thought that the taste of bubbles came from the bubbles bursting on the tongue. Charles Zuker, a neurologist, at Columbia University in New York conducted an experiment with 5 different mice to determine exactly if the previous theory was true. The mice were genetically engineered to be missing one taste sensation. When the carbon dioxide gas was given to the mice, the nervous system of the rodents in 4 mice responded to carbon dioxide. But for the mice that could not taste sour, their systems did not show any sign of tasting carbon dioxide. It was discovered that when the sour taste was turned off, the ability to taste carbon dioxide was also turned off. Bottom line - So when a mouse or person drinks a fizzy drink, there's a one-two punch. First, the protein knocks off protons. Second, the protons stimulate the sour-sensing cells - and the brain says, "Hey! That's a taste!"

Lesson Uses: Introduce the lesson by having students dip one end of a Q-Tip in solutions of salt, sugar, lemon, and baking soda, one substance after another, and having students taste each. After each students has tasted the liquid, the students describe the flavors. Ask the students to explain what helps them taste the different tastes that were in the solutions. The students relate each taste to foods that have similar tastes making a list to be used later.

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