I’m back with a quick science experiment! Ever wonder why latex balloons deflate? Find out with Mr. O! You’ll need:

  • a latex balloon (about 11″ or so works well)
  • a small bottle of flavor extract
  • your nose
  • a responsible adult to help you

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill the balloon with about 1/4 to 1/3 of the flavor extract
  2. Inflate the balloon and tie it off. BE CAREFUL! If you let go of the balloon before you tie it, the flavor extract will spray everywhere! Best to let your responsible adult do this part.
  3. Once the balloon is tied, give it a shake and then smell the surface. You should smell the flavor!

As I said in the video, balloons are porous, meaning they have very small holes in them. So, air can leak out through those holes and carry very small particles of the extract with it. When we smell things, we are actually inhaling very small particles of the substance which the smell receptors and brain interpret. Basically, we’re doing a type of chemical analysis on very, very small particles.

How small? Well, look at the metric side of a ruler (the one that says, “cm”). See those little lines between the numbers? Imagine drawing 1,000,000 lines between those little ones – that is the scale of how small many of these particles are. They are what are know as nano-sized particles. The 1,000,000 lines are a nano-meter in size, one BILLIONTH of a meter. The particles would be about 30-300 of those lines in length. In other words, really, really, REALLY small.

But, and here’s what’s so cool, our noses can actually sense things that small! They are nanosensors!