Backpack Science with Ken Finn: Your Dear Old Mummy

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Backpack Science

Backpack Science is a summer series of easy at-home experiments geek dads can perform with their kids while school’s out. It is written by (San Francisco) Exploratorium science educator Ken Finn. This article is #4; you can find the whole series here.

Your Dear Old Mummy

Mummies are never a boring subject. They’re fascinating, shriveled examples of their former selves and look absolutely ancient. The experiment below gives dads and their kids the opportunity to make a mummy of their own. This one will take some time — so it teaches patience — but is well worth it. After you’ve perfected the hot dog mummy, try something more challenging, like a fish. If the fish still has guts, be sure to remove them first (and, of course, perform the proper ceremony before beginning).

What you’ll need:

  • hot dog
  • scale
  • ruler
  • string
  • plastic box a bit bigger than the hot dog
  • baking soda

How it’s done:

  1. YDOM_stringAncient Egyptians mummified mostly famous folks, so pick a royal name for your hot dog. Set Empress Pupemhotep on a kitchen scale to get her weight. Use a ruler to measure her length, and a 3-inch- (7.5-cm-) long string to measure her diameter. Record the figures in a notebook.
  2. YDOM_baking_sodaFill a plastic box a bit bigger than the hot dog with 2 inches (5 cm) of baking soda, and put on the box’s lid. Stick the box in a cabinet for a week. Unearth the hot dog, remeasure it, and record the stats.
  3. Repowder it, store it for 10 more days, then dig it up and measure again. The baking soda has sucked out water and stopped rot, or bacterial growth, and the mummy is now yours for eternity.

Your Dear Old Mummy (images included), excerpted with permission from Exploralab, 2013, published by Weldon Owen © Exploratorium, All Rights Reserved.

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