The Magnitude!

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
Richter Scale Day
April 26th!

Image Source: Adobe Stock
National Richter Scale Day – April 26

Does the
name Charles F. Richter mean anything to you? Is he your friend on Facebook or Instagram?
Is he a YouTube Star? No! Back in 1935, 86 years ago, this man developed a
mathematical way to determine the strength of earthquakes!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Charles Richter

You may have
heard the term “Richter scale”, but the official name is Richter Magnitude
scale. Charles Richter was working at the California Institute of Technology
and developed a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. Trying
to determine the strength of earthquakes is no easy task. In fact, it is extremely
complicated and requires serious math.

magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of
waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in
the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the
earthquakes. The epicenter is where the earthquake first began. On the Richter
Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions. 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
1906 San Francisco Earthquake Seismograph

example, a magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a moderate earthquake, and a
strong earthquake might be rated as magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic
basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a
tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole
number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times
more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value.

Image Source: Adobe Stock
Richter scale seismic activity diagram with shaking intensity, from moving furniture to crashing buildings.

was born in Overstock, Ohio.  He grew up with his maternal grandfather,
who moved the family to Los Angeles in 1909. After graduating from LA high
school, he attended Stanford University. 
In 1928, he began work on his PhD in theoretical physics from the
California Institute of Technology, but, before he finished it, he was offered
a position at the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

He became
fascinated with seismology (the study of earthquakes and the waves they produce
in the earth). Thereafter, he worked at the new Seismological Laboratory in
Pasadena, California under the direction of Beno Gutenberg.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Beno Gutenberg

 In 1932, Richter and Gutenberg developed a
standard scale to measure the relative sizes of earthquake sources, called the
Richter scale. In 1937, he returned to the California Institute of Technology,
where he spent the rest of his career, eventually becoming professor of
seismology in 1952.

chose to use the term “magnitude” to describe an earthquake’s
strength because of his early interest in astronomy; stargazers use the word to
describe the brightness of stars.

suggested that the scale be logarithmic so an earthquake of magnitude 7 would
be ten times stronger than a 6, a hundred times stronger than a 5, and a
thousand times stronger than a 4. (The 1989 earthquake that shook San
Francisco was magnitude 6.9.)

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Iceland Earthquake March 7, 2021 – Magnitude 5.2

Richter scale was published in 1935 and immediately became the standard measure
of earthquake intensity. Richter did not seem concerned that Gutenberg’s name
was not included at first; but in later years, after Gutenberg was already
dead, Richter began to insist for his colleague to be recognized for expanding
the scale to apply to earthquakes all over the world, not just in southern
California. Since 1935, several other magnitude scales have been developed. But
it is the Richter scale that remains the standard.

Interested in becoming a seismologist for the day? Create your own earthquake with our at-home experiment, Shaker Table. Test the magnitude of your earthquake and give it a rating from the Richter Scale!

Lesson Plan:

Exploding Colors

We offer a fun experiment called “Exploding Colors” that represents
the relationship between milk and common dish soap that can be found at your
home! Milk has fat in it and the food coloring floats on top of the fat. The
fat is all connected with bonds. Think of it like the little pieces of fat all
holding hands with each other. Dish soaps are used on greasy or oily dishes
because it breaks the bonds in fats allowing them to separate. Make sure to check
out our experiments page for the full experiment!

First, we add food coloring to milk. This does not change the
chemical reaction, but rather it allows for us to have a clear visual of what
is actually going on when the experiment is done. When you add the dish soap to
the milk, the fat separates and moves making your colors explode! As soap is
added, the soap wants to bond with the fat molecules that are found in the
milk, and it creates a beautiful reaction easily seen with addition of the food

Ice Cube Fishing & Freezing Point Depression

Sometimes, when we add a compound to water or ice, it can
change the freezing temperature of the liquid. The process of lowering the freezing
temperature of a liquid is called freezing point depression.

This is a concept that those who live in areas with very
harsh winters see in action very often. Consider a day when the temperatures
are far below freezing. For these areas, large portions of salt are typically
used to keep roads from icing and making conditions unsafe for drivers. This is
an everyday example of freezing point depression! The salt changes the temperature
at which the water freezes, and cars can continue to drive on the road safely.

At High Touch High Tech, we have an experiment called Ice
Cube Fishing that utilizes this scientific concept while creating a fun game
for children to better understand the concept. During the experiment, string is
added to a cup of ice, and salt is poured in the cup. The salt lowers the
freezing point of water causing the ice to begin to melt. As the ice melts it
becomes colder and the string freezes to the ice, making it possible to “catch”
many pieces of ice with the string.

Chlorophyll is for Smarty Plants!

What’s Chlorophyll? It is a natural chemical that makes plants green! Chlorophyll is found not only in plants but also in algae and some bacteria.

Chlorophyll has a molecular structure in which Magnesium is located at the center, and plants that contain chlorophyll are autotrophs, meaning that they are able to create the nutrients that they need internally. Chlorophyll is found in tiny organelles called chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the food producers for plants. They make the sugar and starch to give plants energy.

Chlorophyll is the molecule that allows for plants to undergo the photosynthetic process. This allow for plants to utilize light from the sun to create the necessary nutrients for continued growth and health. During this process, chlorophyll uses sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to create food energy for the plant.

Chlorophyll keeps plants green and alive! By performing our Smarty Plants experiment, found on our experiment page, you can extract or remove the chlorophyll from spinach leaves. In concluding the experiment, you will end up with a green liquid. That is chlorophyll!


The Arctic is one of the coldest environments on Earth.
Winters are long with few hours of daylight. The Inuit people must adapt to
this extreme climate. They need thick, warm clothing made from animal skins and
furs. They make boots, hats and warm jackets called anoraks. The Inuit people
build sturdy shelters to protect themselves from the harsh winds and bitter

The Inuit word for home is “igloo.” Igloos are used as quick
shelter to protect oneself and their family by trapping body heat in the mostly
enclosed space.  The size of the igloo depends
upon the size of the base, but the shelters can often hold a family inside, and
someone who is experienced in the art can create an igloo in less than two
hours! During the summer, the igloos are made from a wooden frame with animal
skins and whale bones. During the winter, however, igloos are made from blocks
of ice!

Originally, any snow used in creating the igloo was carved
out of bone, but now more modern tools are used. Inuit people carve large
blocks of dry, hard snow. First, they place a circular ring of blocks on level
ground. The second row of blocks are tilted slightly inward. As each row is
stacked, the walls grow taller, and the blocks begin to arch together. The
structure is a dome. Finally, a key block is placed on the top. The builders
cut a hole in this key block for ventilation. This hole allows air and smoke
from a fire to escape.

The entrance into the igloo is a tunnel. This prevents warm
air from escaping and cold air from entering the structure. The doorway is
small, and one must crawl inside. The blocks of ice act as insulators. There is
gradual thawing on the inner walls. But, when the people leave the igloo to go
hunting during the day, the hardened snow refreezes into ice. This thawing and
refreezing actually strengthens the blocks.

Experiment of the Day: Bird Migration

During the cold winter months, you may wear a big winter
coat, play inside more often, or even eat different foods. We change our habits
and adapt to the changes of weather, and animals do the same! There are different
species of birds that travel from cold northern locations to warmer locations
further south during winter months, this is called migration. Birds will
migrate to find more abundant food and better weather!

There are a few types of migration patterns that birds take.
Some birds are called obligate migrants, meaning that the timing of
travel is dictated by instinct. No matter the weather condition, obligate
migrant birds will fly south, because they are “obligated” to spend the winter
in the deep tropics of South America. Songbirds, raptors and shorebirds are all
obligate migrants.

The other type of migrating birds is facultative. Facultative
migrants make their migrating decisions by the slight changes in weather and
begin to migrate once the weather dips below a certain point. Unlike obligate
birds which travel to the southern tip of South America, facultative birds
migrate shorter distances, often staying within the United States.  Ducks, geese, swans, cranes, orioles, and
warblers are all facultative migrants.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, birdwatching might be a
fun new hobby for you! You can spend all four seasons observing birds, and you
may even see non-native birds on their yearly migrations!  Pick up a pair of binoculars, and utilize an
online bird seeing tracker! The eBird website allows you to find the name of
species, photos, identification tools, and their specific calls and songs!
Search the bird sightings in your local area at:

High Touch High Tech has the perfect experiment to attract
new, rare birds in your yard! Build your own bird feeder and see our
recommendations for the type of seed to attract new birds! Visit our Bird
Migration experiment at:

Bee Pollination Game

Did you know that there are over 20,000 different kinds of

Bees are pollinators and live off the nectar from plants.
These insects are attracted to the bright colors and sweet smell of flowers and
vegetables. While pollinating, each bee will collect pollen from up to one
hundred flowers!

The concept of cross-pollination is something that can be easily
understood, by noticing how bees pollinate! When the bees land on the petals,
the plants pollen sticks to their bodies. The bees move from plant to plant
carrying the pollen. The pollen is transferred to the other plants and moves
down to the plants’ eggs. Once the pollen meets the eggs, a seed is formed.
This is called fertilization. These seeds will create new plants. When a bee
pollinates multiple flowers, they often carry a bit of pollen from each flower
along with them. This cross-pollination allows for new species of flowers to develop
and bloom!

Bees also collect nectar from each flower and put it in a
special sack, called a pollen basket, attached to its hind legs. In this sack,
the nectar reacts to special enzymes. This reaction begins the process of
turning the nectar into honey. The bees bring this sugary nectar back to their
hive and pass it to another worker bee. This bee continues the job by placing
the nectar in a beeswax comb. The bees produce this wax through secretions from
the nectar. The nectar sits in the beeswax comb and slowly forms into honey. Bees
know all about teamwork, as each one will create a fraction of a teaspoon in
their lifetime.

Experiment of the Day: Chromatography Flowers

What is chromatography? Chromatography is a technique
that scientists use to help separate and identify the components of mixtures
(solvents), such as those used in making commercial inks and dyes. Many types
of ink, like many materials, are made up of two or more different substances.
By passing a mixture through a liquid, most often water, you’re able to
separate out the components of that mixture!

In High Touch High Tech’s Chromatography Flowers experiment,
we use water’s powers to assist us in chromatography. Water is sticky, meaning
that water molecules want to stay close together. Cohesion is the force
that keeps water molecules together, while adhesion attracts water
molecules to other substances. Water is pulled up the pipe cleaner using
adhesion and cohesion, and then begins to stick to our coffee filter, climbing
across the filter and spreading outwards.

Once the water reaches the coffee filter which we have drawn
on, the chromatography process begins! The water is absorbed into the ink left
by the marker and continues to climb across the coffee filter, separating the
components of the ink!

Access the full Chromatography Flowers experiment at :

Microbes and Alexander Fleming: Germ Game

Who was Alexander Fleming? Alexander Fleming was a scientist
that lived from 1881 to 1955, and he was a physician, microbiologist, and
pharmacologist. He was interested in the study of microorganisms, the
tiny little creatures you can’t see that can cause you to become sick!
Microorganisms are often called germs! There are 6 types of microorganisms:
bacteria, fungi (yeast and mold), archaea, algae, protozoa, and viruses!

To study and understand how microorganisms live and behave,
Alexander Fleming would leave bowls of bacteria cultures around his workspace.
One day in 1928, Fleming noticed that a culture plate of a bacteria called staphylococcus
had become contaminated by mold. The mold seemed to be defeating the
staph bacteria! By using his scientist observation skills, Alexander Fleming
concluded the mold contained a substance that was effective against bacteria,
and he named this substance penicillin.

Penicillin is part of a large group of medications that can
be used to fight bacteria called antibiotics. Antibiotics are very
useful in treating bacterial infections like strep throat (caused by streptococcus),
sinus infections, staph infections (staphylococcus aureus) by killing off the
bacteria causing the infection. Viruses, another type of germ, cannot be
treated with antibiotics for a few reasons; viruses are not living organisms
like bacteria, viruses replicate and reproduce cells differently, and viruses
are usually fought off by your immune system.

Doctors use vaccinations to prevent humans from getting
viruses that can make us very sick. Vaccinations take weakened forms of
diseases like polio, influenza (the flu), and measles and inject them into your
body to build up a resistance. Your immune system is your body’s defense system
that protects you from disease and helps to keep you healthy! When a
vaccination enters your body, your immune system fights it off and remembers
how to fight off the flu or polio germs that may enter your body in the future.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a virus that the world has never
seen before, and this is why it can seem so scary. This is a new virus that our
body has no resistance to, and doctors haven’t had the time to create a
vaccination to help keep us healthy. While doctors and nurses are working hard
to treat sick people with the coronavirus, there are lots of things that we can
do to help stop the spread of this new virus!

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that you
wash your hands often, especially after blowing your nose or coughing, use hand
sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and avoid touching your eyes,
nose and mouth. By touching doorknobs, desks and many other places where germs
collect, washing your hands will stop them from being introduced to your body!

To better understand how germs can be passed from person to
person, you can play High Touch High Tech’s Germ Game! By taking some glitter
and lotion, we can observe how the microorganisms we can’t see are being spread
across our world!

Want instructions on how to play the Germ Game? Visit us at:

The Fungus Among Us

What do you think of when someone talks about fungi? Often,
mushrooms are the first image to come to mind, or maybe even a corny joke about
being a fun-guy.

While mushrooms are commonly recognized as fungi, the
classification is much larger than you may think! Fungi are distinct due to
their wide variations of size, shape, color, ability to thrive in a range of
environmental conditions, and their many uses in modern day society. Fungi are
the source for many of the medications we use, like penicillin, and even found
in the foods that we eat. The yeast we use for baking bread is a single-celled
fungus, and the mushrooms we encounter on a walk outside are multi-celled

 It wasn’t until the
late sixties that fungi gained their own scientific category, separate of
plants. One of the main factors in the new classification was due to the
bacteria’s methods of “feeding”. Rather than basking in the sun to create
chlorophyll, by way of the photosynthetic process, fungi require the nutrition
found in organic matter. This makes their eating habits similar to those of