Gummy Bear Science

Me, in LEGO form, with my next victims! Photo by Maia Weinstock

Me, in LEGO form, with my next victims! Photo by Maia Weinstock

A student of mine (at UIUC), after viewing the Gummy Bear Torture Chamber video making the rounds, asked if a gummy bear would succumb to the forces of high frequency sound waves. My curiosity was piqued so I tested it in the lab. It worked and that was the start of my crusade to use gummy bears to explain scientific concepts and how we do science.

Below each video are a few notes about concepts presented within as well as the materials used.



Looking for more ways to obliterate gummy bears in scientific ways, Joanne freezes a gummy bear in liquid nitrogen. She also soaked a gummy bear over night to demonstrate the ability of gelatin to hold large amounts of water–and then she freezes that one too.
  • Some qualities and capabilities of Liquid Nitrogen.

    Definition of a control.

    The importance of controlling for variables.

    Some uses of Liquid Nitrogen in science experimentation and research.

    How gelatin is made from collagen.

    Properties of hydrogels, manmade and natural.

    Definition of edema. 

    Two scientists involved in first making liquefied gases. 

  • 2 yellow gummy bears straight from the package

    1 yellow gummy bear soaked in tap water overnight

    Liquid Nitrogen


        Dewar 100ml

        Pyrex jar without lid


        safety goggles

        cold safe gloves

Sonicating a Gummy Bear

In response to all those videos destroying gummy bears in the most scientific manners, Joanne responds by liquefying a gummy bear with high frequency sound waves. Scientists do indeed use this technique to essentially liquefy cells (takes a lot less time) in order to study the contents for forensic or research purposes.
  • High frequency sound waves are use to destroy the integrity of cells to make a cell lysate so cell biologists can study the inner workings of a cell more closely.

    Sound waves are a physical force. 

    You shouldn’t eat in a lab!

    Detergents can break apart cell membranes. 

    Why lettuce wilts when left out at warm temperatures.

    What lysosomes do within a cell.

  • 1 red gummy bear

    1 ml distilled water

    1 4ml polypropylene test tube

    1 test tube holder


        razor blade

        Misonix sonicator with probe set at “20” 

Digesting Gummy Bears with Trypsin

Joanne demonstrates and describes the function of the protease, trypsin’s role in digestion. She also demonstrates that trypsin at physiological temperature works better than cold trypsin.
  • Enyzme types vary along the digestive tract.

    The organ from which trypsin originates is the pancreas.

    The difference between a protein, a peptide, and an amino acid. 

    Trypsin is specific to cut apart proteins after the amino acids lysine and arginine (as long as they are not followed by a proline)

    Enzymes work best at physiological temperature (37oC)

    Warm liquids dissolve a gummy bear faster than cold liquids.

    Definition of a hypothesis.

    The varying pHs across the digestive tract.

    The harsh environment of the digestive system causes cells to renew themselves every few days. 

    Controlling for variables is important in experimentation.

    The uses of trypsin in research labs: protein sequencing and removing adherent tissue culture cells from a dish.

    One use of trypsin in medicine: to dissolve blood clots

    Trypsin is used to pre-digest pre-packaged food.

    An example of a disease that involves trypsin.


  • 4 green gummy bears,

    20 mls 37oC trypsin (5x) (diluted from a 10x solution)

    20mls 4oC trypsin (5x)

    20 mls 37oC Phosphate Buffered Saline (1x)

    20mls 4oC Phosphate Buffered Saline (1x) 


    4 stir plates

    4 small stir bars

    4 50ml erlenmeyer flasks 

Gummy Bears Demonstrate Osmosis and Crystallization

In an attempt to alter a gummy bear to make it more conductive to electricity, Joanne instead finds a fun way to demonstrate the scientific concepts of osmosis and crystallization! Accidents in science are sometimes a good surprise!
  • Definition of Solution in Chemistry

    Solute, Solvent, Dissolve are terms defined

    The concepts of hypertonic and hypotonic solutions.

    Osmosis and permeable membranes.

    Crystallization can occur quickly or slowly, naturally or artificially.

    Crystallization requires a supersaturated solution, and nucleation sites.

    It also requires cooling, a chemical reaction, or a change in pH.

    Examples of crystals in nature.

    Do you want to make your own crystals? Try rock candy!  

  • 20 ml of saturated salt solution

      (the ingredients for exact recipe

        are not available to most)

    1 orange gummy bear



    drop gummy bear in beaker

    leave uncovered for several days to 2 weeks 

Determining the Density of a Gummy Bear

Joanne creates a density gradient column inspired by the one in Steve Spangler’s new book Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes to demonstrate the process of determining the density of irregular objects. First she calculates the density (or specific gravity) of a gummi bear from the known weight in grams divided by the volume in milliliters (or centimeters cubed), and then checks to see where in the column the gummi bear comes to rest. Joanne also describes how scientists use density columns to separate out objects of different densities such as organelles and blood cells. A special thanks is due to photographer Jenice Johnson for her gummi bear photo. You can see more at

Carbon based "gummy" form meets Molten Potassium Chlorate

Joanne, having not destroyed many gummy bears in the name of science lately, enlisted the help and the lab of Dan Reid, chemistry teacher extraordinaire at Champaign Central High School to destroy a few gummy bears in molten potassium chlorate (not potassium perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel). We run through the experiment twice. The orange gummy bear started reacting slowly but rewarded us with a little plume of fire from the test-tube. The red gummy bear happily reacted quite vigorously, but only after you watch Mr. Reid melt the potassium chlorate and hear how he makes fireworks for his class!

Light Absorption and Reflection

This is not Joanne’s video, but one created by The Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology (CBST) at UCSD. Using gummy bears you can explore the absorption and reflection properties of materials.