Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Great Fun For Kids - The History And Science Behind The Silliest Of All Putties

Since the 1960s, children have been playing with an amazing substance which was discovered by accident during the second world war. It was created by Scotland's James Wright, who was desperately trying to find an alternative to rubber after the Japanese had invaded most of the countries which exported rubber to the UK.

What Wright ended up with was a stretchy goo which bounced and stretched with a high melting temperature. This was all well and good, but it was never going to be strong enough to be used for tires or boot treads.

At the end of the war a marketing consultant called Peter Hodgson from a successful toy company of the time met with Wright to discuss turning his failed rubber into a toy. A contract was signed, and Hodgson borrowed the princely sum of $140 to begin production. Soon 'silly putty' was born!

Putty was sold in plastic eggs for $1, each egg containing a 1oz lump. Food coloring was added to make putty of all different colors and slowly sales began to increase. in the late 1960s the product took off, quite literally! Apollo 8 crew members took an egg of silly putty into space to see if the substance would bounce even higher which it did. Since these humble beginnings, millions of silly putty eggs have been sold all over the world.

In the 1990s crayon makers Crayola purchased the silly putty brand name and started production on 20,000 eggs a day. The substance has had a number of different names over the years including potty putty and fun putty. These days the putty comes in every color imaginable and for some reason is sold in slightly smaller amounts 0.47oz lumps.

Silly putty is made from mainly dimethyl siloxane, sillica, and thixatrol along with a few other chemicals. The modern ingredients are similar to the ones used by Wright back in the 1950s. Today the mixture is more refined, and is slightly easier to get out of your hair!

Children who want to make their own need not be put off by the exotic list of ingredients. It is apparently possible to make your own silly putty, although you have to very accurate when measuring out the various components. A little bit too much of this, or too little of that and the whole thing turns into slime. This is of course a real bonus to some children scientists!

If you want it to bounce properly, mix 7floz of water with 2tbsp of PVA glue along with a small amount of your chosen food coloring. Then mix 20ml of water with 5ml of borax powder. (this can be bought at chemists). Mix the whole lot together until it begins to feel more solid. You should then be able to fish out a lump which, if you've done it right, will be cold and slightly squashy.

Whether you make it or buy it, anyone between the ages of 5 and 12 is likely to get a great deal of pleasure out of playing with silly putty. It can be rolled and molded, cut into shapes and letters, used for modern artwork pieces and most importantly bounced.



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