wishboneIt’s that time of year when turkey will be the main course for the Holiday meal of many families. Leftovers will  make turkey sandwiches and other delicious meals for days … but what can you do with the bones? Instead of throwing them away, why not use them in a  science experiment?

All you need is a turkey bone,  a pint jar with a lid, and vinegar.

Start by removing the excess meat from the bone and thoroughly rinsing with water. Place the bone in the jar and fill the jar with vinegar. Close the jar tightly with the lid. You can experiment with more than one bone, but place each bone in a separate jar and repeat the previous steps. Let the jar sit undisturbed for three days. If the bone in use is thick then let the jar sit undisturbed for a week.

Remove the bone from the vinegar. Notice how soft and bendable the bone is now in comparison to before. The bone should be soft enough to tie into a knot.If you are using more than one bone you can tie the bones together to create different shapes of your choice. Leave the bone or bones sitting out overnight.By doing so, they will be returned to their normal hard state. If you chose to make a shape then the bones will remain in the hardened shape that you created.

Why do the bones soften in the vinegar and then harden again? Let’s get down to the science of it all!

The two main substances in bone are calcium carbonate, which gives them their strength, and collagen, a soft material for flexibility. Vinegar is an acetic acid. When calcium carbonate and acetic acid combine, a chemical reaction takes place and carbon dioxide (a gas) is released. This reaction dissolves the calcium carbonate in the bone by removing the carbon, leaving the collagen in the bone and causing the bone to soften.

Now let’s explore the science behind why the bones get harder after being left out in the open air. Calcium is still left inside of the bones. The calcium reabsorbs the carbon from the air back into the bones, causing the bones to harden again.

The takeaway from this experiment is that calcium carbonate is necessary to maintain strong, healthy bones.So drink your milk!