The elder Free-Ride offspring is lobbying to try an experiment this weekend. The working title of the protocol is “homemade soda*” but I suspect it may be described differently in the final report.
Dr. Free-Ride: Tell me about the experiment that you proposed to your teacher.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: I’ll mix four cups of baking soda and vinegar and put each in its own bucket to keep the bubbles from spilling over, and take what remains in the cup and add fruit juice to it, and taste it, and if it’s not sweet enough add sugar to it, and then pass it off as soda!
Dr. Free-Ride: Tell me more about the “what remains in the cup” part of your plan.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: The liquid from mixing the baking soda and the vinegar after all the bubbles go out?
Dr. Free-Ride: I know I don’t let you drink soda very often, but what’s one of the defining characteristics of soda when you open it and drink it?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: It bubbles over.
Dr. Free-Ride: If you open it and pour it carefully, it shouldn’t bubble over.
Elder Free-Ride offspring: There are bubbles in it.
Dr. Free-Ride: So, do you think vinegar and baking soda together are going to taste like soda? Or are they just going to give the visual appearance of soda?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: They’re going to give the appearance, but that’s why we’re adding the fruit juice and the sugar.
Dr. Free-Ride: You think that will taste … adequate?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Mmm-hmm.
Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know how they normally make soda water bubbly?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: By adding carbon dioxide to it.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes. So we’re talking about dissolving a gas in the water versus here, you’re proposing mixing a weak acid and a weak base in the water. What happens when you mix an acid and a base?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: A chemical reaction happens.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, I know. Do you know what the products of that chemical reaction are?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Well … a solution, I think, and sometimes, a salt.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, a dissolved salt. And it’s true that cans of soda will list their sodium content — they do have dissolved salts in them. I guess the question is whether the stuff that bubbles out when you mix the vinegar and the baking soda — whether the reaction leaves enough gas dissolved in the solution, or whether it just gives the appearance of gas (while it’s reacting).
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Well, I want to try it this weekend and do a taste-test.
Dr. Free-Ride: And your teacher said this was a good idea?
Elder Free-Ride offspring: Well, she said it would be edible but it probably wouldn’t taste good, and that she encouraged me to try it.
Dr. Free-Ride: I guess you should, then.
I’m going to make sure we have some carbon dioxide chargers handy so we can try more traditional methods, too. Also, some towels in case of spit-takes.
*I guess this means the California vernacular term for a carbonated beverage is “soda”. You should feel free to substitute your own local term (pop, soda pop, seltzer, Coke, etc.) when you try this experiment and home and notice that the resulting solution is nothing like [local vernacular term for carbonated beverage].