PLASTIC MILK

    WHAT YOU NEED
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • Small saucepan
    • Measuring spoons
    • White vinegar
    • Clean, empty glass jar
    • Wax paper

    WHAT TO DO
    Pour the milk into the saucepan, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar, and heat, stirring frequently. The milk will boil, then form tiny lumps (curds) in a clear liquid (whey). Slowly pour off the liquid from the pot into the sink. Then spoon the curds into the jar.

    Add 1 teaspoon vinegar to the curds, and let the mixture stand for one to two hours. The curds will form a yellowish glob at the bottom of a clear liquid. The glob is actually fat, minerals, and the protein casein. Pour out the liquid, remove the rubbery yellow glob from the jar, wash the glob with water, and knead it until it attains the consistency of dough.

    Mold the plastic into any shape you wish, then place it on the wax paper. Let dry overnight.

    WHAT HAPPENS
    The casein from the milk hardens into plastic that can be painted with acrylic paints.

    WHY IT WORKS
    The combination of heat and acetic acid precipitates the casein, an ingredient used to make plastic, from the milk.

    BIZARRE FACTS

    • The Japanese have developed a low-cost, biodegradable plastic made from shrimp shells by combining chitin—an extract from the shells that is also found in human fingernails—with silicon. The resulting "chitosan" is stronger than petroleum-based plastics, decomposes in soil, and acts as a fertilizer.
    • In 1929, the Borden Company purchased the Casein Company of America, the leading manufacturer of glues made from casein, a milk by-product. Three years later, Borden introduced its first nonfood consumer product, Casco Glue.
    • You can make glue from milk by simply adding 1/3 cup of vinegar to 1 cup of milk in a wide-mouthed jar. When the milk separates into curds and whey, pour off the liquid and wash it away. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. When the bubbling stops, you've got glue.
    • Cheese is made from curds. White glue is made from the casein of the curds.
    • Twelve or more cows are called a flink.
    • Before scientists discovered how to synthesize plastics from petroleum products, plants and animal fats were used to make natural plastics, which eventually decompose.
    • Biodegradable plastic is made by adding starch to the plastic. Bacteria then feed on the buried plastic.
    • In surgery, stitches are now made using plastics that slowly dissolve in body fluids.
    • The Sanskrit word for war means "desire for more cows."
    • There are more plastic flamingos in America than real ones.
    • Cow's milk is 87 percent water.
    • In Arctic regions, people get milk from reindeer.
    • In Peru and Bolivia, people drink llama's milk.
    • Twenty-four percent of all Americans drink milk with dinner.
    • The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.
    • Ben and Jerry's sends the waste from making ice cream to local pig farmers to use as feed. Pigs love it, except for one flavor: Mint Oreo.
    • On May 23, 1992, Ashrita Furman of Jamaica, New York, walked 61 miles with a full pint bottle of milk balanced on his head.

    JUST ONE WORD
    In the 1967 movie The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, during a party in his parents' home to celebrate his college graduation, Benjamin Braddock is steered into the backyard by a concerned friend of his parents.

    Mr. McQuire: Ben, I want to say one word to you—just one word.

    Benjamin: Yes, sir.

    Mr. McQuire: Are you listening?

    Benjamin: Yes I am.

    Mr. McQuire: (gravely) Plastics.

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WARNING: A responsible adult should supervise any young reader who conducts these experiments to avoid potential dangers and injuries. The author has conducted every experiment and has made every reasonable effort to ensure that the experiments are safe when conducted as instructed; however, the author does not assume any liability for damage caused or injury sustained from conducting these projects.

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