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  • SCI's Big Blast 2020: Meet Our Emcee

    Let us introduce you to our SCI's Big Blast Virtual Gala emcee: Charlie Wittmack!

    Charlie literally grew up in the halls of the Science Center of Iowa. He attended preschool at SCI, where he and his classmates explored Greenwood forest and counted stars in the planetarium. During elementary school, he participated in our summer camps, which included building rockets and wiring circuits. By middle school, we were teaching Charlie how to build robots and use lasers to make holograms.

    As with all of our graduates and students, these experiences instilled a sense of curiosity in Charlie, which he has spent the rest of his life exploring. Charlie has stood on the summit of Everest and swum the English Channel - and is the only American to have done both. He has sailed the Indian Ocean in a handmade boat and tracked the zebra migration across East Africa with the Maasai tribesmen. He has traced the footsteps of Shackleton in Antarctica and ridden his bicycle more than 7500 miles along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia.

    Charlie leverages many of his expeditions to complete a variety of humanitarian projects. For the past seven years, he has been working to build a model for delivering cancer care to the underserved in Tanzania. He has previously developed projects focused on improving maternal health in Nepal and pediatric cardiology in Ethiopia. He has contributed to three medical research papers on human physiology at extreme elevations.

    Today, we are proud to have Charlie back in Des Moines, where he is raising his three children as he was raised, in the halls of the Science Center of Iowa.

  • Cloud in a Bottle

    Where do clouds come from? How are they made? What are the made of? Check out this video of one of our favorite science demonstrations – the Cloud in a Bottle - and learn how to make your own using the instructions below!


    • 2-liter bottle 
    • Rubbing alcohol 
    • Bicycle pump with rubber stopper (cork works, too) 


    • Fill the 2-liter bottle with about half cup of rubbing alcohol 
    • Wait three minutes for the alcohol to evaporate a little 
    • Insert the rubber stopper into the top of the bottle and pump until you can hardly hold the stopper in the bottle top! 
    • Remove the stopper from the bottle to see what happens! 

    What's going on?

    What did you see happen when the rubber stopper was removed? What did you hear? 

    You probably saw what looks like a cloud instantly form inside the bottle, and you probably heard a loud rush of air as well.  

    Clouds form when individual gas molecules stick together to form tiny liquid droplets. These droplets usually form around some sort of particulate matter, like a small piece of dust. When huge groups of these liquid droplets come together and float, they form a cloud.  

    The clouds in our sky are made of water, but the cloud in the bottle is made of alcohol. The reason we use alcohol is because it evaporates (or turns from liquid to vapor) much more quickly than water.  

    When air is forced into the bottle using the bike pump, the pressure of the gas dramatically increases. As the gas molecules are forced closer together, the temperature increases as well, allowing the air to fit more vapor particles. Once air rushes out, the pressure and temperature dramatically decrease. This change in temperature and pressure forces the vapors to condense into liquid droplets, which creates a visible cloud.  

    How long does it take for the cloud to disperse? What happens to the cloud when you insert the rubber stopper and pump more air back into the bottle? 

    FUN FACT: While Earth’s clouds are made mostly of water, clouds on Jupiter are made of ammonia and methane! What else could clouds be made of?