Doing science and playing are synonyms for chemist Jos van den Broek

Jos van den Broek is a 70-year-old boy for whom Vanish Oxi Action is something other than bleach. Van den Oxy Action is a source of oxygen for Van den Broek. He explains that it contains peroxide, and with a little acid it releases it. And he needs oxygen for his experiments. To see if he could make a candle burn longer under a bell jar, or to prove that oxygen is the substance that makes an apple brown (and vitamin C is the substance that prevents browning). Those tests and much more can be found in his latest book curious to the bones.

Jos van den Broek is one of the pioneers of science journalism. He wrote for many media throughout his career, including WafaaHe was the editor-in-chief of several magazines, including Bionieuws On nature and technology. Engaged in scientific communication throughout his career, he was a pioneer in the field and a professor at Leiden University until his retirement in 2016.

science practice playing

Van den Broek not only communicates about science, but also manipulates it. He did this all his life, in the kitchen, in the attic, in the garden and in the fresh air. Science and play are synonymous with this alchemist. This is exactly what he showed in his last book. Van den Broek previously compiled Home Garden and Kitchen Experiments (along with Anne Schulp), but this new book is different; It’s a selfie of someone celebrating the flag, with bubbling potions and rotting corpses he found in the sand dunes.

book message? “Keep on wondering, and above all keep playing, that’s the most important thing,” says Van den Broek. “Kids have it. And you can drive them crazy with fun science. If I find a piece of mammoth bone on the beach, I take it to school. Kids can feel it. And they’ll ask questions about it. I don’t come up with ready-made answers. We’ll look for it together.”

Because van den Broek still knows. No longer at university, but in some primary schools and on weekends, in Amsterdam and Lelystad. For example, students took the test with a lemon that lights an LED. The standard specimen, Van den Broek says, is very boring in its natural form. Because then you push two electrodes into that lemon, connect it to the light, and then it turns off. It could be much nicer. Thus he made the children discover first that the electrodes must be made of different materials, and no two can be made of the same thing. Then they learn that lemon is not very necessary. You can replace it with something else. You can also use cardboard soaked in vinegar.

Well, why are bananas crooked then?

Flag party. And this party, according to Van den Broek, is often spoiled by lazy parents. Parents who reject their children’s questions by saying: Why, why? Why crooked bananas?

Well, Van de Broek writes, Why do these bananas bend? By gravity! The flower of a heavy tree droops due to gravity, but the fruits want to go into the light and grow upward. This is why bananas serpentine!

What about the roots of that tree? “Good question lazy parents, I’m already starting to learn.”

pigments in urine and feces

In his own kitchen, Van den Broek is trying to figure out the best solution for coloring flowers, whether you can make fat out of all oils (yes, that’s possible), how much olive oil can absorb into hair (a lot), which dye can be found in your urine and which of them in your tube, and whether you can turn plastic bottles into their staples.

Entertaining and educational experiences are interspersed with reflections on the frontiers of science, the great creative minds, and the quality of scientific research and media reporting on science. Precious book.


Jos van den Broek, Curious to the core. Taste the home garden and kitchen to stimulate your mind, published by Noordboek, 224 pages, €19.90. Available in stores starting June 15th.

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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