Basic science: understanding experiments
Basic science: understanding experiments

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Basic science: understanding experiments

Week 3: Sugar, yeast and life


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Hello and welcome to Week 3. Over the last two weeks you've investigated the physical properties of some materials, both solid and liquids. And you've also investigated how water can move through a cell wall, which showed us one of the molecular properties.
This week your simple experiment is going to look at something more complicated, something biological. You're going to do an experiment using a living organism and investigate the conditions under which that organism grows the best. We're going to investigate the growth of yeast, the substance responsible for making bread rise and turning water into beer.
Yeast is an organism called a fungi and it sits in the same group of living things as mushrooms, toad stools, and moulds, and obviously it's hugely important to humans. By looking at the growth of yeast you will learn about how to control an experiment, and about the biological process called respiration. This is when living things consume food to grow.
We look forward to you joining the discussion about your experimental results in the forums.
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Welcome to Week 3. This week, you will be conducting experiments using living organisms. You might be wondering if you need special licences or ethics committee approval, but as the organisms involved are only single-celled fungi, you don’t need to worry. This week, you will be experimenting on yeasts.

As single-celled organisms, yeasts are tiny; only a few, to a few tens, of micrometres (10-6 m) across. Yet despite their size, they have had a huge impact on our culture, having been used for thousands of years in the manufacture of leavened bread, beer and wine (although some of us think it reached its culinary peak in the manufacture of Marmite).

The uses we have put yeasts to might seem trivial, but for many centuries throughout the history of human culture, water supplies were often unsafe to drink, due to the presence of pathogens. It was often the case that the only safe beverage to drink was beer or wine, so the use of yeasts has been pivotal in lowering mortality rates.

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