Blubber

From: Jennifer Philips (jphilips@hawaii.edu)
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 00:32:02 EDT


My daughter is doing a science project to determine how blubber insulates an
animal. It was suggested in an experiment to use shortening as her
"blubber".
After her first presentation, it was recommended that she try other types of
blubber. We used oil and bacon grease. Is there anything else we could try?
Also, what is the consistancy of blubber in an animal? From what I have seen
it is more of a solid, like shortening. Are we correct in assuming that? Any
help that you could give us would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,
                                  Bonnie Astemborski
                                  e-mail: MrsARules@aol.com

-----------------------

Bonnie,

Blubber has a consistency more like rubber, and is very much a solid -
harder and more solid than Crisco (though it has been described to taste a
lot like straight Crisco). It is kind of a unique substance, I'm having
trouble thinking of a good example that your daughter might use. You might
try neoprene (wet suit material??), or styrofoam. I assume that your
daughter's experiment will be something like testing the effectiveness of
different insulators by putting various materials on her hand and holding
her hand in a bowl of ice water. If that is the case, then Crisco has been
shown to be a good method of example for demonstrating that it is extremely
effective, compared to other insulators like basic gloves, at keeping the
hand warm. You might try to use neoprene gloves found at dive shops as an
example of blubber, though neoprene works differently than blubber. Blubber
helps to keep whales warm by acting as a conventional insulator. It is a
layer between the animal's body and the cold water which does not readily
allow the transfer of energy, so the whale is better able to keep it's heat
in the body for longer. (Neoprene works by soaking up water and keeping it
next to the body, which thus warms the soaked-up water.)

Maybe your daughter could compare different types of insulators, such as
rubber, wool, neoprene, plastic and discuss why each acts as a better (or
worse) insulator than blubber (in this case Crisco). Also, she might discuss
why some marine mammals (such as seals, sea lions, and otters) use thick
hair as an insulator, while others use blubber. Hint - hair works by
trapping air between the body and the cold water, and air is a very good
insulator. In fact, SCUBA divers today are starting to use a new kind of
dive suit called a dry suit, which works by keeping air between the diver
and the water. If you're daughter is using gloves, she might demonstrate
this effect by putting an air-filled glove on her hand and submerging it in
ice water.

I hope I've been able to help! Please write again if I can answer more
questions for you.

Jen Philips



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