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Teach States of Matter
with Molecubes

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Theory

States of Matter

Learn about matter and its different states by playing the puzzle game Molecubes!

Teacher Resources

  • Theory: States of matter and a look at solids, liquids, gases, plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates.
  • Play: Students learn about matter by playing the puzzle game Molecubes.
  • Share & Discuss: These questions focus on matter and the playing experience.

Basics of Matter

  • All types of matter have 5 different forms (from coldest to warmest): Bose-Einstein condensate, solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
  • The state of a piece of matter depends on temperature and pressure.
  • Each of the elements has its own point for the changes in state. For example, water becomes ice (changes from a liquid to a solid) when the temperature reaches 0 Celsius or less.
  • Each of the states of matter behaves differently and has different properties.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Solids

  • A solid object has a persistent form and shape. They do not flow like liquids do!
  • Even very small objects, such as grains of sand or powdered flour are solids. They still hold their shape, even if they are small!
  • There are many kinds of solids, and they are generally divided into three broad classes: crystalline, noncrystalline (amorphous), and quasicrystalline. (source)
  • Examples of solids: gold, wood, sand, steel, rock, copper, aluminum foil, ice, butter.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Liquids

  • Liquid retains its volume (unless if some is lost due to vaporization or change in temperature) and its shape changes based on the container it is in.
  • As a state, liquid occurs between solid and gas.
  • Liquid can be divided into two basic categories: pure and mixtures. Virtually all of the liquids found in nature are mixtures.
  • Examples of liquids: water, milk, blood, gasoline, wine, honey, coffee, oil.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Gases

  • Gas is special in the sense that it appears to have no structure at all.
  • Unlike solids and liquids, gas fills any container it is in.
  • Heating gas is dangerous, because it expands rapidly. This is why you should never throw a gas container into a fire, even if you think it is empty.
  • Examples of gases: air, helium, water vapor, oxygen, natural gas, carbon dioxide.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Plasma

  • Plasma is superheated matter. It is often thought to be similar to gas, but the two states actually behave very differently.
  • Unlike gases, plasmas are made up of atoms in which some or all of the electrons have been stripped away and positively charged nuclei, called ions, roam freely.
  • Plasma makes up the Sun and stars, and it is the most common state of matter in the universe as a whole.
  • The plasma state has nothing to do with blood plasma. The name is just the same.
  • Examples of plasma: lightning, neon lights, plasma TVs.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Bose-Einstein Condensate

  • Bose-Einstein Condensate (or BEC) is a form of matter that is not known to occur in nature. It only happens when matter is cooled down to almost absolute zero (0 K, -273 degrees Celsius).
  • BEC is such a cold state that atoms begin clumping together in a way that does not happen with the solid state. It becomes impossible to tell the atoms apart from one another.
  • BEC has no known practical applications, because it has so far only been observed in laboratory conditions, and only in very small quantities.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Play

Lesson Goal

  • Play Molecubes! Try to complete the levels 1-12.
  • While you are playing: consider how matter is represented in-game.
  • How does the pH level of a liquid work?
  • What states of matter do you encounter?

Gameplay screenshot

How to Play

This game uses Flash. If you see the screen below when starting the game, click on the highlighted Get Adobe Flash Player icon and follow the instructions to install Flash.

Gameplay screenshot

Alternatively, your computer may already have Flash installed, but the game needs your permission to enable it. Click on Allow to run Flash and proceed to the game.

Gameplay screenshot

To start, select New Game.

If you are continuing an earlier session, click on Continue instead.

Gameplay Hints

  • Remember that you can alter the state of an object even if you're not next to the object. Just click on it!
  • If you're not sure if something works, just try. If you make a mistake, you can just try again!

Gameplay screenshot

Share & Discuss

Share & Discuss

  • What do you think of Molecubes?
  • How far along did you get?
  • Did any level give you trouble? Which one?

Tasks after Playing

  • There are three basic states of matter. What are they?
Show Notes

Solid, liquid and gas.

  • What happens to gas when it warms up?
Show Notes

It expands rapidly. This is why all kinds of gas tanks must be kept away from fire at all times.

  • The Bose-Einstein condensate is not known to occur in nature. Why?
Show Notes

It only occurs in temperatures near absolute zero (0 Kelvin / -273 Celsius). These temperatures are not known to occur in nature, only in laboratory conditions.

  • Where can you find the plasma state?
Show Notes

Lightning, neon lights, plasma TVs.