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Bendable Bones

With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to do an experiment with a turkey. I have read that Ben Franklin used live turkeys in several of his electrical experiments, I won't go that far. Instead, I thought we would revive an old but "classic" experiment that you can try with the leftover bones.

For this experiment, you will need:

  • one or more bones from a cooked turkey or chicken. These can be leg bones, 
wing bones, or best of all, the wishbone. The thinner the bone is, the faster the experiment will work.
  • a jar with a tight sealing lid. The jar should be big enough to hold the bone.
  • vinegar

First, remove all the meat from the bone. The easiest way to do this is to cook the turkey and then eat the meat from the bone. Remove any small bits of meat or gristle from the bone and wash it. Then place the it in the jar and fill the jar with vinegar. Put the lid on the jar and wait a week. About the time you finish eating turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey with rice, etc., your bone should be done. You can put several bones into the jar, but this will slow things down a bit.

After a week, remove the bone and rinse it well. Try bending it. If you used a thin bone, it should bend easily. If the bone is thicker, you will probably need to refill the jar with fresh vinegar and wait another week. Large turkey legs can take over a month, so it is usually best to try a thin bone.

What happened?

Bones are mostly made up of calcium phosphate and collagen. Calcium phosphate is very hard, but collagen is very tough and flexible. The combination makes bones very strong. Vinegar is a dilute form of acetic acid, which will dissolve the calcium phosphate. The collagen is left behind, giving you a flexible bone that you may be able to tie in a knot. If you used the wishbone, you are now ready to find a friend and watch their surprise when they try to make a wish.