What is Matter?

Matter, matter everywhere.

There’s matter in your hair.

Matter in the air.

There’s even matter in a pear!

There’s liquid matter, solid matter, and matter that’s a gas.

Even you are matter, because you have volume and mass!

Okay, so maybe I’m not a poet, but that’s how I describe the “stuff” we call matter. In trying to make sense of the universe, scientists have classified everything that exists into two broad categories: matter and energy. Simply stated, matter can be thought of as “stuff” and energy is “the stuff that moves stuff.”

Matter PixNow, if you take all the “stuff” in the world, you know that there are many different types. To further simplify things, matter has been broken down into three basic types, or “states of matter”: solids, liquids, and gas. (Actually there are more than three, but we’re going to concentrate on the main forms here.)

Matter can change from one state to another, which we call a “physical change.” Physical changes usually occur when heat (energy) is either added or taken away. A good example of a physical change is when an ice cube melts. It starts as a solid but when you add heat, it turns into a liquid. The cool thing about a physical change is that it can be reversed. If you take the liquid water from the melted ice and cool it down again (remove the heat), it turns back into a solid!

It turns out that heat isn’t the only type of energy that can cause a physical change in matter. In my Science Lab, you’ll see what happens when mechanical energy meets some wild and wacky “mystery matter”!

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