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(Smithsonian Magazine)   How the obsolescence of the home chemistry set makes young scientists less safe, and why it should be brought back. Darwin looks on with growing interest   (smithsonianmag.com) divider line 133
    More: Obvious, National Museum of American History, Fields of science, buckyballs, Rachel Carson, Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical test, silent spring, polio vaccine  
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4119 clicks; posted to Geek » on 12 Oct 2012 at 3:14 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-10-12 12:50:13 PM
How hard can it be? Just play "On the loose" ten times an hour.
 
2012-10-12 01:18:56 PM
There are a couple things that I would love to teach my son but are no longer available. Of course the chemistry set but also Heath Kits that my dad used to buy for me when I was a kid. As a result of building Heath Kits I can fix just about anything electric in my house. An example would be the Samsung flatscreen I have. It had two blown capacitors causing it to not power on and I replaced them for $4 in parts. The TV shop wanted $150 to fix it.. Another would be the controller on my stove which had a blown cap and I replaced it with one from an old DVD player for free. The replacement part from Whirlpool was $185.

The only thing available that comes close is a really dumbed down snap-together electric set which teaches absolutely nothing about the parts or how to replace anything. The last chemistry set I got my son was a plastic pile of Chinese trash. It's really hard to find anything that will educate children on real-world stuff that requires hands-on work. None of the learning toys I played with as a child are available in any level of quality and not even Radio Shack has anything useful anymore. Plenty of iPhone 5s though...
 
2012-10-12 01:21:27 PM
Posting in the correct thread - how hard can it be?
 
2012-10-12 01:22:16 PM
Trying to popularize chemistry sets again can't hurt, but if you really want to make science cool again, step up and pay teachers what they are worth and stop letting gym teachers double as science teachers so they can "teach the controversy."
 
2012-10-12 01:23:33 PM

xynix: Heath Kits


If you are as well off as you always say you are, I smell a business opportunity.
 
2012-10-12 01:35:54 PM

FishyFred: xynix: Heath Kits

If you are as well off as you always say you are, I smell a business opportunity.


I wish.. that requires engaged parents. Parents that don't park their kid somewhere in order to get them out of their hair for awhile. I don't see enough of that going on now.. I see a lot of people parking their kinds in front of a computer.

Of course that's not universal .. but I don't see a huge market demand for learning toys that require parental involvement.
 
2012-10-12 01:43:00 PM
You can find stuff in the kitchen.  Tonight I'm making a volcano with vinegar and baking soda.  Tomorrow daddy and I are inventing and cooking up a powerful hallucenigenic made out of mold, frito's corn chips, and Draino that we're going to market to my friends at school as "Pony Enhancer!"
 
2012-10-12 01:49:37 PM
I used my chem set to declare war on the local ant populations.

It's amazing how many more ants you can kill with biological attacks when compared to conventional concentrated light-based weaponry.
 
2012-10-12 02:09:20 PM
Sad to see these go. Just think how much further ahead we could be in Meth technology.
 
2012-10-12 02:16:57 PM

Leeds: I used my chem set to declare war on the local ant populations.

It's amazing how many more ants you can kill with biological attacks when compared to conventional concentrated light-based weaponry.


Fuel and a match baby.. I took the nuclear option very early. Louisiana has some nasty ants.
 
2012-10-12 02:19:51 PM
I was more in to lego, meccano, and making rockets.

Yes, I am an engineer now.
 
2012-10-12 02:33:53 PM
CSB:

When I was 10, I got a chemistry set with some pretty powerful stuff in it (early 70s, you could sell shiat like that and not get sued into the Stone Age) and the first thing I did was mix two of the items it said to NEVER mix.

It puffed a huge cloud of smoke, and I freaked out and dropped the little beaker out of the set, spilling whatever it was that the reaction created into the styrofoam tray that all the vials, test tubes, etc were packed in, and completely reduced the entire "101 Experiment Master Chemistry Set" to a puddle of pink ooze, interspersed with what was left of my birthday present.

SCIENCE!!
 
2012-10-12 02:52:14 PM
There are still places to get cool and real science stuff for your kids. Hell, I still order from this place, and Mom still peruses the catalog when Christmas shopping for me.

Scientifics
 
2012-10-12 02:55:19 PM

Diogenes: There are still places to get cool and real science stuff for your kids. Hell, I still order from this place, and Mom still peruses the catalog when Christmas shopping for me.

Scientifics


Damn I love that place

/their catalog used to be our dream book
//my gang and I dedicated themselves to producing liquid rocket fuel
///amazing how many things in those old chem sets were highly flammable
 
2012-10-12 03:19:17 PM
they could use this as their home chem lab

www.motornomadics.com
 
2012-10-12 03:20:17 PM
farm4.static.flickr.com 

Still have somewhere...
 
2012-10-12 03:22:23 PM

MilesTeg: [farm4.static.flickr.com image 500x375] 

Still have somewhere...


I LOVED mine. Dad was an electrical engineer and got me started with a solid foundation. Best thing Radio Shack ever made.
 
2012-10-12 03:23:00 PM

Diogenes: MilesTeg: [farm4.static.flickr.com image 500x375] 

Still have somewhere...

I LOVED mine. Dad was an electrical engineer and got me started with a solid foundation. Best thing Radio Shack ever made.


OK, that and my Trash 80.
 
2012-10-12 03:25:07 PM

Tr0mBoNe: I was more in to lego, meccano, and making rockets.

Yes, I am an engineer now.


I could tell by the end of your first sentence. I played with lego and took apart all my toys and built new things out of them.

/engineer too
 
2012-10-12 03:27:37 PM

MilesTeg: [farm4.static.flickr.com image 500x375] 

Still have somewhere...


I have the 75 in One (looks like that one) and the 300 in One (looks way different, had an actual breadboard) 

Found a pic: cdn2.sulitstatic.com
 
2012-10-12 03:28:16 PM
Just got my daughter a snap circuit set for her fifth birthday. It is a little advanced for her, but she can already recognize the difference between series and parallel circuits. I definitely recommend it.

snapcircuits.net/

We have also done a volcano and other small experiments at home. We are planning on getting some litmus paper so she can test things around the house.

There are lots of things you can do and we are always looking for new ideas.

/Not science related, but we also picked up a world map puzzle for her just yesterday.
 
2012-10-12 03:36:42 PM
with a world map you can show people where the middle east was in a little while
 
2012-10-12 03:39:01 PM

the_sidewinder: Found a pic:


I had that exact kit as a child. Loved it.
 
2012-10-12 03:39:03 PM
I have a question for any librarians

fta:

One of the museum's librarians donated the kit; he and his brother had played with it as children. "They weren't very good with chemistry," Seeger says, which may explain the donor's career choice.

it's not clear from the article whether the emphasized portion above came from the librarian or the writer. However, I remember back in the day that I had thought about going into archival studies to work in libraries with old texts (I attended a university with one of the greatest library collections on earth). it would have required some degree of chemistry knowledge. ignorant of chemistry, I abandoned the pursuit.

so, this librarian works with artifacts... wouldn't some chemistry knowledge be helpful, if not necessary? or am I just being stupid, and nothing in this library is old enough to need proper preservation or care?
 
2012-10-12 03:46:30 PM

Absurdity: We are planning on getting some litmus paper so she can test things around the house.


You can make your own version using some paper towel and juice from certain fruits or vegetables (blueberries, red cabbage, etc).

I had a chemistry set back in the days when kids could buy potassium nitrate off the shelf in pharmacies. Good times...

And +1 to the Radio Shack electronics kits. I had the 200-in-one:
i.ebayimg.com
 
2012-10-12 03:47:51 PM
The problem with modern chemistry sets is that, through the years of idiotic media scares, they're down to about 5 or 6 ridiculously boring experiments.
 
2012-10-12 03:52:27 PM
www.otrcat.com


Let's bring this one back
 
2012-10-12 03:52:35 PM

Somaticasual: The problem with modern chemistry sets is that, through the years of idiotic media scares, they're down to about 5 or 6 ridiculously boring experiments.


THIS.

Last Christmas I bought my nephews some "chemistry sets" which turned out to contain vinegar, salt, sugar, and some food coloring. I told them they could make cucumber salad dressing if they really felt ambitious..
 
2012-10-12 04:03:07 PM

markie_farkie: Last Christmas I bought my nephews some "chemistry sets" which turned out to contain vinegar, salt, sugar, and some food coloring. I told them they could make cucumber salad dressing if they really felt ambitious..


Eih, give him some lye, rendered fat and pH test strips, teach him how to make soap

/Or is lye too dangerous these days
 
2012-10-12 04:09:38 PM

Tr0mBoNe: I was more in to lego, meccano, and making rockets.

Yes, I am an engineer now.


Lego, and the build an electric thing that was all hex plastic bubbles and drive trains and wheels.

I'm...not an engineer now. Damnit. There goes that self confidence and self image again. JERK?
 
2012-10-12 04:13:47 PM

Diogenes: Diogenes: MilesTeg: [farm4.static.flickr.com image 500x375] 

Still have somewhere...

I LOVED mine. Dad was an electrical engineer and got me started with a solid foundation. Best thing Radio Shack ever made.

OK, that and my Trash 80.


Yes to both.. Dad was a EE and got me one of those as well as a bunch of Heath Kits. My first alarm clock was a Heath Kit that I made myself. We also had a trash 80 with the 10 inch disk drive! My first game was a "star trek" simulator I wrote in Basic at the age of 9.

He also had to do a lot of board repair and he would bring me to work to help him unsolder integrated circuits and solder on new ones. By the age of 12 I could solder like a boss.

I just wish we had stuff like that for our kids today. Snapcircuits are just not the same - not even close.
 
2012-10-12 04:14:03 PM
When I was a kid in the early 60's, my folks gave me Chemcraft chemistry set. I think the box promised 50 experiments, but I only remember one and I'm sure the smell from that one still lingers in the basement of that old house. Next they gave me a lead soldier kit which allowed me to turn molten lead into World War 2 soldiers in three different poses. After that they gave me a Heath Kit that allowed me to build a tube type stereo amplifier. It wasn't until they gave me a black power pistol that I began to become suspicious that they were really trying to kill me and make it look like an accident.
 
2012-10-12 04:15:28 PM

FishyFred: step up and pay teachers what they are worth


For some teachers, this would mean much more money.
For most teachers, this would mean much less money.
 
2012-10-12 04:20:26 PM

pottie: After that they gave me a Heath Kit that allowed me to build a tube type stereo amplifier.


Ahh the joys of burning yourself with a Weller Soldering gun plugging in a homemade appliance hoping you shielded all the wires correctly and chassis of the project was not live when you flipped the metal switch.
 
2012-10-12 04:25:21 PM
My mother worked for a chemical company that sold natron (basically soda ash and some other stuff) and brought home about 30 lbs one year. I spent a couple of months practicing Egyptian mummification on fruits and vegetable and eventually some mice from the traps in the basement. Now I'm a historian.

All we're doing is teaching kids to never try anything that might possibly injure them and when they grow up they don't have any interests outside of tv and video games or know how to do anything practical.

/Mummification is totally a practical skill
 
2012-10-12 04:30:13 PM
Baking soda and vinegar only go so far.

I've got an old "Boy's Guide to Science" from the 60's that has some interesting chemistry experiments for kids, but I don't know where to get some of the things to do them.
 
2012-10-12 04:34:01 PM

Mr. Coffee Nerves: Posting in the correct thread - how hard can it be?


Maybe if you had a chemistry kit as a kid...
 
2012-10-12 04:34:27 PM
Just bought my son a 'Getting started with Arduino' kit at the Maker Faire a few weeks ago.
Since then we visited the Hoboken hackerspace, learned how to solder, and are going to make a arduino project that makes a programmable video game that attaches to a TV.

That is the new heathkit.
 
2012-10-12 04:37:06 PM

xynix: FishyFred: xynix: Heath Kits

If you are as well off as you always say you are, I smell a business opportunity.

I wish.. that requires engaged parents. Parents that don't park their kid somewhere in order to get them out of their hair for awhile. I don't see enough of that going on now.. I see a lot of people parking their kinds in front of a computer.

Of course that's not universal .. but I don't see a huge market demand for learning toys that require parental involvement.


Are you familiar with the maker movement? If you could manufacture the kits at a reasonable price and advertise them in the right places (e.g. Make Magazine), you might be able to establish a loyal customer base and make a decent profit on them.
 
2012-10-12 04:49:00 PM

ltdanman44: [www.otrcat.com image 550x547]


Let's bring this one back


Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a geiger counter, a manual, a comic book (Dagwood Splits the Atom) and a government manual "Prospecting for Uranium."

Sure, they're not sold anymore...but you can make your own.
 
2012-10-12 04:49:07 PM
Pick up Theo Gray's Mad Science: Experiments You Can do At Home - But Probably Shouldn't if you don't want to bother with neutered home chemistry sets.
 
2012-10-12 04:49:41 PM
I still have mine from the 80's. I was going to give it to my son when he is old enough, but the chemicals will be 40 years old by then and I'm not sure if any of it is worth keeping.
 
2012-10-12 04:52:59 PM

Beta Tested: Pick up Theo Gray's Mad Science: Experiments You Can do At Home - But Probably Shouldn't if you don't want to bother with neutered home chemistry sets.


I bought that a few years ago, in anticipation of my son's future science fair projects.

/MUAHAHAHAHA
 
2012-10-12 04:54:51 PM
I want one for my kid so he can create the Philosopher's Stone, or the Immortality Potion.

Which ever comes first.
 
2012-10-12 04:57:52 PM

FishyFred: Trying to popularize chemistry sets again can't hurt, but if you really want to make science cool again, step up and pay teachers what they are worth and stop letting gym teachers double as science teachers so they can "teach the controversy."


Sure, let's pay teachers what they are worth. And also make them pay what normal people pay for their healthcare (paycheck deductions and co-pays), and they can contribute to a 401k like everyone else. Also no union, and if you don't attend the teacher's convention, you don't get paid.
 
2012-10-12 05:01:39 PM
Those old sets had a "formula" for something they called kitty gas. I got a friend to make up a double batch in his basement "lab". His parents were having a big party upstairs at the time. The party ended early. The poor kid did not equate kitty to skunk.
 
2012-10-12 05:03:31 PM

kroonermanblack: Tr0mBoNe: I was more in to lego, meccano, and making rockets.

Yes, I am an engineer now.

Lego, and the build an electric thing that was all hex plastic bubbles and drive trains and wheels.

I'm...not an engineer now. Damnit. There goes that self confidence and self image again. JERK?


The toy was called Capsella. It was one of my favorites. I want to get a set for the oldest nephew but they are pricey now.

Last year my sister got him a 'chemistry' set disguised as a wizard's spell kit. It had citric acid, food coloring, baking soda, beet powder, a few plastic test tubes, a glitter filled wand and a few other items. It did very little to explain the science but gave it all a sheen of magic. After my blood pressure went back down and I stopped muttering about luddites we went outside and did the experiments while I explained what was actually happening. We had fun. Afterwards I turned it into an economics lesson by showing him that the kit came with tiny ammounts of the chemicals for a lot of money but most of them were already in the kitchen.
Legos are great but with all the specialty pieces and themed sets they seem more like model kits these days. This year he's getting a motorized erector set and the Mad Scientists Club books. It's up to me to prevent this kid from losing his imagination. Me and the old lady are not breeders so the nephews are the closest I have to a legacy. Being the cool uncle is way more fun than being the dad anyway.
 
2012-10-12 05:16:05 PM

exparrot: Just bought my son a 'Getting started with Arduino' kit at the Maker Faire a few weeks ago.
Since then we visited the Hoboken hackerspace, learned how to solder, and are going to make a arduino project that makes a programmable video game that attaches to a TV.

That is the new heathkit.


You sound like a cool parent. I wish they had Maker Faires when I was a kid. Of course I did have classic Radio Shack, which the youngsters today don't. Arduino is an awesome way to get them hooked quickly. With the short attention spans of kids today it's nice to have quick results without too much of a learning curve. It's a great time to be a geek!
 
2012-10-12 05:19:31 PM

xynix: There are a couple things that I would love to teach my son but are no longer available. Of course the chemistry set but also Heath Kits that my dad used to buy for me when I was a kid. As a result of building Heath Kits I can fix just about anything electric in my house. An example would be the Samsung flatscreen I have. It had two blown capacitors causing it to not power on and I replaced them for $4 in parts. The TV shop wanted $150 to fix it.. Another would be the controller on my stove which had a blown cap and I replaced it with one from an old DVD player for free. The replacement part from Whirlpool was $185.


My grandpa loved Heath Kits. His stereo was HK. His oscilloscope was HK. His DC to AC inverter was HK. The livingroom TV was HK. Probably half a dozen other things I don't remember.
 
2012-10-12 05:20:26 PM

redsquid: Arduino is an awesome way to get them hooked quickly. With the short attention spans of kids today it's nice to have quick results without too much of a learning curve. It's a great time to be a geek!


Kits! So many *duino kits out there

content.solarbotics.com
content.solarbotics.com 

Even Arduino compatible Stamp style controllers!
content.solarbotics.com

/I have a netduino I'm using to make a little something, eventually
 
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