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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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4121 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 11:30:19 PM
I should mention - Lindsey Technical Books has put out his last catalog and it's only good until February. He reprints books on classic mechanics - steam power, lathes, trains, casting. If you've been meaning to get the Gingery books on building a machine shop from scrap, this might be your last chance. The catalog itself is fun to read.
 
2012-10-12 11:44:33 PM

Absurdity: 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.


Good stuff. Why not go the extra mile and make your own out of beets?
 
2012-10-13 12:24:13 AM

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."


1/10
 
2012-10-13 12:47:08 AM
Elitist coastal libtards know nothing of chemistry compared to REAL AMERICANS found in the meth-infested HEARTLAND!!
 
2012-10-13 12:51:27 AM
mlkshk.com

While we're at it, bring these back. Let kids learn about ballistic trajectories (and dodging) the way I did.
 
2012-10-13 12:56:40 AM
My brother had a chemistry set. I thought the centrifuge was the coolest part.

Of course the instructions say...don't mix #23 with number #49. So you know which experiment came first.

Of course, no eye protection.
 
2012-10-13 01:20:46 AM

Dudley_Nightsoil: I got a little caught up later we had a store in San Jose called the Science Shop where I was able to get Iodine crystals and I mixed them (carefully!) up in ammonia - best purple cloud explosive ever!


Is this the store you're talking about, by any chance?

/alas, closed on weekends
 
2012-10-13 01:58:15 AM

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

Let's bring this one back


2.bp.blogspot.com

I see what you did there.
 
2012-10-13 02:07:02 AM

Dear Jerk: I should mention - Lindsey Technical Books has put out his last catalog and it's only good until February. He reprints books on classic mechanics - steam power, lathes, trains, casting. If you've been meaning to get the Gingery books on building a machine shop from scrap, this might be your last chance. The catalog itself is fun to read.


Thanks! I think I just spent my christmas money.
 
2012-10-13 02:27:52 AM
Bookmark!

Way too many links to check out tonight.
 
2012-10-13 02:30:44 AM

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


Let's bring this one back


How appropriate that the kid on the box is glowing.
 
2012-10-13 07:32:38 AM

Mikey1969: Their instructions recommended testing for the presence of hydrogen with a glowing ember-luckily, they were working in a makeshift basement lab where there was nothing flammable.

You're right, it's just over-reaction by helicopter parents...

Seriously, THIS is the anecdote you choose to show how safe chemistry sets can be? Who's the retard who wrote this stupid article? I expected better from The Smithsonian.


I think that's how you test for oxygen not hydrogen.
 
2012-10-13 09:06:33 AM

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

Still have somewhere...


I had the 150 version of that!
 
2012-10-13 09:14:57 AM

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."


^THIS My teenage daughter understands this. She was outraged when she found out that her favorite language arts teacher only made $70K while the gym teacher made $100K+ America is f'd up with all of this sports worship.

FYI Can barely live on $70K in Chicago burbs
 
2012-10-13 09:18:50 AM

Absurdity: 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.


If you know anyone who teaches at a large school, that's a great opportunity. When college profs learn that one of their colleagues knows a kid who wants to learn, they're all over that. That's how I got my litmus paper when I was a kid.

As for maps, I have two recommendations:
1) An actual globe (inexpensive inflatable is fine), with NO markings on it. I think it's a critical error of early education to not SHOW kids what our world looks like as a *planet*.
2) Historial atlas. Geograhipic and historical education is often narrowly focused, in time and space. A historical atlas shows much more clearly how the human world has changed over the last several thousand years. I think it's a very valuable thing to grasp, that nations and borders are not set in stone.
 
2012-10-13 09:21:05 AM

the_sidewinder: 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


You can still buy lye. You can even buy food-grade lye.
 
2012-10-13 09:24:55 AM

xynix: 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.


I believe that was an 8" floppy, not 10. Would have been the Model II.

Kits may no longer include soldering and breadboards, but those are readily available, even from RatShak. I'm not sure where to get board components off the shelf anymore, though. RS told me they no longer sell them, and there are precious few TV and radio stores around anymore.
 
2012-10-13 09:30:55 AM

Tom_Slick: 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.


Too bad there's no kit for English.
 
2012-10-13 09:36:00 AM

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.


The maker spaces (any kind, really, not just Make-approved) are very powerful learning environments, because they leverage the one factor none of these kits were able to include: peer pressure. Really, I'm serious. A kit with a kit can learn some stuff, if they're motivated. But if they regularly associate with others who are also interested in learning and doing stuff, they'll be a lot more motivated. And it's not just that: those environments are filled with people who have knowledge they're eager to share and demonstrate, which enhances the learning aspect of it even more.
 
2012-10-13 09:49:18 AM

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 plastic bubble things was Capsela. Had a bunch of those things. And of course i had the accumilated mass of Lego from all my siblings and cousins.

Had a chemistry set as well.

Dad was a mechanical engineer and avid RC modler and pilot.

I started on a carreer path of mechanical and electrical engineering which, through a interesting series of events dropped me into the brewing industry.
 
2012-10-13 09:49:49 AM

redsquid: 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.


I think the object lesson at the end of this would be to show him how to reproduce the equivalent of the kit with $5 at the grocery store and the dollar store (if you really want the wand and other stuff). I think it's an unfortunate oversight that a lot of these kits and lessons don't draw clear connections to the world outside of themselves. When you learn that mustard gas is bleach + ammonia, you gain a new -- and healthy -- respect for the strong chemicals in your daily life, not just the ones in little labelled bottles safely stored in a box. A lot of home accidents and tragedies could be prevented by such knowledge.*

* CSS: I had a boss once who decided to clean a floor by putting some hot water and ammonia inside a cut-off bleach bottle, because he found that a handy (and cheap) container. I assumed he'd thoroughly rinsed it first, but when it started to fizz, I yelled at him to get the hell away from it. "Why?" - "You just made mustard gas!!" - "Is that bad?" (Yes, he really said that.)
 
2012-10-13 10:00:29 AM
Not sure which was scarier, the 70's chemistry set I had or Dad's Bernz-o-matic propane torch I was using to heat stuff up (and melt metals with, because that was even more fun). Sulfur, chlorine, lead, had some mercury around too... And yes, this was all in a closed basement. Good times, good times.

/can't believe I didn't burn the place down
 
2012-10-13 10:02:36 AM
Truth is, the broken glassware was probably more hazardous than the chemicals in the kit. Never rinse a hot beaker.
 
2012-10-13 10:04:11 AM

h2oincfs: rufus-t-firefly: 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.

I have a Gilbert #12026 Chemistry Experiment Lab in front of me right now; it's never been used. Picked it up from some guy whose garage I was helping clean out. I thought a friend of mine would like the case, so when he offered it to me, I said, "Sure." I couldn't believe it when I got it home and opened it up to find everything sitting there like the day it was bought.


save that for your grand kids. It will blow their mind
 
2012-10-13 12:04:13 PM

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: redsquid: 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.

I think the object lesson at the end of this would be to show him how to reproduce the equivalent of the kit with $5 at the grocery store and the dollar store (if you really want the wand and other stuff). I think it's an unfortunate oversight that a lot of these kits and lessons don't draw clear connections to the world outside of themselves. When you learn that mustard gas is bleach + ammonia, you gain a new -- and healthy -- respect for the strong chemicals in your daily life, not just the ones in little labelled bottles safely stored in a box. A lot of home accidents and tragedies could be prevented by such knowledge.*

* CSS: I had a boss once who decided to clean a floor by putting some hot water and ammonia inside a cut-off bleach bottle, because he found that a handy (and cheap) container. I assumed he'd thoroughly rinsed it first, but when it started to fizz, I yelled at him to get the hell away from it. "Why?" - "You just made mustard gas!!" - "Is that bad?" (Yes, he really said that.)


CS indeed but he made chlorine gas (nasty) not mustard gas (nasty too).
 
2012-10-13 01:17:08 PM

anfrind: Nightsoil: I got a little caught up later we had a store in San Jose called the Science Shop where I was able to get Iodine crystals and I mixed them (carefully!) up in ammonia - best purple cloud explosive ever!

Is this the store you're talking about, by any chance?

/alas, closed on weekends


I think that's it. Years ago it was off First St. by the airport. Come to think of it, I believe it was closed weekends even back then.
 
2012-10-13 01:42:29 PM
Came for the picture of the guy with the tiny giraffe, leaving disappointed
 
2012-10-13 02:08:42 PM

fo_sho!: * CSS: I had a boss once who decided to clean a floor by putting some hot water and ammonia inside a cut-off bleach bottle, because he found that a handy (and cheap) container. I assumed he'd thoroughly rinsed it first, but when it started to fizz, I yelled at him to get the hell away from it. "Why?" - "You just made mustard gas!!" - "Is that bad?" (Yes, he really said that.)

CS indeed but he made chlorine gas (nasty) not mustard gas (nasty too).


Drat, I got it wrong. Yes, indeed. I went and looked it up. Reaction products may include:
- hydrochloric acid
- bleach
- chlorine, chlorine gas
- chloramine
- hydrazine
- (table) salt
- water
WW1 vets said that chlorine gas smelled like something between pepper and pineapple, and tasted metallic. So if you smell that while cleaning, back up and think about what you've been using. If you didn't buy Glade Metallic Pepper 'n' Pineapple, you may have made some nasty stuff you shouldn't be around.
 
2012-10-13 02:12:42 PM

Sylvia_Bandersnatch: When you learn that mustard gas is bleach + ammonia,


It's bad for your lungs but it's not mustard gas. The main product of bleach + ammonia is chloramine, which is used at lower concentrations to treat drinking water.
 
2012-10-13 03:15:26 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.

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...


CSB and me too also same story, pretty much.
I know one single person younger than 28 who knows who to use a soldering iron... maybe two. -But not as common knowledge, as specialized interest. Like fixing cares once was as well.

But I guess watching 4 hours of TV when I get home and playing video games for the rest the night is better for the nation.
 
2012-10-13 03:16:01 PM

Reverend Monkeypants: Like fixing cares CARS once was as well..


Engines, whatever. FTFM
 
2012-10-14 05:15:29 PM
Set fire to magnesium on the gas cooker last weekend to demo to my daughter the incredible heat and light it produces. The wife's not happy about the cooking pincers or the state of the chopping board tho.....
 
2012-10-14 08:55:23 PM
Okay, I've been thinking about it for awhile, and this thread has put me over. I got a new soldering iron. (Someone just gave it me awhile back, actually.) I don't have a wirestand for it, so I just hammered some small nails into a large flat piece of wood, to hold it in place while I'm not using it.

I have a nightlight I'd been thinking about trying to fix. Need to spec a lamp and verify the resistor. (Common type, but bands degraded by heat over the years. I *think* it's 3K, but need to verify.) A shop in the next town over can probably spec the lamp (neon) and find a replacement; if not, I'll talk to them about alternatives.

Now then. I found my old 150-experiment electronics kit. I'm going to go through it, page by page, and try to learn something again. But this time, I also intend to go out, buy the same or similar components, and actually build some of these experiments on breadbords or the like. (I read awhile back about a cheap DIY alternative to breadboards, but don't remember what it was. I should try to find that again.) In time, I should have some practical knowledge and skills down, enough to maybe do something useful with. Wish me luck! Any tips are gratefully received.
 
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