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Television Media It's funny.  Laugh. Idle Science

Web Videos Show Off the Wonders of Chemistry 93

Posted by Zonk
from the it-started-explodey-and-got-explodier dept.
Timmy writes "Wired Science has picked ten of the best videos from YouTube and their own show on PBS to highlight the wonderful things chemistry can do. Only four of them involve fire or explosions. The rest range from music videos about the polymerase chain reaction to reactions that repeatedly change color. One shows how to pour sodium acetate stalagmites. Another shows Chris Hardwick giving instructions for building a glow stick while making absurd comments."
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Web Videos Show Off the Wonders of Chemistry

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  • And some chemistry videos [youtube.com] are just scams (^_^)
  • If you can't get your hands on some of those chemicals at your local pharmacy, diet coke and mentos always works.
    • Most things are accessible if you're creative enough. The benign stuff you can just buy outright from a chemical supply store. Now that the interwebs are available to the unwashed masses, the nasty stuff can be improvised.

      My friends' 10-year old daughter was complaining recently about inaccessible chemicals interfering with her science fair project. (She wanted sulphuric acid - Her mom insisted on lemon juice because she "didn't want to be put on a list"). Her mom complained (half-heartedly - mostly in
      • On a related note, the first time I tried to swipe gasoline by storing it in a Styrofoam Sonic cup was messy, but an open door into a whole new kind of fun.
        Oh yeah been there before. For me the big problem occurred when I set an entire table on fire in the shed when the old man wasn't home. Ah to be young again, such joys were had.

        I'm curious though, what school the 10 year old goes to. Want to start sending my siblings-children there!
        • by gnick (1211984) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:12AM (#22620980) Homepage

          For me the big problem occurred when I set an entire table on fire in the shed when the old man wasn't home.
          For me, one of the most memorable (certainly not the most dangerous or biggest injury inflicted, just memorable) was when my parents were gone and I managed to set fire to the surface of a large jarred candle. Mind you, once all of the wax in a candle is melted and the surface has actually caught fire, water is a bad idea. The wax boils and begins shooting flaming wax balls out. Then the glass shatters. Major bummer and hard to explain when the parents notice the huge charred area on the porch.

          I'm curious though, what school the 10 year old goes to.
          Los Alamos, NM has a very unique school district. I'm actually torn between moving away and furthering my career or stagnating the career, staying, and viewing it up as an investment parallel to private-school...
          • by AndGodSed (968378)
            I read "Bringing Up Boys" a while back, and right of the bat there were some amusing tales of what boys in particular get up to.

            Now ad science to this mix - and my son who is now 9months old...

            Why, we CAN experience our childhood adventures all over.

            "Honey, I am NOT just messing around... this stuff is important... yes I know he's only nine months old... well by the time he is old enough I'll want to have had this sorted out no problem..."

            And why do only four of those experiments explode?

            MORE 'SPLOSIONS!
          • For me, one of the most memorable (certainly not the most dangerous or biggest injury inflicted, just memorable) was when my parents were gone and I managed to set fire to the surface of a large jarred candle. Mind you, once all of the wax in a candle is melted and the surface has actually caught fire, water is a bad idea. The wax boils and begins shooting flaming wax balls out. Then the glass shatters. Major bummer and hard to explain when the parents notice the huge charred area on the porch.

            I did this e

            • by gnick (1211984)
              It seems fairly clear in retrospect:
              1) Water sinks o bottom of jar full of molten wax
              2) Water boils
              3) Big problems

              The problem is, how do I warn my sons about these kinds of risks without encouraging them to do stuff equally as stupid?

              Unfortunately, based on my antics and similar antics that I've since learned about my dad pulling in his youth, I think I'm doomed...
    • They put my family back together :-).

      http://xkcd.com/346/ [xkcd.com]
  • by Datamonstar (845886) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:22AM (#22620682)
    .... tells you right out how many include fire and/or explosions. That's the sort of data a geek REALLY needs.
  • Other wonders. (Score:5, Interesting)

    What discussion of the wonders of chemistry would be complete without a mention of these nifty advances in the "better living through chemicals" department:
    • Or the consequences [washingtonpost.com] of these wonders, which all home chemists need to consider before trying to make them or anything else.
    • Well Alexander Shulgin [wikipedia.org] devoted a large chunk of his life to researching "better living through chemistry", he even took the trouble of publishing hundreds of his chemical recipies and the results of his initial taste-tests (he was his own guinea pig) in two books PIHKAL [erowid.org] and TIHKAL [erowid.org] to ensure that the government could never censor his work. He's the sort of inspirational individual that would make me want to take a couple of years out to do a second degree in chemistry.
  • by MacDork (560499) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:23AM (#22620692) Journal
    Too bad the youtube version of this video [google.com] requires you to log in and be over 18...
  • HIGHSCHOOL CHEM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kevmatic (1133523) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:23AM (#22620696)
    My high school chemistry teacher did the gummy bear combustion thing. Filled the entire room with smoke.

    He also did the color-change chemical thing. Its freaky to see in real life.

    Ever see the mythbusters about the coke and Mentos? At the end they make giant exploding bubble foam. We did that too.

    Man, I loved my chemistry teacher. He probably only got away with all that shit is because he retired that year.
    • by MacDork (560499)
      One of my favorite demonstrations in high school was the electrified pickle. [google.com]
    • by Angostura (703910)
      The colour change one is actually much more interesting if carried out right. Around 1980 when I was doing my A level chemistry, I found a Scientific American article about these reversible reactions, and took it in for the chemistry teacher to see.

      More interesting that stirring a beaker, is to mix the ingredients in a shallow glass tray. The reaction starts spontaneously at several point and then concentric waves of colour radiate out from these points, interacting with each other. It's rather like watchin
  • by gnick (1211984) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:23AM (#22620704) Homepage

    ...a clear victory for thermite...
    May the gods smile upon whoever decided to combine aluminum and rust. But, this was posted on Sunday so I have to wait all the way until next weekend to spark anything up... =(
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      Try this dude's page of Chemical Mishaps [destructve.com]. Some pretty amusing reading...
      • by gnick (1211984)
        I can speak from experience as to the authenticity of his acetone-peroxide mishap.

        Peroxide:Beauty shop - Some funny looks since a kid with a shaved head wanted what they considered hair-bleach, but that didn't prevent the sale. FYI, beauty shops sell peroxide in higher concentrations than pharmacies.
        Acetone:Hardware store - Duh.
        Strong acid catalyst:School chem cabinet - Sulphuric. The locker had solid double locks, but easily removable hinges.

        Gave the baby-sitter a heckuva story.
    • A friend of mine likes to tell the story of how when he was in high school chemistry, he did a little bit of studying of the periodic chart and found a variation of thermite that was much worse. With the instructor's approval, they made up about a teaspoon of the stuff. Then, the instructor (who really should have known better) put it on a lab bench on an asbestos pad and lit it off. Not only did it scorch the bench, it scorched the ceiling! And no, I'm not going to tell you what they substituted for th
      • I like to tell the story of when I was in college and banged every chick in my dorm building.

        It's kind of like your friend's story, except true.
        • No, my friend's story is true. There are several reasons this concoction isn't used, and the toxicity of the byproducts is only one.
          • by gnick (1211984)
            The story's interesting - Its authenticity, IMHO, is unimportant. I'm sure that there are better metal-oxides to combine with aluminum powder to make thermite - Ferrous oxide (rust) is the most convenient, but any metal compound that provides a sufficient amount of oxygen for the aluminum to burn oughtta work. I'm curious - Sure you don't wanna share details? What's the worst that could happen?
            • Sure, I'll share, but only by telling you how he worked it out. He noticed that the reaction heat went up as the atomic weight of the oxide did, and looked at the next element in the same family as iron.
      • by Cyberax (705495)
        There's nothing complex about it, you can create more powerful thermite mixes with additional oxidizers (like potassium permanganate or potassium nitrate). They are described in a lot of chemical literature, there's nothing secret in it.

        Of course, all this stuff is incredibly dangerous - it can burn through almost ANYTHING.
        • No additional oxidizers. Just powdered aluminum and yrnq bkvqr. Nothing else.
          • by Cyberax (705495)
            Makes sense, they are almost on the opposite sides of the reactivity series.
          • by pirho666 (153073)
            Yeah, but osmium tetraoxide melts at a much lower temperature as well, so the reaction will rapidly become a nice sludge, thereby also increasing the rate. Osmium will make you go blind though, but that is almost like winning a darwin award, so be sure to try it at home kids.
  • by neapolitan (1100101) * on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:25AM (#22620718)
    From TFV:

    "Adding something cold to thermite doesn't cancel it out, it just makes it angry."

    Wow, just wow. We've talked about this kind of thing before in the context of CSI and Mythbusters.

    I really wish that popular science shows would at least attempt to bring some education into the mix. I am not against blurring of education and entertainment, but the videos presented are simply bad entertainment. Why not give an elementary discussion of 'heat capacity' or energy that is associated with phase transitions, etc? It would still give the explosion of thermite and provide a small education.

    Does anybody remember the old PBS series "3-2-1 contact" or "Square One?" It had education plus entertainment in a nice combination IMHO. What I would like to see is a Mythbusters-type show where they try to predict things *first* with introduction to physics / chemistry concepts, and then test their findings (with explosions and the hilarious consequences.) They do this a bit with their *Warning Science Content* segments, but it could be made a bit more rigorous.

    Yes, I know the arguments that this is making kids "interested in science," but true research / science is very little about explosions, and these shows are, in my experience, not making kids interested in the rigor or reality of scientific reasoning. The question regarding thermite was proposed by a 30+ year old man!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      Why not give an elementary discussion of 'heat capacity' or energy that is associated with phase transitions, etc?

      you know, it's important to know concepts important to thermodynamics although it's infinitely more important and useful to understand the scientific method its self. The facts and theories are the result of the scientific method and would be pretty much unthinkable without it. knowing that we know something is not as important as knowing HOW we know something. It's always been something tha

      • The facts and theories are the result of the scientific method and would be pretty much unthinkable without it.

        Yeah.

        Kinda. Depends on what you define the scientific method to be. [I'm reiterating a point made previously (http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=466370&cid=22553660 [slashdot.org])]. New scientific knowledge (and let's not go out on a cartesian limb here) is the product of two major components, one of them being being the design and execution of experiments combined with peer review.

        The other is

        • getting the idea in the first place doesn't have a method but testing that idea does. I would argue that the single most important difference between the time our technology advanced exponentially and the dark ages is the scientific method. People always had ideas- tons of them and no real method to test them. once they figured out how to evaluate claims they could make true use of these ideas. without ideas there is nothing, without the scientific method there may as well have been nothing.
        • by PitaBred (632671)
          Did you ever consider that when you're looking at very similar shapes and very dissimilar colors you've made a very silly experiment? Try something like picking the [0,0,205] blue ball out of the field of [0,0,255] blue balls (search for blue3 on this [njit.edu] page) as easily as you did the red? I'd also bet you could find the O in a field of T's almost as easily as you did the red ball in the blob of green ones, as long as you weren't colorblind.

          But I'm betting that I'm just a peer in your scientific review proce
    • It's sad that there's a show that makes Mythbusters look like Science class. Yes, Hamster is/was in it and I love his work... On Top Gear. I'll take his word on the new Mustang but I won't on the effects of thermite on liquid nitrogen(even if someone is shoving words into his mouth).

      The reality though is that shows have to entertain first, and educate second.
    • by syousef (465911)
      Thank goodness someone's having a whinge about Myth Busters and isn't being modded down into oblivion. That show isn't science, it's special effects guys blowing things up. Mythbusters basically piss on the scientific method every time they put a show together. If it were presented as that I'd be fine with it. (I love the British show "Brainiac" for instance, which is presented as comedy) but it's presented as a serious show and it has a cult following even amongst those who should know better.
      • by gnick (1211984)

        That show isn't science
        They've been struggling for a while, but I decided that they no longer deserve nerd cards when they decided to "test" the airplane-on-a-treadmill [youtube.com] "debate".
      • by operagost (62405)
        I'd say many of the early shows didn't bother to set up proper controls, but they have improved and I think that the claim they "piss on the scientific method" is a bit unwarranted.
    • Does anybody remember the old PBS series "3-2-1 contact"

      Man, I used to LOVE that show! One of my favorite episodes was the one with the thermal imaging camera. I thought it was SO COOL watching them pour liquid nitrogen into the camera.

      Also, Bloodhound Gang ftw. No, not this one [wikipedia.org], that one [wikipedia.org].

      • by lmnfrs (829146)

        ..It's the answer! It's the reason!..something something

        I don't actually remember the show very well, just thinking it was awesome. What about the other show with the math detectives? I can't remember what it was called. But when they entered dangerous situations they'd whip out their calculators for protection!

    • For those who want to get an entertaining but substantial overview of chemistry rather than 5-minute gee-whiz demonstrations or music videos, I recommend the learner.org's The World of Chemistry [learner.org] 1/2 hour videos. These are very well done. I particularly find the simulations in the "The Genetic Code" amazing, even mesmerizing; it is mind-boggling how an arrangement of mere atoms can perform such extremely complex and organized behavior that we call "life". Makes the Linux kernel seem like kindergarten st
    • You make a good point, and I agree, but keep in mind that Braniac is the same show that notoriously faked that aklaine metals experiment.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...about how chemistry-as-a-hobby is increasingly a victim of the War on Terror (TM).
    • , because hobby chemistry was pretty much destroyed well before 9/11. The "War on Drugs" caused most chemical sellers to eliminate sales to individuals, and in some states (like Texas) it is illegal to even own laboratory glassware without a permit (and regular inspections) from local police.

      Add in the effect of lawyers and insurance companies (who drove chemistry sets off of toy store shelves), and you have one more "perfect storm" contributing to the ongoing "dumbing down" of the US.
  • chemistry (Score:4, Funny)

    by davidknippers (1207588) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:44AM (#22620806) Homepage
    Chemistry isn't as nearly as 'cool' as these pretty make-fire videos lead one to believe. Every explosion a young chemist commits brings them closer and closer the sad reality of their career later in life, performing volumetric titrations day in day out in labs with limited ventilation and no capacity to do dumb shit with metal sodium. Chemists are nothing more than glorified, poor cooks who use class 'A' glassware.
    • Yet another profession that works out much better as a hobby :-)
    • by gnick (1211984)

      Every explosion a young chemist commits brings them closer and closer the sad reality of their career later in life, performing volumetric titrations day in day out in labs with limited ventilation and no capacity to do dumb shit with metal sodium.
      All the more reason to demonstrate all of the "dumb shit" that they can, enjoy it, and explore the fun-but-not-commercially-exploitable sides of their chosen path. Especially when it entertains the rest of us.

      Cheers.
  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    Does this mean we can cast fire, acid, cold, and lightning spells now?
  • i've really been enjoying Breaking Bad on amc

    high school chemistry teacher gets lung cancer, decides to leave the world without saddling his family with debt, so he begins to make meth

    in the episode i just saw tonight

    ***SPOILER***

    he goes into a drug lord's den with a bag of meth. said drug lord isn't very impressed with the man and has put his partner in the hospital. so said mild mannered chemistry teacher, now unafraid of death, takes the "meth" he brought with him and throws it on the floor, hard

    it's really fulminated mercury

    BOOM

    meth drug lord meets fulminated mercury beats any youtube chemistry video i've seen
  • Potassium permanganate is purple.

    Besides, even the video says "chlorate".

    I think they could have used a bigger bucket of liquid nitrogen on number 10.

    Two videos, two errors. Eight more to go...

  • by Slurpee (4012)
    I never realised Gummy bears were so toxic!
  • Wow, #2, biovisions was by far the best, IMHO. What a great concept and beautiful implementation. I'd love to see more of this type of stuff (going to Google it after this reply). Wouldn't it be great to have a "Google Body" where you could zoom in and zoom out on a simulated body?

    I freggin' love this stuff.
  • Eh, big deal.
    Web videos have been showing off the wonders of biology for years.
  • Where is the video of Youtube's servers burning in the the /. effect?

    Now that is something I would register to see...
  • Brainiac is to a science show as a parakeet is to a velociraptor.

    Seriously, I watched a season of it and was dumbfounded at the amount of misinformation and fake stunts they pulled. Once they put a fire extinguisher into a oven, and it exploded in a fireball shortly after. Yes, that's right. A fireball.

    Mythbusters may err on the side of theatrics, but they never fake a result. And they have people who actually know stuff about science, instead of Richard Hammond.
  • I found more chemistry videos online. They are pretty great and I learned new things from them. Check them out: http://www.sutree.com/Learn.aspx?q=chemistry [sutree.com]
  • One BlendTec blender, with blades replaced with sodium. One bag of Mentos, reduced to a fine powder with said BlendTec blender. One bottle of coke. One Chuck Norris action figure. And a VERY, VERY long stick to turn the blender on with.

    (What do you need the Chuck Norris for? Oh, the question you should be asking is, what does he need you for. And the answer is, he doesn't need you for anything, so you'd better get running while you still can.)
  • I believe the problem is even more serious for college students. Is there any statistics?
  • I'm not sure (but I might be) that I represent most people my age... but if chemistry isn't your thing, then the ONLY way I'm interested in it, is if it involves fire and/or drugs.
  • Saw a couple of the videos but most were blocked from my proxy at work. I'll have to wait till I get home. In the mean time go to YouTube and search for "steve spangler". He has some entertaining clips on science experiments. He's beed on channel 9 here in Denver, and also the Ellen show.
  • Truly entertaining educational videos: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/lookaroundyou/media/ [bbc.co.uk] , and more on Youtube.
  • Another great video: Mercury Drop Experiment [mac.com]

    A cyclic redox reaction on the surface of a drop of mercury causes it to wobble around. Chemical energy -> motion.

    Click "Activity 3" or "Activity 5" for the coolest ones.
  • Does anyone know the formula for the color-changing experiment? That amazes me, and assuming I don't kill myself or my neighbors in the process, I would love to try it out.

    Plus, if anyone knows the recipe, do you also know the reaction that is taking place and why it happens repeatedly?

    The other videos were cool, but that was the only one I just kept repeatedly staring at in amazement.

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