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Education Science

Illustrated Guide To Home Chemistry Experiments 56

ptorrone writes "The sad fact is chemistry and chemistry sets have been on the decline for the last couple decades. All is not lost, however. We (MAKE magazine) have a new book called The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. Learn how to smelt copper, purify alcohol, synthesize rayon, test for drugs and poisons, and much more. In this video, Bob the chemist shows how to get around a pesky DEA regulation so you can make your own iodine. GeekDad also reviewed the book."
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Illustrated Guide To Home Chemistry Experiments

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  • Awesome! I want my own lab so bad.
  • by AmIAnAi ( 975049 ) * on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:47AM (#23682041)
    Just remember to use cash when paying for this one, else you might find your name on a 'watch' list.
    • But isn't it fun to see how many different aliases you can get onto the watch list?
      • by hiryuu ( 125210 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:22PM (#23684221)
        But isn't it fun to see how many different aliases you can get onto the watch list?

        Not for those of us who have very common names, of the type that are more frequently used to "assemble" an alias. My birth name is one of the most common in the US - not quite on the order of "John Smith," but pretty close - and this unfortunate bit has landed me on the TSA no-fly list for most of the last year, among other bits of fun.

        Back on topic, I'm a chemist by profession, and I always find things like this cool as all hell. I remember the chemistry sets of yore, including some of the "antique" sets used by my father and a a few of his younger uncles, and the progression over the years of what can be done with what's available to the layman has become increasingly disappointing. What's the likelihood that any modern set would ever come with a distillation column?

        Good tools and decent, interesting references must be available to help get people (especially kids!) excited about, interested in, and practicing hard sciences. I know I'm not saying anything new to lots of people around here, but dammit, I'm gonna say it anyway.
        • Have you considered changing your name to something more unique?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mstahl ( 701501 )

          Absolutely agreed, but once in a rare while that's kind of a good thing [wired.com].

        • by kv9 ( 697238 )

          My birth name is one of the most common in the US - not quite on the order of "John Smith," but pretty close
          Bob Smith?
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )
          Yes, but you get a few million wrong people on the list, and it is no good anymore.
          Maybe practicality will kill it, or at least make it useless.

          Keep sayin' it brother!

    • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:56PM (#23683871) Journal
      At least in the area I live, most chemistry/science supply places have gone to cash-only sales because they are required to track and report ID's on check and credit card sales but not on cash sales. Interesting unintended side-effect.
    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )
      Fuck it. I'll buy 10 of them and give them to children.
      Just fuck it.
  • Excellent idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ResidntGeek ( 772730 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:53AM (#23682123) Journal
    For my money, though, it doesn't get better than the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition. It was written after chemistry was mostly understood, but before the advent of commercial chemical suppliers. Thus, in the nitric acid entry, for example, you'll find instructions for making it from nitre and sulphuric acid. In a modern text it would be described theoretically, and would likely be stated in such a way that you'd start looking for a place to buy sulphuric acid and potassium nitrate without getting on a government watchlist, but with the encyclopedia you go outside and build a nitre-bed, or maybe scrape some saltpeter off your basement wall if you're lucky, and go hunt down some sulphur to make the acid. It doesn't leave out the theory, but it gives you a real sense of how doable most chemical processes are even without a lab or a chemical supplier.
    • Re:Excellent idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:58AM (#23682205)
      Sulphur is the easiest element to collect. Just walk along train tracks and look for the yellow pebbles that fall through the sulphur cars. I was able to collect maybe 10 grams in about 5 mins.
      • Re:Excellent idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by triffid_98 ( 899609 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:08PM (#23683163)
        Or you could just walk over to your OSH garden center and buy a box of that stuff, as long as you don't need 100% purity that stuff is easy to get (used to improve soil acidity in alkaline soils).

        Sulphur is the easiest element to collect. Just walk along train tracks and look for the yellow pebbles that fall through the sulphur cars. I was able to collect maybe 10 grams in about 5 mins.

      • by ooby ( 729259 )
        Nitrogen is easier to collect. It's air.
        • Re:Excellent idea (Score:4, Informative)

          by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:10PM (#23684057)
          Actually Air is not nitrogen, it just contains nitrogen. It's like saying Coke is water.

          Air has Oxygen, water vapor, evil CO2, methane, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen oxides, dust & smoke, and FSM knows what else in it.

          I stand by my statement that sulpher is the easiest element to collect.
          • I believe that was supposed to be a joke regarding your "as long as you don't need 100% purity".... At least, I hope so.
          • Air is ~80% nitrogen, so for many purposes,
            air = nitrogen. At least from a physicists point of view.

            To make liquid nitrogen: collect a lot of air,
            compress it violently, wait for it to cool down
            and release into bottle...
    • Re:Excellent idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:16AM (#23682435) Homepage Journal

      For my money, though, it doesn't get better than the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition.
      You mean this one? http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Gunpowder [1911encyclopedia.org]?
      • The science of gunpowder was well documented in there, but the history is dead wrong. Schwartz and Bacon were in no way the creators of gunpowder- the Chinese developed it centuries before, and there is ample historical documentation for the development of various strains, uses in warfare, etc. China is not mentioned *anywhere* in the article.

        I've heard a lot of people talk about how great the 1911 version of EB is- based on this article, I would not trust it for anything remotely historical that involv

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by edremy ( 36408 )
          Quick follow up- China is mentioned briefly as having created incendiaries, but not explosives, in the same class as greek fire. (Missed it the first time) This is also dead wrong- the Chinese did have explosive formulations. Greek fire, OTOH, was not a nitre+fuel based mixture to the best of our knowledge, although the exact formula has been lost.
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )
          Just edit the page..oh wait, it's a real encyclopedia, none of this bad wikipedia stuff...

        • Britannica? Not quite an error, old chap.
            BTW I liked the quaintness of my Ninth Edition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by conureman ( 748753 )
      I always recommend 'Fortunes in Formulas'. It's got some zany old time recipes. BTW unless you have a stable against the side of your house, that white efflorescence in your basement isn't what you want. Look under old dung-heaps, eh?
  • by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:10AM (#23682347) Journal
    Hmmm...usually I think we would see this as book review. But honestly, how many times would a direct link to the product page not produce a rage of criticism of how /. is selling out?

    Then again, us, non-professionally trained chemists that happen to be geeks would love to learn more about practical and interesting science, including and but not limited chemistry. This book hits right at what I'd want on my bookshelf, next to my "Good Eat's" cookbook and 60-70's era DIY books.

    So what do y'all think it is? Slashvertisment or a stab at the modern sterile environment that is public school science?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by navygeek ( 1044768 )
      While the summary does have qualities we identify with the average Slashvertisement, I'd have to say it isn't one - or at least one I'm willing to give the benefit of doubt on. As the summary says, quality books and chemistry sets are in serious lack these days. This isn't the editors letting in an ad for a 'been there, done that' item, like the flash drive the other day, it's something that we as geeks, nerds, and science buffs can really get into. Product hocking like this I don't mind.
    • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:08PM (#23683171)
      I agree its kind of a slashvertisement, but honestly I'd prefer to see everyone on /. know about this book before its completely illegal to practice any form of chemistry. I can only imagine that home chemistry kits will soon be as illegal as they were just before the revolution in pre-Bolshevek Russia. Because, you know, we have to protect the children and homeland security from the terrorists.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nuttycom ( 1016165 )
        Agreed; that's why I ordered my copy today. My daughter's just a year old right now, but by the time she's old enough to appreciate a book like this I expect it'll be next to impossible to find, sadly.
      • "Sir, we've received a tip that you've been illegially converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. Please put your hands behind your head and step outside."

        "But-but everyone does that!"

        "That's no excuse for breaking the law, sir. Now, please step outside. Don't make me use my taser."
  • Safety goggles! (Score:3, Informative)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:11AM (#23682365) Homepage Journal
    Be sure to wear your safety goggles. I know!
    Although I must say that the eye heals suprisingly well after a minor injury. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/358/21/2265 [nejm.org] (Hyphema is blood in the eye.)
    • But... (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The goggles, they do nothing!
  • Busted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:15AM (#23682417) Journal
    As some have mentioned you run a risk of being targeted as a terrorist by your local law enforcement if they discover such a lab in one's posession.

    However, I think one is far more likely local law enforcement will suspect production of methamphetamine.
    • Re:Busted (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:27AM (#23682589) Journal
      I would also like to add that not only has the ban, illicit production, and enforcement ruined the chemistry set for millions of people. It has also destroyed the ability to get inexpensive allergy medication with a built in decongestant. For example, Loratadine [wikipedia.org] (claritin) is sold at Wal-Mart for $4 for a 30 day supply. For those of us who require a decongestant, it's 2-4 times more expensive to get a measly 10 day supply of Loratadine-D (Claritin-D), and you have to sign over your soul to get it.
      • by isham ( 91025 )
        Or you can buy the 300 day supply at costco for around $11....
        • 1. I don't have a Costco membership

          2. It's due to state laws. I don't know where you live, but here, it's not legal to sell that much pseudoephedrine at one time. Even when you buy a 10 day supply they put you on a special government list.
      • I imagine if you made a weak tea of Ephedra it might be good for a decongestant. I don't have any use for it, myself, but once I came across a GIANT shrub of it, (I'll not say where) and I tried chewing a twig for data purposes. I spit it out fast, it is more bitter than Drake's I.P.A. My ears were ringing for a while, and my face was numb for three or four hours. I don't know if you should isolate the constituents, they'd surely think the worst, but its just a weird-ass bush that doesn't need any care. Gro
    • Why be just suspected of meth production? Those PS3s ain't gonna buy themselves!
  • If I work in a chemistry lab, and I spend way more hours a day there than I do at home, then does that count as home chemistry? What about my coworker who for one summer decided to sleep in the lab (admittedly in the office area) nightly? Does that count?
  • Who does he think he is, Bill Nye the Science Guy?

A list is only as strong as its weakest link. -- Don Knuth