“Bright Colors and Stinky Smells”

Geek Culture

ChemsetChemsetChemistry Set. What young GeekDad-in-training didn’t feel a tiny thrill of mystery and power at the mere words? Those of us who didn’t possess one envied those who did. We just knew they could make all sorts of strange and wonderful products like gunpowder, tear gas, and (with the deluxe set) atomic bombs with which to conquer the world. Even the lucky ones who owned a set and understood that they could make nothing quite so dangerous still believed they might one day discover the formula for invisibility or anti-gravity if they could only mix the provided ingredients in the right order. And convince their little brother to taste it.

But time and product liability awareness have marched on, and the golden age of the chemistry set has passed. Or has it? While the commercial offerings of today are a shadow of their former glory, with a little information, creativity, and geekful guidance one can create a set that is just as entertaining and educational as those we so fondly remember from our dreams of world domination.

The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture by Robert Thompson is just such a source of information and guidance. It fills the gap between simple home science sets and the high school chemistry lab with information for the enthusiastic home chemist – not just about chemicals, but how to handle them safely and how to learn from every experiment.

There’s a very good review of the Illustrated Guide… at BoingBoing. It goes into much detail on the contents of the book, and why it’s such an important tool for educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. Besides, the experiments sound really fun!

(A tip of the hat to Marty Q. for pointing the way.)

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