Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Chemistry Set Friend or Foe?

Parents are always trying to give their budding genii a leg up on the other kids – what better way than introducing them to the wonderful world of chemistry? Out they go and purchase the classic chemistry set, complete with a book of experiments that will familiarize junior with scientific procedure.

On the surface this seems like a great idea, except that junior, in this case a young Phos, is not going to pay a lot of attention to the book provided. In fact the first thing I want to see is some action, or re-action, if you will. “Let’s see what happens when I mix this shit together”. After adding bits of almost all the chemicals along with some water and some crap I found in the medicine cabinet to the test tube all I had was a blue mess. Oh sure, the test tube was getting pretty hot, but no open flames. Might as well fire up the crappy little alcohol burner and see what happens when I put the spurs to the mixture. Again, disappointment, aside from bubbling over the desk and leaving a permanent stain there wasn’t much to write home about. Ok, there was that incredible stench that made your eyes water, but I got more excitement out of tossing toilet bowl cleaner in some bleach (this produces a cool greenish cloud). I was a pretty avid reader, fortunately, and came across a biography of Sam Colt. Back in the day, the publishers tended to side with the parents, and while they did reveal the components of gun powder in the book, there wasn’t a specific ratio.

I checked the set and had everything but the sodium nitrate. A quick trip to Hettinger’s hobby shop remedies that and I began several attempts at producing my own black powder. Didn’t take long before I realized it was much easier to take the key to dad’s cabinet from its hiding spot and just taking some of his powder gun powder. That I suppose was the main lesson I got from the chem set – don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel when you could be out trying to blow something up already. I also realized the company that produced the set knew exactly what you were going to try to do and that your parents were too thick to realize it, so they purposely left out the “cool” chemicals. But that is only a temporary set back…

Next time, the Phos discovers Thermite.

Disclaimer: If you abuse your chemistry set it isn’t my fault if you hurt yourself or burn down your folk’s house, you should have stuck to the manual. Posted by Picasa