About

Welcome to my personal journal page. When people ask me who I am or what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. I write both to earn a living and because I enjoy doing so.

Over the years, my emphasis has shifted. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I wrote books, articles, on-line training courses, and whitepapers mostly about computers and software. For the last few years, I’ve concentrated on writing about science, particularly doing hands-on science at home.

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture, written for O’Reilly/MAKE, has sold many thousands of copies and become a standard text among homeschoolers. My wife, Barbara, and I also wrote the not-yet-published Illustrated Guide to Home Forensics Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture, and are currently (as of summer 2011) writing Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture. We also plan to write other titles on earth science, physics, and so on.

From reader feedback on the chemistry book over the last three years, we learned that many homeschoolers would love to do a chemistry lab course but were discouraged by the cost of the necessary equipment and materials. To address this problem, Barbara and I decided to start assembling and selling homeschool chemistry kits, with the goal of providing a comprehensive, rigorous chem lab component at an affordable price.

In April 2011, we incorporated as The Home Scientist, LLC, and began shipping our CK01 Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit in June 2011. Over the coming months and years, we plan to design and build similar kits for homeschool biology, earth science, forensics, physics, and other science courses.


35 Responses to About

  1. Dear Robert,

    First of all, please appologize my english since I’m writing you from Portugal and , since education in this country is really bad, all the majority of the language I’ve learnd was due to thowsands of hours absorbing hollywood and all the great american bands, some UK also. Quite an entertaining way of learning I can assure you, but not a flawlessly one.
    Nevertheless I’ve been a reader of your’s since we entered the new millenium. I do keep going back to PC Hardware in a nutshell 2nd ed and How to build a perfect PC first edition.
    Allthought a psychologist , since 1991 when I was 10yo and my father bought me a IBM PS/1 386 25MHz my hobby became hardware (and to a lesser extent software, mainly as a user).
    Twenty years after I seem to find myself in a nostalgic quest and discovering, among other things , retrogaming ( not in emulation).
    One of the reasons I’m writing you as to do with a request, I don’t meen to be unpolite, but you see Robert, you are the only person of my “acquaintance” is the USA.
    Off the experiments I have going on (like experimenting with an overdrive for a DX4 system!) I set my mind on putting a tualatin on a 440BX board, and so I found a seller in ebay from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, who is selling something that does exactly that, however he does not ship internationaly.
    You can see the item here http://www.ebay.com/itm/Powerleap-Slotwonder-Intel-Slot-1-adapter-w-1-4GHz-CPU-/120768503783?pt=CPUs&hash=item1c1e5d1fe7

    It even cames with the fastest PIII ever produced , a 1.4 tualatin 512k!

    I am embaressed for asking you such favour, but I’ll be willing to make an international money transference to your account , in advance of course , so that you could buy the item and then ship it to me. The only site where I was able to find such adapter was on US ebay.

    Please tell me if you find this doable and without any inconvenient for you , or if you have a better idea to help me in this project of mine.

    I’m also very glad to see you are exploring science and presented the public with other works.
    By coincidence I’ve been looking for a way to have good information about physics and chemistry, and now I’m sure where to find it! As a matter of fact it was because I was looking for a way to get in to this subjects that I found your Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry , and the realized I could, at least, try to ask you for this.

    Allthougt PC Hardware can be very interesting physics, biology and so on, can be a much more rewarding travel, I think.

    My best regards,
    Daniel Branco

      

  2. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’m sorry, Daniel. I’d love to be able to help, but I simply can’t.

      

  3. Daniel Branco says:

    That’s ok 🙂 I understand. It was a very long shot anyway. Thanks for the prompt answer. Sorry for using the coments as I couldn’t find any email to contact you. Please feel free to erase my coments since they are not related to your blog.

    Best regards,
    Daniel

      

  4. Dear Robert,

    I’ve been an admirer of your work for some time. A few months ago Forrest Mims and I started a new organization for amateur science called the Citizen Scientists League. Our mission it to help people learn how to do their own science, and support those who already do.

    I was wondering if you would be interested in posting to our blog, either material you’ve posted elsewhere or new items, depending on your time and/or interest. I know our audience would love your hands-on perspective.

    Best wishes,

    Sheldon

      

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Yes, I would be very interested in participating. Unfortunately, my schedule is currently such that I don’t have time to do much.

      

  6. Roy Truax says:

    Your 3/15/12 comment on credit card services said wiping them out would by justifiable homicide. I have to disagree with one word, you should replace homicide with germicide.

      

  7. Roy Truax says:

    in re:4/1/2012 April Fools

      

  8. Pingback: Times Are A Changin’ … What’s Your Excuse? - PhilFAQS

  9. Josh says:

    Bruce,

    I recently finished my first PC build and found ‘Building the Perfect PC’ (Dec 2010 release) to be an excellent resource. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and will certainly do it again in the future. Thank you for making your experience and knowledge available.

    -Josh

      

  10. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks for the kind words, and congratulations on the build.

      

  11. Mike says:

    Robert,

    Like Daniel I couldn’t really find a place to email you. Also, for some reason my virus protection is blocking the link to your CK01 lab kit (I’m getting re-routed to an inactive domain… happens all the time on my computer) which I am interested in seeing, but I’ll do some googling- I’m certain I’ll come up with something.

    To make a long story short, I graduated high school in 2007, and haven’t really had the ambition to pursue post-secondary education aside from some tech schooling. I did well in high school science and really loved chemistry. I purchased my own home about 2 years ago, and as a 23 year old I don’t really make a whole lot of money doing factory work (a little more than enough to pay the bills). I’m trying to get back into chemistry as a hobby, and would like to do more than make colorful solutions.

    I don’t have any texts, lab supplies, or very many chemicals aside from some household kitchen and cleaning supplies. There is a copy of the illustrated guide to home chemistry at my local library that I have checked out once or twice, but even despite the relatively short list of supplies and chemicals I’m on a very tight budget. Microchemistry looked like a good possibility because of the small quantities, but I would need some precision measuring equipment that I do not have. I actually live fairly close to Elemental Scientific (only about an hour drive). Can you provide any direction to a floundering young 20-something? I could probably get away with spending about $100 to start accumulating supplies and doing some experiments.

    Thanks,
    Mike

      

  12. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’ll reply by email.

      

  13. Mike says:

    I really appreciate the quick response Robert. Thanks a lot!

      

  14. Calvin Dodge says:

    Sorry if I”m posting in the wrong place, but this seems a less inappropriate spot than this week’s journal.

    Years ago you mentioned that you looked forward to time when a TV producer (Joss Whedon being the example) would fund a show by subscription, rather than by selling network “suits” on it.

    That future is coming closer. Rob Thomas held a Kickstarter for a Veronica Mars movie, and it’s fully funded ($2 million) 30 days before the deadline.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559914737/the-veronica-mars-movie-project?ref=live

      

  15. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks. I hadn’t even heard about that.

    If Heartland isn’t renewed for a 7th season, I’m going to suggest to them that they start a similar project.

      

  16. John Cranna says:

    Dear Robert

    I live in Abergavenny in Wales, UK and recently bought your book on home chemistry experiments as I am home educating my 13 year old son and Chemistry is one of his favourite subjects. I just wanted to say how good and easy to follow your book is and I have used the first chapters as a basis for setting up our own lab through various UK lab equipment suppliers. Fairly harmless chemicals can be bought in the local shops (calcium chloride, magnesium sulphate) but as you say elsewhere it is fairly disturbing that people sell conc sulphuric acid and more dangerously sodium hydroxide (over here called caustic soda). I also bought some dilute hydrochloric acid and tried to purify it with distilled water (now called deionized water here) but nothing happened to the water at all. Is it becasue the acid was too weak, I think it was about 9% acid?

      

  17. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

    As far as purifying hydrochloric acid, 9% is a bit dilute as a starting point. That purification method works well with the standard 31.45% (10 M) HCl sold in hardware stores.

    You can concentrate the acid to azeotropic hydrochloric acid (~20.2%, depending on atmospheric pressure) simply by boiling the dilute acid. At concentrations higher than 20.2%, hydrochloric acid solutions when heated emit hydrogen chloride fumes, decreasing the concentration until it reaches 20.2%. At initial concentrations lower than 20.2%, heating the HCl solution drives off water, increasing the concentration, until it reaches 20.2%. At that point, the 20.2% acid boils off and can be distilled to purify it.

      

  18. Algerd Monstavicius M.D. says:

    I need the help of a chemist to determine if a “pill” in the form of a 100 mg capsule is pure Leucomethylthioninium Bis hydromethanesulphonate or if is a placebo containing 4% Leucomethlythioninium Bis hydromethanesulphonate.
    FYI this is a reduced form of MethylthioniniumCloride ( Methelyene Blue )
    The Placebo could be pure or could be a mixture.
    My first though was to try to get HPLC done but most companies reguire the submission of a control for both the drug and the placebo.
    I know what the drug is – I just need to know if it is pure etc. I tried to convince them that all i want is a Chromatogram.
    If it show one large peak then it is the pure drug, If it show a large peak and a second small peak then it is placebo with the added 4% drug, If the chromtogram shows multiple peaks then it is a mixture of placebo and drug.
    My question for you is there a simple way of doing it.
    I know that the drug in the reduced for is colorless but then when oxidized it becomes blue. I was thinking of just dissolving the pill, adding some KOH, and dextrose, and shaking it. It should turn blue. But that would apply to both situations and Mehylene blue is a very strong dye so even the 4% pill would turn blue.
    Is there a simple way of getting the answer?? I would be willing to pay fee for the analysis. My email is monstavicius64@sbcglobal.net Phone # 775-833-3502-
    Cell-775-303-2067 I am a retired pahtologist with Ca licensure

      

  19. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Any independent lab should be able to do the analysis for you. They don’t need HPLC. All they need is the questioned specimen, a known specimen of methylene blue, and a spectrophotometer. They can oxidize the questioned specimen, place each specimen in a cuvette, and test the absorbance of the questioned specimen against that of a known concentration of methylene blue. Absorbance varies linearly with concentration.

      

  20. Carmen Drahl says:

    Hi Robert-
    I’m a reporter with Chemical & Engineering News- my colleague Beth spoke to you a while back for a story on chemistry hobbyists. I’d like to chat with you about the news story out of Florida about a teen girl expelled and charged with a felony for reacting toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil at school. (Google “Kiera Wilmot” for more info). I submitted my email in the comment box- do let me know how best to reach you.
    Best
    Carmen Drahl

      

  21. Brendan says:

    Hi Robert, do you have plans for a new edition of Building the Perfect PC?

      

  22. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Nope. We simply don’t have time.

      

  23. Joseph O'Laughlin says:

    Please send the “contents of our vehicle emergency kits” pdf .

    Sorry I did not find a different email method.

      

  24. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    You can download the PDF directly from today’s page’s comments.

      

  25. lesly bunting says:

    The CK12 website appears to be down. Do you know if this is a permanent situation? I am making plans for my child’s chemistry course and trying to decide if I should buy the text book you recommended or use the CK12 materials.
    Thanks so much for your assistance.
    Lesly

      

  26. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I just checked, and the CK12 site is working fine from here. I get email from them several times a week, and I’m sure they’re fine and that this is just a glitch.

      

  27. lesly bunting says:

    Thanks. I was using Firefox and switched to Chrome. I got on with Chrome.
    Thanks for the help.
    Lesly

      

  28. Peter Walker says:

    Dear Robert,
    I have a science-mad 14 year old who is no longer being stimulated in science classes at his local high school. He found your site and we are interested in purchasing the Biology Kit (International Version). Firstly I notice you make special mention on your homescientist website of shipping to Australia, so I presume that members of the homeschooling community are supporting your products. Can I confirm with you whether there are any known legal issues around shipping to Oz? Alternatively, I wondered whether anyone over here has become a licensed supplier and ships in bulk, then on selling your products to local customers? Finally, has any Australian customer advised how they have managed to go about getting local supply of the more concentrated acids and other ingredients not able to be shipped from the US?
    I greatly appreciate your help.
    Peter

      

  29. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Thanks for your interest in our products.

    Most of our international shipments go to Canada, but Australia is the second leading destination for us. We ship a fair number of kits to Australia, maybe a couple dozen so far this year, and we’ve been doing that for years with never a problem. Everyone has received their kits routinely, and no one has reported any problems, legal or otherwise. We don’t have any international resellers, so every kit ships from here.

    As far as obtaining hazardous chemicals, we don’t try to keep up with sources in other countries. It’s hard enough keeping up with US sources. Your best bet for up-to-date information on sources is probably to post a query on Australian home-schooling forums. If that doesn’t work, there’s always eBay. A lot of vendors on eBay will ship anything anywhere, without necessarily bothering about hazardous chemical shipping regulations, box labeling requirements, and so on. We frequently have chemicals shipped to us in the US from Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. and have never had an issue.

      

  30. Carl Sanders says:

    Was concerned about the AA battery you’ve used in the past for Santa.

    Have you got the gun emplacement in, or, it’s got to take a brake this year. Will support any of your decisions . Might be a good time to upgrade from the twin 40s to a larger caliber. That way you could start firing at a greater distance.

      

  31. Carl Sanders says:

    The subject of beans and how to fix a batch that tastes good. Try this please.

    3 cups of pinto beans or a one pound bag.

    Sort through for rocks.

    Rinse at least 3 times to get dirt, dust, etc.

    Put in pot with at least 3 inches of Cold Water.

    Add one table spoon of salt, The MOST important ingredient One table spoon of
    SUGAR, white.

    Three strips of bacon, the more fat the better.

    2 small red chilies or a table spoon of good quality red chili..

    At your level above sea level, it should take about 3 hours of boiling. Cook at a boil that keeps the water turning over at a slow rate. Another trick after all night soaking combine the ingredients in a crockpot turn on high and 4 hours later, dish should be done.

    The secrete to good beans, is the sugar.

      

  32. I have a copy of your book ‘ Building the Perfect PC’ dated 2010/2011. Is there a more recent edition of this volume? If there is could you please provide the relavent details please.

    RWS
    Jersey
    Channel Islands
    GB

      

  33. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The third edition is last one we did. No further editions are planned.

      

  34. lynn says:

    The third edition is last one we did. No further editions are planned.

    The computer books business has sailed, hasn’t it. In fact, the entire book business seems to be in the doldrums as ebooks take over.

      

  35. DadCooks says:

    In fact, the entire book business seems to be in the doldrums as ebooks take over.

    With the snowflake and millennial generations if it takes more than 140 characters and doesn’t have a pound-sign (#), okay “hash tag”, then they don’t comprehend it.

    Real books are for us old gray-beard’s 😉

      

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