Week of 5 May 2008
Update: Friday, 9 May 2008 11:23 -0500
- Travel day.
- I got home from Maker Faire at about 10:00 last night local time, which
of course for me was about 7:00 Pacific Time. Barbara let me sleep in
this morning, so I wasn't up and about until around 9:00 ET. I took the
dogs out, unpacked, and started doing laundry.
Although I didn't
enjoy the travel both directions, the Faire itself was incredible. I'm
told attendance for the Third Annual Maker Faire this year was 75,000
or more versus about 45,000 last year, so the Faire is close to
doubling attendance year on year for its first three years. If next
year shows proportional growth, I don't know what they'll do, because
the San Mateo Fairgrounds was packed solid with people this year.
Presumably, they'll also rent the racetrack, which is right next door
to the Fairgrounds.
I arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel late
Wednesday evening, and met some of the O'Reilly/MAKE crew who were also
staying there. Thursday was consumed with meeting people and getting
things set up. This was my first chance to meet a lot of people
face-to-face that I've worked with for years, including my long-time
editor Brian Jepson. My editor for the chemistry book, Tom Sgouros, was
there, along with his teenage daughter, Timmie.
Barbara and I
had already met Dale Dougherty, the Publisher of MAKE, a few months ago
when he made a business trip to Winston-Salem, but Dale and I had
several opportunities to talk at some length. Dan Woods, the Associate
Publisher of MAKE, was also there. It was Dale and Dan, along with
Brian, who finally talked me into coming out of my cave, so I enjoyed
having a chance to talk with all of them in person. And it was also
great to meet Terry Bronson, who was both the Production Manager for
the book and the person who took care of all my travel arrangements.
Without her, I wouldn't have made it out there. Or had anywhere to stay
while I was there. Or made it back.
I also met dozens of other
O'Reilly/MAKE folks who were involved with the book or my earlier
books, including the Creative Director, Daniel Carter, Indexer
extraordinaire Patti Schiendelman, who reindexed the book literally
overnight when I overlooked the fact that half of one chapter had
somehow been left out, Jason Forman, who shot the cover image, and Sara
Peyton, who handles PR for the book.
There was a break room for
staff, and I did spend some time in there talking with all these folks
and a lot of others, but most of Thursday was spent hauling around
boxes of books and other merchandise and getting displays set up. I
wasn't about to sit around watching while all of my friends were
busting their butts, so I hauled books and set up displays as well.
was Education Day. The Faire wasn't yet open to the public, but it was
open to students and teachers. I spent most of Friday talking to kids
and teachers, intermingled with carrying around more boxes of books and
getting displays set up.
I'll continue this tomorrow, because
right now I'm trying to dig out from being gone several days. My inbox
wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. There were only 747 new messages
this morning, of which 259 were spams that made it past the server-side
filters. My local filters caught 257 of those, leaving only 2 spams in
my inbox. Most of the 500 or so real messages were mailing list
traffic, but I still have 100 or so real emails to deal with, so it'll
be a couple of days until I'm caught up.
It's good to be back in
the home cave again. Barbara took care of everything while I was gone.
Malcolm, our 9-year-old Border Collie greeted me when I arrived home.
I'd never been away for more than a few hours since he was a puppy.
Duncan, our 13-year-old BC, ignored me for a half an hour or so after I
arrived home. He likes to let us know that he doesn't appreciate our
going away and not taking him.
Well, things are back to normal
other than having to dig out from under the pile that accumulated while
I was gone. Today, I'll finish up the laundry and other accumulated
stuff. Tomorrow, I'll work on the web sites and other stuff for the
chem book and get back into the forensics book.
just came across a FoxNews.com article about one of our soldiers in
Afghanistan who got into a firefight. His cellphone was on, and it
autodialed his home telephone number, leaving a 3-minute message on the
answering machine that's all audio of the firefight. How his family
must have felt hearing that message, particularly because it ends with
someone yelling "Incoming!" as one of the bad guys fires an RPG at our
guys. (The soldier with the cell phone was not injured and made it out
safely; I don't know about his buddies).
Here's the YouTube clip.
What I found stunning was that the FoxNews.com editors included a link
that warned there was graphic language in the YouTube clip. Jesus wept.
Here we have our young people fighting for their lives. The whole clip
is punctuated frequently by the sound of their Car-15/M-4 carbines on
rock-and-roll, along with a heavy machine gun pounding away, exploding
munitions, and shouts for more ammo. And FoxNews.com is worried because
there's an ocassional "fuck" audible?
I was going to write up more about the Faire today, but then I realized
that this email I sent Paul, Mary, and Barbara already said most of
what I was going to say.
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
Jones, Mary Chervenak, Barbara Thompson
Date: Tue May 6 13:52:34 2008
Re: Maker Faire
made it there and back. The middle part was enjoyable, but not the
getting to and from. They almost shut me down entirely as far as demos.
This was all very last-minute, and I hadn't filed a safety plan. So we
did that on the run on Thursday or Friday and got the fire marshal to
approve it, after we removed some of the scarier things.
the t-shirts were big hits, both with the O'Reilly/MAKE folks and with
the other exhibitors and the public. I ended up doing two talks to
groups of several hundred each; backyard astronomy on Saturday and
chemistry sets and home chemistry on Sunday. There were cameras all
over the place, and I'm sure there'll be videos up soon on the O'Reilly
sites and YouTube.
The backyard astronomy talk Saturday was not
my favorite event. I was expecting a standard setup with a
podium/lectern and a video screen with a clicker. Instead, there was
this gigantic stage with a table far to the right side and a huge video
screen to the far left. The table was back so far that I couldn't
really see the screen while I was at the table. I hadn't had a chance
to memorize my talk, or even to rehearse it. I'd planned to do the best
I could kind of reading it, but that was impossible since I couldn't
see the screen to tell what I was talking about. Still, it went okay.
I did the chemistry set/home chemistry talk. I just said "screw this".
If I can't stand up and talk for half an hour without notes about
chemistry sets and home chemistry, I don't deserve to be up here. So I
tossed my script and just walked around the stage, clicking images and
talking about stuff. I was wearing a neat Maker Faire white lab coat. I
hadn't bothered to brush my hair, and I'd fogotten that I had goggles
up on my forehead. Several of the O'Reilly/MAKE staff told me
afterwards that I really looked like a mad scientist. I was horrified,
and they said, "No, that's GREAT".
I got to talk to lots of kids
and parents, home school and public school teachers, university and
grad school students who were majoring in hard sciences, and so on. I
was cranked up and obviously very passionate about the subject. Many
people over the course of the weekend asked me if I were a high school
chemistry teacher or a college chemistry professor, and commented that
if they'd had someone like me teaching them they'd have learned a lot
more and perhaps have gone into science as a career. I told them that
I'd never taught in any kind of school, but their comments made my day.
also had two 45-minute demos, one each day, at the Maker Demo booth,
which had a nice overhead camera so that people could see what I was
doing up close without crossing the safety tape. I did as much as I
could get away with without freaking out the safety folks.
told each audience as I started that I didn't like most chemistry demos
because they were often more like magic shows than science. So I spent
some time as I was doing them talking about the chemistry behind what
they were seeing. I did stuff like the Gummy Bear Execution (dropping a
sugar candy into a test tube with a couple centimeters of molten
potassium chlorate in the bottom). Blew up the test tube both days, but
the jet of flame and loud hissing and cloud of steam was
impressive. I also did the permanganate and glycerol thing, made iodine
from iodide while I talked about the futile efforts of the DEA to
control chemicals, and did the sugar/sulfuric acid thing while I talked
about the makeup of carbohydrates.
I didn't kill or injure a
single spectator. As for me, it went about as expected. I got a small
cut from the broken test tube, one or two minor burns, got sulfuric
acid on me for about 5 seconds before I drenched it, and managed to gas
myself with chlorine while I was mixing the laundry bleach with HCl to
produce clorine and then drop some calcium carbide into the beaker to
illustrate the spontaneous exothermic reaction of chlorine with
I did the demonstrations wearing goggles and a lab
coat, but during the talk on the main stage I'd emphasized that
"chemicals" aren't really as dangerous as nearly everyone thinks. So,
in starting the demonstration I told the audience that although I
always recommended gloves (and emphasized the fact that I WAS wearing
goggles) I was going to put my money where my mouth was and do the
demonstrations without gloves. So I was handling concentrated acids
without gloves, (carefully) pouring sulfuric acid into the beaker of
sugar and so on. I told the audience that although I normally wore
gloves while I was working in the lab I was doing the demos gloveless for a
purpose: to prove with my own skin that these chemicals should be
respected but not feared.
The best thing about the Faire was
being surrounded by people who DO things instead of passively going
through life watching TV, playing with game consoles, and walking
around with iPod buds in their ears. A lot of the Makers (those doing
things for the public to watch) were doing stuff that I had no clue
about what they were doing, but just the fact that they were doing
rather than watching made them kindred spirits.
book is off to a great start. It got blogged on Boing Boing (an A-list
blog) on Thursday or Friday. The books had literally just come back
from the printer, so no one but us at the Faire had them in stock. Even
though Amazon didn't have them for sale, people were pre-ordering and
there were enough pre-orders to keep the book with a 3-digit Amazon
sales ranking for quite a while. That means they were selling a
shitload of books. I kept replenishing the stack at my booth, and they
kept disappearing, most of them after I'd signed them, so I'm guessing
that Maker Faire sold out or nearly so of the chemistry book.
Jas is now famous. I left her picture up on the big screen for the last
several minutes of my talk, and a lot of people came over afterwards to
say they loved her. As I said during my talk, this is what it's all
about. One guy came over to the booth and bought three copies of the
book, asking me to sign each one for a different person. I asked him if
they were his kids or grandkids, and he said no but that he knew three
teenagers that he thought would be interested in doing chemistry at
home, so he was buying copies to give to them. Wow.
Did I mention that people loved the two t-shirts you guys gave me?
review copies of the book should soon be on their way to anyone who
requested one. If you didn't request a review copy, here's another way
to get a free copy.
From: Sara Peyton To: Robert Bruce ThompsonDate: Tue May 6 10:00:43 2008 Re: contestBob,
Hi there. It was great to see you at Maker Faire. I'm running a contest
on my blog for a free copy of your book. You might want to promote the
contest on your blog. All folks have to do is post a comment about
chemistry sets and/or chemistry education. You can read more here.
Sara is another of the O'Reilly folks that I've known for years but
only met face-to-face at Maker Faire. She does promotion and PR for the
books. I also met her husband, George Snyder, at Maker Faire. George is
a really interesting guy. Sara ended up having to leave us to go do
something, so George and I ended up standing around talking for quite a
while. He was wearing a media badge, and I asked who he was with.
He said that for many years he was with the San Francisco Chronicle and
other big-name newspapers, but now he worked for the weekly paper in
Sebastopol, California, where O'Reilly is based. George said he really
liked working for the small weekly, because on small papers
you're doing real journalism, writing real articles
that people want to read. With large papers, an awful lot of what
passes for journalism these days is actually just rewriting material
off the wire.
I told Sara yesterday that I forgot where I was
and at one point during my conversation with George I was thinking I
should invite him and Sara over for dinner, because Barbara would enjoy
meeting both of them. Then I realized that dinner might be awkward,
although I suppose we could split the drive and meet in Kansas or
think I have any images of my home lab from the 1960's, but here's an
image Roger Wagner sent me of his home lab back in 1969, which looks a
whole lot like mine did. He shot this image with a pinhole camera.
and I were just two of probably a million young guys who were doing
stuff like this--the lab and the pinhole camera--back in the 60's.
Nowadays, kids who do stuff like this are very rare, and that's what
we're trying to do something about with the DIY science series. As I
said many times at the Faire, I know a lot of scientists. Most of them
are my age give or take ten years, and a lot of them are thinking about
retiring. We were the pig in the python, and there are not nearly
enough young scientists in the queue to replace us old guys when we do
Which reminds me. I also talked a lot about irrational
fears and the unwillingness to take risks. The slogan "Safety First"
sounds great until you really think about it. It's stupid, because
safety can never really be the first priority. If it were, we'd never
do anything. We'd never build another skyscraper or bridge or road,
because doing any of those things involve taking risks. Everything
involves risks. If safety really were the top priority, we'd never get
anything done at all.
At that point, someone in the audience
held up his finger and made my favorite comment of the whole Faire. A
new slogan to live by:
At my request, Barbara planted a Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea,
actually D. purpurea purpurea) for me about 18 months ago. The first
year, you get a stalk a meter or so high, but no flowers. The second year, you get flowers.
"digitalis" part of the name probably gives it away. This is a
poisonous plant, one that has been used medicinally for thousands of
years. Its leaves, flowers and stalk contain two cardiac glycosides,
digoxin and digitoxin. I'll probably take samples from it to use in the
I'm still trying to convince Barbara to plant
some Common Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) as a source of aconitine, but
the plant (let alone the isolated alkaloid) is hideously poisonous.
Doses as low as 0.05 mg/kg have reportedly been fatal in humans. In
other words, one standard 500 mg extra-strength aspirin tablet, if it
were pure aconitine, might contain sufficient aconitine to kill more
than one hundred 70 kg adults. I don't think I'll use monkshood in the
an interesting story about aconite. By 1900, chemists had devised
reliable forensics tests for nearly all common poisons. At one
poisoning trial around that time, the world-renowned forensic scientist
Sir Bernard Spilsbury was testifying. He was asked whether forensic
scientists could reliably detect all common poisons. He replied that
they could detect all poisons except one...
At that point, the
judge told him to stop talking, because he didn't want Spilsbury to
reveal the name of this undetectable poison. That poison was aconite,
which, because it is lethal in such small quantities, was impossible to
detect reliably then, and remains hard to detect even today.
This from Roger Wagner, whose home lab from 1969 was pictured yesterday.
From: Roger Wagner
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Wed May 7 16:38:52 2008
Re: books at the Makers Faire?
happy to have you share the images of my home lab from my teenage years
on your journal page. Another part of the story is that along with the
lab in the garage I started prowling dusty used book stores, and buying
old chemistry books, which in 1968 to me meant 1930s to 1950s. My real
found treasure was William Dick's "Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts
and Processes" from 1872. "Receipts" would be "translated" to today's
ears as "recipes", and it told how to make everything from the "Phial
of Galadriel" to Gandalf's fireworks. Of course, they weren't called
that in the book. I had just read "Lord of the Rings", and realized
that the art and science of chemistry was the ticket to making the
"magic" I read about in those books. My other prize book at the
time was "Modern Chemical Magic" by Lippy & Palder.
college, I taught high school chemistry and physics, and was very
discouraged by the fact that the official curriculum had stopped
teaching the real chemistry of "how things work" (like soap, matches,
industrial processes, etc.) and so I would bring in my collection that
had then grown to boxes and boxes of old chemistry books from the 1940s
as this is what students of the 40s would have learned. We still did
the orbitals and theoretical parts of the curriculum, but it was the
real tangible chemistry that got the students excited.
teaching, I spent 20 years as a software developer, including creating
a program called "HyperStudio" that was a creative project-making
environment (multimedia) used in the schools for many years.
I own a rare book auction house in San Francisco called "PBA Galleries"
where I once again get to see interesting chemistry and science books
dating back to the very beginning of the printed book, including actual
alchemy books from the 1500s, and significant other works as well.
still lament the changes to how chemistry was taught "way back when",
and what an interested young person could learn on their own. I was
able to buy pretty much any chemical I wanted and make anything from
them, and that opportunity influenced my life greatly. That is
why I am so thrilled to see your book available. There has been a
gap in the availability of such knowledge for quite some time, and you
have not only brought back an important resource, but added to the body
of knowledge as well for future "home scientists".
Our goal with MAKE in general and the DIY Science series in particular
is to get kids, and adults for that matter, doing hands-on science
again, just as we and millions of others did back in the 60's and
I was just talking to one of our neighbors last night.
Their son is a very bright kid, and turns 5 on the 31st. He's
fascinated by science, and his mom was asking me about activities. She
was actually going to start him on the chemistry book, doing some of
the basic experiments with him. I told her I'd look around for a
science kit to give him for his birthday. I'm going to order the
Smithsonian Mega Science Lab kit for him. It's labeled for ages 10 and
up, but it looks appropriate for him at age 5, given that his mom will
work with him.
We had severe weather last night. The entire region was under a tornado
warning (not watch, warning) from early evening through the small hours
of this morning. Barbara and I decided to sleep downstairs in the guest
suite. My lab, the former kitchen, is our reinforced shelter area. The
kitchen wall that faces the exposed outer rear wall of the house
is constructed of 2X8's on 12" centers with several steel columns
interspersed. It's faced with a 3/4" plywood sublayer secured by
drywall screws to the studs and covered with 1" thick tongue-and-groove
solid yellow pine paneling that's about as strong as white oak.
were several tornadoes spotted on radar throughout the evening and many
funnel clouds reported by weather spotters and law enforcement folks,
but only one or two of them touched down, and none were closer than
about 10 miles to us. We got high winds and torrential rain, about 3"
in less than an hour, but that was the extent of it. The tornado
warnings ended at about 0100, and around 0130 Barbara decided to come
back upstairs to sleep.
I had an interesting talk at Maker Faire with a guy who wants to give
his granddaughter, who's in eighth grade, a laboratory for her birthday
this summer. He's cleared it with her parents, who are all in favor,
and they have an area in the basement where they'll build her a
laboratory bench with running water and install cabinets, shelves, and
so on. They'll also install a kitchen exhaust fan and box it in with
Plexiglass to provide a usable fume hood.
Her mom has an
undergraduate degree in science and some experience working
as a lab technician. She's a stay-at-home mom now, is home-schooling
her daughter, and is comfortable supervising and guiding her daughter
in doing lab work.
What he needed from me was a list of the
items he'd need to equip the laboratory. He wanted her to have what
she'd need to do real science across disciplines, including biology,
chemistry, physics, and forensics. When I asked him about budget, he
said that he expected to spend at least $1,500 equipping the lab
exclusive of building it, but that more was okay if she'd be getting
value for the money.
He'd just bought a copy of Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments,
and said he'd be first in line to buy the forensics book once it was
published. I told him that the equipment and supplies lists in the
chemistry book would be a good starting point, and that I'd try to fill
them out a bit with stuff to cover biology, physics, and forensics.
He's also aware that there'll be ongoing expenses, such as buying
specimens and other consumables when she's doing biology. That's okay
with him. He wants just the equipment and general consumables needed to
set up a good starting point for a general science lab.
him I'd post my recommendations here so that others could also benefit
from them. Also, of course, we'll get the advantage of feedback from my
The first items on any such list have to be personal protective
equipment and other safety equipment: splash goggles, gloves, and a lab
apron, which can be ordered in appropriate sizes from any lab equipment
vendor. Note that it's important to have safety equipment for everyone
who will be working in the lab, so we'll probably want at least two of
everything in the PPE category. A fire extinguisher and first-aid kit
fill out the safety item inventory.
I've put together four kits
that provide just about everything else needed other than a balance and
household incidentals to do all of the lab sessions in Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, and also provide a firm foundation for a general science lab. These four kits total $381.70, plus shipping.
You can order any or all of these kits directly from Elemental Scientific by phone (920-882-1277) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
at the prices shown, which do not include shipping charges. Elemental
Scientific will honor these prices until the end of 2008 even if there
are price increases in the interim.
Note that I mention four
kits, but there are actually five kits listed. That's because
there are three chemical kits, but you need only one or two of them.
The Basic Chemical Kit contains only the hard-to-obtain chemicals
required for the basic lab sessions. The Standard Chemical Kit contains
all of those chemicals, plus several others than can be purchased
locally. If you're willing to supplement your chemical inventory with
items you purchase locally at the hardware store, drugstore, and
supermarket, order the Basic Chemical Kit. If you prefer to order one
item and be done with it, order the Standard Chemical Kit. The Advanced
Chemical Kit supplements the Basic Chemical Kit or the Standard
Chemical Kit, and is required only if you plan to do the advanced
Glassware Kit (# SK 800, $99.00)
Equipment & Supplies Kit (# SK 805, $121.00)
- Beaker 50 ml
- Beaker 150 ml (3)
- Beaker 250 ml
- Beaker 600 ml
- Wash bottle 500 ml
- Burette 50 ml
- Crucible w/cover
- Graduated cylinder 10 ml
- Graduated cylinder 100 ml
- Evaporating dish
- Flask Erlenmeyer 250 ml (2)
- Flask Erlenmeyer 500 ml
- Flask volumetric 100 ml
- Pipette eye dropper glass (3)
- Pipette beral (10)
- Pipette mohr 1.0 ml
- Pipette mohr 10.0 ml
- Spot plate
- Stirring rod (3)
- Capillary tubes (12)
- Test tubes (12)
- Glass tubing 5mm
Basic Chemical Kit (# SK 810, $39.60)
- Burette brush
- Test tube brush
- Test leads with alligator clips (6)
- Burette clamp
- Utility clamp
- Electrode set 12 pc
- Wire gauze w/ceramic center
- LED red
- Inoculating loop
- Chromatography paper
- Filter paper 50 sheets
- Litmus paper red 100 strips
- Litmus paper blue 100 strips
- Test paper pH 100 strips
- Pipette filler bulb
- Ring stand
- Ring support
- Powder scoop
- Rubber stopper asst
- Syringe 50ml w/cap
- Test tube holder
- Test tube rack
- Beaker tongs
- Crucible tongs
- Triangle clay
- Tubing asst
Standard Chemical Kit (# SK 815 $64.90)
- Acetic acid glacial 100 ml
- Aluminum turnings 25g
- Ammonium acetate 25g
- Ammonium chloride 25g
- Ammonium nitrate 40g
- Charcoal activated 25g
- Copper(II) sulfate
- Oxalic acid 25g
- Phenolphthalein powder 1g
- Potassium permanganate 25g
- Sodium acetate 25g
- Sodium bisulfite 25g
- Sodium carbonate 100g
- Sodium hydroxide 100g
- Sulfur 25g
- Sulfuric acid 90% 100ml
Advanced Chemical Kit (# SK 820 $96.80)
- Acetic acid glacial 100 ml
- Acetone 125 ml
- Aluminum turnings 25g
- Ammonia aqueous 6M 125ml
- Ammonium acetate 25g
- Ammonium chloride 25g
- Ammonium nitrate 40g
- Charcoal activated 25g
- Copper (II) sulfate 250g
- Glycerol 25 ml
- Hydrochloric acid 30% 250 ml
- Iron filings 25g
- Iron shot 100g
- Magnesium sulfate 50 g
- Mineral oil 25ml
- Oxalic acid 25g
- Petroleum ether 100 ml
- Phenolphthalein powder 1g
- Potassium hydrogen tartrate 25g
- Sodium acetate 25g
- Sodium bicarbonate 50g
- Sodium bisulfite 25g
- Sodium borate 25g
- Sodium carbonate 100g
- Sodium hydroxide 100g
- Starch 25g
- Sulfur 25g
- Sulfuric acid 90% 100ml
If you're doing all of the lab sessions in the chemistry book, I
would also add a pint of concentrated nitric acid, which isn't included
in the chemical kits because it incurs hazardous shipping charges. That
adds $10 plus the extra shipping charges, and puts us just over $400.
- Aluminum nitrate 25g
- Ammonia aqueous 15M 125ml
- Ammonium molybdate 25g
- Ammonium oxalate 25g
- Barium chloride 10g
- Barium hydroxide 10g
- Barium nitrate 25g
- Calcium nitrate 25g
- Chloroform 25ml
- Chromium (III) nitrate 50g
- Cobalt (II) chloride 5g
- Cobalt (II) nitrate 25g
- Copper (II) nitrate 25g
- Formaldehyde 37% 25ml
- Iodine tincture 25ml
- Iron(III) nitrate 25g
- Iron (II) sulfate 25g
- Lead nitrate 50g
- Manganese (II) sulfate 25g
- Methanol 125ml
- Nickel (II) nitrate 30g
- Ninhydrin powder 1g
- Potassium bromide 25g
- Potassium chromate 25g
- Potassium hexacyanoferrate (II) 25g
- Potassium hexacyanoferrate (III) 25g
- Potassium iodide 25g
- Potassium nitrate 25g
- Potassium thiocyanate 25g
- Silver nitrate 2.5g
- Sodium nitrite 25g
- Sodium phosphate tribasic 25g
- Sodium sulfate 25g
- Sodium sulfite 25g
- Sodium thiosulfate 25g
- Strontium nitrate 25g
- Zinc metal mossy 25g
- Zinc nitrate 25g
only other major item needed for the chemistry lab is a decent balance,
which will obviously also be useful for physics, biology, and
forensics. I consider centigram (0.01 g) resolution the minimum
acceptable for serious work, and a milligram (0.001 g) balance
would be better. Here are some good candidates for a balance:
takes our total up to perhaps $575 including shipping if we choose the
least expensive of the three balances. With the safety equipment, (Elemental also carries all the PPE stuff) call
it $650, and we have what we need to do the equivalent of two full
years of rigorous, hands-on high-school chemistry lab sessions, other
than minor items such as a hotplate that are already available in most
homes. A lot of those items will also be useful for the other sciences.
bad. I hadn't realized how inexpensive it would be to equip a real home
chemistry lab. Not that $650 is chump change by any means, but it's
quite reasonable for what you're getting. To put that in perspective, it's less than what a lot of people might
spend on a bookshelf audio system or a home exercise machine or a set of golf clubs. Of course, I spend a great
deal of time in the book covering substitutions and modifications, so
the lab sessions can be done at lower cost, particularly the
first-year ones, but $650 to do it right was surprisingly inexpensive
when I added it all up.
With one exception, that's all of the big stuff he'll need for the lab. There'll be a lot of
other small and medium stuff needed, but the only major item that
remains is a microscope or microscopes, which I'll take up next time.
Several readers have emailed me to suggest adding an eye-wash station,
which is an excellent idea. At its simplest, an eye-wash station is a
wall-mountable metal rack with a couple of bottles of neutralizing
solution, each fitted with an eye cup. Models like this one
are available for $25 or so. You can also pay much more for larger
models that are powered or gravity-fed and that contain up to several
gallons of eye-wash solution.
I confess that I've never used an
eye-wash station. Twice in college and once in graduate school, someone
working in a lab I was in got a face full of something nasty. In
each case, the person was wearing splash goggles.
Both times in
college, I and the others present in the lab ignored the eye-wash
station and led the victim to the deep sink at the end of the row of
benches, turned the cold tap on full, and drenched the victim's head
and face for several minutes. There was no harm done in either case.
graduate school, there was an emergency shower at hand. I suspect
the cold water feed--there was no hot feed--was probably a 2" pipe,
because that thing put out a real deluge when I pulled the chain, I'd
guess probably something like a gallon per second. The girl who'd been
splashed ended up drenched, of course, but so did I and the other two
guys who dragged her into the shower. No harm done there, either,
except the floor of the lab ended up with quite a bit of standing water.
I told Jasmine when I was giving her a safety orientation lecture in my
lab, the cold water tap is our friend. If anything at all bad happens,
immediately--seconds count--get to the cold water tap, get cold water
running over the affected area, and keep it running for several
minutes. (I also have a shower with a detachable head literally
two steps from the entry door of my lab.) I'd also thought about buying
one of those eye-wash faucets, but decided it wasn't needed.
has much more body modesty than the average teen-age girl, and I think
Kim was a bit worried that if Jas spilled something on her clothing she
might hesitate to strip down. I told Kim that Jas's modesty would
disappear instantly if she spilled anything that mattered on her
clothes. I mentioned how fast Barbara was shedding clothing the whole
way into the house after she stepped on the hornets' nest in the
backyard and the hornets flew up inside her shorts and shirt.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert