1. says

    I support the product in principle, but caution that to remain viable as a product creator, they are going to need good liability insurance. My impression was that insurance cost was why we no longer have the chemistry kits we once knew.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I liked their small electronic scale. Much easier to use than a dual beam balance with external weights.
    It looked like they ignited a strip of magnesium near the end. Don’t do that in a wooden structure.

  3. says

    The only downside is that the complete set — book, chemicals, equipment and case — is only available at the $600 level. I suspect that insurance plays a part in that cost. Still, the experiment book looks worth the price.

  4. says

    That’s pretty cool. But won’t a book of matches let you set things on fire too?

    Agreed, the magnesium can let you scorch off your eyebrows in a more interesting fashion, but junior arsonists can’t be picky…

  5. beardymcviking says

    Hmm, I’d love to be able to get my nephew one in a few years.. though he can’t be trusted with marbles yet of course.

    I still remember making hydrochloric acid with my set as a kid – then spilling it all over the desk.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    The scale only has a resolution of 0.1g so it is not very usable as an analysis tool, and a graduated cylinder isn’t a lot of help either. A volumetric flask would be much more accurate. I get the impression that this kit is more of a “do this recipe, see pretty things” toy than an actual way to learn some chemistry. I’m all for pretty colors and flashes and weird smells, but once someone has done all the experiments in the book will they be able to understand why the reactions happened, and maybe make predictions about reactions not in the book?
    Robert Bruce Thompson’s book Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments will actually teach you some real chemistry, and you can get kits of equipment either directly from Thompson or from

  7. says

    Gods, I’d have begged and pleaded for this as a kid. I absolutely loved the microscope I was given when I was seven–yes it was a real one made of some sturdy black metal and it came with a few ready-made slides but a bunch more blank ones so you could make your own. I’ll have to ask my mother whether she’d have gotten this set for me.

  8. Fair Witness says

    Where’s the little rocket powered with Alka-Seltzer? How is it a real chemistry set without THAT ?

    You mean, I DIDN’T have a REAL chemistry set? Damn.

  9. Trebuchet says

    I’m old enough to have had one of the old Gilbert sets from the 1950’s, along with their microscope, of course. The chemistry set actually had an experiment that produced gaseous chlorine! No wonder they don’t sell those any more.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    …this little item just ***screams*** for a new “Try this at home!/ Stand Back! I’m going to try Science!” experimentalists’ thread.

    Curated by whom, though? Certainly not me.

  11. says

    Back when I was young, many a long and torturous year and mile ago; back at school in England; back when one of my kinder nicknames was ‘Professor’ often (boys being of course boys in their dealings with the more original thinker) with the co-cognomen of ‘Leery’; back in my rooty East Anglia-of-the-beautiful-Broads (not girls, but rather small and lovely lakes); back (to make a long story less long) around 1960 there was, in nearby Great Yarmouth, a chemist’s shop.
    Now an English chemist’s shop was (in fact still is) what you Americans would call a pharmacy. And this one; independent, dark and seemingly from an age even earlier than that of my tale; was a rich and sparkling cave of delight to a lover of chemistry.
    Being myself at the time a member of the boys-will-of-course-be-boys-brigade my love of chemistry, and my main claim to fame at school, centred on making things that went, if not bump in the night, then bang at preferably the most unexpected of times.
    I made gunpowder, and chlorate’n’sugar, and some really quite exotic explosives—all of which, or at least the ingredients for all of which, could be bought at that chemist’s shop in profusion and often in quite obvious and promiscuous proximity. Why on a time projecting to create that simple (simple at least to make), but extremely unstable and high, explosive Nitrogen Triiodide , I went in and purchased Iodine crystals and .880 Ammonia and a packet of filter papers to collect the precipitate—not since that old joke about the little shop on the corner where you could buy a big bag of rat poison … and a rat … has such obtuseness been observed in the commercial sector—I mean, I mean, short of asking him outright if he had anything that I could spread, when damp onto, say, the bottom of a toilet seat, that when dry would explode loudly enough to induce abject hysterical diarrhoea into anyone using said seat, could I have been any more obvious? We are talking here of a compound that in tiny quantities, when dry and prodded gently with a fairly long stick, would leave the ears ringing unanswerably.
    Ah! Those were the days, though…
    …once, when working on some solid rocket fuel and wearing a safety mask like a wimp I raised the grubby thing for a moment for a clearer view of my work at the exact moment that the mix chose to demonstrate how unstable both it and my fate could be. I ended up in a lot of pain and hospital, with eyes like frosted glass and a face like a jack-o-lantern long after halloween.
    I suppose if they HAD been a bit more strict in those days both my eyes would now work as Nature and the makers of Jaws-3D (not to mention those horrible red and green lensed glasses) intended, but what can you do…

  12. Thierry Guerrant says

    General re-supply op for grown-ups and those who love them – American Scientific and Surplus has its summer sale in progress. I personally am expecting a brass sextant, but nearly as tempting: The battery-operated flapping bats are 60% off.

  13. blf says

    My attempts to make gunpowder weren’t too successful (albeit I did get some groovy BANGS! with a fertilizer-derived explosive), but did make some impressive, if fast-burning (rather too fast, really), “fuses”. I was far more successful electrocuting myself with the Ham Radio gear (all Heathkit, so I had lots of fun building and debugging the stuff), and in mostly totally failing to raise cultures I could examine under the microscope. Which is a bit odd, given that my refrigerator manages it without any trouble at all.

    Whilst I did scare myself, my parents, and the neighbors a few times, the only time I actually hurt myself was when building a maze for the mouse. I was allowed to use a box cutter without supervision (a bit of a mistake on his part, dad admitted), and sliced my thumb quite deeply. Had to go to the hospital and have stitches. I still have the scar, which is extremely useful for telling left from right, provided I’m not wearing gloves.

    I actually still have the microscope, somewhere. It was a surplus professional-quality binocular microscope, courtesy of my dad and his work.

    Nowadays I seem to specialize in blowing up computer power supplies and DSL modems. Not to mention what I get up to at work…

  14. blf says

    Oh, and that time I fell into a ditch while trying to set up the telescope. Hint: Look down as well as up…

  15. Rich Woods says

    @richardelguru #14:

    Ah, happy memories. The local chemist in my home town (several dozen miles north of yours, on the Lincolnshire Fens) never asked why so many kids would buy sulphur and saltpetre by the pound (all affordable with 1970s pocket money).

    Pipe bombs. Once we’d mastered flash gunpowder and nitre-soaked cotton fuses, the natural next step (thanks to the IRA advertising the possibilities) was pipe bombs. Setting them off in drainage tunnels underneath roads was great fun: the sound was focused and projected across the fields and you could go in afterwards and marvel at the scars and burns on the concrete.

    Happy days. I’d say that this and chemistry sets taught many of us to be careful, more so than others our age might have been. Any idiot who started playing with fire around all those chemicals to show off soon got jumped on and kicked out.

    @Nerd #2:

    It looked like they ignited a strip of magnesium near the end. Don’t do that in a wooden structure.

    Don’t do that in a rust-and-aluminium environment either. It’s fun once.

  16. Rich Woods says

    @blf #16:

    I still have the scar, which is extremely useful for telling left from right, provided I’m not wearing gloves.

    I have one of those too. Gained while preparing carrots for my brother’s pet rabbit when I was ten. Preparing with a hatchet. D’oh!

  17. says

    Rich #18

    Being a bit older than you (it seems) I’d never hears of pipe bombs (or much about the IRA).
    You see, you young fellows have all the fun!!


  18. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    I had something like this as a kid, but nowhere near as large. It was still a lot of fun :) it came with strict instructions to only mix the chemicals according to the method given for the various experiments. Predictably enough I ignored this warning, with some fairly unpredictable results, especially when the alcohol-burner was also involved… which it normally was.

  19. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @ richardelguru, blf, and Rich Woods

    I well remember the day that my friend arrived at my house, excited as all hell, clutching a freshly-printed copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook; basically a big recipe book of home-made explosives, some amusing but some potential terrorist material, available for free online. We’d already found several ways of making amusing explosives with non-safety matches, and were working on a plan to make some black powder, but that book broadened our horizons considerably.

    It was the noughties by the time I got around to doing all this, and safety standards (as well as knowledge of the devious destructiveness of teenage boys, presumably) had been considerably broadened. We had to steal the sulphur and potassium nitrate for the black powder from the school chemistry cupboard. It took months before we managed to get hold of any! They were very careful to keep that thing locked.

    Still, in the end we managed to get about a kilo of each. We combined that with a bag of lumpwood charcoal, a hammer, and, much to his mother’s chagrin, a food processor (to powder the charcoal; thankfully we knew enough not to mix the actual powder in it), and before you knew it we’d blown a small tree straight up out of the ground. It turns out a baked-bean can full of black powder is actually quite a lot of black powder.