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This is a question Home Science

Have you split the atom in your kitchen? Made your own fireworks? Fired a bacon rocket through your window?
We love home science experiments - tell us about your best, preferably with instructions.

Extra points for lost eyebrows / nasal hair / limbs

(, Thu 9 Aug 2012, 17:25)
Pages: Popular, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This question is now closed.

Putting the 'Ooooh' in 'Tenuous'
It was a dark winter's evening a few years ago. Mrs Costas and I had just battled through the usual hour-long struggle to convince our 4 year-old daughter that it was her bedtime. You know the drill; We'd been through "But I'm not tired", "Can I have a glass of water/milk/gin?", "I've tried to go to sleep for five minutes now" and "But I want to stay down here with you, what are you doing?". We'd assured her that she was tired, that she'd already drunk enough to drown a million bedbugs, that it might take longer than five minutes to fall asleep and that we were doing nothing of interest downstairs, just boring grown-up stuff like eating tea and watching TV. Finally, she gave up and turned in for the night.

As we tiptoed back to the living room, Mrs Costas had an idea. "Why don't we light that candle? It'll make the room smell nice" (we'd just moved in, and so everything smelt of a dog that'd been licking the bottom of Pete Doherty's fridge). "Great idea! I'll get the matches! Oh balls. I have no idea where they are" I replied (most of the house was still neatly packed into boxes with helpful labels like 'Breakable' - Rather a broad category, since everything's breakable if you've got a free weekend and a big enough hammer).

It was time to get resourceful. We must be able to get a flame somehow, we thought. But of course! We'll light a bit of paper on the cooker, then use it to light the candle. A great idea, were it not for that fact that it was an electric cooker.

I refused to be beaten by this minor setback. I think it must've been an evolutionary thing - Once man want fire, man not give up 'til man get fire (or tea get cold and man miss first bit of Poirot). I remembered that the previous occupants had left behind a few things, including a box of old fireworks. I fetched the box out and had a good rummage. Huzzah! I found pack of sparklers.

The experiment was on. Could we light a sparkler from an electric hob? Mrs Costas and I took one each, turned the hob on full blast and pressed the business ends of our sparklers firmly against the blistering heat.

Nothing happened.

Then - PFFFFTSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Success! Almost in unison, our sparklers caught ablaze. Quickly, I touched mine against the candle and watched with glee as it took light. Man make fire!

It seemed a shame to waste them, so we turned off the kitchen light and spent the next few seconds joyfully writing our names in sparks in the air, celebrating the magic of science.

Then, from the doorway, we heard a little voice.

"What are you doing?"

It took about two years of bedtimes to convince our daughter that Yes, she should go to sleep now and that No, we weren't going to be having any indoor fireworks displays as soon as she'd gone to bed.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 10:14, 20 replies)
About 8 years ago
Some friends and I decided to microwave a piece of human excrement. Though it was but for a fleeting few seconds, the results were clear, and as follows:

1. The excrement's temperature was (I presume) marginally increased.
2. The smell was diabolical.


Said excrement was a nugget of 'Guinness black', about the size of a bourbon biscuit. I am unaware if this was an external factor.

The all-pervading smell was still there months later.

It didn't smell of excrement, so much as what I would imagine a diseased soul would smell of. It's odour could easily have convinced a near suicidal person that yes, indeed, it really is all a load of bollocks.

If you are tempted to follow suit, ensure (as I did) that the microwave and dwelling to be used are not one's own. Then, don't.

Science is not a strong point, though I do look rather fetching in a white coat.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 18:14, 15 replies)
Fun with smoke bombs
A few years back a fellow b3tan and I decided to knock together a few smoke bombs. I ordered some potassium nitrate and fuse wire from ebay and mixed it at a 3:2 ratio with some sugar. We put it in a pan at a very low heat and stirred continuously until it was the colour and consistency of peanut butter. We then spooned it in to bits of toilet roll tubes cut in to three with foil wrapped around the bottoms. We poked a hole in the still malleable paste with a pencil. When they were solid (which doesn't take long) we put a piece of safety fuse in each held in place with a bit of cotton wool. We set one off in the garden and they worked very well. Loads of thick white smoke and the reaction was volatile enough to burn the foil. Once we had used them all up we decided to make some more. Same recipe except this time I cranked up the heat to speed it up. I remember stirring and suddenly feeling a tiny sticking sensation like striking a match and then the contents of the pan exploded in my face spraying molten sugar and thick white smoke everywhere. Somehow I was unharmed and thanks to the stone flooring in the kitchen the floor was ok where I had dropped the pan. The kitchen sides had a few speckles where the molten sugar had melted them but it was pretty much ok. We opened the back door and waited outside for the smoke to clear, except it didn't. I went back inside and opened every window and door and stood out the front to convince the neighbours the house wasn't on fire. After about half an hour the smoke had almost cleared and I had managed to clear all the mess off of the kitchen floor. All seemed well then the wife arrived home. "Why are all the windows open she asked" We told her we were just airing the house out she eyed us suspiciously and said she was going to make a cup of tea. We had gotten away with setting fire to her kitchen! She went to the kitchen and opened a cupboard to get the tea bags.

It was full of thick white smoke.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 11:17, 3 replies)
Experimenting with unknown devices.
In my quest for stained glass to make things out of, I found myself one day at the city's highway department. They were taking down the old traffic lights that used incandescent bulbs and replacing them with LED arrays. The guy in charge pointed out the scrap heap and told me to help myself.

In the scrap heap I also found a strange thing, shaped approximately like a bell, mounted on a bracket. I asked the guy what it was and he shrugged. "Maybe one of those detectors to control the lights? You know, the kind that beeps and looks for an echo?"

Sounded fun to me, so I took it along with the lenses.

Closer inspection showed that it required standard household current to run, and it had two wires sticking out the side. So I did what any idiot would have done- I attached a power cord to it.

I stood in my workshed for a moment, extension cord in one and and plug in the other. What it it was some sort of microwave emitter? Better have it pointing down just in case. I set it on its front end plugged it in.

No microwaves emerged. Nothing dangerous happened. But standing there enclosed in my 12'x12' workshed with the door closed I had a working air raid siren going off at my feet.

It took me a half hour to stop shaking and to hear properly again.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 18:48, 7 replies)
I've done this one:

Basically you get a glass jug and pour a bit of isopropyl alcohol (93%) or an equivalent in, slosh the alcohol all around to get a good bit of vapor in there, pour out the remaining alcohol and set the jug back down. Light a match and watch the pretty show.

Great one to do for your friends if they've been smoking a bit of weed.
(, Thu 9 Aug 2012, 22:45, 11 replies)
Cabbage rainbow
Red cabbage. Chop. Add boiling water, allow to cool. Filter. Pour four equal measures, then add vinegar (pink), bicarbonate of soda (blue), both (purple), and caustic soda (green).

(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 17:17, 10 replies)
Do I know any jokes about Sodium?

(, Sun 12 Aug 2012, 14:24, 22 replies)

Where to Start…

My dad always said I would end up in smoke… he hasn’t been proved right yet but he’s been close.

All the below happened to me up to the age of 14 and are the result of curiosity and lack of knowledge – not so much ‘experiments’.

I fondly remember my mum and dad walking in on me in the garage whilst holding a lit candle in one hand and a can of air freshener in the other. The best response I could muster was ‘Its not what it looks like’…

Drying the dishes with the hair dryer. (because it’s a genius idea – towels are for muppets) - Dryer overheats, I remove plug cover to inspect - I electrocute myself.

Cutting the grass with my dad’s petrol lawn mower. The only way to turn it off was by pressing a strip of metal onto an exposed spark plug which cuts the engine out. But you HAD to do this with your feet. I didn’t know why I had to use my feet, so I tried using my hand. The resulting shock knocked me about 10 ft down the garden.

Wanting to see what happens when you put the back of one tea spoon in a standard 240v plug socket . One in the Earth socket and another in the Neatral (making sure they touched). Result = Nothing. Unless you touch them – this resulted in a massive shower of sparks and the spoons becoming spot-welded together.

Working as a Dishwasher in a restaurant – had to get some stuff out of the big chest freezer upstairs. Opened the lid and saw a small hole, not sure what this hole was for, I inserted my finger. When I picked myself off the floor several feet away from the freezer, I concluded that the hole was indeed a light bulb socket.

Following a slight knock to my ankle, going home and sitting in the sun with my foot in a bowl of cold water. After 20 mins, I’m bored and get my acoustic guitar out. After 10 mins, I’m bored and get my electric guitar out…. And plug it in….then play, sat on a chair on the patio with my feet in a bowl of water. How I got away with that one I’ll never know… the look of panic and shame on my dads face was awesome.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 9:16, 5 replies)
In my defence I was about 4
I remember being very interested in science (based mainly on mad scientist scenes from kids cartoons).

I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of experiment I could do. A lot of this time was spent on the toilet. One day when I was channeling Edison whilst pinching my daily loaf I got to wondering what would happen to the poo if, instead of being flushed away, it was kinda...... left for a while.

And that is the story of how I found myself to be pooing into a wad of toilet roll which I would then hide somewhere. I didn't think it through so I then had to think of a suitable hiding place whilst my creation festered under my nose. Not straying too far from my comfort zone I soon found myself wrapping it in more TP and then wedging it in a spot I had found underneath the ceramic bathroom sink.

I left it there.

For about a month.

My parents spent a fortune on dyno rod and other assorted plumbers trying to find out where the smell was. Oming from.

Being young and oblivious I didn't take any notice. I went back to it when, purely by chance, I remembered what I had done.

Either someone had replaced my mighty log with a deformed sultana which somehow still smelled of shit, or a lot of it had disappeared through the tissue. Applying what I now know to be called occams razor I decided the shitty sultana scenario was highly improbable and that is how I learned about desiccation/evaporation/dehydration (I am sure some clever boffin b3tan will indicate hitch one it is)

A length joke would be too easy given the subject matter.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 17:10, 9 replies)
Food dye is indestructible.
Of recent times I've been clearing out my house and workspaces of old things I will likely never use- old metal things I will never weld into anything, odd chunks of glass I don't immediately need, neon tubing that I don't have the time to work on... loads of stuff has gone to the landfill.

It's hot, sweaty work, and after a recent load I stopped at the gas station for a drink. Gatorade was on sale, so I got two bottles of electric blue sugar water with electrolytes. I drained them before I got back to the house.

The next morning as I went through my usual morning routine, I discovered that food dye does not break down in the digestion process.

I had shat out an entire clan of Smurfs.
(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 20:15, 3 replies)
Don't try this at home kids
OK before I begin, does anyone remember the disposable flash cubes that you could fit on top on your camera in the halcyon days of the 80s?
For all you youngsters these were old school use once flashes that looked like this: www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/images/flashcubes.jpg
They ran from the two 1.5v AA batteries in your camera and you often had to wait 2 minutes for the capacitors to charge before you could even use them. So back to the story:

One hot summers day a young skintagain was sat indoors during the blistering heat of an 80s summer holiday. The beaded door curtain was swinging and knocking in the wind. His bike had a puncture and he had the house to himself. He had already tried all the drinks in the drinks cabinet and was skulking round the house wondering what to do... When he suddenly spied a box of the aforementioned flash bulbs on the kitchen side and wondered "What if?"

Well I can absolutely tell you that plugging one of these into the mains is NOT a good idea. Whenever I see footage of the white heat of Hiroshima I am instantly transported back in time. The immense ball of white light gave me retina burns that lasted for two days. Pieces of the melted plastic casing were scattered throughout the lounge and the plug socket smelled like burnt cabbages for weeks.

The clean-up process was ahem.. "interesting" as I was only able to use my peripheral vision. And with the cunning skills that only a teenagers possesses I covered the burnt area of carpet with a pot plant. Surreptitiously placed smack bang in the centre of the room because that "won't look suspect"

(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 14:11, 13 replies)
Arcade madness
I make things. I particularly make things from my youth - probably trying to hold on to it I guess! I have a particular fondness for 80's arcade games like Defender, Track & Field etc...
I've made a few MAME cabinets over the years, but as life dragged on, kids, pets, etc... made having full size machines a little impractical, so I set about making a table-top cabinet of my own design.
I broke apart a USB keyboard and shorted the switches into a veroboard that I could wire the arcade buttons into.
After a few evenings of bad soldering, I finally had it finished.
It looked like a rats nest....but it worked. Of sorts.
I'd forgotten about the bouncing you get from analogue switches, so if you pressed 'Fire' once you'd get three or four presses of the button sent to the keyboard controller.
I realised that putting a capacitor across the bridge would solve the problem, however the wiring and soldering were far to fragile to take apart and fix...so I started enquiring about printed circuitry - turned out to be far too expensive, so looked into making my own.
You need a UV oven and a whole host of other expensive crap.
So....I found that if I printed the design backwards on a laser printer, then ironed it onto copper board (just about the only time I've ever used a clothes iron for anything), I could use Ammonium Persulphate to etch away the copper leaving my newly pressed imprint on the copper. Get a brillo pad and it should leave the copper underneath intact.
...I asked the electronics engineer at work if this was viable, and after he stopped calling me names and laughing told me in no uncertain terms that, no...it would not work.
The fool!
It bloody worked perfectly, however, the fumes from the Ammonium Persulphate probably guarentee that my lungs no longer do!
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 11:39, 7 replies)
Custard powder is flammable
Minimal details to protect the guilty.

It's possible build a flamethrower using custard powder, a weedsprayer, a car battery and some wire. Blow a nice cloud of custard powder into the air over a hot wire, and if the consistency of the cloud is right, it produces an impressive fireball six or eight feet across.

Top tip: not all the powder burns. Some of it settles on the ground. If, as you are playing with your flamethrower, you walk around, this is not a problem. If you stop moving and do three or four "burns" in one place, a decent sized layer of fuel will build up directly in front of you. On the fourth or fifth burn, the slight breeze generate by the fireball will disturb the layer you've made and you will experience the joys of a secondary dust cloud explosion. These can be surprisingly violent and damage trousers.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 8:37, 3 replies)
I went to a Catholic school for a couple of years.
One of the priests was some kind of mad scientist looking bloke and all he kept on about was a strange compound with Iron, Carbon and Potassium. I never did work out what it was for, and couldn't make it myself, but I hear he was retired to an island parish in Ireland and still goes on about it to this day.
(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 12:29, 11 replies)
Locust Zombie Apocalypse.
A looooooooooong time ago I was a school lab tech.
Part of the job involved 'eauthanising' locusts for the 6th form to do their dissection work on as part of their A levels. This basically meant getting one locust for each kid, plus a few spares, chucking them in a fume cabinet, bunging in a cotton wad soaked in chloroform and leaving it for a couple of hours. Nice and easy.
Except that one time the chloroform we had was well past it's best before date. "No problem" said my boss "We'll just use twice the amount, give it an extra hour and it'll be fine."
"Fair enough" I said and got on with the job of being an insect Rudolf Hoess.
Three hours later the locusts had all been 'Evacuated to The East'. It was another couple of hours before they were needed, so I just left them in the fumes cabinet until about 10 minutes before the class came in, then I took them out and laid them out one to a dissecting board. As I was doing this I felt one of them twitch in my hand. A swift rotation of it's head cured that and I carried on and then left to go prep my next lab, leaving my boss and the biology teacher to take charge.
About fifteen minutes later I got a panicked call asking me to return to the biology lab. As the students had started their dissections nearly all of the locusts had spontaneously ressurected to much screaming and panic.
So yeah, if you're ever bitten by a zombie locust that was my fault, sorry.
I'm not EVER going to tell you about my time as a gravedigger though.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 8:05, 4 replies)
6 year old logic
Hot chocolate = wonderful
Lots of chocolate = incredible
Therefore making hot chocolate with lots of chocolate powder = incredibly wonderful!

We're talking 2/3 of a cup full of powder here. Topped up with milk. Had to be stirred with a knife. And then we put it in the microwave and watched for our chocolatey delight to manifest.


We had to chip it out of the microwave with a trowel. As she always did with food experiments, my mum made us eat it so the lesson would stick. It managed to be both chewy and slimy.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 9:27, 1 reply)
I may have mentioned that I used to live in Holland. I was in a wee village with a population of about 50 people and 2 horses.

At the time I was about ten years old and used to hang about with the local Dr's son. His parents took a very laissez-faire approach to parenting and basically allowed their 4 sons to grow up as highly intelligent yet feral children.

Anyway, my mate was the youngest and arguably daftest of the brothers. He and I decided one day we were going to build a rocket. Not knowing much about aerodynamics, thrust, or ballistics we just decided to put a lot of burney stuff in a tube.

In his bedroom (which was MASSIVE) he had a full sized work bench and an Adidas Bag full of rusty tools. We set to work cutting open 5 boxes of these guys ( nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strijker_(vuurwerk) ) to harvest the powder. We "cut" it with 100 crushed sparklers. There was no scientific thinking behind it. We just looked at the sparklers and thought "hey, that shit burns. We can add it in". But almost as soon as we had mixed it we regretted it. Our limited knowledge of chemistry told us (belatedly) that the slower burn of a sparkler does not equate to a lot of air time.

We needed something. Something to balance out the sparklers. Something potent. Something with a lot of bang. Stephen has a lightbulb moment and runs out the room. He returns carrying a box. He quietly tells me it is stacked to the brim with his dad's shotgun cartridges. Awesome says I. We quickly set about them with our Stanley blades and before long we had a large mound of what looked like small flakes. I had expected wile e. coyote ACME style black powder but we figured this stuff would do.

Now, we mixed it all together and used a clamp and a makeshift metal tamper to compact this stuff into 4 copper tubes. One end had been hammered shut and once it the other end had been rammed full of our home brew we sealed it with blu tac and a sparkler fuse (yes, the design was both poor AND dangerous).

A few quick cardboard nose cones and we were in business.

We quickly set out to try our amazing flying machine. It was lit and then propped up in a glass bottle.

Holy Christ! It was like the end of the fucking world.

We had expected a sheet of flame and smoke as our copper arrow soared towards the sky.

Instead we had made a fucking grenade and then encased it in a heavy glass container. There was a massive fucking explosion followed by the tinkling of glass and a car alarm. We took out a neighbours window, a couple of panels on a Mercedes and most tragically, a neighbours cat.

The dutch don't have the BBFC making things difficult for them so a steady stream of 80's action movies told me that a young boy like me would soon be on the receiving end of a thousand million moustachioed men on the inside. I ran like a Kenyan on speed. Back at the docs house I picked up my other tube and went home.

Mum found it in my room a week later. She carefully explained that she used to work for ICI making detonators and how i should really be dead. I never got it back.

Stephen took the hit for the cat and the window and the car and my parents never breathed a word to anybody.

All's well that ends well unless you are a cat.
(, Thu 9 Aug 2012, 21:47, 3 replies)
Cillit Bang vs. Kill It, Bam!
Back "when we woz studends", around 2005, Cillit Bang spokesperson "Barry Scott" was an internet craze for some bizarre reason. At least, until people got sick of the made-up marketing device.

Anyhoo, we discovered that our 99p store stocked what we believed was a cheap knock-off of Cillit Bang called "Kill it, Bam!". In the interests of science, we decided to perform an experiment to find out which was better, using the cleaning test of choice - old pennies. The results may surprise you. Or possibly not, as we got featured in a b3ta newsletter that week.

Interestingly, after we got featured in the newsletter the people who made "Kill it, Bam!" got in touch with us. It turns out they're the same people who make "Astonish" which I vaguely remember being advertised on late night TV once. Anyway, their email was a little bit sarcy as apparently they felt their product was above merely cleaning pennies (And in fact they informed us that Tomato Ketchup does an even better job - which it actually bloody well does) but they did have the good grace to send us a shitload of various cleaning products, such as de-limescaling tablets for the toilet and feather dusters.

Being students, we didn't really use any of it for anything productive like cleaning, but it was still bloody nice of them.
(, Wed 15 Aug 2012, 15:51, Reply)
Kitchen Science Experiments are part of my job*
And one of my favourites is being able to crush a can with steam. It's easy, fairly safe and good to do at bbqs.

You will need:

Empty drinks can (without a widget)
A source of heat (gas/electric hob, BBQ, fire)
1 bowl of cold water
Something to pick the can up with - BBQ tongs or similar work well

What to do:

Take the empty beer/soft drink can, pour in a double shot of water (you shouldn't need more than that) and place it on your heat source. After a few minutes you should hear thew water inside boiling vigorously.

Now, grab your bowl of cold water (you don't need to bother with ice, cold tap water is fine) and put it close to the now very hot can.

Using your tongs (not your toungues, unless you're into that sort of thing) pick up the hot can and rapidly turn it upside down and plunge into the cold water.

The can will instantly be crushed, usually with a very satisfying sound.

Here's the science bit:
When you're heating the can, the water is boiling off into steam. This fills the can, displacing the air that was inside. When you then cool the can, the steam rapidly condenses back into water. This takes up less volume, creating a vacuum in the can. The air pressure around the can is therefore much higher than the pressure inside, and makes light work of the flimsy aluminium structure.

* - No really, they are. Have a look here for more.

Spammy plug: I'll be doing some home science demos on BBC Radio 5Live on Sunday 19th August, 7-10pm, in case you're interested in that sort of thing.

(, Wed 15 Aug 2012, 13:22, 24 replies)
Time to shoehorn this one in....
As I think this must be someones own home science project

A few weeks ago I was cycling home from work through one of the more rough-and-ready- parts of the village I live in (where all blokes read the Sun/Daily Sport believing every word and women all aspire to appear on Jeremy Kyle). In an effort to make it look like they aren’t spending all the public’s tax money on expenses the local council have spent the last few months rebuilding the front walls of most of the houses, complete with metal gate and matching metal fence. I was sat at the traffic lights* when I heard the following exchange between two blokes (Neil and Dave) about Daves new garden improvement, a wooden fence added to the top of this wall built by the council that made the view into the garden impossible to anyone under 5 foot 5**:

Neil: Hey Dave, whats with the wooden fencing? Looking for a bit more privacy, because if you are that isnt going to work its too small?

Dave: No mate, we use the back garden mostly, this stuff is to keep the pedophiles out.

(Mon thinks WTF, did he just say what I think he said)

(Neil runs his hand over the cheap plywood/ bamboo type surface and nods)

Neil: Good thinking Dave, good to see you used the right paint for it too

Dave: You have to use this stuff, I made it thicker than recommended though cause the wife hated the first coat and the thicker it is the better it works against pedophiles

Neil: Haven’t your kids moved out?

Dave:Yeah but it’s always best to be safe, you never know, the grandkids could come up and they could be gone like that (snaps fingers)……. dirty buggers those Pedo’s

Neil: Yeah dirty buggers…..

Thankfully the lights changed so I had to leave before I burst out laughing and was beaten up by two dolescum blokes and their specialised fencing.

Now what the hell? Has this bloke built this special defense mechanism himself or does B & Q have a specialized section containing repellant for slugs, vermin and sexual deviants?

*Im not one of those twattish cyclists that jumps lights via the pavement

** Translated from local Barnsley dialect so all can understand
(, Wed 15 Aug 2012, 10:35, 5 replies)
I would tell a science joke
but all the good ones Argon.

(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 10:21, 1 reply)
While on a uni firefighting course,
I got to have a turn on a CO2 extinguisher, which in itself is no more than very mildly interesting. However, the extinguishers we used on these jaunts were those past their shelf life or surplus to requirements.
CO2 extinguishers have a chamber of compressed CO2 in its liquid state (which you can only get under pressure) that rapidly evaporates on exiting the nozzle to produce a blanket of very cold, fire-asphyxiating gas.
This particular unit had been handed back as defective, as I was about to find out. I had just finished putting out a large pan of diesel and tried to put the extinguisher down.
"Odd." I thought. "I can't seem to let go of this." It wasn't a mere attachment of a man and his fire-killing buddy, but closer inspection revealed that a crack in the tubing between the cylinder and the nozzle had caused liquid CO2 to pour out over the back of my hand - half of it had evaporated, chilling the rest down to the point where it had solidified and quickly killing any sensation in my hand.
"Oh yeah, someone said that one was broken" said the 'safety' officer.
By the evening, there was nothing more than a little redness and a very faint prickling of the skin, so no harm done, eh?
The following morning, it looked like I had been fondling a wasp nest - there were blisters on the back of fingers that were the same size as my fingers. The GP took one look and referred me to the burns unit at the local hospital. The very confident doctor had a good look and retreated from the cubicle to "get a few bits and pieces to patch this lot up." By that, she meant "walk down the ward and use the phone to contact a specialist burns unit to find out what the hell to do with this lot, having not seen a cryogenic burn this bad before" as I could hear her talking on the phone.
Result? A month with my hand in a plastic bag of burn cream, learning to write left-handed and not being able to bend my fingers for nearly three months.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 23:50, 5 replies)
wish i had a science joke to tell
but right now i cant zinc of any
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 21:49, Reply)
I connected my scalectric car up to the mains using the lead from my radio-
1- pulled off the track connector from the car,
2- took the motor leads off it, and
3- stripped them using the standard 'between the teeth' stripping method..
4- Then poked them into the radio lead holes.
The car went about 2 feet very fast.
The car caught fire
I panicked
I picked up the car and threw it in the bin.
The bin was metal. Win.
The bin was full of paper. Fail.
I picked up the bin, flames getting bigger.
I ran through the house with the 'experiment'
Out into the garden and tipped it out..
And stomped all the bits out. My dad was sleeping on the couch at the time.
I cried a bit..
Then rinsed the bin out and cleaned off all the soot.
Then restored order to the house.
My dad wakes.
'why does the house smell like burning?'
'Eeeerm, next door had a bonfire...'
'why are all the windows open?
'Eeeeerm, I liked the smell...'
'Oh ok you silly twat- close the Windows'

Got away Scot free.. But the blisters really did hurt like fuck for weeks afterwards!
Unsurprisingly I'm an electrical engineer now.. Things haven't changed much....
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 20:32, 2 replies)
More home biology...
I once filled a jar with maggots I found in the rubbish bin. My thinking was that they would hatch into flies at some point and the first to do so would feed on the maggots that were still crawling around. They would in turn die and the remains would be left to the newly hatched maggots. I was hoping to create a self perpetuating living microcosm of maggots, flies and dead fly corpes in a jar.

It didn't quite work out because I forgot to put holes in the lid and I left it on the window sill in the height of summer away from the prying eyes of my nosy brother. I opened up the jar once they had all stopped moving and it was at that point that I gagged into my mouth and wondered whether it was the heat or perhaps the smell that had killed them.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 15:21, 1 reply)
How to get (nearly) expelled from school a week before the A-levels
Simply by mixing ______ solution and ______ crystals (two somewhat dated but easily acquired household chemicals), you can make tiny black crystals that go "crack!" with a puff of purple smoke when you crush them. Or let them dry out too quickly. Or look at them funny. Or if someone 15 miles away eats a cheese and onion crisp. Or just if they damn well feel like it. Unstable stuff, is ________ _________.

So just before the exams, me and Bill thought it to be a thoroughly great idea to make some of this, and started crackling away on the chemistry bench. The teacher, a wise old bird who was the subject of daily mocking for his unfortunate speech impediment (sorry; we were little shits), knew that sound, and shut us down asap. We had to swab the bench with a neutralising solution, and were dragged in front of the Beak who admonished us that This Could Ruin The Career of Two Promising Young Men, and we had to swear that we hadn't made any more of the stuff and we wouldn't think of telling anyone what the chemicals were or we would be withdrawn from the examinations.

The thing was, we had made more. A lot more. An entire 10cm watch-glass full of evil little black crystals was quietly drying in a closed cupboard in the lab. We weren't allowed back in to the lab, it being late on a Friday afternoon. All weekend long we fretted ...

We got back into the lab first thing Monday, and made a rather hasty-but-innocent scramble to the cupboard. Which was open. In fact, the door had been blown off its runners, and it was happily sitting propped against a faraway bench. The watch-glass was intact, save for a thin line of char around the edge. Bill nonchalantly refitted the door, while I tried to clean off the watch-glass, all harmless like. It must've gone up over the weekend.

We still made a bloody mess of our A-levels, though ...
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 21:20, 11 replies)
It's a bit like splitting the atom...
When they started putting those widget things in beer I couldn't resist investigating one. Having drunk the beer and split the can I was left with a small plastic cylinder with a simple valve in the top. The cylinder appeared to have been manufactured in two parts as it had a seam running round the side. "That looks like a push-fit," I thought, "should be easy to pry open with a screwdriver." This proved to be the case, but I had neglected to consider that it might contain residual gas - under pressure. This also proved to be the case as the top half of the widget flew across the room with an almighty BANG! and my underwear was no longer pristine.
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 11:17, Reply)
2 Cans post reminds me of this

Surely this guy wins. Great story.
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 10:47, 3 replies)
2nd Law
I must have been about 9 or 10 when this happened. My dad, who's always had 'techno joy', got me a dynamo light set for my bike ('to save on batteries'). I'm not sure what they're like now, but back in the eighties, they were a bit rubbish (well mine was) so after a few weeks it was left rusting in the garage.

I can't remember what I'd watched/read, but I got the idea that, if you turn the wheel on the dynamo it makes electricity and my battery operated Lego motor needed electricity to turn round, so I hooked them together. 'Wicked' I thought, 'if I then hook up the motor so it turns the dynamo, it'll go on forever!'.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, I was having a bit of trouble making this work and I mentioned it to my dad. I thought he'd be really proud, but instead of the expected 'well done son', I got a grilling on the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which my dad summarized as 'you don't get aught for naught'.

Git. I got him back though, by laughing at his home made 'wind farm' many years later.
(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 13:30, 19 replies)
Not strictly an 'experiment' but...
I used to roadie for a band and we used dry ice to produce nice smoke effects.
On one occasion, playing a gig in [redacted], we had a large chunk of dry ice that was surplus to requirements and some idiot dumped it in a ceramic sink in the dressing room.
The gig ends and the singer wants to wash some of the sweat off, but the sink contained a huge chunk of dry ice - how was he going to get rid of it?
Answer: by turning on the hot tap.
And this was how he discovered "thermal shock".
A wall with a u-bend and a pair of taps, but a complete absence of sink, is one of the more 'surreal' sights I have seen.
(, Sun 12 Aug 2012, 12:10, Reply)

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