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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.

I was going to tell a joke about light bending as it hits a surface,
but on refraction, it seems like a bad idea.
(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 10:29, Reply)
I would tell a science joke
but all the good ones Argon.

(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 10:21, 1 reply)
As the *not* late, great Tom Lehrer said:
I've devoted my life to what has since become a rather successful scientific project -- namely, the attempt to prolong adolescence beyond all previously known limits.

[edit] Oops, he's still alive. Cheers Flex, sorry Tom!
(, Tue 14 Aug 2012, 8:23, 6 replies)
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)
Glass half full
The only "science" experiment I can remember doing myself is seeing how long it would take to fill a pint glass with my own spunk.

I think it was about 1/3 full when my Mum found it.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 23:03, 7 replies)
wish i had a science joke to tell
but right now i cant zinc of any
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 21:49, Reply)
Not strictly home science, just a laugh
You know the metal bit in the middle of scalectric sets you used to have when you were a nipper? Take my advice, If your brain thinks it's a smart idea to stick a pound coin on it whilst the power is on then pulling the trigger. Don't, You tend to almost melt the thing on the carpet and get a bollocking of your mum.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 20:36, 4 replies)
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)
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)
Matchheads with a little blu-tak fit perfectly into the back of a .177 air pellet, and make a lovely little bang when they hit a solid target.
They may, however, come out halfway up the barrel of your mate's rifle.

If this is the case, it's not advsiable to fire a few more to dislodge them, as this will simply clog the barrel with pellets and blu-tak, and he probably won't be best pleased on his return.

If this happens, it's probably best to offer to pay for it instead of claiming that it was his gun and thus his responsibility, as he will probably get upset, tell his dad, and you'll have to buy him a new one, which, at £100 a pop, might mean you're potentially brassic until your mid-30s.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 17:08, 1 reply)
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)
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)
We had a party at our house once,
and thought it would be cool to put dry ice in the drinks we were serving. Probably margaritas or something.

It was indeed quite cool, a horror movie shroud of fog crept over the brim of the glasses.

But looking at some of the posts here, I wonder what would have happened to anyone who swallowed on of the small pieces we were chucking in the drinks. Anyone care to speculate?
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 11:26, 28 replies)
Having read it in the newsletter I tried to look clever at a barbeque yesterday, opening a bottle of wine by banging it on the wall
Did it work? Did it fuck.
(, Mon 13 Aug 2012, 10:04, 50 replies)
Do I know any jokes about Sodium?

(, Sun 12 Aug 2012, 14:24, 22 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)
Some non-explody science.
A light-activated reaction I used at work to make one of the starting materials I wanted. Gives off potassium cyanide, though.

(, Sun 12 Aug 2012, 11:52, 8 replies)
A story from when I used to actually work in the lab....

We were bored one day, just after the weekly radioisotope delivery, nicely packed in dry ice.... So... Fill a sink full of boiling water. Add some dye (we used Coomassie Blue which is a dye for visualizing proteins, but you could use food colouring), and some detergent (Triton X-100 for preference, but Fairy liquid will do at a pinch). Then, whilst standing at a judicious distance, lob in about 2 kilos of dry ice. Result? A sink-diameter snake of blue bubbles will boil its way out, and crawl along the lab floor... Record distance about 4m.....hypothesis tested and confirmed.

Can you try this at home? Oh yes. Just take some dry ice home....
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 20:54, 20 replies)
Napalm and Arrows
Back in the day, a friend and I made hillbilly napalm from styrofoam and diesel. In of itself, not so impressive...however, my friend was in possession of a longbow and the sight of an incandescent arrow flying across the night's sky was quite the sight. (Think the opening scene of Gladiator).

Probably a good thing that he now works for Rolls Royce, otherwise I'm sure he would have been quite the asset for Hezbollah, FARC, etc
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 18:31, Reply)
Mentos and Diet Coke.
Cheap, messy fun. Don't do it in the kitchen. Science principle: nucleation. Possibly enucleation if you are looking down the bottle when it erupts.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 17:22, 5 replies)
I have my own secret laboratory
Which I have set up in a single-storey timber structure in my back garden.

I haven't told my wife about it though, she'd only say it was a complete waste of money.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 15:15, Reply)
Home Science? I get to do this stuff at work!
Although there is an element of 'home science' about it (i.e., we don't know what we're doing most of the time). I've been party to many 'what happens if?' scenarios, such as 'does that big laser hurt if it's pointed at your hand?' (it does and burnt skin smells like burnt chicken) and 'let's recreate the scene in Terminator 2 where the T1000 get's covered in liquid nitrogen'. I also worked with an analytical chemist who said it was good to have an acid burn once in a while because 'it makes you feel alive!'.

The best one for a while though, was a colleague of mine studying reactions between organic acids and clay minerals under extreme conditions (high pressures and temperatures). The top scientist put the mix of clay mineral and acid in a platinum container, cranked up the pressure and let it all sit there at 1000 degrees for a few hours. Fantastic, except it went boom after about 5 minutes. We think (we don't know for sure) the platinum catalyzed the release of hydrogen from the acid, which (at 1000 degrees) was not too happy. Luckily nobody was in the immediate vicinity, otherwise it could have been quite nasty, but it did end up costing a few thousand pounds and the scientist in question was advised to look into something else (how to get a new job, probably).
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 12:41, 3 replies)
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)
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)
We are not worthy

(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 7:08, 2 replies)
As the yr. 11 group leader on a yr. 8 school camp hike.
When you see a naive young yr. 8 place an un-opened tin of baked beans on the fire. Admonish them for being wasteful and suggest that leaving the tin there is not a very smart idea. Then...

Ensure your tent/hootchie is a good safe distance outside the burning beans blast zone.
Laugh uproariously when tin blows in the middle of the night with aloud bang and covers everyones (but yours) tents in scaldingly hot congealed baked beans.
Enjoy watching the dumb little scrote getting the crap beaten out of himself a few days later as the group has to clean the entire classes tents as punishment.
EDIT: Topics covered - thermodynamics, physics & social justice.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 1:47, 25 replies)
The simple things are often the best.
From my dim and distant past...

Take a matchbox. Remove phosphorous(?) tips from match heads (either simply cut them off or scrape the redheads off the stick). EDIT: Maffer's idea of pounding them would also work - just make sure you don't pound them with anything resembling the striking strip!
EDIT: EDIT: There's nothing I like more than scraping a redhead off my stick...
Remove striking strips from box, fashion into 2 "U" shapes.
Place matchhead material in 1 u shape, cover over with other strip to make a nice neat cube.
Seal and tape cube up tightly with sticky-tape. The more the better. You should have started with a cube about 100mm, you should finish with a golfball sized stickytape ball.

If you have a Fast ball pitcher in your midst ask them to ditch it at a sturdy nearby wall. Chances are not much will happen.
Get a big heavy rock. Place matchhead bomb on ground and drop rock on it from a decent height - I suggest about 3m.
Rock will change into shrapnel very quickly. Kinetic energy will be transformed into sound waves. Anything nearby if not broken will be converted into shit-scared instantly. Car alarms may be triggered.
Topics covered - geometry, physics & some chemistry.

Acquire some dot 4 brake fluid and some granulated pool chlorine.
Place brake fluid in a sturdy (but inexpensive) container - preferably thick glass as it will look spectacular when it shatters.
Quickly pour about a cupful of chlorine into the brake fluid and RUN THE FUCK AWAY whilst trying to look back to observe your handywork. Note chemical energy rapidly being converted into sound and light.
Gasp appreciatively.
Topics covered - chemistry, aerobic exercise.

Note: no precise measurements or suggestions for safety gear have been provided as if you are either young or stupid enough to attempt either of these experiments then you deserve whatever comes your way.
Good luck intrepid pyros.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 0:54, 3 replies)
Homemade one-shot gun.
Ingredients: Pencil, candle, matches, ball bearing, string

Take a pencil and wrap it over and over with string, leaving a small hole at the end for lighting.
Light a candle and cover all the string (apart from the hole) in wax, leave to set. Slide pencil out and what you have is a string/wax cylinder, sealed at one end with a touch-light hole.
Take at least a box of matches, maybe 1.5 and pound the heads onto a table, scraping together all the Phosphorus. Then pour into the tube and use the pencil to pack it down.
Shove in a ball bearing.

Use bricks or books or something to wedge it in place, DON'T hold it in your hand for fuck sake. Get a long match or a stick or something to light it from a distance. It will self destruct and probably send firey string and wax everywhere but it'll put that ball bearing through an oil drum (apparently), it's aiming it that's the bitch.

And that's how you kill someone in prison.
(, Sat 11 Aug 2012, 0:11, Reply)
Bolt bombs
Find the largest pair of matching bolts and nuts you can find. The thread should go all the way up the bolt. On one bolt screw one nut all the way up the thread to give it some weight on one end. Screw the other nut so it is half on the bolt half off. In the space in the nut pack it with the scrapings of as many match heads as you fit in. Screw the other bolt onto the nut so that the two halves are held together with the nut packed with scrapings.

Find a large drop onto concrete and release the bolt bomb and take cover. With luck the percussion will cause a horrific explosion and you'll spend the next ten minutes searching in 10 yard blast radius for the two bits of bolt for the next go.

In the absence of a wall advanced bolt bombers can tape the shuttle bit of a shuttlecock to the back of the bolt. Throw the bolt and the drag sends the bolt into a perfect parabolic arc to make contact.

And to think I used to make these when I was 10. I am surprised in hindsight that I didn't end up losing an eye.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 21:42, 4 replies)

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