Day 25 – Chemical presents

January 24, 2010

No, not those kinds of presents… It looks like there are lots and lots of great-looking whatchamacallits that can be made with relatively few ingredients. They’d make some pretty unique presents: dirt-cheap and you can’t buy them anywhere. (Even at Walmart haha.)

This guy posted great instructions for making a crystal tree out of salt and ammonia. It helps if you have some food coloring, but you can do just as well without. Make sure to watch the video to see the tree “grow.” 🙂

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Day 23 – Flooded

January 23, 2010

Guess what happened to my basement? 😦 A pipe burst yesterday morning… Now I’m a proud owner of a giant puddle. The good news is that the damage was fairly minimal, and only one box in our storage room got destroyed, since it was right underneath the pipe. It wasn’t in the “lab” part of the basement, but it’s a good reminder that basements are far from perfect (even though they might be better than garages when it comes to picking a lab location).

It’s also a good thing that there are no pipes going through my lab room. None that I know of, anyway. O_o (And the only way to find out would be to discover a nice puddle of chemicals on the floor haha). As Robert Heinlein said, “You live and learn. Or you don’t live long.”

Day 21 – Doctor Horrible!

January 21, 2010

On the off chance you haven’t seen it yet, you ought to: Dr.Horrible’s sing-along blog.  Good flick (only 40 minutes long) and it kinda-sorta-not-really has to do with home science. :))

Day 20 – Why we chem

January 20, 2010

(Day 19 was stolen by web gremlins.)

A message from a friend:

Subject: Chem experiment.
Body: Now I’ve given up trying not to pry…
What are you attempting to do exactly?

The short answer is everything and nothing. All the experiments I can perform by myself, and none in particular. I just want the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that I have my own chemistry lab. That, and the ability to casually mention it in everyday conversations. 😉

As for the long answer… Maybe some other day.

Day 18 – Go Nevada…

January 18, 2010

I wish I could say this news article surprised me or even came as a shock. It was neither… San Francisco Chronicle reports that “[a]n annual survey by Education Week magazine ranks Nevada 50th in the nation for the quality of its public K-12 education.” The full article can be found here. For years, the state hovered perilously close to the last place – usually coming in as #48. The reasons for becoming the least educationally advanced state in the nation are many and they go too far back to recall now in this tangential post of an unknown blog. Suffice it to say that at least now I have a fairly good explanation as to why there are no educational stores in Nevada. I’m just guessing here, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the top state in the nation – Massachusetts – would have been a lot better for my challenge, logistically and otherwise. So far, every Nevadan I’ve told about my chem lab project responded with some variation of, “Gonna make your own drugs, huh?” I realize it’s just a joke, but each joke has some truth in it…

Day 17 – the many uses of salt

January 17, 2010

I found this while exploring one of the web’s many abandoned servers (it’s a hobby of mine). Here’s hoping I’m not the only one who finds it cool. 🙂

Day 16 – books

January 16, 2010

Seeing as my chem set still hasn’t arrived, there’s nothing to do but hit the books. Hard. Soon-ish. I highly doubt that the “10 minute a day” model of learning is going to do any good (though those 10-minute language programs seem really popular), so I should probably dedicate either a couple of hours a day or an entire day once a week to the actual studies. Sure, it would be nice to pull a Thoreau and run off to a secluded cabin with no distractions (can you tell I was a liberal arts major? :p ), but I’ll have to make do with my distraction-filled house.

Having raided the local college’s used bookstore, I am now a proud owner of a stack of older-edition chemistry textbooks. The only real difference between them and the new editions is a couple of diagrams and some laminated inserts, or so it seems. After all, it’s not as if the fundamentals of chemistry changed that much over the past three years… I’d advise the same approach to others, too: you can save hundreds of dollars and get all the basic info for less than $20 if you don’t mind doing a little searching.

Heh… This reminds me of the old Fallout RPGs, in which your character could spend ~10 hours reading a science book and have his skill go up by 3%. Read enough books and you’ll become the wasteland’s leading scientist. 🙂 There is some truth to it, though – all the essential information is compressed and summarized in those books. The trick is to memorize all of it and, most importantly, understand it. This isn’t going to be easy, but it beats going back to college and spending years going through the agonizingly slow process with just a few hours of lab work per month. Becoming a chemistry autodidact may not be the easiest goal in the world, but I want to be one, if only for the sake of accomplishing such an improbable feat.

Day 15 – the coat

January 15, 2010

I’m stillplaying with the layout of my future basement lab. Right now, I’ve got a semi-clean room and some random furniture. It shouldn’t take me more than an hour to clean up the mess, but I just can’t summon the resolve to do so. 😦 Maybe, if and when my chem kit arrives… Or maybe one of these days I’ll get so dreadfully bored from the lack of external stimuli that I’ll actually get around to it. *shrug*

Meanwhile, I’m stocking up on accessories, such as chemical splash goggles, chem-resistant gloves and, of course, the lab coat. The first two items are sold at Walmart. To get the coat, I had to venture into the belly of the beast – the local medical school’s store. (I’m pretty certain it’s the only place in town that actually sells lab coats…)

Incidentally, it just occurred to me that my degree in political science allows me to call myself a scientist. I may or may not use that to my advantage one of these days. 😉

Meanwhile, here’s a pic of me in my chemical attire, observing a whatchamacallit.

Day 14 – Meh. Meh, I say.

January 14, 2010

There was more work than I’d thought there would be. Here is hoping the Western civilization won’t collapse if I go for another day without contributing anything, you know, semi-useful…

Busy busy busy…

January 13, 2010

Got some extra work to do tonight, so I’ll have to keep this entry short. Yes, yes, I know that it’s tragic and that your lives will never be the same, but we’ll all just have to get through this together. 😉 Meanwhile, feel free to munch on this Prudent Practices in the Laboratory report brought to you by the one, the only National Research Council. (And before you ask, I’ve got no idea who they are, either.) I’ve only skimmed through it, but it appears to be the best lab guide available on the web, so enjoy it and remember – play safe. 😉