“Chemistry set with no chemicals”

by Walter Olson on May 14, 2011

Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing: “The liability-phobic dilution of kids’ science has reached its apotheosis with ‘CHEMISTRY 60′: a chemistry kit that promises ’60 fun activities with no chemicals.’ Kids are expected to supply the chemicals from their parents’ kitchen cupboards.” [linking to Sean Michael Ragan, MAKE; see also Chemical & Engineering News, RSC]

Several years ago Wired carried a report by Steve Silberman: “Garage chemistry used to be a rite of passage for geeky kids. But in their search for terrorist cells and meth labs, authorities are making a federal case out of DIY science.” The CPSC carries out a war on chemicals that can be used to make illegal fireworks, while a Texas law makes it illegal “to buy such basic labware as Erlenmeyer flasks or three-necked beakers without first registering with the state’s Department of Public Safety to declare that they will not be used to make drugs.” The renowned 1940s and 1950s manufacturer of chemistry sets, Porter ChemCraft of Hagerstown, Md., “produced more than a million chemistry sets before going out of business in the 1980s amid increasing liability concerns.”

{ 1 trackback }

First they came for the chemistry sets, and then they came for the Wiccan spell sets . . . « Siouxsie Law
05.16.11 at 9:13 am


1 kdny 05.14.11 at 8:13 am

I was always amazed to realized that the older chem sets came with radioactive materials.
And now the come with nothing.

2 Le Mur 05.14.11 at 8:35 am

specifically sulfur, potassium perchlorate, and powdered aluminum,

A note for the suppressed kids reading this blog: you can substitute saltpeter for the perchlorate and still get real fireworks that explode like they should; for slower burning gunpowder/rocket fuel, also substitute finely ground charcoal for the aluminum powder.

3 Bob Lipton 05.14.11 at 8:41 am

Or do what I used to do, which was to combine iodine and ammonia, for that big boom.


4 Bill Poser 05.14.11 at 7:36 pm

If you do substitute finely ground charcoal for the aluminum powder, you may find it best not to use your mother’s kitchen grater to produce it. My mother was not keen on this.

5 Jim Collins 05.15.11 at 12:36 pm

Food processor works wonders, Bill. You can usually snag one at a thrift store for about 5 bucks.

6 Bill Poser 05.15.11 at 1:55 pm

I don’t think they had food processors when I was a kid, back in the Dark Ages…

7 Jthim Collins 05.15.11 at 8:30 pm

They didn’t have them when I was a kid either. That’s the nice thing about having nephews, you get to revisit childhood and this time you are the responsible adult.

Comments on this entry are closed.