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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.

Once left a caserole with reigndeer meat in the fridge for 20 days. It had taken over the leadership inside the fridge and turned into a science project.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 21:33, 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we hadn't made any more of the stuff and we wouldn't think of telling anyone what the chemicals were or we would be withdrawn from the examinations.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)
Freezing grasshoppers, and reviving them with electricity

When I was a kid, I lived in a place where grasshoppers were common, so they were the natural victim of our scientific curiosity. Once, I put a grasshopper in the freezer, took it out nearly an hour later, and used the electric train transformer to more-or-less revive it.

In retrospect, I think the grasshopper never got fully frozen - just frostbitten - but my friends and I were impressed enough to start a Frankenstein-like fad in the neighborhood. We tried other things too - notably efforts to do heart transplants on grasshoppers - but were foiled by the ridiculously-small sizes of their hearts. Nothing was as much fun as freezing grasshoppers.

If only our parents were more understanding of all the insects in the freezer....
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 19:27, 1 reply)
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)
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)
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)
Make your own fireworks?
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 16:50, 13 replies)
Strike Anywhere matches!
You know the type, wooden with a white tip that you can strike on any rough surface. The kind kids are generally banned from.

Take a handful of them and carefully cut off the white part from the tip. Get a 1/2" bolt and its corresponding nut and twist the nut on just enough to hold onto the bolt. Put five match heads inside the nut. Twist a second 1/2" bolt onto the other side of the nut until it's snugly pressing against the match heads. Drop it bolt first onto a concrete sidewalk.

Run before irate parents come outside to investigate the sound of a gunshot.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 16:48, 3 replies)
Inspired by the cult film "Frankenhooker"
I tried to create the perfect woman from the remains of various dismembered prostitutes which I found in the back of an old cupboard. Unfortunately the old electrification by the neck bolts trick didn't work so well, so I lol'd and laid down all my awesome sex moves on it anyway.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 16:42, 4 replies)
Fun with catalysts
One excellent lesson in Chemistry saw a demonstration of the joy of catalysts - in the fume cupboard a small quantity of aluminium powder was mixed with iodine crystals and then a little water mixed with washing up liquid added. An impressive amount of purplish-brown smoke was produced.

In an eerie coincidence a few weeks later on a Friday evening I discovered that an entire jar of aluminium powder and another of iodine crystals had unexpectedly turned up in my schoolbag, perhaps due to a clerical error of some sort. Clearly the responsible thing to do was return them first thing Monday.

And so it was that Saturday afternoon saw myself and several other reprobates heading to the park with a suspiciously clinking rucksack. The road into the park lead through a cutting - and had a dogleg partway along - as the main road had built-up berms either side, so we figured it would be perfect for concealing our activities. Setting up shop out of sight of both park and main road, near a drain, we hauled out the supplies.

Knowing naught of such things as "small-scale preliminary testing" or "dry runs" or indeed "caution" we just mixed the whole lot together into a rough cone about 6 inches high with a dip in the top and tipped on some water.

The results were everything we could have hoped for as plumes of purple-brown smoke began to billow out of the pile. And then they were far more than our worst nightmares as we scrambled up the bank just ahead of a vast poisonous cloud that rapidly filled the entire cutting.

We stood on the top looking down in awe as it spread to fill 30 or more feet of the dogleg. Then a man in a white car drove round the corner and straight into the cloud.

In the spirit of true scientific enquiry we all legged it in different directions and never spoke of it again.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 16:24, 2 replies)
All you need is a copy of this
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 16:03, 10 replies)
Fun with your microwave!
We all know what happens when you microwave a CD or tinfoil- sparks everywhere.

What happens when you microwave a lit candle?

Essentially the burning candle ionizes the air in the combustion area, and the microwaves interact with that and produce weak plasma discharges.

In other words, it makes ball lightning and loud buzzing sounds and looks like Gozer the Destroyer has taken up residence.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 15:57, 4 replies)
Sorry, off topic here,
But what's all this nonsense about sheds? I was away and missed it :(
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 15:51, 18 replies)
Discovering that water does not compress
A group of mates, bored waiting at a small railway station that most trains don't stop at. To pass the time, we started to see how the trains that thundered past every few minutes would affect things left on the rails.

Pennies got nicely squashed and flattened. Blackberries* cooked and fizzled with the heat. What else can we try? Ah, an empty coke can filled with water.

Whump! Water, as I now know, does not compress, and aluminium cans are not strong. The damn thing exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions and into the leg of one unfortunate girl. She still has the scar.

An impressive sight, though.

* The fruit, not the phone - though now I've said that, I really, really want to watch a train going over a Blackberry!
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 15:49, 4 replies)
Is it a good idea to microwave a lava lamp?

As my 11 year old mind thought was safe:

Safety precautions:
Swimming goggles
a single layer of tinfoil wrapped round my chest
small fire extinguisher
detached garage and old microwave

"right, let's plug her in!" me thinks. I place plug in, hit switch, press start on microwave. Starts spinning, a few bubbles in plastic/glass/whatever the fuck it is pane on door...

A few sparks...


Glass everywhere, the microwaves on fire, the wax has gone in all the vents in the microwave and has caked the inside, microwave dead, fire extinguisher empty, eyebrows lost.

Parents not best pleased.

TL;DR Dont microwave Lava lamps, and I really was retarded when I was 11.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 15:49, 1 reply)
Baldmonkey once tried making a tennis ball bomb at a bash I was hosting.
Fortunately he didn't chuck it at the sh*d. Also, because it was baldmonkey, it was shit and didn't even work. I think it ended up on the barbecue at one point.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 15:26, 1 reply)
RP: Another pyromaniac chemical adventure
When I was about 12, we went to visit one of my Dad's friends, who was a research chemist. He had loads of good surplus chemical stuff.

Bored with the purple smoke from magnesium shavings + iodine crystals, his son and I decided to try to make gun cotton. This didn't work and we just ended up with messy, glutinous, carbonized crap all covered in concentrated acid.

So, what to do with this stuff?

My friend came up with the obvious answer (I'm sure you have, too): make a standard sugar+nitrate mixture, add some magnesium shavings, stick the acid napalm on top, light it, put a tin can over the top (open end down) and stand on it. OK, says I. The parents are out shopping, let's do it. So he does.

Cue an hour of alternately trying to alleviate hot acid burns by dunking his face in a sink of cold water, and combing the burned clumps of hair out. Once the parents returned, this was inevitably followed by a trip to casualty, while my mum gives me the standard "How can you be so *stupid*" lecture at volume 11 for another full hour.

No permanent damage though, but it was bloody lucky he wore glasses.

Kids - think once. Think twice. Think don't deliberately stand on home-made fireworks made of concentrated sulphuric acid.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 14:48, Reply)
As an experiment..
...I posted some jokes about on a humour-based website and got a week's ban.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 14:44, 13 replies)
I've come too late to this QOTW!
I've come to late to qotw as I do believe many of us have done exactly the same thing. As the poster below stated, do we all know how to make bombs?

Well I don't, we I do, but should I ever decide to combine the relevant chemicals I would die.

Now I have done some stupid things. Aged 12 in my mates dads workshop we put a live cartridge in a vice and started banging it with a hammer. This didnt make the bang we were expecting so soldering a nail to the fusey bit then throwing it one another made perfect sense.

How we didnt end up blinded I dont know.

At this time we also had another game, this was late 80's early 90's we still had bottles of pop in glass bottles with metal screw caps. so we make a fire, fill the bottle with water, pop it in the fire then watch the destruction. Only we were 12, and normally significantly too close. Once again how we didn't get a shard of glass in our neck or eye I don't know.

Roll forward a few years. It was just after bonfire night and we were living in a student house. We were all merry, the perfect combination for the release of fireworks. (I have now banned myself from anything larger than a sparkler) we're on a student budget so our selection of rockets was bin basement, probably fifteen quids worth. We had a massive over grown garden, so rather than straight up we decided to angle the tubes to the end of the garden. Like I say I have now self banned. One went slightly over the end of the fence and into the road. This annoyed the local resident who called the police, they arrived faster than a parking ticket. Slapped our wrists and told us to not set off any other fireworks, 'or else'.

This allowed me to play.

In the following few days I started to take apart the fireworks. The white motor bit I used to powder up hit it with the lighter (on my desk!) and watch it just flash. I decided to get greedy. I made a huge pile, with no intention of setting it alight, but of course it did, I dont recall, how so, but it burnt all the back of my hands, but could easily have once again taken my sight.

I'm also banned from climbing trees. Self banned.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 14:36, Reply)
One box of matches and some tin foil.
Take one match, wrap a small amount of tin foil around the match head.

Balance on edge of table with tin foil end hanging out in space.

Light a second match and hold to tin foil, wait for heat to get through tin foil and if lucky sudden explosion (or the tiniest proportions) will send match stick flying across table and off the other end.

Check match is out before it possibly sets fire to the carpet.

That's about as exciting as home science got for me.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 14:31, 1 reply)
Custard Powder is exciting (as many of you have discovered!)
I used to make films as a kid, a bit like the children in Super8 but less gimpy and squeaky. I used my Sony Handycam and a USB device that could capture a breathtaking 352x288 pixels (I have a terrible memory, it is awful, but I can remember the resolution of every device and monitor I've ever owned) from it and save to MPEG. Then I would use various command line based things and later a version of After Effects that Adobe gave to me because they are nice.

I have the films still and you will never see them. I lied about being less gimpy than the Super8 children.

A film I was making required a city to be on fire. I could make realistic fire in 3DSMax (because there was a 'fire' plugin) but I couldn't make buildings (there was no 'make a realistic building' plugin). Instead I built a city out of cardboard (I can do cardboard) on a metal base.

I had learnt, through a friend's older brother, that custard powder is quite firey. With this knowledge, I set up a series of plastic straws in the city that, when blown down, would puff out the custard powder in them. Through a tea-light.

My plan was for the straws to cause explosions which, through the magic of fire and me spraying all the buildings with Lynx, with catch and burn the rest down. I initially tried this in the garden but the wind kept blowing out my tea-light, so I moved it to the little covered passageway between my house and next door's house. My metal-city barely fitted.

The first filming was a custardy-success, it is really quite flammable especially with a makeshift flame thrower (or custard-chucker?). However, whilst it did set fire to the Lynx, it only set fire to the Lynx and it all neatly burned off with no flames at all.

So I tried again - without the Lynx, setting up my custard-straws and lighting my tea-lights and starting to film and blew through the straw and it was at this point I learnt that, for a reason I do not understand, cardboard initially coated in Lynx will burn like hell-fire when lit for the second time. I assume it had soaked in. I had not prepared very well for the inferno that was now occurring and ran off to find a bucket/hide.

My grandfather put it all out with the garden hose. All being my cardboard city, a wooden gate, some grass and the neighbour's roof. I visited recently and the underside of that roof is still covered in bits of patched metal.

The firey-footage was fantastic, but - possibly because I was gimpy and squeaky - my friends did not turn up to make the actual film so I never got to use it.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 14:14, 6 replies)
Scientific Karma
I've always been into electronics and, back when I was at college, decided it would be a good idea to play a little trick on one of my teachers.

The premise simple, wire a light sensitive resistor across a the mains, cover with curtain, switch on and wait. Needless to say the teacher nearly wet himself when he pulled back the curtains and was greeted by a loud bang much to the amusement the classfull of students.

Now we come to the Karma part. Many years later I'm working as a teacher and, just as I walk into a classroom with my head of department, the projector bulb decides to explode just above my head.

They've never let me forget the girly scream I gave as I leapt into the air. In a way, I suppose it is sort of karmic justice.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 13:48, Reply)
Home science CHALLENGE
I still haven't got round to this, but I have been plotting for years to answer the question mankind really must know:

"If you ate one chip a minute, how long could you keep going for?"

I reckon with a bag of oven chips and a careful "one in, one out" production line in the oven, we could finally crack this question, but I'm too lazy to do it myself. Thought I'd bung it here and see if anyone else can be bothered?
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 13:33, 3 replies)
home made gunpowder
sulphur powder, iron filings, bonfire, gcse clay 'art', deoderant canister (lynx africa), pestle, mortar.

-nick some sulphur and iron filings from the chemistry lab.
-borrow your mums pestle and mortar
-mix different quantities 'for the sake of science'
-add to art class clay models and throw on garden bonfire.

smelly smoke and lots of pretty sparky fizzing

gunpowder burns fast rather than converts to gas as modern explosive does. this will not destroy your clay model. throwing a deoderant canister on the fire will have the desired effect tho.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 13:20, 2 replies)
If you add a bottle of vodka to the more usual contents of a standard sized fish tank it makes the fish swim funny.
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 13:08, Reply)
Another "blowing myself up" story
Just to join in with the current theme:

As a lad, 12 years old or so, I wanted to build model rockets, but such things were illegal in the UK. So like many others here, it seems, I improvised: stripping firework rockets down to the bare motors, and building models to fly with them. This naturally left lots of stars and other pyrotechnic effects left over.

So this one time I was working on a fuse, but my lighter was nearly dying. So I grabbed an empty plastic tub to act as a draught-shield. Unfortunately, the tub I grabbed, stuck my hand into and flicked the lighter in turned out to be full of coloured stars, which promptly went up, removing my eyebrows and much of the top layer of skin on my hand, and filling the house with acrid smoke.

Just as I was reeling from that, my folks called me into the front room because the film we had previously arranged to watch together was starting. So I had to watch the whole thing pretending that I hadn't just set fire to my hand, not reacting in any way to the pain.

I did go on to build working model rockets. Then I got a girlfriend and lost interest. Now I'm long-married, I'm thinking of taking it up again...
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 12:05, 1 reply)
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 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, 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)
When I was about eight
My friend decided to try and incubate an egg from the supermarket by putting it on his radiator, wrapped in a pair of pants. I told him it was never going to work. Anyway, the radiator was behind his cabin bed so he immediately forgot about it, until about three months later, when he remembered it, retrieved it and then almost immediately dropped it on his bedroom floor. He didn't make a chick - instead he'd made the single most foul smelling thing I've smelt to this day :-/
(, Fri 10 Aug 2012, 11:30, Reply)

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