Did you hear about the Florida teen expelled from school for her unsupervised chemical forays?
Reading Ash and DNLee's posts over at SciAm made me furious, too. So, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane, recounting all the stupid (but important!) things I tried in science labs, Kindergarten through College.
Disclaimer: Don't try these on school grounds. Given today's educational climate, you'd likely be in serious trouble for any of these activities.
1. I learned about acidic corrosion by testing small drops of concentrated HCl on coins, nails, paper clips, wood - basically anything that changed color or smoked.
2. Particle size controls reaction rate? I cut up a bunch of hand warmers to play with thermite.
3. I examined anything and everything under our high-powered class microscopes. Including pus, blood, urine, mucus, skin, hair, tears, and spit. All from me.
4. I figured out how to catch asbestos-lined 3-prong clamp sleeves on fire.
5. When I heard about the halogen flame-test, I didn't stop at the required substrates. Turns out, lots of things from your lunch-box will give a positive test.
6. I explored salt bridges and solution conductance using lantern batteries and light bulbs.
7. I cultivated fruit flies in an old pasta jar in my dorm room. Never did see a white-eyed one...
8. Many things will catch fire using a magnifying glass + sunshine.
9. Sometimes, heating something just a bit more will produce beautiful crystals. And sometimes multiple grams of bright blue copper complexes end up all over your smock, the bench, and the floor.
10. My "wilderness survival" kit contained a flint and steel. I did not use these exclusively for survival.
11. Best way to learn about peroxides? Drop some liver into them (or some blood).
12. The experiment to extract luciferin from fireflies did not go as planned.
13. Fun with food chemistry: Just start mixing things from the cupboard and see what happens!
14. You cannot remove urushiol (poison ivy oil) with rubbing alcohol. It just seeps deeper into your skin.
15. Iodine starch tests work on bread, paper, and clothes...
I'm sure there are many, many more. End result? Proud Ph.D. chemist.