The Attractions of Chemistry
In 1979 my parents bought me my first chemistry set. When I opened it up and admired the small vials of brightly coloured chemicals with strange names, and handled the various pieces of peculiarly shaped glassware I soon became hooked! Despite reading Physics at university my love of chemistry was merely lying dormant. Over the last ten years or so I have been performing experiments and collecting samples of exotic elements and recently decided it was time to share some of my results with you. This website is the result.
There is something wonderful about chemistry, not only can you perform experiments of the past but there is an almost infinite amount of research that can be conducted, however simple. There is also an aesthetic beauty about it. Rarely do two experiments result in a reaction product of exactly the same colour, hue or transparency. The unexpected precipitate, the strange bubbles, the sudden warming of the test tube or even the complete failure of a certain reaction to proceed all provide a sense of enjoyment. With this enjoyment, however, one must always remain be aware of the dangers that experimentation can present. Getting the balance right involves learning to respect the chemicals without being afraid of them. Get this right and countless happy hours of chemistry may be enjoyed.
List of useful books:
Chemistry of the Elements - N.N. Greenwood and A. Earnshaw. A superb encyclopaedic look at the chemistry of all the elements.
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry - Cotton and Wilkinson. Another general chemistry text well worth getting hold of.
Nature's Building Blocks - John Emsley. Highly readable review of the elements including discovery, properties and lots of interesting titbits.
Inorganic Chemistry of the Transition Elements (Volumes 1-6) - The Chemical Society. Detailed look at research papers from the 1970s but does contain some useful ideas for interesting experiment's.
Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments - Robert Bruce Thompson. Advice for starting a home lab and learning the techniques of practical chemistry.
Chemistry - Catherine E. Housecroft and Edwin C Constable - A good primer covering a typical 1st year degree course.
Classic Chemistry Demonstrations - The Royal Society of Chemistry. 100 Fully explained experiments.
List of useful websites:
http://woelen.homescience.net/science/index.html A superb website with hundreds of experiments, beautiful photographs and lots of advice for home chemistry enthusiasts. This is the site that inspired me to get into chemistry!
http://www.sciencemadness.org/ Despite the dubious name, this is a great place to meet fellow enthusiasts, ask questions or share your results.
http://www.chemicalforums.com/ Another comprehensive site for chemistry addicts.
http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry Resource for students and teachers from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
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Health and Safety and the Law
This site is primarily intended as a reference tool. Should you be tempted to try and recreate any of the results remember that chemistry is not a risk free pastime. There is a risk of personal injury if you are foolish and you also need to be aware of all the laws that may affect you in your country. Please think carefully about whether you are comfortable with these risks before you undertake any experimentation!
I probably don't need to remind you that the world has changed over the last few decades. Gone are the days when it was acceptable for a hobbyist to create stinks and bangs without anyone batting a eyelid. Gone are the days when nobody was going to know or care if you poured your toxic reaction mixture down the drain. Gone are the days when you could walk into a pharmacist and ask for chemicals over the counter.
It would be foolish and unrealistic of me to try and advise you of all the applicable laws that may affect you, especially as they vary from country to country and are frequently subject to change. Neither can I fully list all the potential hazards of chemistry from a health and safety perspective. The following general advice should be used only as a starting point.
1) Do not ever experiment with explosives or attempt to make illegal drugs. Not only are you putting your own safety at risk but you risk damaging the reputation of other home chemistry enthusiasts and making things harder for all of us. In most countries the penalties for engaging in either of these activities are severe. NOTHING on this website is concerned with explosives or illegal drugs.
2) Read the Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals in advance. Know the risks BEFORE you work with the chemicals.
3) Treat all chemicals with respect. Assume that everything is harmful. Never eat or drink any chemicals. Wear gloves and goggles and ensure you have adequate ventilation.
4) Label all chemicals. Never use food or drink containers to store chemicals. Keep chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
5) DO NOT randomly mix chemicals together. Plan your work in advance.
6) Work on as small a scale as is practical. Often 100mg of a chemical in a few millilitres of solvent is quite enough. Large scale equals greater risk for little or no extra reward.
7) Never let under 18s work alone on chemistry experiments. Adult supervision is essential.
8) Keep written notes of your experiments.
9) Be aware of local regulations concerning disposal of toxic waste.
UK citizens should be aware of changes in legislation due to the Explosive Precursors and Poisons laws: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/precursors-and-poisons-consultations
Remember that this list is not a complete guide.
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