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Theo Gray's Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do At Home - But Probably Shouldn't!

Hal Harris's picture
Mon, 05/02/2011 - 02:00 -- Hal Harris

My son gave me this book as a Christmas present in 2009, with the expectation that I would make it one of my Picks. The sentiment was amply appreciated, but I did not make it a Pick then because I didn't want to feel responsible for the maimings and deaths that could result from trying many of the "experiments" described. The author does have some warnings and precautions for the feckless yet fearless, but many of the procedures should not be attempted by the inexpert. None of them are real experiments, in that there are no variables to systematically vary, and no lessons to be learned. The spirit is much the same as the "Mythbusters" television series, whose stars wrote blurbs for the book. Some procedures are thankfully limited in their potential for harm by the fact that ordinary citizens can't easily obtain the requisite materials, such as potassium perchlorate, (thirty pounds of) mercury, a glassmaker's furnace, white phosphorus, 30% hydrogen peroxide, or a particle accelerator. Citizens can buy plenty of stuff that can get them into trouble, though, such as concentrated hydrochloric acid, and magnesium and aluminum powder, cylinders of compressed hydrogen and oxygen, regulators, and an H2-O2 torch. Like Gray's "The Elements" book, "Mad Science" has sumtuous photographs, making it even more seductive. A new paperback edition just came out, at about five bucks less than the cloth version that Matt gave me. Caveat emptor.

Pick Attribution: 

Theodore Gray

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Price: 
$19.95
Domain: