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No More Chemistry Lab?

I just finished reading an article in Wired about how novice and hobby chemists are getting squeezed out of playing and experimenting with different chemicals. This, all in the “fight” against terrorism. This is just sad.

As a bit of disclosure, I’m quite biased in this argument, as I’m a Chemical Engineer.

The argument for clamping down on who can get access to these chemicals is that it will cut down on terrorists and meth labs. If you know who buys the stuff, then it won’t be a problem.

However, this has the chilling effect of making it nearly impossible for the hobbyist to get their hands on the chemicals (and other lab supplies) without going through unwarrented scrutiny. Students in school don’t get any sort of practical experience in a lab environment. And is it any wonder that interest in science is on the decline?
I remember performing experiments in chemistry in high school. We took a (small) piece of potassium (no sodium for us!) and threw it in water to watch it catch fire. You could tell the difference between the honors class and the regular class. The honors class would sit back when we put the potassium in, not wanting to inhale the hydrogen released. The regular class wanted to see the potassium burning up close.

It was experiences like that that captured my interest in science. I had a chemistry set growing up. I don’t remember much about it, but it did make a big mess. But if you take away these tools from kids now, why would they have any interest in chemistry in particular, and science in general?

2 thoughts on “No More Chemistry Lab?

  1. You had a chemistry set growing up? I don’t remember that – probably for good reason!

  2. I did. I remember it had a lot of powders, but I can’t remember what they were. I think it just made a big mess.

    I had more fun mixing styrofoam and gas, then lighting the gooey mixture. I don’t know how I learned that gas dissolves styrofoam, but it sure did it quickly.

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