Revised 1997 MAR 13 (incomplete)
Your Home Laboratory
Many kids are lucky enough to have a chemistry set or even microscope set. Actually the bottles of chemicals in such a set are very small and you need not feel badly if can't afford such a home chemistry set. You can do as well, maybe better, by just looking around the house and using what you can find. Be sure to check with your parents and teachers and do not conduct any experiments where there is risk of fire or explosion. You may be surprised at what you learn with household chemicals which are entirely safe. However, some household chemicals are extremely dangerous. Some very dangerous chemicals requiring special supervision by adults include lye, sulfuric acid, most drain cleaners, and muratic acid (HCl). The pages of this web site will help you locate chemicals which are fairly safe, find common containers for your experiments, and build equipment for your home laboratory.
Home Chemistry Labs
This is a short introduction; for more detailed information see My Home Chem Lab.
Deciding to have your own home chemistry lab could become the most tragic, painful, foolish thing you have ever done in your life. It is very easy to find chemical experiments which are very dangerous. Most chemists, including myself, can tell you about experiments they have performed which turned out to have unexpected dangerous outcomes. Your first step must be reading everything you can find on safety in this site and elsewhere. No chemical experiment is to be undertaken lightly. Read our Safety Pages before you go any farther. While you may only be interested in chemistry read all the safety pages because each of the pages contains useful information for beginning chemists. Unless you are willing to work safely, you are going to have "accidents." I don't really feel there is such thing as an accident--there is just lack of prior study and planning ahead, which are usually grouped together as carelessness..
Here is a list of common household chemicals which will enable plenty of interesting experiments. Your parents should be able to advise you on handling them safely. In general, just keep them out of your eyes, wounds, and mouth except during normal and intended household useage.
Home Microbiology Lab
It is pretty astonishing the amount of microbiology the average cook uses. Now we may buy bread from a grocery, but bread and numerous other microbial fermentations were conducted on a large scale in farm kitchens. Bertha Eddleman, my mother, baked all our bread, fermented cabbage to sauerkraut, and fermented milk from our cows to make cheese. Around the world, numerous other fermentations may be conducted at home: beer from barley, wine from fruit, whiskey from corn, summer sausages from meat, miso from peanuts, tempeh from soybeans, soya sauce from soybeans, fermented tea, sourdough bread from flour, and bread from sorghum grain. All these will be discussed in this site before the end of 1997.
Home Immunology Lab
Everyone in your home is busy making antibodies to foreign proteins. While it is unusual for students to begin immunology projects, it is pretty simple and is possible. This paragraph will be expanded later.
Home Computer and Electronics Lab
It is pretty common for students to conduct electronics projects. Good sources of information and projects are electronics magazines. This site will not duplicate that source. We will have some information on using old computers in science experiments. The radio shack Model III is very good for such work. The small computer kits available from many sources are also very good. Sadly, in the last 10 years students have had more interest in playing games on computers rather than programming computers. If you are more interested in learning than playing, you may find it worthwhile to read the magazines from 1970 to 1985 about people who were trying to build their own computers. You many be able to buy some of that old stuff at yard sales. Why not form a club with several of your friends and pool your old parts, go to yard sales for old equipment, attend hamfests or computerfests and have fun learning assembly language, Basic, or even C or C++. These will help you appreciate the current work in developing the Java, Perl, HTML, and other current languages. See our Introduction to Computers and the Web for assistance with some of the above projects.