Select Page
Otis Archives images from the National Museum of Health & Medicine

Once upon a time, my life was full of more adventure than I could comfortably handle.  Throughout High School I was constantly learning new skills, building new devices, trying new experiments, and getting in all manner of trouble.  During that part of my life, chemistry was arguably my greatest passion.  I was enchanted by the idea of transforming one substance into another.  It was a sort of magic I could master at a time in my life where I had little control over the rest of my world.  I performed all manner of experiments, pushing the envelope beyond both my skills and my knowledge.

That’s why one of my clearest memories remains the sharp smell of moldy grass as I vaulted out a window to escape a rather spectacular failure.  I had to do a bit of research after I managed to get back into my lab in order to figure out what had happened.  The experiment definitely wasn’t supposed to generate phosgene, but it also wasn’t supposed to spray a cloud of superheated chloroform and various hypochlorites all over the room.  All in all, just another adventure.

I loved chemistry, but I never seriously considered a career as a chemist.  Perhaps I should have, but growing up in rural Missouri meant that making money as a chemist had a very particular negative connotation.  I think it poisoned the idea for me.  It was a hobby and has remained so on and off throughout my life.

My passion for amateur chemistry, and time to pursue it, have waned in the last few years.  I want to change that, so I’m seeking inspiration.  I need ideas for simple things to do.  During my first few years as an amateur chemist I had very little in the way of resources for inspiration.  The internet changed that, so it’s where I’m turning now that I’ve decided to revisit the hobby.  Three places in particular top the list:

ScienceMadness offers several resources, including a large library of scanned texts and a popular discussion forum.  It’s been around for several years and served me well in the past as a source for practical advice.  In the last year, members of the group have been producing various videos and writing articles for online publications.  In addition to providing a wealth of information, ScienceMadness is a place to connect with like-minded experimenters.

NurdRage Science Experiments YouTube Channel

This fairly popular YouTube channel offers videos featuring a variety of chemical experiments.  Most cover one reaction and are fairly short.  They have good production quality with well lit, high resolution shots of each experiment and clear (if oddly filtered) narration.  Most NerdRage experiments are chosen for dramatic visual effect and involve substances that require sourcing from chemical supply houses.  These are mostly the sort of projects I’d do for my children, not the kind of projects I’d use to rekindle my interests.

The Chem Life Blog & YouTube Channel

I originally encountered The ChemLife though one of their videos posted on Google+.  The ChemLife doesn’t have too many videos and there is limited content at their blog, but each one of the experiments described in ChemLife posts is simple to perform.  They cover a range of topics, from simple inorganic chemical reactions to more complex electrochemical projects.  I enjoy how often I hear ‘an excess of’ in their measurements, as reactions with enough efficiency to yield an easily separable product under those conditions should offer an easy way to get back into the swing of things.