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How Regulations Hamper Chemical Hobbyists

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the council-of-wise-men-strikes-again dept.

Education 610

An anonymous reader writes "Chemical & Engineering News just ran this story that relates how government regulations create a terribly restrictive atmosphere for people who do chemistry as a hobby. (A related story was previously posted.)" The article gives some examples of why hamfisted regulations are harmful even to those who aren't doing the chemistry themselves: "Hobby chemists will tell you that home labs have been the source of some of chemistry's greatest contributions. Charles Goodyear figured out how to vulcanize rubber with the same stove that his wife used to bake the family's bread. Charles Martin Hall discovered the economical electrochemical process for refining aluminum from its ore in a woodshed laboratory near his family home. A plaque outside Sir William Henry Perkin's Cable Street residence in London notes that the chemist 'discovered the first aniline dyestuff, March 1856, while working in his home laboratory on this site and went on to found science-based industry.'"

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Bake on a stove? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25720881)

I would have credited Goodyear's wife for figuring out how to bake on a stove.

Re:Bake on a stove? (2, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721005)

The top part is a range. The baking part is an oven. The entity as a whole is a stove.

Of course, you could also bake on the range, but that's not as easy as just figuring out which part is the stove.

Re:Bake on a stove? (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721165)

but that's not as easy as just figuring out which part is the stove.

Meh. This is the Dot; most folks here couldn't find their backsides with a flashlight, both hands and an instruction manual.

=Smidge=

Re:Bake on a stove? (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721373)

you could also bake on the range, but that's not as easy as just figuring out which part is the stove.

I guess you meant figuring out which part is the OVEN. :-) BOTH parts are the stove. But actually thanks for clarifying -- I always thought the range was the stove and the oven was not. And can you really bake on a range? My cooking world is being turned upside down this morning!

Re:Bake on a stove? (3, Funny)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721459)

If you are really home on the range, you can cook anything anywhere.

Re:Bake on a stove? (2, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721573)

you could also bake on the range, but that's not as easy as just figuring out which part is the stove.

I guess you meant figuring out which part is the OVEN. :-) BOTH parts are the stove. But actually thanks for clarifying -- I always thought the range was the stove and the oven was not. And can you really bake on a range? My cooking world is being turned upside down this morning!

Put a lid on a pot. Bake inside. Use a thicker pot for more temperature uniformity. Use a rack to keep your baked goods off the very hot bottom surface.

bureacratic reactant (5, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#25720901)

When your bureacratic reactant
Is but a silly distractant
Try the anionic surfactant:
Burma Shave

Hobby chemist (4, Funny)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25720921)

I am a hobby chemist. I make things like pies, cakes and coconut cookies. Tonight the kitchen, tomorrow the world!

Re:Hobby chemist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721803)

Then could you please develop a Pad Thai [wikipedia.org] dish which dosen't cause screaming, burning shits?

It never ceases to amaze me how mild Pad Thai goes down easy but always manages to leap out of my asshole without first asking my sphincter while leaving everything irritated and on fire.

Regulations (1, Insightful)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25720957)

Now all the tinkering is just done in labs that have access to "controlled" substances. It has the same effect. We have regulations to stop people who are a few neurons shy of a full brain (probably from playing with too many chemicals) harming themselves or others. There are many responsible people who can tinker with chemicals but there are many irresponsible ones who would end up seriously harming themselves or others, accidentally or on purpose.

Re:Regulations (5, Interesting)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721025)

Solution: give controlled access to chemicals to irresponsible people in a way that ensures no other people are harmed. No more irresponsible people => problem solved.

Re:Regulations (3, Insightful)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721133)

I wouldn't be opposed to that. That's just hard to set up in real life. :)

Re:Regulations (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721033)

Remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate!

P.S. The irresponsible ones will blow themselves up anyway. Good for keeping full fire department employment.

Now all the tinkering is just done in labs that have access to "controlled" substances. It has the same effect. We have regulations to stop people who are a few neurons shy of a full brain (probably from playing with too many chemicals) harming themselves or others. There are many responsible people who can tinker with chemicals but there are many irresponsible ones who would end up seriously harming themselves or others, accidentally or on purpose.

Re:Regulations (5, Insightful)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721047)

There are many responsible people who can tinker with chemicals but there are many irresponsible ones who would end up seriously harming themselves or others, accidentally or on purpose.

And yet we let damn near everyone drive.

Re:Regulations (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721291)

Worse yet, we let them pro-create. Protect them from blowing themselves up and let them create little replicas of themselves. The antitheses of evolution.

Re:Regulations (2, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721345)

So you are anti-create then?

Re:Regulations (2, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721455)

No, he con-creates. And then he makes sidewalks out of it.

Re:Regulations (5, Insightful)

Xeth (614132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721715)

No! The only way you could have the antithesis of evolution is if the rules of the universe were changed such that the things more likely to survive became less numerous over time.

What you are doing is projecting some kind of value judgment onto a natural process, which should be rejected by the logical mind. If you're so concerned about the unintelligent procreating over the more intellectual people in an overthrow of evolution, perhaps you should consider what larger, smarter species various insects might have driven to destruction over the last 400 million years.

That said, human society is about more than just natural selection; we have the reasoned ability to choose what is better long-term, rather than simply allowing immediate survival to determine everything.

Sorry for the rant, but if you let these ideas stick, they tend to spread.

Re:Regulations (5, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721057)

Are you suggesting that these regulations have no effect on the potential for people to discover new things?

I'd argue that irresponsibility can't be fixed by any amount of regulation. Attempts to do so only make it more difficult for the responsible to contribute to society in positive ways.

Re:Regulations (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721103)

Now all the tinkering is just done in labs that have access to "controlled" substances.

There are very few such labs which allow "tinkering". Such labs tend to be run either by for-profit entities which expect you to do profitable work, or research insttitutions which expect you to do work which will get you grants.

In any case, the authorites come down even on non-controlled substances, as the article indicates. What chemists consider "dangerous" isn't the same as what the authorites do. From the article, one Nobel Prize winning chemist talking about his home lab: "I don't have anything that is dangerous in my lab. I have many chemicals in small amounts--salts and buffers" as well as some organic solvents, such as methanol, Shimomura says."

Methanol is both highly toxic and highly flammable. That's what the authorities would call "dangerous" if they raided his lab (though they wouldn't blink at gasoline). I'm guessing many of those salts are at least poisonous.

Re:Regulations (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721571)

Methanol is both highly toxic and highly flammable. That's what the authorities would call "dangerous" if they raided his lab (though they wouldn't blink at gasoline).

Even though methanol in the kind of quantities you'd often find gasoline is likely to be either a fuel or for some kind of "industrial chemistry". "Lab chemistry" tends to involve small quantities of reagents.

I'm guessing many of those salts are at least poisonous.

Even salts which are essential for biological processes are likely to be toxic in certain quantities. Even drinking too much water has been known to kill people.

Re:Regulations (2, Informative)

sam_paris (919837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721777)

The trouble about using Methanol as an example, is that it can be acquired completely legally as it is freely available in "Methylated Spirits" which is basically a mix of Ethanol and Methanol, the methanol added to stop people drinking the ethanol. (Methanol is poisonous).

Re:Regulations (-1, Troll)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721315)

>We have regulations to stop people who are a few neurons shy of a full brain (probably from playing with too many chemicals) harming themselves or others. Your gun laws would suggest otherwise.

Re:Regulations (2, Insightful)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721487)

We have regulations to stop people who are a few neurons shy of a full brain (probably from playing with too many chemicals) harming themselves or others. There are many responsible people who can tinker with chemicals but there are many irresponsible ones who would end up seriously harming themselves or others, accidentally or on purpose.

This might make sense except that restrictions on who can drive are a lot less restrictive. Even though you'd have to be manufacturing high explosives to get anywhere as dangerous as a car.

Re:Regulations (1)

theTrueMikeBrown (1109161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721667)

By jove, this man is right!

We need new legislation to take away cars from the masses!

Kleneex Warfare. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25720973)

""Chemical & Engineering News just ran this story that relates how government regulations create a terribly restrictive atmosphere for people who do chemistry as a hobby. (A related story was previously posted.)"

How about those doing home biochemistry?

Back in college... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25720979)

Chemical Hobbyist? Is that like a drug user?

Re:Back in college... (2, Interesting)

gammygator (820041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721117)

I think recreational chemical hobbyist is the term you are looking for.

Re:Back in college... (4, Funny)

77Punker (673758) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721511)

Does it count as recreation when you're expanding your mind?

Also, where's that music coming from?!

Have you seen Breaking Bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25720981)

I think that explains why things are so restricted... people don't want meth labs in their neighborhoods.

Re:Have you seen Breaking Bad? (2, Insightful)

drdewm (894886) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721503)

And chemical labs don't want people at home making any discoveries so the labs can make all of them and profit.

Doomsday. (4, Funny)

rugatero (1292060) | more than 5 years ago | (#25720991)

Today the mad scientist can't get hazardous chemicals, tomorrow it's the mad grad student! Where will it end?!

Re:Doomsday. (4, Insightful)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721253)

Today the terrorist CAN get hazardous chemicals.

Enough said.

Re:Doomsday. (5, Insightful)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721555)

This is kind of like gun laws. All it really does is keep the stuff out of the hands of law abiding citizens. Most criminals aren't going to care if the substances they are using are illegal for them to have if they're going to use them to break the law anyway.

I can see the the other side as well. (0, Troll)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721021)

What about the idiot that looks up how to make nitroglycerin on the Internet and kills 20 people?
I love the idea of full blown chem lab at home but there does need to be a balance.
The simple truth is if you want a lab like that you probably need to move out to a rural area. Hack they get cranky with HAMs putting up antennas in so places.

Re:I can see the the other side as well. (3, Funny)

raynet (51803) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721509)

What kind of search engine kills people when you do a search?

Re:I can see the the other side as well. (5, Funny)

daremonai (859175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721663)

Hey, we said it was Beta. -- Google

Re:I can see the the other side as well. (2, Insightful)

JesseL (107722) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721693)

Is this hypothetical idiot making nitroglycerin in a packed elevator? Do you have any real idea how much high explosive it takes to cause the kind of mayhem you're envisioning?

You want to see something that will really freak you out?
Go read up on Tannerite [tannerite.com] . This stuff is loads of fun, 50 state legal, and available over the internet. What you'll find even more amazing is that as far as I know, not a single person has died from it's use.

Paranoia...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721023)

Knowledge is dangerous citizen.

We don't want you discovering useful compounds or processes that might be beneficial to society, because there is always the possibility that you might be making a bomb instead.

STFU, GBTW, and move along. Nothing to see here.

Re:Paranoia...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721461)

More like... if you have a home lab, then you *must* be trying to make bombs. You think your average police officer will believe you if you say you're trying to vulcanize rubber? Unwashed masses can't comprehend that someone can possibly be motivated to do something so 'boring'. Bomb = boom = fun, that they can understand, so that's what you must be after.

Distrust by the masses.. (4, Insightful)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721037)

I make soap, partially for fun and partially due to allergies. I had a neighbor say "You're allowed to do that?" with total disbelief. I also make bread (not on the same day), and had the same reaction.

I imagine that any kind of scientific exploration is viewed with distrust and quite a bit of fear. My son has recently discovered the world of electronics, and I feel bad for him since even radio shack doesn't carry what it used to.

I wonder if this shift is endemic in our country, from a nation of strivers to a nation purely of consumers.

--

Keep One Eye Open on Craiglist.com - Search hundreds of communities from one place with one click [bigattichouse.com]

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (3, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721167)

Radio Shack had to be profitable so they sold out to the corporate marketing scheme and now they sell more cell phones then anything else. Still the wonder of the Internet can bring almost anything to your door if you are willing to wait a few days.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721285)

Still the wonder of the Internet can bring almost anything to your door if you are willing to wait a few days.

A trip to Home Depot can net some interesting stuff too. Sulfuric acid, Hydrochloric acid, and Potassium Hydroxide, all sold right next to each other in the plumbing aisle.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (-1, Troll)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721177)

As far as home chemistry is concerned you can thank illegal drug users for the need to clamp down on lab equipment and supplies. The sad truth is that all of us need to help ferret out illegal drug users and get them put away or whatever if we intend to live in a free society. Perhaps people in some areas can't see the problem. They only need have lived in an area that has fallen to drugs to understand the intense violence and total terror that such a neighborhood can come to when drugs run rampant.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721225)

The sad truth is that all of us need to help ferret out illegal drug users and get them put away or whatever if we intend to live in a free society.

You can't bring about a free society by increasing oppression. Criminals are an excuse for oppression, but they are not a _reason_ for it.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (0, Troll)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721795)

justice == oppression?

gee, how profound.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721343)

No, you can thank the drug warriors for our loss of rights. We drug users are simply engaging in our right to pursue happiness. Nobody has a right to decide what does and doesn't go into my body except for me.

The intense violence and total terror you see, is the result not of drugs, but of a black market run rampant. No society in history has ever gotten rid of drug use. We can't even keep drugs out of maximum security prisons, what makes you think we can keep drugs out of a free society? Do you honestly think the society would still be free if we did? Of course not. The solution, as with alcohol, is regulation not prohibition.

Though, I must say, excellent troll. I almost believed you believe that garbage.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721545)

There can be no regulation - regulation would prevent you from putting whatever you want into your body. These regulation would also prevent you from putting whatever you want into other people's bodies, with or without their consent. Obviously, regulation is not going to work.

Another problem is addictive personalities are going to be addicted. Period. Once there is an available supply the addiction kicks in. Societal norms, "morals" and fear of being ostracized prevents all of the addictive personalities from obtaining their first hit today. Erase that and we will likely have vastly larger numbers of people that are going to be serious, full-time drug users with no possibility of contributing to society.

Absent regulation, where exactly do we go? Freely distribute drugs to drive the prices down? Rely on genetics to sort out the non-productive drug users in a few generations? I don't think so. None of these solutions really work very well as shown by the pretty much free reign drugs have had since the 1950s in the US.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (4, Insightful)

TehZorroness (1104427) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721375)

In a free society, we should be free to make the choice of what we want to put into our bodies. It's hopeless for the government to try to regulate such a frivilous thing. If the war on drugs was gone, and replaced with an honest education campaign (something that goes farther then saying "drugs are bad"), along with the government being able to oversee the production and distribution of these drugs, they would be safer. There wouldn't be the risk of spreading AIDS through needles, or having your substance cut with something else resulting in overdose. Many illegal drugs, such as cannabis, mushrooms, and LSD are relatively safe and I don't think exposing them to our culture would have to much of a negative effect - as long as people are well educated.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721413)

Cocaine and heroine used to be sold on store shelves and most people didn't buy it because they knew what it would do.

Addiction has nothing to do with drugs. You can be addicted to anything. Throwing people in jail for being addicted to something won't help the majority of people.

Or maybe I'm wrong and then you should be thrown in jail for being addicted to the governments kool-aid.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721463)

You use the word "free", but do not appear to know what it means.

wow, you are a clueless fuck. (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721515)

Watch out for those Arab terrorists too! They hate our freedoms!

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (4, Interesting)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721603)

Nonsense. The problem is that drug laws and enforcement (particulary in the US) are insanely draconian. Prohibition doesn't work; I think we have enough empirical evidence of that now. Legalise currently illegal drugs and we can actually start tackling problem drug use in a sensible way.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (5, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721723)

The sad thing is people actually believe what you say.
And it's even more depressing how easy it would be to solve all those problems.

If I was currently selling illegal drugs in the US and wanted to continue to rake in giant piles of money I'd be making political donations to whoever was pushing the "tough on drugs" laws with a little note along the lines of "keep up the good work mate".
Why? Well if it was legalised I'd be ruined!

Who was hurt most by the ending of prohibition? The mob of course, they wanted it to never end.
Legal distributors selling safer cheaper drugs would push them out of the market entirely.

The best thing that can happen for them is for a competitor to be busted, they can just expand into their former market overnight. Sure they might be busted themselves but the organisations which survive and grow will be the ones which are best at avoiding getting caught.

I've heard that during prohibition foreign alcohol producers quietly lobbied to keep prohibition since consumption didn't go down, the American producers were pushed out of business and import taxes went the way of the morning mist.

Few people seem to be able to graps this, drug laws just create a situation where there's a group of people distributing drugs with a large financial incentive to expand their market.

Want to get rid of the drug dealers? It only takes a few easy and cheap steps.
Step 1: Provide free high quality drugs to people already addicted with no criminal penalties or consequences to people who come forward and ask for them.
Step 2: You're basicly done, you've knocked the bottom out of the drug buisness, you are now the distributor and you have no reason to try to get more people addicted. Drug dealers can no longer make any profit out of getting kids addicted since they just go to you when it starts costing money.

Much much much much cheaper than the massive failure that the war on drugs is.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721205)

Of course the masses are distrustful, idiots can't even make meth without blowing up their houses. While the two attract different types of minds that doesn't make a mistake any less spectacular or dangerous to me if I'm in the next apartment, dorm, or townhouse.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721379)

I had a neighbor say "You're allowed to do that?" with total disbelief. I also make bread (not on the same day), and had the same reaction.

Bread?! They're surprised that you're allowed to make bread?

You should have some fun with this. Sneak a bread maker into their house and put it somewhere that's logical to keep it, but they probably won't look in. Then the next time they invite you over, "stumble" upon the bread maker by "accident" and say you're going to have to report them to the FBI.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721385)

I make soap, partially for fun and partially due to allergies. I had a neighbor say "You're allowed to do that?" with total disbelief.

The obvious danger doing this is that sodium hydroxide can be nasty, especially if you are starting with it in solid form.

I also make bread (not on the same day), and had the same reaction.

How long before cookery books get treated like chemistry books. N.B. You'd better not tell anyone about the other kind of things you can make with the same fungus too.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721409)

I make soap, partially for fun and partially due to allergies. I had a neighbor say "You're allowed to do that?" with total disbelief. I also make bread (not on the same day), and had the same reaction.

Y'know, I was inclined to believe you at first, but the claim that your neighbour would seriously ask whether you're allowed to bake your own bread is just too silly. Sorry.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (3, Interesting)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721433)

>and I feel bad for him since even radio shack doesn't carry what it used to.

It's the same where I live ( the UK )
Radio shack are no longer interested in supplying components, just crap white goods. I can understand why though; whats the profit margin on a resistor? And have you ever stood in line behind the electronics buff who is buying 20 components, and takes half an hour?

Personally, I think they should install vending machines in Radio Shack for components. I might start using them again if they did!

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721583)

That's what public schools are about these days. Social popularity is more important than actually learning something. Social activism is more important than actually understanding what you are being an activist for. Socialism is more important than individual liberty.

People are just stupid!! That's what I learned in schools, and sadly, I'm no exception. I'm as dumb as they cum.

Re:Distrust by the masses.. (3, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721673)

This is precisely the sort of thing that Sagan worries about in Demon-Haunted World.

When science is a distrusted, mysterious thing that only people in white coats and with proper licenses can hope to understand, let alone do, how can we educate new scientists? Will we encourage children to enter the profession? Can we make informed decisions in our political process if we view science in this way?

while historical chemical advances (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721043)

have been done by hobbyists, i humbly submit this isn't possible anymore. all of the historical advances made by hobbyists were done decades ago, involving simple concepts. all advances today are not simple, but require the support of an advanced facility, simply because all of the fundamental, simple advances in chemistry have already been scoured

similar to hobbyist game makers of just 20, 30 years ago, and how there is no way they could compete on the same footing with modern mainline game studios and the high end graphical renderings they crank out

however, i also humbly submit that if you want to tinker in your shed, try genetics. genetics is still very much a frontier where the fundamentals are still being worked out, and although much equipment required for genetics research (centrifuges, gel electrophoresis, etc.) are still expensive, none of it is outside the realm of the committed hobbyist

i fully expect to see lone hackers working on the human genome in my lifetime. on the plus side, they break the monopoly of conglomerates who claim intellectual property over our genetic heritage. on the negative side, well, they are hacking the human genome. if the ethical considerations of that will give anyone pause

Re:while historical chemical advances (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721209)

If you wish to work in genetics you will need glassware, chemicals and numerous other items which are now hard to come by.

wrong (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721493)

you need cells

you can pick them out of your cheek

and then, with some lab equipment that, while expensive, is not out of the realm of a committed hobbyist, you can play with your genes

the chemicals involved are not weird or tricky either

something like the chemical edta? its a food additive

simple bases, simple acids

meanwhile, in chemical research, to do cutting edge research, you need exotic chemicals. well, you don't NEED exotic chemicals, but then, whatever research you are doing, is not cutting edge, its ground already covered and scoured

Re:while historical chemical advances (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721283)

I call BULL on the videogame stuff. I work on vegastrike. We started around 2000 and we had comparable features to a commercial game released around the same time in 2002/2003 for a space sim game.

Re:while historical chemical advances (0, Troll)

frankie (91710) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721429)

Another problem is the threat that chemists can pose to themselves and others. For every Goodyear who succeeded, how many unknown chemists ended up with poisoning, burns, cancer, or other damage to the local neighborhood? I had two acquaintances from teenage bomb-making (back in the day) who ended up losing body parts.

There has to be a balance. Although the pendulum surely has swung too far in the "9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" direction, sending it all the way back to wild west days would also be a mistake.

Re:while historical chemical advances (4, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721759)

Another problem is the threat that chemists can pose to themselves and others. For every Goodyear who succeeded, how many unknown chemists ended up with poisoning, burns, cancer, or other damage to the local neighborhood?

Ok, so you had unknown chemists with poisoning, burns and cancer. The fact that they remain unknown means that they didn't really pose a risk. How often do you hear stories of some home chemist doing something that required the evacuation of his neighbor's house, let alone the entire neighborhood?

Now, how often do we hear about car accidents that result in an 80 car pileup and 10-15 people killed?

My hobby of electronics and electrical work is far more likely to kill or maim someone than a chemist.

Re:while historical chemical advances (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721443)

And people didn't think that everything easy had already been discovered in the field of chemistry before those hobby chemists made their breakthroughs/advances ?

Re:while historical chemical advances (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721451)

tinkering does not have to mean entirely new, but how can you know theres nothing more to be discovered?
The radioactive boyscout defied red tape and regulations and built his own reactor core in his shed.

People do go over and retry things all the time, even thought you say things are done and dusted and there is no more benefit from it.

its just plain wrong to assume no advances are possible, using a bit of lateral thinking and your unique spark you may turn the impossible into the practical :)

while i appreciate your sentiment (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721547)

i think you've used the completely wrong example

the radioactive boyscout is dying, he's got kaposi's sarcoma all over his face, and he is still trying to steal fire detectors. he's an obsessed maniac, a danger to himself and others, and soon he will be prematurely dead from the effects of radiation

this is a sobering picture form last year when he was arrested [foxnews.com]

in other words, if you are defending the hobbyist scientist against 9/11 fearmongering, the radioactive boyscout is the LAST person you want to mention

because the radioactive boyscout is the very worst example of the hobbyist scientist: very much a danger to himself and others, and obsessed to the point of lawless behavior

do NOT mention the radioactive boyscout, unless you wish to enforce draconian measures

Re:while historical chemical advances (2, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721501)

similar to hobbyist game makers of just 20, 30 years ago, and how there is no way they could compete on the same footing with modern mainline game studios and the high end graphical renderings they crank out

Good analogy.

Difference is, game hobbyists are still able to tinker today with the technology that was considered state-of-the-art 30 years ago, and that tinkering is still producing fruit. If you'd asked Atari's hardware designers in 1977 whether the 2600 VCS console would ever be able to play a clip of full-motion video, you'd be laughed at. A couple years ago, homebrewers made it happen.

This access to the trailing edge isn't necessarily available to hobbyists in other fields anymore. It's a crapshoot whether an electronics hobbyist will be able to find a breadboard kit and a soldering iron in his local Radio Shack anymore. Modern chemistry sets don't have anything more dangerous/interesting than phenolpthalien solution. And good luck buying a model rocket engine without submitting to a criminal background check anymore.

Re:while historical chemical advances (5, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721525)

Bullcrap. Totally false.

Most recently, a man fooling around with a home chemistry set discovered that gold flakes of a certain size heat up in the presence of low energy microwaves. Yes all metals do this, but the gold particles heated up at such a low energy that you could swallow the gold and get your body exposed to microwaves that do no significant damage except to the parts of your body that are touching the gold. As it was already known that tumors tend to accumulate heavy metals, it created a cancer treatment.

The original discovery was done within the last 10 years, no 20, and was done at someone's home, not in a lab.

Re:while historical chemical advances (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721527)

i humbly submit this isn't possible anymore. all of the historical advances made by hobbyists were done decades ago, involving simple concepts. all advances today are not simple, but require the support of an advanced facility, simply because all of the fundamental, simple advances in chemistry have already been scoured

As the head of the patent office (supposedly) said in 1899, "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Re:while historical chemical advances (2, Interesting)

dbrian1 (522049) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721543)

have been done by hobbyists, i humbly submit this isn't possible anymore. all of the historical advances made by hobbyists were done decades ago, involving simple concepts. all advances today are not simple, but require the support of an advanced facility, simply because all of the fundamental, simple advances in chemistry have already been scoured

I disagree. I would argue that closet chemists are not advancing chemical theory and are more likely looking at various practical applications. This simply takes a different perspective and removing ones self from corporate pressures (where something might not be seen as profitable) might provide that.

similar to hobbyist game makers of just 20, 30 years ago, and how there is no way they could compete on the same footing with modern mainline game studios and the high end graphical renderings they crank out

Yet games like Portal and Crayon Physics help change the direction of the industry.

2 things: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721675)

1. the hobbyist chemist can indeed do many important and useful things, like make soap. but he can't do basic science research. that's all i'm refuting. i'm not saying hobbyist chemistry can't be rewarding, i'm just saying its not a valid avenue for basic science research, which the story summary suggested

2. 'Yet games like Portal and Crayon Physics help change the direction of the industry.' i'm sure those are great games. so are games like arkanoid, and tetris, which at one time were blockbusters. but today, they would not rank with modern blockbusters, like halo, or WoW: financial juggernauts that require huge studios of 3D modelers and artists and programmers

there will ALWAYS be a place for hobbyist gamers and hobbyist chemists. its just that hobbyist chemists will not be doing fundamental research anymore, and hobbyist gamers will not be releasing financial blockbusters. thats all i am saying. you are extending my argument beyond what i said, into conclusions i did not make

Re:while historical chemical advances (3, Insightful)

nukeade (583009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721581)

I'm sorry, but that's got to be one of the most naive things I've ever heard. Considering all polymers, there are arbitrarily many different permutations of the known elements available in a pure substance and then considering all mixtures thereof we have more different concoctions than can be enumerated. While certainly the properties of many of these have been well-understood or could be inferred from known experiment, there are many that await only someone with imagination to discover and apply.

Case in point: http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2005-11/11-year-quest-create-disappearing-colored-bubbles [popsci.com]

Reading your analogy about games, http://www.newgrounds.com/ [newgrounds.com] might also be an eye-opener. Many of those games are whipped up by talented hobbyists but still get a lot of play.

~Ben

Re:while historical chemical advances (1)

Tattarpinne (1404855) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721659)

As you mention in your example of hobbyist game makers, [b]no single (or small group of) programmer(s) working from their homes, have in fact managed to produce ANY kind of successful computer game in the last 10 years[/b]. As we are all aware, there are simply no examples of this. To suggest otherwise is simply preposterous. [b]EVERYTHING chemical in nature that can be invented without the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars of special equipment and hundreds of full-time staff has, in fact, already been invented.[/b] To think otherwise would just be plain silly. I humbly suggest that we all take a few minutes to applaud the wisdom of parent poster. I salute you sir!

Crystal Meth anyone? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721055)

It's supposed to be hard to be a chemical hobbyist.

Chemical hobbies -> Meth, bombs, and so many other things I do not want you making in your (mother's) basement.

Re:Crystal Meth anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721507)

You make a good point. It is far better that we become a nation of incompetents than to allow anyone to legally engage in self-education that you are afraid of in the privacy of their own home.

Bad example... (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721067)

As a chemist, I definitely like the idea of hobby chemists, and/or home laboratories. People should be free to do science at home if they are so inclined. But this is in some sense a bad example:

Charles Goodyear figured out how to vulcanize rubber with the same stove that his wife used to bake the family's bread.

You should never use the same equipment for your chemistry as for your other household things. If you're going to do chemistry at home, do it safely. This means having a separate (well-ventilated) room for your work, and using separate ovens, microwave, glassware, and other equipment for your work. Chemical contamination is a real threat. You may look at a chemical reaction and deem all the reactants and products to be safe... but if you make a mistake you may contaminate a room/oven/glassware with a more dangerous side-product. And you do not want to be then ingesting these contaminants (worse, you do not want to expose your family and friends).

So, like I said, be safe and use dedicated equipment for your experiments. (And don't brush your teeth with the toothbrush you use to clean your test tubes.)

Re:Bad example... (5, Funny)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721481)

You should never use the same equipment for your chemistry as for your other household things.

Too true. With some of the additives they use these days, the risk of your food contaminating your delicate experiments is just too great. If, say, you got some of that melamine-adulterated Chinese milk mixed up with your reactants, it could really screw up the results!

Re:Bad example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721521)

You're the one who's always spoiling the fun aren't you?

Re:Bad example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721691)

(And don't brush your teeth with the toothbrush you use to clean your test tubes.)

Now you tell me.

"Hamfisted" is a good description. (2, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721105)

In the US, even crystalline Iodine is regulated now... but a popular YouTube video made by a free-thinking chemistry hack shows how to make it at home quite easily. Which makes the regulation nothing but expensive bullshit.

Re:"Hamfisted" is a good description. (1)

Cormacus (976625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721323)

I would like to subscribe to your newsletter (or at least your Youtube bookmark list)

Re:"Hamfisted" is a good description. (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721721)

Did he make it from iodized table salt?

Re:"Hamfisted" is a good description. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721747)

iodine and bleach can be used to make a nasty explosive. The alternative is to regulate bleach

More of the same sad shit... (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721195)

Don't let people experiment with stuff that they might be able to make a bomb out of, or a meth lab because we law enforcement agents can't tell the difference, and besides, only terrorists and criminals are interested in chemical reactions. right?

That says nothing about the fact that even if it is illegal, terrorists, criminals, and drug czar wannabes will still have their labs. This can only hurt the honest law abiding citizenry.

It's about time we had much less government interference, and more government support of engineering and entrepreneurship in these United States. Do you have any idea what it costs for a safe chem storage locker? If price is not enough, they put regulations out to make it near impossible to do simple things, never mind experiment with any chemicals.

Why would someone want to do that? Hmmm perhaps you might be looking for a heat transfer fluid for a closed system solar power electric generator. Perhaps you are experimenting to find the optimum chemical recipe for heat transfer fluid on a home/earth heating/cooling system for your area. Perhaps you are trying to create a cheap cleaning solution that is environmentally friendly. There are hundreds of reasons that someone might want to set up a chemistry lab at home for hobby use. I mean seriously, if you find a cheap clean easy method to convert old motor oil to some sort of valid fuel... go for it. Perhaps you find the exact chemical soup required for quickly biodegrading rubbish or plastics in a quick ecologically sound manner.

The roomba did not come from government research facilities or even Boeing or Lockheed-Martin. Why should we expect that all chemical discoveries would come from commercial enterprises? That's just fucking stupid.

Re:More of the same sad shit... (0, Troll)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721569)

Everything you just said points to it being a giant mistake that the American Public just voted in Barack Obama.

People fear what they don't understand (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721325)

America's culture of the 21st century is a culture of fear. People fear what they don't understand and because of the modern age of fear selling tactics. If people actually learned something in schools instead of public school being a social experiment, then the public might understand intelligent hobbyists such as this.

Instead, the media has labeled every science hobbyist as a mass murderer waiting fora chance to unleash their techno-death on the world!!! Mwuhahahah!!! Then it will be robot apocalypse!! Dogs and cats living together!! Mass hysteria!! YES!!!!

Re:People fear what they don't understand (1)

Toll_Free (1295136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721791)

Yeah, or it could have something to do with the massive amounts of synthetic drugs on the US soil, huh?

Coming from San Diego (born and raised), I can tell ya, I watched Chemicals go from basically anyone can purchase at K-Mart to now you have to have a license.

The amount of meth labs has gone down TREMENDOUSLY, in San Diego and neighboring communities. They have now moved in to Mexico, where they don't HAVE the laws against chemical precursors.

Don't like the chemical laws on the books today? Better not have voted Demo. They are the ones (Feinstein and Pelosi) that put the anti-chem laws on the books!

--Toll_Free

Potential weapon (2, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721469)

Playing with chemistry toys could eventually enable you to do weapons, despite its good uses. A lot of things in a plane (from scissors to suspicious liquids like breast milk) in a plane could be used as weapon eventually.

But of course, is legal, even is a constitutional right or something similar, to own weapons, things that are only meant to kill, in the US.

Irony kills too, lets ban it.

Not just for home chemists (4, Insightful)

verloren (523497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721477)

Without wishing to sound like a libertarian, this is true for a great many things that are regulated - from the outside those regulations either a) are totally uninteresting, or b) seem pretty reasonable. But when you're on the inside of whatever activity is being regulated it's often the case that you can see how stupid/harmful regulation is.

It's not unlike watching a news report on TV about something you're familiar with. You see how badly they butcher the subject, and then start wondering what they do to subjects you don't know about...

Get The Golden Book Of Chemistry Experiments PDF (4, Informative)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721517)

Get your PDF copy here while you still can [about.com] of the number one classic kids chemical experiment book that's been banned from libraries for decades.

Potasium Nitrate (1)

Baruch Atta (1327765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721627)

I always wondered why my chemistry set was lacking the ONE chemical that I really wanted.

There we go again ... (2, Insightful)

golodh (893453) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721629)

It's so mindbogglingly stupid. I can buy and store gallons of diesel and sacks with fertiliser full of ammonium nitrate at home, and kilos of arsenic (rat poison) but I can get into real trouble for possessing an erlenmeyer, 100 CC of methanol or 100 CC of nitric acid.

It's quite possible to make explosives and poisons using only household chemicals. *sighs* All it takes is a few weeks of study on the Internet, a decent library, and some systematic note-taking.

But you can't stop that sort of thing without prohibiting oft-used household chemicals. So it's not widely talked about.

The general public hasn't got a clue about what is or isn't dangerous, and neither do most of the Authorities. Starting with the police.

It's long since ceased to be about ensuring safety for neighbours and society at large, it's simply cover-your-backside regulation on part of otherwise clueless officials.

It's Ok that something's done to prevent people from building complete plastique factories and amphetamine laboratories in their basements, but with a little common sense and some understanding of chemicals it's s completely doable to safeguard the neighbourhood.

Register people with home laboratories if you must, but leave them alone. Like HAM radio amateurs.

It can be done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25721669)

I've set up such a lab, and while it is difficult, it can be done. The main obstacle is getting approval from the supply houses, like VWR or Fisher. They are very sensitive to approving accounts, due to DEA and terrorism laws. And it is all or nothing -- if you have no account, you cannot even order beach sand or pipette tips. Once you have the account, you can order *anything* in their catalog. They are just not set up for dealing with individuals.

The irony is that you can get a wide variety of reagents from the hardware and pool supply stores. And from the drug and grocery stores. That's enough for some simple things, and it can get you going.

I did have some advantages that I used: I hold a Ph.D., have done successful start-ups before, and my wife worked for many years with one of the major supply houses. It still took a lot of effort and time.

More than hobbiests, the greatest impact of this is that it restricts the ability of people to start companies on a shoe-string. That's important if you want to control your IP without encumbrance, and you need to do some work before going to the traditional capital sources.

Equipment is easy to come by, and good deals are easy to find for items that are a generation or two old. It is getting the reagents that is the challenge.

Dumb people ruin it for everyone (0, Troll)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721709)

The problem isn't the relatively few smart people that might use such substances responsibly. The problem is the incredibly large number of people that couldn't understand they are doing something silly adding water to concentrated acid. This latter group vastly outnumbers the former, so much so that giving people free access to stuff would result in ... well, I would imagine a lot of damage.

See, we don't let kindergardners play in the kitchen. After the age of five or so people (mostly) understand things like knives are sharp, the range is hot, and you don't want to sit in the refrigerator. So the kitchen is pretty safe.

If your average apartment-dweller knew they had access to powerful acids, strong bases and such they might want to play around. You know, "Hey Charlie, watch THIS!!!" So we have relatively ineffectual regulations that keep Charlie's friend away from finding out how easy it is to get this stuff. This sounds like a good plan to me.

Bomb making? You can still get everything you need. Obviously, because people are still making bombs. It just takes a bit more motivation and perseverence.

The times, they have changed (1)

Toll_Free (1295136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721749)

You didn't have people making methamphetamine, Ketamine, MDMA, etc. in their garage's back in the day, also.

Want to be able to purchase chemicals? GO do it, and get the appropriate paperwork to do so.

I'm much happier having a tenth of the meth labs in San Diego that we had in the 80s.

Yes, it sucks, trying to get some chemicals (I use them in electronics), but at the same time, much less people blowing themselves up, and their neighbors.

Not the only reasons, but we can thank people like Feinstein and Pelosi for this: They introduced the meth based laws back in the late 80s and through the 90s.

Democrats, welcome to your future.

--Toll_Free

Expanded to the general case... (1)

consequentemente (898944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25721781)

Government regulations create a terribly restrictive atmosphere for people who do __________ as a (hobby/profession).
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