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Home Chemistry An Endangered Hobby in U.S.

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the busybody-nannystate-nincompoops dept.


Disoculated writes "Wired is running an article entitled "Don't Try This at Home" discussing how that increasing paranoia about terrorism and liability is making it nearly impossible to become involved in any chemistry related hobby in the United States. Sure, the innovative will try to work around these types of limitations, but are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science?"

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great article (3, Funny)

brookesy (879851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443356)

read a few days ago, great article. makes me wanna buy some explosives !

A great new age (2, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443502)

This will be a great new age. We will call it... the... ummm... Terrorism dark ages!


Re:great article (1)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443533)

Um, in all seriousness, it seems like the only home chemists these days are cooking meth.

Re:great article (2, Informative)

ccarson (562931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443541)

Maybe now, considering the heightened tension, it wouldn't be the best idea to mix chems in your basement. If chemistry was your hobby and authorities did begin questioning you about your past time, it may help to back up your work with documentation and your membership to the local chem club. Definitely, don't start mixing chems that make bomb making substances. In the end, if worst comes to worse, you could argue your case in front of a jury comprised of citizens like yourself. As flawed as our court system may be, at least you can present your case to peers in hopes they will understand your passion.

Let them have explosives and biological weapons (-1, Troll)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443365)

just make sure it's in you're neighborhood please. Not mine.

Re:Let them have explosives and biological weapons (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443401)

Your attitude is precisely summed up in TFA:
unreasonable fears about chemicals and home experimentation reflect a distrust of scientific expertise taking hold in society at large. "People who want to make meth [or weapons -wmf] will find ways to do it that don't require an Erlenmeyer flask. But raising a generation of people who are technically incompetent is a recipe for disaster."
You are willing to impoverish future generations in exchange for a false sense of security.

good morning ! (3, Informative)

jesusfingchrist (853886) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443371)

From TFA :

Suddenly police officers and men in camouflage swarmed up the path, hoisting a battering ram. "Come out with your hands up immediately, Miss White!" one of them yelled through a megaphone, while another handcuffed the physicist in his underwear. Recalling that June morning in 2003, Lazar says, "If they were expecting to find Osama bin Laden, they brought along enough guys."

The target of this operation, which involved more than two dozen police officers and federal agents, was not an international terrorist ring but the couple's home business, United Nuclear Scientific Supplies, a mail-order outfit that serves amateur scientists, students, teachers, and law enforcement professionals.

Re:good morning ! (4, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443546)

Everyone, I've got bad news. America has been cancelled. Yes, I know. But we had a good run. No government should really run past 200 years anyway. The episodes get old and stale. *golf claps*. Ok let's pack our things we're off to ruin Sweeden.

It's a pity that we are in a terrorism dark age. I remember I cut my teeth in science doing somewhat explosive experiments. I don't think I would have had such an inquisitive mind had my only science been dropping a basketball and a baseball at the same time to see which falls first.

Awww =( (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443374)

I had this chemistry teacher, real mad scientist type. He showed us how to make gunpowder, which was cool. Pity he left before I hit 6th form, as he showed them how to make trinitrotoluene...

I wonder if this would mean he could no longer show his students how to make high explosives.

Re:Awww =( (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443399)

wtf is 6th form? Is that some sort of evolutionary state?

Re:Awww =( (2, Informative)

Joff_NZ (309034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443420)

It's what some some countries (UK, Australia, New Zealand) call year 11 (11th grade?) of schooling.

Re:Awww =( (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443427)

It's further education for 16-18 year olds. Like high school++

[Flamebait] It's what they do in the UK (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443442)

Between 16 and 18, roughly equivalent to the first two years of a US first degree.

And yes, I did make a small amount of guncotton in the 6th form. I can still remember going around deaf all afternoon...our chemistry master preferred nitrogen tri-iodide, because the smoke is purple.

Re:Awww =( (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443478)

Sixth Form college is where you take your A-levels.

Re:Awww =( (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443663)

Its the year of High school between 5th form and 7th form of course. Generally 16-17 olds.

I went to school in New Zealand..

Re:Awww =( (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443436)

It's almost impossible to do this in a regular school chemical lab (you'll need very concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids which are regulated).

But you can make a lot of other fun substances: [] (it's rumored to pass through airport scanners), iodine azide (FUN!), lead azide, cuprum azide, etc.

Pyrophorous metals are also fun (do you know that fine _iron_ powder _burns_ at the room temperature?).

Re:Awww =( (1)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443506)

Unfortunately, Iron also forms a protective oxide layer very quickly at room temp (same oxidation, actually). Thats why thermite is AlO and Fe(s) powders mixed together, not just Fe ground up by itself. Metal contact for the reduction in activation energy and max change in enthalpy.

Oh, noes, I know how to make a common military sabotage device, guess I'm one of the 1% of chem hobbyists that are making people paranoid about the other 99%.

Re:Awww =( (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443613)

We used iron oxalate to produce iron powder (by heating oxalate in a sealed tube), it combusted almost spontaneousely (even from air friction). We never stored it for more than some hours.

Well, I think _all_ male chemists made explosives at some time during their career. It's generally nothing to be afraid of, but with the current terroris scare...

Re:Awww =( (2, Informative)

the_doctor_23 (945852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443624)

Thats why thermite is AlO and Fe(s) powders mixed together, not just Fe ground up by itself.

Actually, thermite is a mixture of iron oxide and aluminium powder...

Re:Awww =( (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443675)

You're education was better than mine, the most dangerous thing we got to play with was chlorine and half the curriculum was electrolosis (not idea how to spell that). Having said that I don't think teaching our class how to make explosives would have been a good idea, every lesson there was a massive water fight (people were actually considerate enough to not use the acids). I decided not to do the chemistry A-level so I cant tell you if its any better.

Management Culture (5, Insightful)

monkaduck (902823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443378)

We've become a management culture since the Cold War ended. The emphasis on science and technology has been replaced with an emphasis on managerial skills and the joys of outsourcing. And since the amount of money being spent on educating our young has diminished, and you often get the proverbial gym teacher teaching chem lab, is it any wonder why science scores are down?

Re:Management Culture (5, Insightful)

polyex (736819) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443417)

With a few sentences you have summed up a very serious problem with the USA. It makes you wish for another Soviet Union and and the days of the space race to get our ass in gear (perhaps China can soon fill this role of a worthy competitor?). Of course you will have lots of arguments for the current model of a giant brain suck, mostly the very people who could not achieve a Science degree because it was too hard and end up taking business. Outsourcing is simply incest.

Re:Management Culture (4, Insightful)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443492)

summed up a very serious problem with the USA...perhaps China can soon fill this role of a worthy competitor

don't worry about China becoming a competitor - we're already getting them to sign up to DRM, and once the number of lawyers there achieves critical mass, their society will also stagnate due to massively overburdening corporations and governments with beaurocracy.

you see, you have to remember: the purpose of management, marketing, lawyers and government is not to serve, but to take control and expand... it's only when there's just one person left in the world doing real work and everyone else is either managing him/her or duking it out in court over whether that person is licensed to do the work, that we'll all wonder where it went wrong!

Re:Management Culture (3, Funny)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443529)

"will also stagnate due to massively overburdening corporations and governments with beaurocracy"

So you're saying that they'll finally throw off the yoke of western cultural dominance and return to the way they were before Europeans arrived and screwed up their country? (Apologies to Chinese readers, but I couldn't resist.)

Re:Management Culture (2, Interesting)

alexhs (877055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443614)

(perhaps China can soon fill this role of a worthy competitor?)

Perhaps not... All your base allready are belong to them.

You know that when you see "Made in China" on your typical US product. And they're putting Gremlins in those products, you know.

That's why US government don't want Lenovo computers. They know that perfectly, but they're hiding the existence of Gremlins to the general public. I fear there's a bigger conspiracy than Roswell here...

Endangered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443382)

And, dangerous, too. My eyebrows still haven't grown back and no one has seen the cat since.

new chemistry (5, Funny)

samsonov (581161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443385)

Well, while conventional chemistry might have gone the way of the rotary phone, there are still those playing with chemicals in their houses - how about all those meth labs [] ?

Re:new chemistry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443537)

Gee, it's almost as if you RTFA!

Laziness & the Government (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443387)

Sure, the innovative will try to work around these types of limitations, but are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science?
No. At least, if you're afraid of terrorist witch hunts then it's your government telling you to be afraid of science, not the people.

The liabilities incurred might come from local law enforcement if they think you're setting up a meth lab or it might even be your neighbor's kid comes over and breaths in some fumes that his asthma doesn't handle so well.

A lot of the scenarios I'm thinking of involve the chemical and physical sciences. I don't think that being proficient in computer sciences will raise any government eyebrows unless you're doing something truly illegal. In the end, I think we're mostly seeing a decline in getting-your-hands-dirty simply due to the fact that it's a mess & Americans are pretty lazy. I personally work a lot and when I get home, I'm not in the mood to set up a particle accelerator. I think that the armchair sciences like computers, political, economic, statistics, mathematics, etc. will probably be the focus of new hobbiests.

From the Wired article:
The search was initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency best known for instigating recalls of faulty cribs and fire-prone space heaters.
Great, just one more federal agency for me to fear/hate. You just made the list, CPSC!

As for the USAToday article entitled U.S. could fall behind in global 'brain race', I think that's crap. I'll quote a few parts of it and add my commentary:
Last year, China graduated 500,000 engineers; India, 200,000; and North America, 70,000.
One word, "population." How about you translate those figures into engineers graduated per capita? China = 500,000:1,306,313,812. India = 200,000:1,080,264,388. United States = 70,000:295,734,134. That's roughly 1:2612 for China, 1:5401 for India and 1:4224 for the United States. Those numbers aren't bad at all, especially if you took other countries. Now, if you want to argue about the rigor of the courses, I'd say that varies from place to place.
The U.S. trade balance in high-technology goods fell from $33 billion in the black in 1990 to $24 billion in the red in 2004.
Although this looks bad economically, I don't see how this relates to the topic at hand. In no way can you measure a country's education and gifted students.

There was very little for me to agree with in this article.

Re:Laziness & the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443418)

Sorry buddy, percentages only win in statistics. What do you think the outcome would be if 10% of the american population joined the army and went to war with 10% of china's population? Even if America was actually technologically superior, it'd be swarmed.

You are right about quality of education, but increasingly those people are coming to American institutions and going back home (partly thanks to government xenophobia making it hard to stay, though plenty probably never intended to in the first place).

Not that easy (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443454)

"I don't think that being proficient in computer sciences will raise any government eyebrows unless you're doing something truly illegal."

With the paranoia about evil hackers, and encryption having been already used as "proof of criminal intent" to convict someone, you never know how long that'll last.

And witch hunts for computer geeks have already happened, e.g., in the wake of Columbine and the like. Suddenly every introverted nerd in some schools, or god forbid self-confessed computer gamer, was dragged before the principal or in some cases before the police. I knew someone from the USA who allegedly had major problems getting hired in his home town, and thus had to move, because that stigma never quite went away. Once he had been labelled as probably the next guy who'll shoot the school up, that small town never let go of that notion.

And let's not forget that witch hunts usually target the unpopular members of the community, rather than the real witches/terrorists/etc. I'd wager that out of the about 2 million victims of the inquisition, at least a million were burned just because they were the unsocial ones that didn't fit the group. Or worse yet, told some community leader to fuck off.

Nerds can make really unpopular neighbours. They're the ones who'd rather sit at a computer and do god knows what nefarious things than take part in the community gossip games. Even if not nefarious, at least they're "addicts" or whatever veiled insult.

So if you think the next witch hunt can't target IT nerds, think again.

Re:Laziness & the Government (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443473)

Agree. I know a practicing Muslim, who is working for a contractor to DOD, is a professional pilot AND is one of the local Islamic community leaders AND authorities do not bother him.

Re:Laziness & the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443630)

bother != monitor OR watch OR survail

Re:Laziness & the Government (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443574)

From the Wired article:

"The search was initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency best known for instigating recalls of faulty cribs and fire-prone space heaters."

Great, just one more federal agency for me to fear/hate. You just made the list, CPSC!

personally, I would say that the CPSC is well outside it's jurisdiction...

Re:Laziness & the Government (2, Insightful)

kjart (941720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443599)

Last time I checked, the United States was not the only country in North America. Perhaps the US should be more afraid of losing the geography race? :)

Digg + 2days (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443394)

Is it just me, or is /. consistently a day or two behind digg?

Re:Digg + 2days (1, Informative)

xx_toran_xx (936474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443680)

A day or so behind in speed, a few years ahead in intelligence.

Take your pick.

Speaking as a chemist... (3, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443398) shouldn't be using the kinds of chemicals they were selling at home anyway. *I* wouldn't use those at home. It's not safe, as you will not have, at home, access to the proper safety equipment including proper fume hoods which would cost you at least tens of thousands of dollars to install. If you're not a chemist, you also won't have proper training and experience to deal with accidents that can become disasters.

The submission asks whether people are afraid of science. The question should be, are people afraid to use caustic, explosive, and potentially fatal chemicals without safety procedures or training? I sure hope the answer is yes, and I would consider that a good thing.

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443428)

The submission asks whether people are afraid of science. The question should be, are people afraid to use caustic, explosive, and potentially fatal chemicals without safety procedures or training? I sure hope the answer is yes, and I would consider that a good thing.

Read the entire article. It talks about lots of aspects about how society has come to fear chemistry - this quote about the decline of labs in schools made for particularly depressing reading for me:
More than half of the suggested experiments in a multimedia package for schools called "You Be the Chemist," created in 2004 by the Chemical Educational Foundation, are to be performed by the teacher alone, leaving students to blow up balloons (with safety goggles in place) or answer questions like "How many pretzels can you eat in a minute?"
Goggles for balloons? Pretzels? They can't be serious....

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (5, Informative)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443480)

Speaking as a former technical director and designer of chemical plant, for the sort of quantities and hazards that home experiments produce fume extraction would NOT cost tens of thousands of dollars. You can home build a garage extractor system for a few hundred dollars (and if you work on cars it is useful for extracting e.g. degreaser fumes) which has enough capacity and exhaust velocity to handle solvents.

You can in fact go out and buy caustics (sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide) from the local hardware store, supermarket or builder's merchant. You can accidentally create chlorine gas quite easily using common household products. You can buy lethal poisons almost anywhere. It would be BETTER if more people had practical chemical experience because at the moment Joe Public is mostly totally unaware of the risks he runs. He is afraid of "acid" because he does not know that acidity alone is harmless. He is unafraid of bleach, caustics, solvents, and any alkali which comes in a brightly coloured plastic box. And your solution is?

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443508)

Um . . . sulfur? That's a basic component of a ton of stuff, not just explosives. People still sell fertilizer, so why are the individual components targeted instead?

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443516)

Fume hoods and filters can be built or bought sh on ebay and people playing with this stuff at home have access to the same safety information as multinationals. Frankly, I think there's more chance of some reckless fool causing an incident as an employee of a company rather than as a liable individual.

There could be an argument over liability insurance for hobbyists but I don't see any supporting evidence. Safe disposal of waste is another area where there may be cause for concern, just as it should be with SME's :-o

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (1)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443549)

Speaking as a chemical engineer, designing the failsafes is half of the fun. That is all.

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (4, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443561)

You're right. It's not safe. You can get hurt. But taking all the risk out of life is even more dangerous.

When I was young I did many stupid things, and I sure hope you did too. It's all part of growing up. When you take all the risk out of living, you're not only creating a race of bored couch potatoes, but you're also creating people who will do stupid things like mixing chlorine and ammonia while cleaning the toilet, and who will panic when things get out of hand.

After all, play is in the first place a preparation for adulthood, it teaches common sense around danger. And common sense in these matters is something that seems to be lacking more and more these days.

People who haven't had small accidents when they were young, will have big accidents when the are grown up.


Re:Speaking as a chemist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443566)

If you're not a chemist, you also won't have proper training and experience to deal with accidents that can become disasters.

So you are saying that without a 4+ year advanced degree it is impossible for someone to understand a MSDS and comprehend the safe handling of the substances?

Wow a scholerly snob are you. As a Chemist, there are lots of non chemists in your lab that fully understand everything you use and how to safely handle and USE those compounds, in fact they do it far more than you do every single day as your lazy ass has them making up most of your reagents so you can surf the web doing "research".

Having a degree does not make you smarter it just means you were rich enough to waste 4 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a piece of paper that says you have an education you could have gained in your garage with textbooks and experimentation.

I absolutely despise people like you. College edu-ma-cated = blazing asshole today it seems.

I guarentee that there are at least 3 non-college educated, non-chemists within the 100 mile radius of you that knows far more about chemistry that you do mister smarty pants.

I say "no harm, no foul.." (1)

jageryager (189071) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443584)

In my opinion, if no harm is done then it should be Okay. People should be assumed innocent until proven guilty, and assumed to be responsible until observed or proven otherwise.

The people that say, "you can't have dangerous chemical because you might not handle them safely" might very well next say, "You can't climb mountains because you might fall off", and "you can't play football because you might blow out your knee"

We should assume that adult citizens can protect themselves and let them be responsible for their own actions. Give people freedom to do things. And also come down on people with the full force of the law of they show that they haven't been responsible enough.

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (1)

Upaut (670171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443602) shouldn't be using the kinds of chemicals they were selling at home anyway.

Now, thats not fair. It should be up to the one ordering the chemical to determine what they need. They were supplying to many people, myself included. Have you ever had a budget in school for a lab experiment, had it run out, and go out to get the reagents needed?

And as for danger, who here as a child didn't add iodine crystals (made with the instructions from the Golden Book of Chemistry) and add it to ammonia, take the brown sludge, and put it under lightswitches? Ah good Ol' Nitrogen Triiodide...

Re:Speaking as a chemist... (2, Informative)

patchvonbraun (837509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443669)

Speaking as someone who uses "those types of chemicals" in my home workshop all the time,
    I have to disagree.

Life comes with risks, and rational adults learn to deal with and mitigate those risks.
    We wear bicycle helmets while bicycling, have a garden hose on hand when we have a
    bonfire, etc, etc.

United Nuclear, like Skylighter, Firefox, Iowa Pyro Supply, and many others, supplies chemicals
    to amateur and professional pyrotechnicists all over the world, and to a lesser extent, the more
    generic "home chemist type".

The article casts chemicals like "perchlorate" in the light of "makes bombs", which is misleading.
    Yes, perchlorate can be used to make bombs, but it's also the main ingredient in a large number
    of other pyrotechnic effects which *don't* go boom. In many places in the U.S., home manufacture,
    for personal use, of fireworks is entirely legal. Check out respected organizations like the
    PGI (Pyrotechnics Guild International), who have hundreds of members in the U.S., and who regularly
    put on a large exhibit of home-manufactured fireworks.

The government, and the lay public, are increasingly of the opinion that anyone who does anything
    after work other than chug a Pabst and watch their 57 channels of dreck is a terrorist, or
    about-to-be terrorist. Which is a sad state indeed...

Re:Speaking as a (former) chemist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443679)

I dropped out of a successful 15 year chemistry career because of bad managers who do not know chemistry. As mentioned before it is a management culture now.

These same power happy law enforcement assholes who like to point guns at people who know more that they do becasue they fear them and feel they must be in a position of power by threatening violence sanctioned by the government - are the same people who refuse to believe that global warning is a real threat that is directly related to human activity. They shit on Kyoto, without knowing that it is sadly out of date and nowhere near the measures required to save us.

It is a lost cause, give up the fight. Worship Paris Hilton and the almighty pussy and throw money at it and live in frivolity until the world is dead.

Fuck it, it's not worth caring anymore. Knowledge is dead, ignorance is king. Humanity desperately needs the deadly enema that nature is about to deliver to the festering colon of humanity.

Speaking as a non-chemist... (1)

jacksdl (552055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443697)

Supporting safety has parallels to supporting IT security. The arguments in favor of both have very graphic and tragic examples to use. Who wants a kid to loose a finger or eye? Who is in favor of risking that critical business information gets into competitors' hands?

The dangers of too much "safety" or "security" are much more subtle.

When I was a teen, being into chemistry had a certain amount of coolness specifically because there was a chance of explosion. It was only a junior chemist's knowlege and skill that kept him in one piece -- at least that was the perception we were happy to reinforce.

Now everyone knows that what you get in a chemistry set these days are variations on colored water. The cool kids who take risks are still out there to look up to. But they're not the kids that are doing "science stuff". They are the ones jumping between building roofs on skate boards.

Or Electronics (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443402)

I recently looked into buying a dc-dc converter to run my laptop in a plane. These things are pretty expensive and my guess is that I could build one for $20 AUD or so.

The problem is that airport security people are not going to believe that my bundle of components in a jiffy box which I soldered up myself is not a bomb, whereas the proper device from the shop at four times the price at least looks legit.

Then I wondered what it is going to be like in the near future where the flight control system probably runs windows CE or similar and I rock up to business class and start some software which I wrote myself.

Software may be a terrorist weapon soon. Will people who roll their own be viewed with suspicion?

Which takes me back to a trip to Adelaide last year with my family. Coming back I put my laptop in the checked in baggage (inside a suitcase), probably not a good idea. I carry it on these days. Before boarding an announcement came on that they had to change a wheel or something. This is Adelaide and you can see the plane right outside the windows and I didn't see any wheel changing going on.

To cut a long story short when I tried to boot up mandrake at home in Melbourne that laptop was flat as a 20 year old leaky dry cell. No way would it show any lights without a power supply.

Now the airlines tell you not to run your laptop while landing and taking off. Did this laptop run for three hours in the terminal + plane + terminal + my place because some security guy didn't know how to shut down linux?

Re:Or Electronics (1)

thelonestranger (915343) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443435)

"Then I wondered what it is going to be like in the near future where the flight control system probably runs windows CE or similar"

And when that happens is around the same time I stop using planes. Blue Screen 'o' Death at 5000', not a nice thought.

Re:Or Electronics (5, Interesting)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443455)

The TSA apparently thought my computer (in an Antec SuperLANboy aluminum case) was a bomb -- they ripped off the heatsink and processor and pulled the video card out of its AGP slot (while it was still screwed in). Not to mention the once-shiny case with an easy-to-see-through side window panel now has tons of scratches and dents on it from them improperly trying to open it (it appears they tried prying it open with a screwdriver -- there are 2 thumb screws on the back [can you say "duhhhh"]). Seems like airport security people are monkeys who couldn't tell a bomb from someone's mom. Still haven't seen any money for it either.

Not really suspicious (0, Troll)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443413)

Well its ok as long as your white and not trailer trash.

The new American project (5, Insightful)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443416)

I suppose this is part of the project that has been going on for quite a while.

That project of course is the "Dumbing Down of America" -project that started with politics and social sciences, then went on to encompass history, then geography and now I guess science is next.

Makes sense I suppose.

It's OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443461)

Don't worry about that. We're still the best damn middle-managers in the Western Hemisphere! I mean, excluding of course the Germans, and the Swiss, and those folks in Scandinavian countries, and...Ok...well, basically all of Europe. Ah crap, so we're screwed afterall. We don't even live up to our own rightful mediocrity.

Re:The new American project (4, Insightful)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443643)

Nah, it's a restriction of knowledge. Dumbing-down is the widespread acceptance of very much oversimplified models as the entire truth of the matter, like genetics/eugenics in the early century (didn't end well), evolutionary theory (didn't end well... for college applicants from Kansas city, anyhow), and economic theory in the 90s (i like to call what most people think of as the "internet bubble bursting" the "bunch of stupid investors crash of the 90s"). If most people just avoid the science, it doesn't really harm the people or the science (though it doesn't particularly help either). What I'm worried about is the masses embracing science and getting it wrong. Humility about our lack of knowledge, that's the key.

In the case of chemistry, of course, this would self-correct a lot faster than eugenics was, as individual amateurs can kill themselves a lot faster with organic chemicals than a set of bureaucratic machinery can churn out obviously stupid laws. That doesn't necessarily make it immune, though. Idiots try to mix their own explosives all the time.

It could be worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443419)

...are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science?

You could be teaching your children to be afraid of sex.

(I'm sorry... I'm from europe... :-)

Good For America (4, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443431)

Chemistry supports terrorism.

You're not a chemist are you?

Exactly what the terrorists want (5, Insightful)

Tetard (202140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443433)

Very slick in fact. Attack a country with low-tech means, and let the country overregulate itself, destroy its civil liberties, and generally make itself a bigger nuisance to its own citizens -- and its economy -- than what unsophisticated, guerilla-style terrorist groups could hope to achieve.

Americans(TM) Don't Need Science (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443437)

They just need faith in Jesus and the President.

Re:Americans(TM) Don't Need Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443487)

You talk as if those are two different things.

Terrorist paranoia not the only cause for this... (5, Insightful)

BetaJim (140649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443438)

The war on (some) drugs is also responsible for making chemistry a difficult hobby to persue. Many common chemicals are hard to get now days, red phosphorus for instance. In some states buying glassware requires a permit and jumping through other hoops (Texas is one such state I've read about.)

I remember from reading biographies of of Thomas Edison and being amazed at the chemical lab he had as a teenager; it would be almost impossible for a kid now to learn and investigate chemistry like Edison did.

What a sorry state of affairs this is for the inquisitive.

the paranoid religious right (4, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443439)

if they get their way they would gladly turn the USA in to a primitave backwards nation run by religious/superstitious whackos that are no better than the Taliban...

to quote another's sig i read in here: "If God hates the same people you do then maybe you made God in your image"

Re:the paranoid religious right (1)

Terminus32 (968892) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443589)

Damn, I wanted to learn how to make some LSD of my own :-P

That's right, blame the chemicals (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443457)

Afterall, it was chemicals that created the public outrage over Waco and Ruby Ridge. Over 100 civilians were massacred at Waco. The mainstream media, acting as the official propaganda wing of the state, didn't bother to tell anyone what federal law enforcement knew: david koresh walked into town 4 days a week to go to Wal-Mart. These incidents happened because the very agencies that want to restrict your right to make a science experiment decided to "make an example" out of people with "cowboy mentalities."

To put it quite nicely, your government decided to pick a fight with armed people that might get a lot of people killed. The next time you see some politician calling for more state power, remember that. They want to make you more vulnerable to police brutality.

Most of these tragedies and outrages could be prevented if...

1) The federal government stuck to its enumerated powers, none of which include the legal power to regulate fireworks and the chemicals that go into them except in terms of interstate **sales**.
2) Cops were required to do intelligence gathering before doing a raid. Funny how our "foot soldiers in the war on crime" can't be bothered to do the dirty work before doing the "fun stuff" like aim assault rifles at middle aged scientists and 80 year old couples accused of running meth labs.
3) Cops couldn't carry any weapon that couldn't be owned without a permit by any citizen not serving prison time. There's an ugly correlation between gun control and police disrespect for everyone from poor blacks to middle class white people...

Re:That's right, blame the chemicals (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443635)

david koresh walked into town 4 days a week to go to Wal-Mart.

walking to Walmart is a crime??? sheesh...

Re:That's right, blame the chemicals (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443695)

Absolutely. Anyone who doesn't go there in their American made SUVs is clearly a terrorist.

Re:That's right, blame the chemicals (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443685)

Over 100 civilians were massacred at Waco.

Whoa, whoa! What happenned at Waco was pretty sad, but lets not exaggerate!

This is not about gun rights, stop threadjacking.

Re:That's right, blame the chemicals (1)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443688)

Yes, and stockpiling weapons (many of which were illegal, as they damn well knew with several experts among them) and keeping the community as separate as possible from the outside world (we learned that one the hard way with Scientology, remember? Oh, you probably don't) had nothing to do with it. And they definitely hadn't been under investigation months or years beforehand to ascertain wether they presented a danger to those around them. (/sarcasm)

But I'm sure he was a good guy at heart. After all, he walked to Wal-Mart. If that's the best thing someone can say about my life, I hope I get gunned down resisting arrest too.

Drop in the bucket (0, Troll)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443468)

"Sure, the innovative will try to work around these types of limitations, but are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science?"

No, it's the home-schooling of creationism and its ilk that leave students afraid of the ungodly lies of science.

are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443503)

Yes, because the US Goverment wants sheep, and lots of them.

Alternative summary (1)

Frightening (976489) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443515)

Wired editors short on Hash Oil [] , looking for outside help.

Not just the kids. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443519)

WE are being taught that EVERYONE must be not only afraid of science but also scientific types and scientists.

Buying chemicals and using them at home? Have a digital logic analyzer and gear to make electronic assemblies at home? Have a small machine shop in your garage? Like to build things? Are you smarter than the average american? Dont drive a SUV?

All these things are indicators of TERRORISM!

Even in the world of astronomy things are going very poorly. People buying things for grinding their own Primary mirrors are getting asked strange questions as if we are trying to build an orbital death ray for Al-Quidea.

But then for decades americans have uplifted the jock and pounded down the scientist. So this final step towards Scientide and scien-phobias was a very easy one to take. Back in the 80's the hispanic and Black cultures took a downturn and started to ridicule their smart as "acting white" and it has damaged their culture and society drastically ever cince. A nice leftover from the damed mential disease that has infected americans for nearly 50 years, the "smart is not cool" virus that encourages kids to be a D average and aspire to ask "you want fries with that" as their career choice.

Americans = stupid morons.

Want proof? look at our president! WE voted TWICE for the moron.

Re:Not just the kids. (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443587)

Don't forget it's a country where someone who's good at hitting a ball with a stick can make $10 million a year and someone who can develop a cure for cancer is lucky to make $100k a year.

Why bother? (1)

Centurix (249778) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443528)

According to Einstein, after Physics, everything else is just stamp collecting.

Worried about what "we" are teaching "our" kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443530)

I have a suggestion for all of you who stay up at night worrying about what "we" are teaching "our" kids: have your own kids and teach them what you want, and leave everybody else alone. You can prepare your kids to outpace everybody else in the next generation, and then they will be tomorrow's leaders.

This whole "it takes a village" crap is getting old. My kids are going to have chemistry sets and electrical sets and all sorts of stuff. We're not going to sit around and hope the state decides to give them what they need in the schools. I would never leave my children's education subject to a majority vote of the populace, and I can't think of anything more foolhardy.

Plus, this avoids all the problems of one size fits all. Even if there aren't people "scared of science" out there voting on what your kids should be taught, even if we're all agreed that science is important, there's still plenty to disagree on: shall we teach one year of chemistry at the high school level and two years of physics, or two years of chemistry and one year of physics? What if your school just doesn't offer the exact program you need? Are you going to sit around and subject your kids to a substandard education just on principle?

What really bugs me is people who insist that they, personally, do not want to have kids, but still want to be part of all of society talking about how "we" teach "our" kids. No, these kids aren't yours. If you want some of your own, have some. If you can't have some, adopt. If you acknowledge that you don't want kids, that's great; just stay out of it for the rest of us. But my real point is that there shouldn't be an "all of society" talk on the "one right way" to raise our kids. That completely defeats survival of the fittest and the ability to innovate.

Re:Worried about what "we" are teaching "our" kids (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443662)

My kids are going to have chemistry sets and electrical sets and all sorts of stuff.

ah yes, but where are you going to get them from??? and just how few experiments will you be able to do when you finally get hold of them??? the contents of "chemistry" sets have been seriously neutered to avoid liability claims

Are you paranoid if they are out to get you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443534)

I used to like model rocketry. Now I don't bother with it anymore because I'm afraid of the sort of attention I'll draw going to a park and shooting rockets into the air.

Stories like this confirm I'm right to be worried.

Many in my generation learned chem this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443543)

When Sputnik was launched, all kinds of science became (momentarily) popular and many of us used chemistry sets, which then had most or all of the chemicals sold by United. Modest care was plenty for us, is plenty now. I suggest that others go buy a few of their chemicals (ever use copper sulphate to filter out red laser light to get second harmonic light? Works!) and deposit some money for their legal defense fund. I did.
Yes, you don't use this stuff for making food, but learning about it is fun and a good thing for people to know...especially kids who are faced, remember, with order of magnitude 10 years study before they can get to current work in ANY area of math or hard science. Things like these chemistry demos help kindle and keep enthusiasm over a rather long dry spell. Besides, the habits of bureaucrats acting as our nannies is or ought to be offensive to competent adults.

Chemistry sets (4, Interesting)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443545)

It was probably the early '80's or so when I think chemistry sets were at their peak of popularity. I used to get up on Saturday morning, grab my bike, and go yard-sale hunting looking for chemistry sets. In my mind, I figured no one set would give you enough stuff to do anything dangerous, but if I were clever enough to get multiple sets from multiple companies, then maybe I could actually find a good chemical combination that would be more interesting than turning blue looking water to green looking water. On a good day, I could come home with 2 or 3 nearly-complete sets.

Sadly, I was never able to find a combination that was truly worthy. About the worst I was able to do was to give the bathtub a purple stain that no amount of scrubbing was going to get rid of (and believe me... Mom had me try).

It is kind of sad to think that my son will probably never do anything similar (of course if he does, I'll smile and my wife will be making him scrub the tub).


End of the World FUD (2, Insightful)

thelizman (304517) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443550)

This is rediculous. When I was a kid mixing sugar and potassium chloride, the last thing I gave a shit about was if it was legal or not to do so. In fact, most of my scientific explorations (blue boxing, hacking, amature explosives manufacturing) were decidedly not legal either in practice or end use. That was exactly what attracted me to them.

What is this attraction to appealing to fear, uncertainty, and doubt among slashdot submissions lately? The world is not going to burn or freeze due to global warming, George W Bush doesn't give a shit about your personal phone calls, terrorists aren't hiding behind the counter at every 7/11, and the Internet is not being taken over by corporations. Get a grip people.

Re:End of the World FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443652)


These people had their house raided, their computers siezed, and are going on trial and facing huge fines and prision terms. For selling science experiments to teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement people.

You say there's nothing to worry about here? You're the one that needs to get a grip...on reality.

Top tips for parents and toys (2, Funny)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443564)

You can never go wrong buying your child a crystal-radio set. It's a great way for him or her to learn about crystal radios.

If one of your children is killed playing with a chemistry set, make a game of it by challenging your surviving children to reanimate him or her.

It's amazing how much kids can learn about chemistry the old-fashioned way. As soon as you get home from work, demand that they mix you an Old-Fashioned.

Regarding other toys..

To determine a toy's safety, try these simple tests:
Does your child choke on it? Does it produce welts, cuts, or bruises? Does it turn up whole or in fragments in your child's stool?

Decide what you would like your child to be, then only buy toys that steer him or her in that direction.

If it is Finnish, sold at an upscale toy boutique, and three times as expensive as a comparable toy made by an American company, it is safe and educational.

Often, the best toys are the simplest. For example, sewing cards, through which a piece of yarn is laced, enhances a child's motor skills and teaches the fundamentals of sewing. Yeah, sewing cards are a whole fucking lot of fun.

Visit your local mall for such upscale toy stores as Wooden Toys Your Kids Will Hate and Professor Faggot Q. Boredom's Lame-U-Cational Cocksuckery.

One of the best educational toys you can buy your child is a pet. A rabbit, for example, can teach him or her about the life cycle, mammalian reproduction, toxicology, comparative anatomy, and cooking.

When toy shopping, look for the Joe Mantegna Seal Of Safety. It's your only guarantee that the toy has been deemed safe by Joe Mantegna.

Rounded edges on toys should be sharpened in case your child tries to chop vegetables with them.

After your child unwraps his or her new toy, throw it on the ground and stomp on it. If any small pieces break off, the toy is too dangerous for young children.

Erector sets are a great way to get your pre-teen started on making juvenile sex puns.

Buy your child expensive, collectible toys and forbid him or her to take them out of the box. This will teach your child valuable life lessons about longing, deprivation, and resentment.

Isn't Bob Lazar the UFO freak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443567)

Attention seeker: Bob Lazar [] Wikipedia article.

We are Teaching People to be Afraid of More... (1)

Hercules Peanut (540188) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443570)

are we teaching our kids to be afraid of science?"

Yes, but that's not all. My (significant other) is a school teacher. Now MY (significant other) is teaching kids about foreign cultures. The other night I walked in on my (significant other) making passports. Now they are only for k-3rd grade so they are pretty cheesy and no one could possibly mistake them for real ones but still, the first thing I thought about was the video game/terrorist recruitment confusion.

Even now, I am having to write this in such a way that the government will understand that this is just a class project for the very young so they don't get their panties in a bunch when they read this through their now legal spybots.


So.... (4, Insightful)

ArchAngelQ (35053) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443585)

I guess it should be changed to:
Sufficiently backward education makes technology indistinguishable from magic?

Bob Lazar??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443593)

Isn't that the same Bob Lazar who claimed to have worked in Area 51 giving little green men anal probes and reverse engineering flying saucers until the men in black stole his past and tried to make him disappear??

This is not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443601)

I live in Europe. It is not a (big) problem that the US is increasingly adopting a luddite stance, even going to the point of teaching creationism in place of evolution.

The smart people will move here. The rest can stay where they are. Since the ones left in the US will almost certainly not be able to make enough money to fend for themselves, I guess we will have to toss some money over the wall once in a while to keep them alive - anything else wouldn't be humane.

Eh, wait a moment.

Of course they should be afraid.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443606)

If they follow the dark path of science, then eventually their minds will become poisoned with darwinism and other heretical ideas. And when they deny Creationism they will go to hell when they die! So BE AFRAID.

Blame TV, not the government (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443610)

Most of your perceptions about the government are derived from eagerations of the press and entertainment cops TV shows. This also appies to 90% of the parents in the US who won't lets their kids play outdoots because of all the psychos and wackos waiting behind the hedges to abduct and molest their stupid kids. Wake up folks. Life has inherent risks and you need to learn to manage those risks.

Zero risk society (4, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443616)

The well-meaning "If we can save just one child!" is the squishy soft underbelly of a police state.

I actually met a chemistry teacher in the 80s who sprinkled the lab floor with explosive crystals so they would pop underfoot the first day of class -- and had a kid go home and fatally blow himself up making his own batch. Placing personal responsibility isn't entirely clear when dealing with kids. But it isn't like nobody has died in high school sports either, is it? Maybe the formula is something like the greater good of society weighed against the occasional loss of the _foolishly_ adventurous?

I'm not completely worried... (4, Insightful)

Gadgetfreak (97865) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443618)

Most of my high school friends who were smart enough to persue science degrees never followed the directions on those things anyways. They just combined stuff together to see what happened. They did that with other chemicals, too, not just the ones in the kit.

If people are interested in science, they'll try their own crazy stuff their own way. What should *really* be sold are safety kits... flame suits, face shields... I mean, who here hasn't made a flame thrower with an aerosol can, or a potato gun w/PVC pipe, or tried to make some homemade napalm from some rumor-recipe that didn't work?

    We did all kinds of microwave tricks in the dorm microwave in college 5 years ago... it wasn't terrorism, but we did make a stable plasmoid.

And actually, just yesterday, my college friend asked me for copies of the microwave videos and any other pranks/explosions. (They were mostly harmless) The reason is that his wife is pregnant, and he wants to make sure his kid is brought up right.
After all, you don't want to blow the door off your *own* microwave...

Home Chemistry An Endangered Hobby in U.S. (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443644)

Home Alchemy An Endangered Hobby in U.S.

Hand over the baby and no one will get hurt. (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443650)

This is more proof in my mind that ALL the problems in todays society are not do to the access to chemicals or drugs or guns but the right (privilege) to breed. There would be no need for lawsuits or restrictive laws on 98% of these things if dumbasses were not allowed to have children.

"I'm sorry sir but this is the third time you've managed to star on "Cops", place your testicles on the ground and back up slowly with your hands in the air."

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443657)

If you aren't doing anything wrong then you have nothing to...

Oh wait nevermind.

Society at large is to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15443674)

Richard Florida wrote "The Rise of the Creative Class" in which he proved pretty conclusively that a city's economy depends on its ability to attract certain creative people. People value creativity and will try to live in places where they can express their creativity. The down side is that many/most people would rather be a hair dresser (creative) rather than a plumber (non-creative) in spite of the fact that plumbers make seriously good money. We also seem to have the idea that creative people shouldn't have to work hard. In this light, it is little surprise that we are having difficulty attracting science and engineering students.

It gets worse. Florida's latest book "The Flight of the Creative Class" points out that the creative geniuses we need are actually leaving the country. The country is becoming more and more repressive and paranoid. Many people who can do so would rather live in Toronto or Aukland than in New York. These include some of the very best scientists and engineers. That's real trouble. We have ceded our manufacturing industry to China. The only thing we have left is our ability to innovate better than anyone else. If we lose that we are truly burnt toast.

Software is next (2, Insightful)

s800 (940543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443682)

If you read this article, and said to yourself- well that's all great, but who the hell cares about chemisty? what a bunch of nerds; I'm happy with hacking away on my harmless computer... Think again. Software is next. Don't think so, eh?

It's easy for me to imagine a day when knowing how to access hardware directly (OMG! I wrote a driver) could be seen as subversive. Or using a compiler that can do more than a few 1,000 lines of code may be useful for making fancy apps that can do things that people might not be able to wrap their minds around. Actually, it's probably not safe to give people technical documentation at all- we don't want people to be able to write software that could maybe, potentially do something bad or not understandable by someone with an 80 IQ.

It realls seems as if you're not happy just waking up, driving to Wal*Mart for work and being yet another consumer of crap that the government is going to make some laws to prevent you from actually understanding and exploring the world we live in. God forbid we find something other than buying a box fan for $8.99 that may actually be intellectually satisfying.

Yet another example of the "terrorism" catch-all (1)

chainLynx (939076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443692)

From TFA: "the Justice Department argued that terrorists could deploy model rockets to shoot down commercial airliners" Yeah, I'm going to use my science fair project to shoot down a 747-400 at 30,000 feet. Give me a break. Reminds me of the Attorney General telling us that downloading music was funding terrorist activities. 24/0358210 [] [] Is there anything I can do now that doesn't contribute to terrorism?

What next? (1)

Nicodemus101 (960204) | more than 8 years ago | (#15443693)

Next thing you know they'll arrest you at the supermarket for having chlorine and milk in the same shopping cart.
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