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Safety Commission To Rule On Safety of Rulers In Science Kits 446

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-someone-please-think-of-the-rulers dept.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been trying decide for weeks if science kits designed to teach children are safe enough for children to use without vigorous testing. It's not just the chemicals or sharp items in the kits that they are troubled with however. They are also concerned about the dangers of paper clips, magnets, and rulers. From the article: "Science kit makers asked for a testing exemption for the paper clips and other materials. The commission declined to grant them a blanket waiver as part of the guidance the agency approved Wednesday on a 3-2 vote." To be fair, paper clips can cause a lot of damage — just look at what Clippy did to Microsoft Office.
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Safety Commission To Rule On Safety of Rulers In Science Kits

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  • by Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#33748236)
    why the poor science education [newsfactor.com] in the United States is such a big problem?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#33748242)

    It's only a matter of time before the commission realizes that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, bans science kits outright, and starts going after books.

  • by ncttrnl (773936) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#33748248)
    If our kids aren't smart enough to use a ruler without injury, what can we really expect them to learn?
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:16PM (#33748324) Homepage Journal
    If rulers are too dangerous for these guys, just stop for a moment and think about how dangerous a keyboard or a mouse could be. It could never happen.
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:17PM (#33748344) Journal

    Not really. We have a nanny state that is hell bent on protecting the idiots and children from all the evils of the world,while neglecting to remember that the nanny state itself is evil.

    When we realize that the nanny state is just as evil as everything it is trying to protect us from, then we'll truly be free ... again.

    People in Ivory Towers always love to treat everyone else like idiots needing their superior guidance. Because we're too stupid to function in a society without their wisdom and knowledge.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:18PM (#33748354)
    Because where is the fun in that? See, chemistry sets are designed to encourage children to pursue science. If you are just doing it on the computer, why not just play a FPS on the computer? It doesn't teach kids to really explore or to think like a scientist.

    The Consumer Product Safety commission should only be concerned about things that are really hazards when used correctly or things that are easily used incorrectly, for example, lead based paint on children's toys, yeah thats a real concern. The fact that some children -might- -possibly- use some materials in a science kit and get hurt is nearly non-existent.

    The more we regulate science kits and lose children's natural curiosity in the world around us by essentially telling them that anyplace other than indoors watching TV and doing a bit of exercise on the treadmill is going to kill them, the more we can watch the US slip further and further into the dark ages...
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:18PM (#33748358)

    The only reason we have safe laboratories today is because in the 1970's, science kits killed the careless ones.

    Hell, even our playgrounds weeded out the stupid. [reoiv.com]

  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:22PM (#33748406)
    I have seen Xrays of children that have swallowed magnets - it aint good, and probably could have been prevented yet still allowed children to explore magnetism. magnets are also much stronger and more brittle than they were when I was a kid, the risks have changed and it is responsible to review policy. I don't think anyone wants to stop children learning here and I don't want to buy a science kit for my kid that's full of things that are more dangerous than they need to be.
    By all means balance risk against learning benefit, but let there be some balance, not just recklessness to save a penny by not removing the sharp edges on a ruler.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:23PM (#33748418)

    What do you need actual chemicals and stuff for, not to mention rulers and paper clips? Why not just a "My Science Kit" app, and do virtual experiments? Although I guess you could drop the PC on your foot or something, which could also be dangerous.

    Because chemistry is real and software isn't.

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:23PM (#33748420)
    For the same reason most people prefer sex with a real partner as opposed to jerking-off to porn?
  • by snowraver1 (1052510) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:23PM (#33748426)
    As someone who has played with software based labs, it doesn't compare to the real thing. It's one thing to click on two test tubes and have a thrid change color, but it entirely different to see the color change in real life as you add the reagents.

    Science used to be cool because it was exciting. Small explosions, corrosive chemicals, and chemical reactions are cool, clicking some buttons on a computer program to simulate this is lame. If you want kids to like science, it needs to be (somewhat) dangerous. Schools should be encouraging thinking (ie. fire is hot so don't burn yourself, don't drink/touch hydrochloric acid, etc). If a few kids get hurt, well, hopefully they at least learned something, even if that something is that science can be dangerous.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:29PM (#33748508)
    Here's a thought: teach your kids not to swallow magnets.

    If your kid is too stupid not to eat two magnets, they shouldn't be given a science kit. Heck, you should probably just lock them in a padded room so they can't hurt themselves. Science kits aren't given to two year olds, if your kid who is 7 or 8 swallows magnets, either you've failed as a parent or your kid is pretty damn stupid.

    If you don't like what is in science kits, don't buy them for your kid, and your kid will end up in a low paying job eating away at society's wealth by using welfare and the like.

    But let us who can actually raise kids and don't want our kids to end up with dreams and aspirations beyond the local Burger King buy the kits for our kids.
  • by QuantumLeaper (607189) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:31PM (#33748540) Journal
    How about those nasty things called Pencils? You can stab someone with them, I know someone who fell down and stabbed themselves, I still remember the ambulance they called.
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:37PM (#33748644) Journal
    Ask a Navy SEAL or your friendly neighborhood secret agent, or Vin "I'm going to kill you with my teacup" Diesel, or even your local role playing gamer: almost anything can be used as a weapon to inflict harm on someone. It follows that almost any object, used improperly, can unintentionally inflict harm. Of course a kid can hurt themselves or others with a paperclip or a ruler; it doesn't take a genius to figure that out! It also shouldn't take a genius to figure out that life, and growing up in particular, is full of risks, and that avoiding those risks is neither realistic, nor is it practical or, in my opinion, particularly desirable! I am saddened and angered by the "pussification of America" by removing all sources of everyday harm and risk, the obsessive "childproofing" of everything around us (often without regard for whether it affects adults or not!), and especially the "helicopter parent" mentality: you're raising your kids to be huge pussies! I also suspect that much of this over-sheltering of children is contributing in a big way to the "quarter-life crisis" phenomenon. Instead of "protecting" children to the point of encasing them in bubblewrap and feeding them intravenously (because they might choke on their pablum), how about we teach them the proper use, and more importantly an appropriate level of respect for potentially dangerous objects and situations, so they'll grow up to be responsible, capable adults? Or is that too radical and "dangerous" a concept anymore?
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:37PM (#33748648) Homepage

    I think that the issue of kid safety actually is something that stops kids from learning because they are in an environment so pampered that they get completely lost whenever they have to leave home.

    Of course kids hurt themselves now and then. It's part of the process, but as long as the injuries aren't permanent then it's experience gained.

    But from a tin foil hat perspective it may be that all these "kid safety" issues are put in place just so that they can learn how to be a good consumer and not try to understand how things works.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:41PM (#33748712)

    Our product safety commission apparently can't understand the difference between learning tools for children and toys for physical play.

    A toy for physical play is something designed for a young child to throw around or manipulate mechanically.

    Tools for learning are things like books, pens, paper, pencils, paperclips, markers, scissors, knives, protracters, compasses, hole punches, staplers, paper cutters, syringes, beakers, test tubes, etc.

    Tools for learning are not for physical play. Children need to learn and be able to use them, even though they would be dangerous if misused.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:43PM (#33748748)

    It's only a matter of time before the commission realizes that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, bans science kits outright, and starts going after books.

    They already do.

    The term is "hate speech".

  • Bad summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki@cPASCALox.net minus language> on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:43PM (#33748752)

    This isn't about banning. This is about testing.

    When I was a kid, someone had a cheap plastic ruler. He slapped it on my desk to wake me up one day and the damn thing shattered.

    What the hell are paper clips doing in a science kit anyway? Is it part of the module on the boring bureaucracy of science?

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:44PM (#33748756) Journal
    I believe that to be a rediculous concept. What we should be doing is teaching kids the proper awe and respect for potentially dangerous things, and once they've had that impressed on them, teach them how to handle those things properly.
  • by azmodean+1 (1328653) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:45PM (#33748774)

    The Consumer Product Safety commission should only be concerned about things that are really hazards when used correctly or things that are easily used incorrectly, for example, lead based paint on children's toys, yeah thats a real concern. The fact that some children -might- -possibly- use some materials in a science kit and get hurt is nearly non-existent.

    Surprise! That is exactly what this is about, but the commission is being stupid. The makers of the science kits are bundling ordinary objects like rulers, paper clips, etc in their kits, and the commission is saying that they have to have a testing regime in place that tests everything that goes into the kits for lead and other toxic chemicals because it is arguably marketed to kids. The solution will be that the kit makers will stop making science kits, even something completely innocuous like "how magnetism works kit", because the burden of testing everything that goes into the kits outweighs the potential profit.

    There was a very similar story a while back about low-powered motorcycles marketed to kids that had lead in the ENGINE. The end result looked like it was going to just destroy the market for the product simply on the basis that there was lead in it, regardless of the fact that even if a child disassembled the engine and ate the part in question, it was present in an alloy that would not release the lead into the child's system.

    What the story is really about is the committee trying to make their mandate apply to absolutely everything, regardless of whether it had any real chance of causing damage to children.

  • by AhabTheArab (798575) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:46PM (#33748792) Homepage

    The more we regulate science kits and lose children's natural curiosity in the world around us by essentially telling them that anyplace other than indoors watching TV and doing a bit of exercise on the treadmill is going to kill them, the more we can watch the US slip further and further into the dark ages...

    That's what the powers that be want. You think they want us to explore things for ourselves? To LEARN on our own without relying on the government to tell us what is fact and what is fiction? No, they want us to punch in, punch out, then go home and watch TV and be told what's going on.

  • TO BE FAIR... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AxemRed (755470) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:48PM (#33748816)
    I have to be the devil's advocate in this case. I don't know the degree of testing that they are recommending be done, but I don't think this is as simple as "OMG someone might poke their eye with a paperclip."

    For example...
    A cheaply made wooden ruler that, after a small amount of bending, starts splintering in a way that will cause it to easily give people splinters may not be good for children under 12.
    Or a plastic ruler that is made out of a material that, instead of simply breaking when bent, shatters and causes sharp shards to fly in all directions (think of bending a CD until it breaks) may not be good for children under 12.
    Or even a paperclip that breaks easily leaving sharp edges or contains unsafe amounts of toxic metals may not be good for children under 12.

    My guess is that reasons like these are why they don't relax the guidelines.
  • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:49PM (#33748830)
    And just how is software going to help you learn what hydrogen sulphide smells like?
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:55PM (#33748954)

    Why is everyone so quick to conclude everyone in government is incompetent?

    With many people, that's not a conclusion, its a fundamental, axiomatic assumption. Or, put another way, an article of faith.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:55PM (#33748958)

    If premium-brand toy manufacturers like Fischer-Price aren't smart enough to not make children's products with LEAD FUCKING PAINT, when can we really expect them to learn? This isn't about user error, this is about toxic, inappropriate materials put in kids toys to save money.

    This crackdown is in response to very specific instances of high-end, name brand toy companies coating children's toys with fucking lead fucking paint in 2008. Brand equity, according to perfect market camp, is supposed to prevent this sort of thing. But brand managers care more about quarterly returns than they do about not wrecking the company. Also, it's really hard to tell if a paperclip contains lead. So now we have a government mandate that retailers prove they do not contain lead.

    Eventually, kids products will have a better, more secure supply chain as manufacturers of paperclips respond to the new market conditions. Smart paperclip makers will thrive, slow ones will die, and the lead paint people will sell somewhere else. Last time I checked, kids toys were available everywhere and ridiculously cheap. The market will survive this no-more-lead disruption, continue to be compete, and I won't have to worry about this shit.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:58PM (#33748998)
    Um, yeah. Past the age of like two your kid shouldn't be swallowing random stuff. You don't give science kits to two year olds, you give them to 7 or 8 year olds or perhaps 5 and 6 year olds with a lot of parental supervision.

    If your kid won't listen to you about eating random crap and is about 4 or older, you've screwed up as a parent or there is something wrong with your kid.
  • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @12:59PM (#33749014)
    A culture of fanatic overprotection from the wrong things, yeah, that's going to end well in history. Don't run with rulers, round off the scissor ends, no paper clips because we must not have anything with pointy ends, reduce chemistry set functionality because of litigation potential. Dumb down the schools because with jobs going offshore, who needs smart workers here? And dumb kids grow up to be dumb manipulatible voters, just what is desired. Helicopter parents resulting in middle-class kids not growing up until they're in their 20s. Pretty soon apple trees will be required to have protective safety nets so that kids can't fall out of them, the old swimming holes will require lifeguard towers, and all bicycles must have airbags. By the way, now in Australia, knives must be registered. Sorry, Crocodile Dundee. You have to give up that pigsticker.

    We are over-regulated on the wrong things and under-regulated on the vital things. The nanny state fosters dependency on others to make critical judgments for us so that all th consumer need worry about is buying, buying, buying instead of thinking for themselves about a product. Meanwhile, banks destroy the economy and BP destroys the Gulf region because of lack of preventive oversight.

    I say we're so out of balance we're headed to be a footnote in the history books. "The US, an experiment in democracy that failed due to growing beyond the scale where it could be managed properly."

  • by quacking duck (607555) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:04PM (#33749086)

    As someone who has played with software based labs, it doesn't compare to the real thing. It's one thing to click on two test tubes and have a thrid change color, but it entirely different to see the color change in real life as you add the reagents.

    Bingo. The same thing happens in astronomy, too. This summer I saw Saturn and its rings for the first time with my own eyes (well, through a telescope). It was a small white ball with thin bulges on the side, and yet that filled me with far more profound awe than all the high-res, full-colour pictures from the Voyager probes I've seen before.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:08PM (#33749168) Homepage

    If you can't figure out at age 7+ that a magnet isn't food and that chemicals aren't treats, either you have a mental handicap or your parents have utterly failed.

    I'll repeat to you what I said to the other guy: you *clearly* underestimate how stupid kids can be. Good judgment and common sense are something most people learn the hard way through trial and error. Spend a little time in a trauma ward and just see how intelligent your average fucking adult is, let alone a 7-year-old...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:11PM (#33749228)

    The Consumer Product Safety commission should only be...

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission is in the US. As part of that, they live in a culture where kids who eat paper clips, choke and die or play with rules like swords and cut off part of an ear or poke out someone's eye, have teams of lawyers ready to pounce on parents and tell them they deserve to be compensated billions of dollars for their loss.

    It wasn't their kids fault for eating paper clips or playing 'swords'. After all, the big bad money profiting companies didn't WARN you about that 'risk'.

    Long story short, the sue happy, refusal to accept personal responsibility, culture of the US is the disease. What the CPSC has to do is just the symptom. This is the same disease that causes many American's and American businesses to not be able to afford health insurance along with many doctors not entering the field because it's just too darn expensive to pay for malpractice insurance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:17PM (#33749306)

    And guess what? Large manufacturers still get to bypass testing for dangerous chemicals in their toys. Well, they are allowed to test in-house rather than use a 3rd party, which may as well mean they are allowed to bypass testing completely. The CPSIA is not about protecting children, it's about protecting profit of major toy manufacturers by shutting down small ones.

    You're the kind of useful idiot regulators love.

  • Re:TO BE FAIR... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:21PM (#33749368)

    Dunno about the rulers and paperclips, but I think some standards are clearly required for magnets. You can now cheaply (i.e. for much less money than the average kid gets given in a week) acquire magnets that are strong enough to do serious damage if handled incorrectly. Crush injuries, or splinters of magnetic material if you let one slam into a solid metal surface, or (far worse) another, aren't exactly fun. You don't want a magnet that's too strong in a kids science kit; nor do you want one that doesn't have a good, strong coating that resists fragmentation.

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:23PM (#33749402)

    The Safety Commission should be more concerned about what the junk on Disney Channel, MTV and others is teaching out kids than whether or not a freaking ruler might be dangerous.

  • Thought experiment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:27PM (#33749466) Homepage Journal

    Just to play devil's advocate here: what amounts to reasonable precautions is a function of scale, because you can amortize the cost of each expected injury over a larger number of units shipped.

    As a thought experiment, suppose Miss Jones the science teacher puts together a science experiment kit for each of her 30 students. A representative kit is then sent to a safety engineering firm, which charges $10K to conclude there is a 0.2% chance of injury from the ruler, and that this could be reduced to 0.1% by using a slightly different ruler.

    Now it almost certain that nobody is gong to be hurt by the offending ruler, and the engineering investment of $10K prevents an expected 0.03 injuries. That's over $300,000 per injury averted. That makes no economic sense unless the injury is horrific (e.g. requires lifetime institutionalization).

    Now suppose JonesCo puts together a similar kit, and expects to ship 30 thousand units. In that case, it is almost *certain* that somebody is going to get hurt, although any *individual's* chance is quite small. The expected number of injuries saved by the engineering study is now 30. Amortizing the $10K study costs over 30 injuries means that you've spent just over 300 per injury saved. This is not quite justifiable for things like paper cuts of course, but an emergency room visit probably costs more than that.

    So: the costs involved with a safety review may or may not be justifiable depending on the number of units that will be shipped.

    In either case, the safety of the pre-study and post-study kits are practically indistinguishable. As a parent, I wouldn't freak out if the Miss Jones kit was used in place of the JonesCo kit, because we are talking about very, very rare accidents. But those freak accidents *do* happen and are worth considering *collectively*. I say this as a parent who has taken a toddler to the emergency room for an injury at preschool who sent that child right back to the same school the next day with the heart shaped bead he'd shoved up into his sinuses in his pocket.

  • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:28PM (#33749474)

    You are exactly right. We moved a couple of years ago and the quality of the local school was the biggest single factor in deciding where we would live. We bought a low end home in a high end neighborhood and the public school is absolutely fantastic. New building, all new equipment, an abundance of parent volunteers, and fund raisers that raise crazy amounts of money for the schools. The maximum class size is 21 kids. The school has fully funded art, theater arts and music programs.

    The downside is high property taxes. More than $600 / month on a $250k house. I think it's worth it though. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I've found I really enjoy living in the suburbs.

  • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmat[ ].org ['ter' in gap]> on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:29PM (#33749496) Journal

    People in Ivory Towers always love to treat everyone else like idiots needing their superior guidance. Because we're too stupid to function in a society without their wisdom and knowledge.

    My brother relates a similar sentiment, but concerning the regulators themselves . . .

    Suppose that somebody erected a control tower to oversee the car traffic in a busy Wal-Mart parking lot. The controllers in the tower work all day every day to direct the cars to and from their spaces. It is hectic work and they go home every day exhausted.

    Now suppose we ask those controllers about the prospect of converting the parking lot back to uncontrolled. This question would immediately trigger their resistance to change and their desire to hang on to their jobs. But suppose they are honest enough to understand that this is happening to them, and so they ignore it and try to answer objectively.

    The problem is that, in their objective experience, an uncontrolled parking lot is completely infeasible. Their jobs are hectic, even frantic, all day every day. If asked to imagine a parking lot without control, they would visualize a chaotic scene of collisions, arguments, and even gun battles. They HAVE to visualize that, in order to see themselves as useful and virtuous.

  • by dbc (135354) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:31PM (#33749518)

    The law about testing everything for sale to a children under 13 is totally inflexible. Much of the testing is pointless. It is horrendously expensive, and the testing labs are hugely backed up. I've seen this from the viewpoint of an embedded developer -- one of the products I worked on never made it to market because the client had to divert the tooling budget to pay for lab testing of old products. Then they chopped bunches of sku's out of their product line because the cost of testing didn't pencil out. Later, they had to sell the company.

    Look, 10 year old kids don't eat the motors from their slot cars. 4 year old kids don't gnaw on their night lights. Does it matter if the streamers on a kids bicycle contain phthalates? This madness has to stop. The law is inflexible and idiotic and is doing many millions of dollars of economic harm, killing excellent products like the science kits mentioned in the article, and has very little benefit.

    There need to be safety standards, sure. But the law as currently formulated is the most insane piece of work to come from our government bureaucracy in decades.

  • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:39PM (#33749680)

    If rulers are too dangerous for these guys, just stop for a moment and think about how dangerous a keyboard or a mouse could be. It could never happen.

    If rulers are two dangerous for these guys, just think about how they will handle the world as adults. What kind of job will they be able to handle as an adult when a simple ruler is considered a deathtrap? A stapler would probably be considered a weapon of mass destruction.

  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:46PM (#33749806)

    Okay, I'm wandering way off-topic, but my karma can take it.....

    I'm sick of the metric superiority thing. Yes, metric is more rational, and a nicer system. I'd love to see it become the standard everyday system of measurement in the U.S., but really the way some people go on about measurements you'd think that the metric system was TRUTH and everything else was the equivalent of Young Earth Creationism or Geocentrism.

    Think about the following:
    We use Euros, you use Dollars, you're backwards and we're not.
    We use the Latin alphabet, you use Cyrillic, you're backwards and we're not.
    We speak German, you speak Norwegian, you're backwards and we're not.
    We pronounce the letter 'Z' as Zee, and you pronounce it as Zed, you're backwards, and we're not.
    We use centimeters, you use inches, you're backwards and we're not.

    Now, all of those are roughly on par, but aside from the last example, they're all pretty silly sounding. Yet the metric one is pretty commonly seen, which just strikes me as a little silly for something that technically has no "right" answer. Whatever you use is fine, be happy with it, who cares?

    I know camperdave was probably just going for a quick throwaway joke, but the "Informative" mod got me thinking.....

  • by sabt-pestnu (967671) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:48PM (#33749848)

    An anecdote my father tells...

    Where he worked, there was a safety awareness/training program. As an award, for finishing the program, or for having a good safety record, was a pocket knife. Nearly every person who got one of these knives cut himself with it soon afterward. ...Except my father, who had been shown how (and why) to handle knives safely when he was very young.

    One of my lasting memories is of my father showing me why "sticking your fingers in a fan is a bad idea" by using a small metal fan to totally destroy a carrot. You can't tell me that hands-on experience should not be given at a young age. The problem comes when the parents don't have the proper experience either. They fear the risk because they don't know it, and pass it on to their children.

  • by cvtan (752695) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:00PM (#33750064)
    When I was a kid: Erector Sets had many choking hazard screws and metal pieces with unfinished razor sharp edges. Chemistry sets had actual chemicals in them. And I mixed them ALL together. And put electrodes in the goop and plugged it in the wall. A microscope kit came with xylene and actual glass slides etc. I set off rockets in the basement. I hooked all the transformers my dad had end to end to try to make a million volts. I took my prescription for potassium iodide to school and was called to the principal's office because some kid said I threw "acid" at him. I threw nothing at anyone. I made free iodine from my medicine by mixing it with acetic acid. Cool purple clouds!!! I made balsa airplanes using sharp razor blades and toxic glue. The rubber powered ones flew so high they looked like tiny dots in the sky. I made model cars with working suspension and purple metalflake paint jobs. I made a Battling Betsy tank with TWO electric motors that was nosebleed fast. Count me in for the Visible V8 and the Visible Radial Airplane Engine. AND IT WAS ALL GREAT!!!!! I am alive and well and have all my fingers and toes. Today I hear people are worried about paperclips and rulers being dangerous and chemistry is reduced to baking soda and vinegar. This is pitiful and sad.
  • Here's why (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:37PM (#33750660)

    Because every year government spends more, borrows more, and seizes more power over the people, yet the end result is worse government, not better government. Because the most expensive, most powerful goverment AND world empire in history (with military bases in some 150 countries around the world) STILL "needs" more spending, more borrowing, and more power over the people.

    Do you see a trend here? I sure do. The people at the top of the pyramid aren't interested at all in good government; they're interested in cash flow, and in general, expanding their business so that they can better exploit it for personal gain.

  • by billius (1188143) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:38PM (#33750666)
    Exactly! I think using real chemicals encourages kids to pay closer attention as well. If you're using a computer, what difference does it make if you screw something up? You can just keep clicking around until you get it right. Using real (i.e. limited) materials encourages you to critically think about what's happened, why things worked/didn't work rather than just blindly trying each possible solution until one works.
  • by tibit (1762298) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:57PM (#33750910)

    I agree. We never had a problem with our daughter and household chemicals. She figured out how to open childproof kitchen cabinet locks when she was ~14 months old. Took her 20 minutes, apparently. We have been repeatedly instructing her as to why it's a bad idea to play with those things you find there, and what happens when you swallow some -- including showing pictures of perforated stomachs. Then I managed to get some pig stomachs to see what HCl-containing toilet cleaner did to them. She doesn't do a lot of silly stuff because she knows exactly what's going to happen to her if she would. You run across the street? -- here's some compound fracture pics to see and learn from. Easy as cake. We abhor unsubstantiated rules, and at age 6 she does understand the reasoning for most of the things we expect of her. Including that some rules are simply social constructs adhered to from respect to others.

  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:57PM (#33750918) Homepage

    I'm afraid that the contradiction between your stated position and your sig just made my head esplode.

    If these companies stop manufacturing the kits, it doesn't mean that they're the evil suxors, it means that they don't think that they can do the testing and make a profit. The first rule of understanding capitalism is: Don't ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by economic motives.

  • by pnuema (523776) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:06PM (#33751038)
    Um, have you been to a Wal-Mart parking lot? That description doesn't seem too far off the mark to me. I avoid my local one like the plague.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:41PM (#33751560)

    Oh good fucking grief.

    The CPSC are a bunch of idiots. And you are right with them, that's for sure.

    It used to be that our kids could get actually USEFUL science kits. Ones that would let them build things, try out different experiments, and yes, occasionally make something that smelled bad, or smoked, made a small bang. And we used to say one simple thing about them: parents, don't let your kid play with the kit unsupervised.

    Now, of course, thanks to a generation of deadbeat fucking morons who think that kids raise themselves, we are instead stuck in a world where anything that could possibly be dangerous for kids is off-limits. Small wonder most American kids grow up today with their faces in front of the TV, either watching brain-rotting crap or playing repetitive, non-inspiring video games that should come with a warning "imagination not required" on the side, and getting fatter every day from it.

    Instead of having the kids run around the world, try things, learn, and get the occasional scraped knee or other injury, now it's nothing but "OMG don't let the kids outside it might be DANGEROUS out there!"

    While we're busy "thinking of the children", their brains are rotting away. Way to go, parents.

  • by khallow (566160) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:49PM (#33751698)

    Headed by a guy whose primary purpose in the years prior was designing delivery systems for explosives to hit London.

    Wernher von Braun headed the Marshall Space Flight Center from 1960-1970. He never was head of NASA.

    I think this illustrates the progression nicely. If you can't play with paperclips, then you're going to be a fast food worker (or maybe some safer job like anonymous paper shuffler). If you get to play with radioactive sources, you get to be a rocket engineer. And if your parents let you bomb London, you get to head a major rocketry program.

  • by Translation Error (1176675) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:55PM (#33751780)
    Everyone, even the most brilliant, cautious, and wise of us, will do something stupid every once in a while. I do not think it's a bad thing to make sure that parts from a kit designed to be used by children, who by nature, do stupid things more often, are designed to make injury difficult.
  • by arminw (717974) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:13PM (#33752068)

    ...When I was a kid....

    I was able to buy those things at the corner drugstore and use them to make gunpowder with those ingredients. My parents got me a Gilbert chemistry set, which would be required by the EPA to be disposed of by men in hazmat suits today. Any parents that did such a thing today (if they even could) would be hauled off to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I had a glass bottle containing 5 pounds of mercury. Now and then I would enjoy the feel of it, pouring some of it from one hand to the other, before putting it back into the bottle one squiggly little silvery drop at a time.

    It is my generation that survived going to the moon and other dangerous stuff. I feel sorry for the kids growing up nowadays. What can they do to learn by doing? Can they enjoy riding around town in the back of their dad's pickup truck on a warm summer day? Can they feel the warm breeze ruffling their hair as they ride a motorcycle or even their bicycle down the road without a suffocating helmet?

    Highschoolers can do simulated chemistry and physics experiments on sophisticated computers, but they don't actually get to smell that hydrogen sulfide or burning sugar and jump out of the way as the heavy steel ball rolls down the inclined plane missing its container and falls to the floor.

    Oh yes, they can now walk down the street yakking on their cell phones and play video games all night instead of reading a book. Fun!

  • by perrin (891) on Friday October 01, 2010 @03:26AM (#33756432)

    That made my day. I work in a highly regulated industry, and buying anything with the right standards conformance paperwork costs many times the standard cost, even when we get exactly the same item that is sold to ordinary consumers for the fraction of the price. You want a small batch with special paperwork from a large supplier? Be prepared to pay a ridiculous amount of money. A normal certificate of conformity usually lists only the absolutely minimal amount of safety claims, both to reduce liability and to force those who need more to pay up for it. Since I suspect science kit makers are not exactly thriving these days, this is the kind of thing that would put them out of business. It would probably be cheaper for them to set up a testing and validation framework for off-the-shelf products, but depending on the standards they have to conform to, they may not be allowed to go that route.

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -- Albert Einstein

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