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Anti-Terrorism and the Death of the Chemistry Set 860

An anonymous reader writes "A recent unfortunate casualty of anti-terrorism laws is the home chemistry set. Once deemed the gift that saved Christmas, most Slashdotters probably remember early childhood experimentation with one of the many pre-packaged chemistry sets that were on the market. Unfortunately the FBI has decided that home chemistry sets are a threat to national security and they are rapidly disappearing from the market entirely. Those that remain are shallow boring versions of the old kits."
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Anti-Terrorism and the Death of the Chemistry Set

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  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:07PM (#21191777) Journal

    You do know the government is just trying to take care of us, right? Heck, I got the warm fuzzy long ago when Claritin-D, technically an OTC drug would only be sold from behind TC, and then only if you present picture identification, and even then you could only purchase enough to take one a day for ten days! Of course, if it isn't in stock when you want to purchase, you're out of luck... but you're being taken care of. (If you didn't know, the government was/is protecting us from the proliferation of meth labs with this inane process... not that I've noticed much evidence meth labs have disappeared. I have been a lot more congested though.)

    Surprised chemistry sets didn't go this route long ago, what with their potential to put together explosives approaching that of a couple firecrackers combined! Warm fuzzies.

    I hate to rant about good intentions, but these don't even smell like good intentions any more. Terrorists couldn't care less about chemistry sets.

    • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:21PM (#21191857) Journal
      The reason we see such an erosion of our freedoms is that Freedom and Trust go hand in hand. Some of that trust is to be responsible (gun safety), and some of that trust is to respect life and civil society (not a terrorist). That trust is gone, not only between the government and the people, but between neighbors. We wouldn't need all of this "think of the children" shit, if neighbors actually knew and trusted each other. We wouldn't have the highest prison population in the world if the government trusted the people.
      • by Usquebaugh ( 230216 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @01:34AM (#21193225)
        You small minded, ignorant fool.

        Freedom has nothing to do with trust. Freedom is that which you grant yourself. Nothing can take your freedom unless you capitulate. Of course you can debate that without life freedom is meaningless but life without freedom is not worth living. I mean true freedom not some legally imposed cage that you deem large enough.

        The government should continually live in fear of the people. It only exists because the people allow it and fund it. The current state of affairs in the US is one of the saddest in recorded history. A country built on the ideals of freedom and liberty is being destroyed. Not as Orwell predicted by an over bearing state but rather as Huxley predicted because the citizens do not care about anything except being entertained. The collapse of Rome will be nothing compared to the implosion of the United States.

        Understand this, the current situation is preciseley because the government does not fear the people. They have shown themselves to be cowards and sheep afraid even to ask questions let alone think of answers. Think back to how Bush et al obtained power. Think about 10% of the population owning 90% of the wealth. Think about what the constitution says of government and how government has undermined the constitution at evey oppurtunity. Trial without peers, lawyers, due process, habeous corpus. etc. etc.

        And you, parrot some trite shite you probably heard on PBS. Freedom and trust go hand in hand, I'd call it moronic except morons know better.

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @03:47AM (#21193803) Journal

          Not as Orwell predicted by an over bearing state but rather as Huxley predicted because the citizens do not care about anything except being entertained. The collapse of Rome will be nothing compared to the implosion of the United States.
          Especially with China patiently waiting for it to happen.

          Yet Another Benjamin Franklin Quote (YABFQ)...

          "In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, -- if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."

          The corporatisation of America has played a big part, the question is, Is there a way back? What will make the average person decide to stand up for their freedom when all they have to do is vote, not die or fight, just understand the issues and vote. War used to be a thing the entire nation had to make a sacrifice for, now it's a distraction funded by other countries in the form of loans.

          Clearly your comments illustrate that you are a rational person, with the ability to sense reality for what it is. That is why you will be one of the first sentenced to sedition and shot. Of course that reminds me of YABFQ...

          We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

        • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:34AM (#21196425)

          I mean true freedom not some legally imposed cage that you deem large enough.
          There's no such thing as "true freedom" in practical terms. All freedom is limited to boundaries you agree to, if you want to live in a society. I mean, you probably agree not to exercise your freedom to go around killing people, in exchange for a reasonable assurance that others won't do it either, right?
      • by McFadden ( 809368 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:29AM (#21193509)
        I think your comment indirectly says it all. America, land of liberty, where it's dangerous to buy a child's chemistry set, but an enshrined right to buy a gun.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Akaihiryuu ( 786040 )
          Somehow, I doubt "terrorists" are making explosives with chemistry sets anyway. But they must be making them with child chemistry sets, because it's not like you can make them from common household chemicals available in any grocery store...oh wait, you can. Sarcasm aside, this is just plain stupid.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dogzilla ( 83896 )
        "The reason we see such an erosion of our freedoms is that Freedom and Trust go hand in hand. "

        No - the reason we see such an erosion of our freedoms is that the so-called American People are a bunch of overfed, sackless sheep who have never experienced hardship, don't know the meaning of the word sacrifice, and as a group are rapidly becoming the stupidest people on earth, yet cling to this myth of individualism and strength in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Twenty or Thirty years ago I would ha
        • by oatworm ( 969674 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @01:19PM (#21199127) Homepage
          Y'know, I repeatedly read stuff like this, and it really makes me wonder about the logic behind it. Let's take 30 years ago - that'd be 1977. Over-processed food? Well, they didn't have Whole Foods back then, that's for sure. Organic food only existed in Height-Ashbury. Canned food was still cheaper than fresh. Doesn't get much more processed than that. Right to buy automatic weapons? Heh - Americans haven't had that... well, probably ever. Iraq? How about Vietnam? Casualties were a bit higher [] in that one, to put it mildly. Patriot Act? How about Watergate? Heck, if you go back another 20 years, you can even throw McCarthyism into the mix, which makes the Patriot Act look like a summer picnic. As for the obesity epidemic, it only exists because we actually have an agriculture infrastructure that is so efficient that we have to pay people not to grow food. DMCA only exists because we actually have the technology now to render copyright moot and the copyright holders don't like that much. Religious intolerance... oh yeah, 'cause we all know that religious tolerance was absolutely top notch [] in the past. Columbine... yeah, kind of hard to beat kids shooting each other, though I seem to remember guns being a perennial problem in school back in the '80s. Worst race relations in generations, though... oh my. Sorry, but you don't get to claim "worst in generations" unless people start writing songs about strange fruit [] growing on their trees. I honestly don't remember the last time my neighbors have organized a "lynch the darkies fer sleepin' wit da white womens" session - that's probably because they never have.

          But, hey, you and everyone else like you is absolutely right - things were totally better in the good ol' days...
    • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:34PM (#21191969) Journal
      I disagree. I think that terrorists very much care about chemistry sets.

      They care that they aren't offered and they care that people are pissed about it. They care about kids having less and less of a chance to educate themselves and they care that kids curiosity isn't being fulfilled nearly as much. They definitely care. They care that the US is becoming a more and more demoralized nation and the educated are having to fight less and less fights that matter and about more and more like this. They care that the people that think are being distracted and rendered useless. Because with them out of way, and with the idiots that are in power today, the current situation will favour them more and more and...

      Take care of the thinkers of tomorrow, take care of the thinkers of today and take care that the terrorists are very very happy about this.
      • by GuyverDH ( 232921 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:03PM (#21192185)
        Don't forget, that now even Jr. High School students in the US are being asked to declare their Majors so that they can be narrowly channeled into their chosen field of study.

        Sorry, you wanted to be a mechanic, no home economics for you. Or, oh... too bad you selected accountant, now you can't get that particle physics minor you so badly wanted.

        Today's government wants all knowledge compartmentalized so that no one, and I mean no one, outside of the government can get the clear picture of what's going on.

        Want to get into a hobby? It had better be along the lines of what you went to college for, otherwise they'll start to watch you on suspicion of being a terrorist. Showing an interest in an activity outside of your major, oooh - watchout, you've made the FBI's watch list again.

        Jack of all trades are a dying breed. Specialization guarantees that the government is the only entity that really knows what's going on, just the way they want it to be.

        Just think, if the government had started down this path 20 years ago, most of us would be specialists who grunt when someone talks about something that we didn't go to school for. Or worse yet, we'd call the cops if someone tried to teach us something outside of our specialty.

        This is how periods of history like the dark ages start. By restricting knowledge so that the masses are not allowed to be fully educated, you guarantee that knowledge will begin to stagnate (only when certain types of knowledge intermingle with others are truly radical discoveries usually possible), and eventually disappear, sometimes forever.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I find it really ironic that The Current Administration(sic) decided on muslims as their scapegoat..
          Until the 13th or 14th century BC, Islam had the best and most prolific scientists in the world. For example, Ibn al-Haytham (965 - 1039), is responsible for the modern theories of optics as well as the modern Scientific Method, with an emphasis on quantification and reproducible, observable results.
          The decline of science in medieval Islam was due to many factors, but probably the most significant was the po
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fredklein ( 532096 )
          so that they can be narrowly channeled into their chosen field of study

          I was just reading a short sci-fi story in which the government used this exact thing to keep scientists in the dark. They were allowed to do work in nothing but their own little area of expertise. The government had a time machine, but kept very tight control over it. A scientist in a vaguely related field (gravity optics?) has a chance encounter with another scientist, and they discuss their work. One of their uncles is a Technical Wr
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          How about you stop spreading FUD and give some evidence to your claims. The vast majority of college students change their majors at least once. I wasn't asked by anyone what my major would be until junior year of high school, and I wasn't asked to make a concrete choice until I actually applied to colleges Senior year.

          too bad you selected accountant, now you can't get that particle physics minor you so badly wanted.

          One of the reasons most accountants don't get particle physics minors is that there is no overlap between the two subjects, so the minor would probably require another year of college; m

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kcbrown ( 7426 )

        They care that the people that think are being distracted and rendered useless. Because with them out of way, and with the idiots that are in power today, the current situation will favour them more and more and...

        If by "them" you mean the people who are in power, then this comment is spot on. If by "them" you mean those most people think of as "terrorists" then those "terrorists" are idiots of the worst kind.


        Simple: because the government in charge of an oppressive police state is even mor

      • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:58AM (#21193035)
        They care about kids having less and less of a chance to educate themselves and they care that kids curiosity isn't being fulfilled nearly as much.

        With the internet, the kids curiosity is being fulfilled more often than not. The problem with the internet isn't the lack of information. It is the dilution with distractions. Kids are more likely to spend time on myspace than on one of the science pages. There is more information online now than was ever accessible when I was a kid.

        The internet is the great equalizer. I remember the old chemistry sets of the 1969's. They were pretty boring with a few things that changed color and kept matches from burning and such. Online the high power learning is great. I can now find the information to build rockets from Salt Peter and powdered sugar, how to mix explosive gasses (Spud guns propane air mix), create fun reactions (Mentos and coke) (sodium and water) and lots of other fun stuff I couldn't do with the chemistry set of the 60's. Some stuff that is too dangerous or illegal to do yourself, there are online videos for your enjoyment. There is more info in the following links than is in most chemistry sets. [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

        Without a chemistry set, but with internet, I can find out where to buy components to build fireworks mortar shells, buy local explosive components (Nitride and oil) and such. It was the internet that taught me where to locally buy small amounts of Ammonium Nitrate and Salt Peter with no questions asked.

        A trip to the hardware store is now an adventure as I read the ingredients on the packages.

        I have learned more online than I could have ever learned from a chemistry set from the 1960's Not all is illegal or dangerous. Some is a lot of fun.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nephridium ( 928664 )
        The "terrorists" (if you like to go ahead and put them all into the same category like the government does) care for what is happening on they own turf much more than what is happening in a far away country. It's just that you've been made to believe that their sole reason for blowing up stuff is because "they hate your freedom"(tm) and your way of life, while in the case of most Arab terrorists they are usually much more pissed off at the presence of American (and other foreign) bases, companies and soldie
    • by captainwisdom ( 1182145 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:34PM (#21191971)
      Bull, the chemistry sets were dumbed down long before 9-11. Anti-terrorism has nothing to do with it. It's all about chem-set manufacturers getting sued (by armies of trial lawyers) and the liberal nanny state "protecting" our kids.
    • by myth_of_sisyphus ( 818378 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:12PM (#21192233)
      I was at the pharmacy when an old codger asked for some Claritin for allergies. He was obviously stuffed up.

      The pharmacist asked for a CA driver's license. He said he doesn't drive anymore but has his VA card. She wouldn't sell it to him. Said she had to put the CA driver's license number in the database. No other's allowed.

      A veteran of WWII or perhaps Korea couldn't buy a fucking harmless medication because he doesn't have the right ID? I couldn't fucking believe it... Was he going to go back to the old-folks home and set up a meth lab with a box of Claritin? Jebus fucking H goddamn shit.

      (This country disgusts me more and more. We should storm something in Guy Faulke's masks. )
      • by starX ( 306011 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:40AM (#21192933) Homepage

        (This country disgusts me more and more. We should storm something in Guy Faulke's masks. )

        Alternatively, you could, I don't know:

        1) Write your representative.

        2) Write your senators.

        3) Organize an issues based campaign

        4) Vote for someone who shares your point of view on an issue

        5) Run for office yourself.

        Look, all of it perfectly legal, and just as important, actually has a chance of succeeding. If you storm a federal building in any mask, you're just going to wind up dead or in prison.

        Or does that sound like too much work? Would you rather piss and moan about it on Slashdot? Might feel good for a moment, but it's all sound and fury signifying nothing.
        • by turing_m ( 1030530 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @01:49AM (#21193313)
          Or you could do what actually works and use your own media network to influence people, systematically evaluate which candidates will vote the way you want them to, and fund/advertise the more pliant ones.

          You just need a few billion dollars to get the ball rolling. Good luck.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mcrbids ( 148650 )

            You just need a few billion dollars to get the ball rolling. Good luck.

            That's just poppycock. Your ability to be effective starts at a much, much, MUCH lower resource level.

            About 15 years ago, I produced a cable-access TV show, covering a local group of uber-conservative strict-construction constitutionalists. It was a dour but informative show about what your rights actually are when arrested, when fighting "city hall", as it were. We produced it weekly for about 2 years, and the effect it had on the local
      • Straight loratidine isn't a problem. It's the version with ephedrine (Claritin D) which is one of the precursors for meth that's behind the counter. Whether or not regular Claritin would have worked for the guy or not is something I have no idea about. The regular product works just fine for me, and there's a bottle of the generic in my bedroom right now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I agree that the drug protections have gotten out of hand. When my wife and I want to buy some Sudafed for our four-year-old, we are required to sign our names in a book to "prove" that we're not going to turn it into crystal meth. Now I'm no expert in Sudafed-Meth conversions, but I would guess you would need a *TON* of children's Sudafed to make any significant crystal meth. Buying one package wouldn't do it. And what protection does a signed name in a paper book prove? Do all of those names get type
    • by Marful ( 861873 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:23PM (#21192301)
      "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of Human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." - Colonial America sympathesizer William Pitt, British House of Commons, November 18, 1783

      "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

      "Doctors have been caught using poisons, and those who falsely assume the name of philosopher have occasionally been detected in the gravest crimes. Let us give up eating, it often makes us ill; let us never go inside houses, for sometimes they collapse on their occupants; let never a sword be forged for a soldier, since it might be used by a robber." - ancient Roman educator Marcus Fabius Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, II, xvi
    • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:27PM (#21192331) Journal
      Surprised chemistry sets didn't go this route long ago, what with their potential to put together explosives approaching that of a couple firecrackers combined! Warm fuzzies.

      I hate to rant about good intentions, but these don't even smell like good intentions any more. Terrorists couldn't care less about chemistry sets.

      Right! Terrorists couldn't care less about chemistry sets. The Feds know this. First, chemistry sets were not banned, they were neutered. They were neutered long before 9-11. It has nothing to do with terrorism. It has everything to do with liability.

      I understand that it's cool to bash the president and blame Bush for everything. However, this is not one of those cases. This isn't Bush's fault. If anything, it's John Edwards, or at least lawyers. Chemistry sets are hard to find for the same reason that slingshots are hard to find, because they can be dangerous in the wrong hands, kid's hands.

      The people that are banning "dangerous" chemicals in chemical sets are the same people that forced MacDonald's to stop asking you if you wanted it "super sized", and the same people that are trying to ban you from smoking in a bar, or your car, and in your home, and outside... and so on. It's the same people who make planters put a label on a bag of peanuts that says, "danger, contains peanuts". It's the people that mandate seat belts and motorcycle helmets. These people are not conservatives (although there are some conservative nannies that say I can't drink beer in a bar after 2:00am). Nope! These are the same people that say things like "We are going to take things away from you for the common good".

      Googling "nanny state chemistry set" took me to this [] article from the NY times. It's in response to an op-ed piece about the removal of chemistry sets. The article date, May 13, 1999. About 2.25 years BEFORE 9-11 and BEFORE the War on Terror. So, please, stop blaming this on Bush or the War On Terror. This was happening long before any of that!

      From TFA:

      [Author's Note: This article is primarily a result of my frustration in trying to acquire a few hundred grams of potassium carbonate for an electrolyte solution.]
      I understand the author's frustration, but he should really know who's at fault before he passes blame. If banning chemsitry sets were about keeping dangerous chemicals out of the hands of terrorists, then Clorox bleach, Windex, and pool chemicals would have been banned with it.

      Sorry, but TFA is just plain wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Minupla ( 62455 )
      My wife went home to the states a couple of weeks ago (she ran away to Canada) for a visit. While down there she got sick. Just a sniffle, so ran down to the local pharmacy for something to unstuff her system.

      "Could I see some ID please?"

      "Um, sure..." *hands over her Canadian photo ID*

      "I'm sorry, it needs to be US ID."

      Her brother had to buy her decongestant for her using his ID.

      Moral of the story: Don't get sick while visiting the states. It's against policy.

    • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:54AM (#21194701)
      Hmmm, anyone know the steps to turn meth back into pseudoephedrine Hcl? Its pretty easy to find meth these without needing an ID, wonder if you'd go to jail for turning it back into an OTC drug?
    • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:44AM (#21195749)
      and even then you could only purchase enough to take one a day for ten days!

      It's far worse than that. If there was ever a law which proves how fucking stupid our government representatives are, it's this law. It seems they can't understand the most basic of math. You can purchase roughly 20 pills to cover 30-days. Most people who are on this type of medication REQUIRE at least one pill per day. I'm fairly sure most any grade schooler can figure out that people are shorted 10 pills per month. But our government is so fucking stupid that can't figure that out.

      And yet it gets worse! If you have children, you now have to split those 20-pills between all the people in your house.

      Let's take a typical family. Two adults and two children. Two adults can get 40 pills per month, maximum! If you have four people that need to take those pills, him, now each person only gets 10 pills per month. Hmmm....30 days...ten pills....our government is totally fucking dumb and that can't even do the most fundamental of subtraction.

      And all the above ignores the fact that some doctors actually want some people to take TWO pills per day if an infection is starting. Now that means the one person is able to fight back their infection to only have it come back a vengeance five days later, for the following 25 days and likely wind up going to the doctor for a prescription, which could have all been avoided if it were not for the fucking morons making these laws.

      In other words, this law is requiring people stop buying over the counter medication and forcing people in droves back to their doctors for medication which requires little to no participation from a doctor. Several doctors I've spoken to about this problem are most annoyed because they are often unable to treat patients because they are booked treating patients which should never have be in their offices in the first place. And all this ignores the financial burden it's forcing onto to people who have little to no insurance coverage for prescriptions.

      Literally, our government is making people sick and making them pay more money and wasted time (which for many means loss of money) for the privilege of paying more money for both a doctor visit and prescriptions.
  • options (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:07PM (#21191779) Homepage Journal
    The death of a certain type of chemistry set. There are a pretty wide number of sets available [] including the specific kit mentioned in TFA (Chem C3000 []) and the reviews there both mention the difficulty in gathering some of the materials necessary to doing the expirements. I don't think it is just terrorism though. Terrorism, a litigious society, the war on drugs - I think any one alone would have probably been enough, and we've got all three.

    I wonder if this might signal an opportunity for some entrepeneur to develop a virtual chem lab. It's not exactly the same, but at least it would give kids an opportunity to learn and explore. It could also offer features you wont find in any real chemistry set. Nice graphics showing what is going on on a much lower level. A virtual professor to help out and explain. Tools and materials that are too expensive or that really would be too dangerous.
    • virtual chem lab (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:24PM (#21191881) Homepage Journal
      Sorry, thats far too sterile to really learn anything.

      Until you burn your fingers on a hot beaker, or smell the reults of your last failed ( or successful ) experiment that catches on fire or cracks the bottom out of your flask, you never really learn. Its all theory without that sort of 'real' experience..
      • by Pingmaster ( 1049548 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:24PM (#21192309)
        I can't agree with that more. I love tinkering with electronic gadgets, as a kid I used to take apart RC cars and make stuff with the motors. One of the first lessons I learned was to check for short circuits when I burned my fingers connecting a wire to a shorted battery terminal. I learned to wear safety goggles, and to pour chemicals carefully when I splashed a chem set experiment in my eye (that stung!). I learned to cut away from myself when I sliced my finger open while building a model car. You can't learn that sort of stuff from a virtual chem/electronic/modelling program. Besides, at an age where you learn best by getting your hands dirty, clicking a mouse just doesn't cut it.

        The excuse that 'Terrorists' use the chem sets for bombs and chemical warfare is ridiculous. If they are used for malicious purpose, it's more likely from your average neighbourhood punk kid making a smoke bomb or something similar. People wanting to cause REAL harm will be busy getting Ammonium Nitrate (fertilier) and Diesel (makeshift ANFO, a powerful explosive), or gunpowder, or Javex and Drano (cheap and easy way to get mustard gas) and causing all sorts of deadly havoc that way. one must wonder if DHS took the anarchist's cookbook a little too seriously..maybe next week, they'll be banning 3.25" floppies because you can embed match heads in them to cook floppy drives..
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by anandamide ( 86527 )
        Until you accidentally break a kilogram bottle of TiCl4 while unloading it from your friend's truck, creating a giant cloud of opaque white fumes, you'll never really learn... how to explain things diplomatically to your Dad.
        Now *that* was a chemistry set! Sigh.
      • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:18AM (#21192777) Journal
        The kid isn't learning chemistry. The kid just mixes up random crap, hoping for something exciting to happen.

        Even with an old-style set, interesting reactions are rare. If you are "lucky" enough to get one, you might get hurt... but you don't really learn the chemistry behind it. You aren't learning about orbitals, ions, electronegativity, and all those other things. At best you learn that mixing two items, of which you understand nothing, will do something beyond just sitting there.

        Pretty soon, you run out of chemicals. The useful ones run out first.

        That's not much education, and not even much entertainment. That's just lame.
        • by Alchemist253 ( 992849 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @05:42AM (#21194183)
          You are missing the point. I AM a chemist. I probably understand orbitals and electronegativity better than most on Slashdot, but I do not fault chemistry sets for not being so directly educational.

          At the age when kids would use chemistry sets (I started when I was about eight), so much underlying information is absent that it is unrealistic to teach real chemistry. You can't truly understand orbitals without quantum mechanics, which in turn requires linear algebra and multivariate calculus. So don't bother! When I played with a chemistry set I didn't understand pH or activity coefficients, but I still appreciated acid-base reactions. Nor had I ever heard of redox reactions or the Nernst equation, but electroplating was cool. Chemistry sets inspired me to study and learn at the meager level I could, and as I grew older and more knowledgeable they undoubtedly played a role in me going into science - and into organic chemistry in particular (with its heavy emphasis on experimental research).

          Chemistry sets are motivators, not educators. They have historically done for chemistry what "Star Trek" has done for physics.
    • Re:options (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:28PM (#21191923) Homepage

      No offense, but that's pretty lame. Chemistry sets are fun because they're hand on.

      This is just getting ridiculous. I can go down the block and fill my car with 30 gallons of highly flamable/explosive gasoline, but chemistry sets are off limits because they contain a few ounces of potentially dangerous chemicals? Our government is officially retarded.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      I wonder if this might signal an opportunity for some entrepeneur to develop a virtual chem lab.

      "Java applet kills family dog; news at 11..."
  • all the fun stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:09PM (#21191787) Homepage
    Those that remain are shallow boring versions of the old kits.

    What, no more ammonium nitrate, sodium pellets, and hunks of magnesium? Ah well, there's always mail-order.
    • Re:all the fun stuff (Score:5, Informative)

      by Z0mb1eman ( 629653 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:51PM (#21192103) Homepage
      Ah well, there's always mail-order.

      Well... no, there isn't really. A good friend of mine who IS a rocket scientist (aerospace engineer, anyway) is a long-time rocket hobbyist and is now tinkering with propulsion systems in his garage. Don't get him started on ordering hobby rocket engines above a certain size, any kind of fuel ingredients, and even certain parts from the States over the last couple of years (we're in Canada, and apparently you can't find a lot of this stuff locally to start with).
  • And by extension (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wylfing ( 144940 ) <brian&wylfing,net> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:10PM (#21191791) Homepage Journal

    All knowledge shall follow. Knowledge is terrorism. An informed public is a dangerous public.

  • by ayelvington ( 718605 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:10PM (#21191793) Journal
    Check out [] and build your own. Amazing stuff your mother wouldn't let you have. a
  • by machinelou ( 1119861 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:16PM (#21191821)
    Mr. Wizard wasn't interested in "educating" youth, he was trying to build an army for his own jihad!
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:17PM (#21191825) Homepage Journal
    Tomorrow, knowledge. Dangerous times ahead.

    Seems the terrorists have already won, with a minimal expenditure of energy/effort. I still wonder if this was the plan all along, to just nudge the civilized world into self destruction on its own, or just an unexpected side effect worth exploiting. Either way its the same result, but i am curious.
  • Chemistry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bloosqr ( 33593 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:22PM (#21191865) Homepage
    Its interesting, this was the subject of the first episode of "Wired Science" a new PBS episode. I can not agree more w/ the premise. The unfortunate part of what makes it even worse I think is due to terrorism/columbine etc even looking up this stuff will get scrutiny that wasn't really the case back when we were all kids. As an example of this I get the impression that from the press "peroxyacetone" is now unfortunately used by terrorists all the time (in fact that was the absurd uncomprehensible basis for the "no liquids" on planes).

    What was interesting about the Wired Science show was that show bemoaned the fact that chemistry sets are watered down but the show had a chemist talk about how dangerous using nonlaboratory conditions to run one of the "old school" experiments were.

    The irony of it was in this show that was going on about "dangerous" chemicals was that "dangerous" chemical was actually NI3 one of the standard things kids used to make all the time.

    On a personal note, I was one of those kids who was a total pyromaniac in high school / middle school, we eventually grew out of it of course, but we pretty much made everything one could easily get a hold of and then some. All of this was done in using "household" chemicals (and some ordering from chemical supply companies). The practical upshot of being a complete pyromaniac in was I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in chemistry/CS and getting a Ph.D. in chemistry and now am a faculty member (in physics randomly enough). At the end of the day it was "blowing stuff up" that made science cool, perhaps a little dangerous, perhaps even foolhardy but the fact that you could do so much w/ everyday chemicals sparked that interest in science, atoms and plain old tinkering ..

  • Amateur Rocketry RIP (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirDrinksAlot ( 226001 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:23PM (#21191879) Journal
    Amateur Rocketry is now dead too. I remember going out to pick up a couple engines and found out about the new (impending) restrictions. The government pretty much handed the terrorists their victory and hobby science is one of the victims.
    • by thegrassyknowl ( 762218 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:35PM (#21191977)
      Amateur rocketry was dying anyway. I remember trying to buy rocket engines when I was a bit younger (~10 years) and you already needed to provide photo ID with your current address on it. I gave up on that day, as did a lot of people because you can't even find rocketry supplies in the local model store anymore.
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:24PM (#21191885)
    I was lamenting the passing of the hobbiest chemistry sets long before 9/11. You can still get them in various places and you can get a fairly wide selection of chemicals from a number of sources, including e-bay. Hell, I even bought some concentrated (70%) nitric acid off of e-bay not more than a year ago.

    That said, the decline in hobby-level chemistry sets, as I mentioned before, began with the rise in the "new American Dream." You know, the one where you sue somebody for a million dollars. Liability for selling chemistry sets is, without a doubt, astronomical in these days of knee-jerk litigation... Nobody in their right mind would sell something to children that they could easily kill or wound themselves with, quite easily...

    From my own personal history, when I had a chemistry set as a child, it came with glass tubing and an alcohol burner. You used it to heat the tubing and bend it into shapes to connect beakers and what have you together... Well, not being old enough to know better, and not patient enough to wait for the tubing to cool down on its own after bending it, I decided it might be best to cool it off in some water. I consider it fortunate I didn't lose an eye when the glass exploded. And that didn't involve any chemicals... Not that the stuff they provided was terribly dangerous, but it's dangerous enough that it's simply not a viable business anymore, is my point...
  • by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:26PM (#21191899)
    WTF are the dumbed-down chemistry sets now?

    The old ones were dumb enough. When I got a chemistry set when I was small (something like 60 chemicals), I got bored of all the pre-drawn experiments and decided to experiment myself. I mixed pretty much every goddamn chemical together.. BLUE liquid! yay.. Then, I put some in a test tube and heated it.. and OMG.. it boiled!!! and then.. it smelled like crap! Yay chemistry.. It was like they formulated the entire set to be as unexplosive as possible.

    Fucking nanny state...

    I would've attacked the issue of terrorism the exact opposite. I'd tell everyone to grow some balls, carry a fucking gun, ask suspicious people questions, and be vigilant. And.. everyone can carry whatever the hell they want on a plane. I'd like to see a terrorist just try to hijack a plane when who knows how many people are armed...

    Don't ban chemistry sets.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:26PM (#21191903)
    I can only believe that Tinkertoys will be next.

    They burn if ignited.
    They can cause physical injury if someone is stabbed with one, or has a hub thrown at them from close range.
    They can be assembled into a gun that might look too realistic if viewed under poor conditions.

    Got to get rid of this stuff now. Leave the kids ignorant of any toys that might actually teach them critical thinking by doing.

  • by Belacgod ( 1103921 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:29PM (#21191931)
    The thought behind this is the same as the one behind Germany's banning of certain computer security tools, and the assaults on cryptography. Dangerous tools exist in every important field, and those with no fear of falling behind will always want to ban more and more. We need another Sputnik moment to galvanize the angry reactionaries to demand more science instead of demanding more childproofing.
  • by drspliff ( 652992 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:34PM (#21191967)
    When you can buy fertiliser, sugar and petrolium by the tonne.

    Oh noes, their going to blow up an air plain with some iron filings, potassium permanganate and some magnesium! Or use the test tubes to start up a methamphetamine lab!

    Do you know why I cringe when I hear these stories? Because their going after the wrong thing with the wrong tactics, chemistry sets have long been a way to inspire kids about the stuff, some just don't get it, but others get an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have to kickstart the process and get the interested and passionate about physics/chemistry at an early age.

    Personally I'd rather see biochemistry sets/guides for kids, grow your own bacteria and such (I found it much more interesting than chemistry), but with the "threat" of anthrax breaking out any minute now I don't think they'd be politically correct (just as it seems limiting chemistry sets is "politically correct" in the US).

    The sorry thing is, it's going to take you a long time to get these implicit rights back after the initial knee-jerk reaction.
  • by webmaster404 ( 1148909 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:35PM (#21191981)
    Seems similar to the RIAA and MPAA, something that Could be used to "pirate" music or make explosives we should ban!!! Be it BitTorrent, or chemistry sets, the only one that loses is the consumer, next I guess they will ban the internet or the selling of computers because as we know you can learn things that are illegal on the computer and you can rip CDs to put on your MP3 Player 111 *shift* !1!
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:36PM (#21191987) Homepage Journal
    dissolving ants in hydrochoric acid, pouring bleach into ammonia and giving myself chemical pneumonia from chlorine gas, setting the house on fire with burning trails of isopropyl alcohol, fiddling with the mercury drops i squeezed out of that weird battery


  • Back in my day (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Caity ( 140482 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:39PM (#21192003)

    I remember getting a chemistry set when I was a kid (mid-eighties I suppose) and I think the most exciting thing I managed to do with it was to make some clear liquid turn red, then clear again.

    It was rather disappointing when compared to some of my experiments with Things Found In Every Kitchen...

    My (all girls) high school chemistry teacher expressed a lot of dismay at the changing laws about what chemicals she was allowed to show us. The education department provided these videos of "safe" demonstrations of the various properties of dangerous things that they were supposed to show us in lieu of a live demo. She'd show us the video... then swear us all to secrecy and produce an ancient brown jar of [sodium|sulfur|some other now banned chemical] from the bowels of the school's ancient chemical safe and repeat a fair portion of the experiments for us.

    Sometimes it's good to go to an old school ... we only had to evacuate the building once (lesson learned: sulfur + fire = bad).

    I'll never forget a particular class during organic chemistry. We'd made some crappy alcohol and were distilling it and she told us about how at university she and her classmates in the chemistry department used to have massive cocktail parties using the pure ethanol stock.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      I was lucky enough to study A-level chemistry in the UK. Despite the fact that I sold out and went into biology (medicine), I used to love chemistry. Our teacher (master) demonstrated the thermite process live. I've seen what happens when you put metallic lithium, sodium and potassium in regular water, etc. We got to play with a LOT of transition elements, making all the pretty colors with the various salts. And of course, organic chemistry was a riot.

      Poor kids. Chemistry really is fun. I guess those who re
  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:07PM (#21192203) Homepage
    I've seen this trend for a while, and it predates 9-11.

    I believe the issue is more of a "legal" than "security" issue. I think the high risk of lawsuits is what's killing these kits. In the old days, if you let your kids be unsupervized and they started eating the chemicals - you were considered a bad parent with a stupid kid. Now days, parents tell the kids to eat the chemicals in hopes of a winning lawsuit so they don't have to work anymore.

    How many classic toys have gone the way of the dino because of our stupid frivolous legal system and lack of responsibility culture. I mean, Burger King/McDonald's (one of the two) had these flying princesses. They spin, their wings fly out and they whirl into the sky like helicopters. "Recalled and banned!" Why? Because they're uber dangerous. The fly toy might just land on the child's head. We can't have that. (Not like a baseball isn't a 100x more deadly - but we're not going to ban those.)

    Bah...this plan deserves to be turned into an intergalactic entranceway.
  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:20PM (#21192285) Homepage
    Some brief web surfing turned up Chem C3000 [] as being the best available. The glassware to chemical ratio is much higher than the sets of yore with racks [] and racks [] of little bottles of chemicals. I remember chemistry sets used to be advertised by the number of chemicals -- now it seems to be the number of "experiments".
  • I call bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:36PM (#21192423) Journal
    Are chemistry sets getting crappier? Of COURSE they are! When I was growing up in the 1970s, the best I could get was a pale imitation of the ones my dad had in the garage. Now we're a generation along, and the ones I had look like danger waiting to be used. It has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with the obsessive culture of safety.

    TFA is a big, steaming pile of shit. Read it carefully, and you'll find there's not a single 'explanation' of why things are the way they are that holds water.

    It's just a grumpy twit with a computer. Nothing to see here.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler