Scientific Experiments with Toys (Oct, 1938)

Scientific Experiments with Toys

By Raymond B. Wailes

Many Novelty, Toy and “Jokers” Supply Stores sell small glass “meters” or “thermometers.” as they are called, attached to a card supposed to represent the quantity of intoxicating liquor the individual can consume, a state of health, denote a fortune, etc. The items are designed to provoke mirth and hilarity, but they operate on a scientific principle and can be used admirably for demonstrating some physical laws. What to do and how to conduct the experiments are details covered in the accompanying text.

Weird Stunts with Aluminum in the Home Laboratory (Sep, 1933)

Weird Stunts with Aluminum in the Home Laboratory

Electrical Experiments You Can Perform with This Most Useful Metal—An Easy Way to Purify Water Containing Sediment

By Raymond B. Wailes

OUTWARDLY aluminum is one of the least spectacular elements of the earth. Yet in the home laboratory, weird stunts reveal the strange properties that make it one of the world’s most useful metals.

Although at one time worth its weight in silver, chemistry has made aluminum one of our commonest metals. According to leading scientists, its uses will continue to grow. Even now railroads, steamships, and airplanes make use of its physical qualities for lightness combined with strength.

Most important of its chemical properties is its unquenchable thirst for oxygen. Pure aluminum left in the air soon becomes coated with an oxide. It is this characteristic that makes its impossible to obtain the metal in its free state and also forms the basis of thermit welding (P.S.M., Aug. ’33, p. 50) and many other modern processes in industry.

To the home chemist, this fast-forming oxide of aluminum offers the means of performing two novel electrical experiments. For the first, immerse two sheets of aluminum foil in a small jar or beaker containing a solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Connect one sheet directly to one side of the house lighting circuit and the other sheet through a series-connected lamp to the other side.

Crime-Detection Tests FOR THE Home Chemist (Nov, 1933)

Crime-Detection Tests FOR THE Home Chemist

How Hidden Fingerprints May Be Found by Using Iodine Vapor — Forgeries Also Are Revealed by This Remarkable Element

By Raymond B. Wailes

NEW thrills await the home chemist who experiments with iodine. Besides its queer properties and varied uses, it serves as the gateway to a new branch of chemistry—the mysterious and interesting art of scientific crime detection.

With iodine, the amateur experimenter can transform his home laboratory into a miniature crime bureau. In a few hours, he can master some of the chemical tricks that aid the modern sleuth in his search for hidden fingerprints, clever check alterations, and forgeries.

First, however, the amateur must learn how to obtain this active element in its free state. For years, it was recovered commercially from a giant type of seaweed called kelp. Now it is obtained from the solutions left behind when Chile saltpeter is crystallized in large quantities.

Magic in Chemistry, Chemistry in Magic (Aug, 1962)

Magic in Chemistry, Chemistry in Magic

Prove you’re a man to be reckoned with—and the only man who can make the gal in the photo (Fig. 1) blush. Prepare her for the test by painting her cheeks with phenolphthalein solution (from the drug store), and be sure the cheeks are slightly moist when you perform the trick. Ordinarily this solution is colorless, but when a finger (yours) moistened with household ammonia is brought near it, the reaction of the fumes with the solution causes it to turn pink. When the ammonia evaporates, the cheeks lose their color.

Generating SMOKE and STEAM for Amateur Theatricals (Feb, 1932)

One of the things I really like about these old articles is that they assume a certain level of competence, and if you don’t have it, well that’s your fault. Nowadays if you posted this article you’d have to find out if you are libel for some moron drinking hydrochloric acid through the rubber tube because he thought it was a straw.

Generating SMOKE and STEAM for Amateur Theatricals

By Kenneth Malcolm

CURLING wisps of smoke rising in a fireplace, great smoke-gusts bursting in from an offstage forest fire, steam issuing from grotesque modernistic machinery or even from the spout of a humble teakettle—all the realistic steam and smoke effects which so often add to the interest of professional dramatic productions can be easily duplicated, at least on a moderate scale, by the amateur.

The apparatus to be described is a simplified version of that used in the professional theater, and costs not more than a dollar or two. The smoke—produced chemically by uniting ammonia gas with chlorine—is harmless and may be generated instantly wherever desired.

Safe Stunts with Fire FOR THE HOME CHEMIST (Nov, 1934)

Safe Stunts with Fire FOR THE HOME CHEMIST

By Raymond B. Wailes

OF ALL home chemistry experiments, tests with combustibles offer the most in spectacular fun and harmless excitement. For even after some 60,000 years of use, fire still holds a mysterious fascination.

Although we are accustomed to kindling a fire with a match or some other small flame, a spark or a flame are by no means necessary to start some substances burning. Many materials ignite spontaneously when subjected to nothing more than a slight rise in temperature. Carbon disul-phide, a liquid often used as an ant exterminator, is one of these substances and for this reason presents a serious fire hazard if not handled carefully.

Dynamite Made from Corn (Jul, 1936)

Better not let the TSA see this or they’ll ban corn from all flights.

Dynamite Made from Corn
Production of a highly explosive dynamite from corn is one of the latest developments of the chemical laboratory. It is the result of the recent discovery at the University of Iowa of an inexpensive method of extracting inositol, a sugarlike substance, from corn. Inositol is a non-explosive form of alcohol but when nitrated becomes a powerful solid explosive. It can be produced from the waste by-products of the manufacture of cornstarch.



What goes on in the emulsion that coats film is shown by simple test-tube experiments.


THE film in your camera is thinly coated with one of the most unstable chemicals known to man. Silver bromide is its name, and from the moment of its birth it is kept in a cradle of darkness until in your camera a swift shaft of light seeks it out. The intricate and far-reaching changes brought to silver bromide by that flash of light are in part still secrets of nature. Much of what happens in your camera and in the darkroom is known, however, and can be shown at home with a few chemicals in a test tube.

Fun with Black Light for Home Chemists (Jul, 1939)

This looks pretty fun though I’m not sure where you can buy uranium nitrate these days.

Fun with Black Light for Home Chemists


CHEMICALS that glow with magic colors in the dark, under invisible illumination with “black light,” have been applied to theatrical costumes and decorations with spectacular effect. Your own home laboratory can be the stage for equally striking experiments with these substances, which possess the curious property known as fluorescence. Also, you can prepare other substances that shine in the dark through the phenomenon called phosphorescence—which is distinguished from fluorescence by the fact that phosphorescent chemicals continue to glow for some time after removal from the light that excites them.

How Evaporation Steals Heat (Mar, 1948)

How Evaporation Steals Heat

EVERY time a liquid evaporates into a gas, it snatches a definite amount of heat from its container and surrounding air, cooling both below their original temperatures. This law of physical chemistry has long been useful to the human race as a means of cooling foods or drinks. Primitive man found that water placed in unglazed earthenware vessels would seep through the pores, evaporate, and cool the water remaining inside. Campers and country dwellers still cool water in this way.

Today, all our mechanical refrigerators, electric and gas alike, harness the cooling effect of evaporation. Alternately compressed into a liquid and allowed to expand into a gas, the refrigerant absorbs heat during each evaporation cycle.