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Book Recommendations

Science Gifts: Running Experiments at Home

Interesting science-gift ideas can be found in the “home experiments” area. There’s been a small boom in this sort of book in recent years, which I think is a good thing all the way around. I believe that there’s a good audience out there of people who are interested in science, but have no particular training in it, either because they’re young enough not to have encountered much (or much that was any good), or because they missed out on it while they were in school themselves.
Last year I mentioned Robert Bruce (and Barbara) Thompson’s Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments along with its sequels, the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments and the Illustrated Guide to Home Forensic Science Experiments. Similar books are Hands-On Chemistry Activities and its companion Hands-On Physics Activities.
Related to these are two from Theodore Gray: Theo Gray’s Mad Science, and its new sequel, Mad Science 2. Both of these are subtitles “Experiments that you can do at home – but probably shouldn’t”, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Many of these use equipment and materials that most people probably won’t have sitting around, and some of the experiments are on the hazardous side (which, I should mention, is something that’s fully noted in the book). But they’re well-illustrated from Gray’s own demonstration runs, so you can at least see what they look like, and learn about the concepts behind them.
And there’s copious chemistry available in a series of books by Bassam Shakhashiri, whose web site is here. These are aimed at people teaching chemistry who would like clear, tested demonstrations for their students, but if you know someone who’s seriously into home science experimentation, they’ll find a lot here. The most recent, Chemical Demonstrations, Volume 5, concentrates on colors and light. The previous ones are also available, and cover a range of topics in each book: Volume 4, Volume 3, Volume 2, and Volume 1.

5 comments on “Science Gifts: Running Experiments at Home”

  1. DV Henkel-Wallace says:

    Simon Quellen Field’s site ( has good books and kits for home chemistry (and other sites). (Simon wrote the sequel to Gray’s Elements book).
    I think many many people are interested in science despite years of schooling that was seemingly designed to discourage it!

  2. Gene Cash says:

    I have Gray’s elements poster and it’s just cracking. The extremely heavy high quality paper and printing has gotten lots of comments.
    From the Amazon description: “Gray … ignites a phosphorus sun by suspending half a gram of white phosphorus in a globe filled with pure oxygen and creates a homemade hot tub by adding 500 pounds of quicklime to water”
    Damn. Alrighty then.

  3. great unknown says:

    Combine 2 parts “clear, tested demonstrations for their students” with 1 part “someone who’s seriously into home science experimentation” and sublime into a perfect product for home schooling.

  4. Henry's cat says:

    When Milkshake writes a book, I’ll buy it.
    Come on dude, get on it.

  5. qvxb says:

    A PDF “The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments” by Robert Brent (1960) can be downloaded for free at
    Not forthe novice working alone. Nothing about PPE requirements and shows mixing in a test tube done by sealing the mouth of the test tube with a thumb.

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