Sciencemadness Discussion Board

What is the point of amateur chemistry?

Cou - 23-2-2018 at 11:10

I'm playing devil's advocate because I would love the idea of having a home chemistry lab, but before investing the money into it, I want to know about some good reasons to do this.

I'm already in college, going for a chemistry major, which will eventually allow me to one day possibly become a chemistry professor and do research in university labs. This is far more productive than a home chemistry lab, you need expensive equipment to discover new things nowadays. The times of accidentally discovering infrared light at home with just a thermometer and prism are over. So, what's the point of a home chemistry lab if I'm gonna be doing more productive research at university one day? Having a lab is fun, but is that really the only purpose, having fun and piquing my curiosity and nurturing chemistry interest without innovating? Biggest benefit I could imagine from this is that it makes me motivated to continue the chemistry career path towards professor.

I notice that most experienced chemists, such as grad students and chem professors, strongly disapprove of home chemistry. Just look at /r/chemistry on reddit, where all home chemistry posts are downvoted to oblivion and met with responses of "Are you a chemistry student or a nut? Are you trying to kill yourself? Do you realize this looks like a meth lab? I'd be very suspicious." Obviously the experts disapprove of us, so why do this?

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Cou]

Texium (zts16) - 23-2-2018 at 11:32

What is the point of anything?

Cou - 23-2-2018 at 11:44

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
What is the point of anything?


Life is a game, and I'm enjoying it by doing something fun that rewards the instinctual pleasure center of my brain, in this case the satiation of chemistry curiosity that comes with pursuing a chemistry career.

aga - 23-2-2018 at 12:11

The Fact that annoys professionals in any sphere is that ALL of the underlying principles of whatever they profess to be experts in were first discovered and investigated by Amateurs.

Before a thing exists, it cannot become mainstream, known, developed or taught to anyone.

A good case is radio communications.

Amateurs worked out almost all of it before the technology got old enough for anyone to become a fully trained Expert.

The heyday of Amateur Chemistry was about 300 years ago, but that does not mean there is nothing new an amateur can discover, just that it will be much less frequent.

Personally i'd really enjoy the TV debate where an Expert shouts about how my anti-gravity material cannot possibly exist, then ask them if they are sure after they get levitated 3 metres due to 1cm2 of said material being placed on their head.

Edit:

This should be in Whimsy.

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by aga]

Texium (zts16) - 23-2-2018 at 12:16

More seriously though, I think it's a very broad generalization to say that "the experts" disapprove of us. What you see on r/chemistry is tainted heavily by selection bias. They're a tight-knit community of insufferable worrywarts, many of whom are bitter because they can't find jobs. Most of them probably have little to no experience with practical chemistry or research.

I've found since I've been in college, my professors, TA's, and other students that I've told about my hobby (chemistry majors and otherwise) have been very positive about it. In fact, showing my organic chemistry professor my home lab notebook (in addition to the fact that I clearly already knew a good amount of organic chemistry) helped me get a spot in his research lab during my first semester. I still work there, and I get paid now too. I discovered recently that I have somewhat of a reputation among the TA's and other chemistry majors as well- it seems like a lot of people already recognize me as "the guy with the home lab" before actually meeting me. Honestly it's really cool.

As far as having a home lab after you start working in a research lab goes, yes, the point is fun. If you don't think home chemistry is fun, you probably shouldn't be doing it. You probably won't discover anything new in your home lab, but you have freedom to try out whatever you want to do within the limits of your available equipment and chemicals, unlike in the research lab where although the resources are virtually limitless, you may be running the same reactions over and over again every day, or possibly just characterizing stuff. I can say from personal experience that while working in a research lab can be a fun and rewarding job, it doesn't replace home chemistry by any means. Plus, if you get permission (as I have) you can even bring in products from home to analyze in the NMR, or IR, or GCMS!

It is worth saying, though, that college presents a number of obstacles to amateur chemistry. Most college students live in a dorm or an apartment- that already rules out most chemistry. I am very fortunate, in that I live in a house owned by family members who have given me permission to build a lab in the garage. Even if you're lucky like me though, having time to actually do stuff is a huge challenge in college as well. Although I've moved all of my lab stuff into my new house, I've barely done anything in the last year since then (though I've slowly been working on building a fume hood, among other things). The bottom line is, a research lab and a home lab are entirely different. Having both available is ideal, in my opinion.

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 12:29

I would hardly call the voices at /r/chemistry "experts"!



I think the point of amateur chemistry is, that there are people who for some reason or another, find themselves thinking about chemistry every day, thinking about experiments and how to perform them. Whether you give these people the tools, or not, they will (even in their sleep) be trying to find the solution, to gain a better understanding. And ultimately, MAKE THINGS.

Max Gergel (a chemist who wrote two memoirs you can find in the SciMad library) made a comment, something to the effect of "there are some people that no matter what they do in life, who they marry, where they live, will make chemicals, because that is their nature." (Loosely paraphrased).

I see a lot of "experts" posting suggestions on reddit, that came from a book or a patent, that have little practical application, and more importantly, THEY HAVE NEVER DONE THEMSELVES.

I would trust the expertise of someone who is making amazing things out of nothing in their garage, over someone who is making nothing out of nothing, nowhere...

And "chemistry" is a reeeeaally broad term, there is certainly some chemistry that can't be done without a facility devoted to it; it really depends on what types of chemistry you do. That being said, there is more chemistry to be done than could ever be done in ten lifetimes, in the home labs of many an amateur chemist.


[Edited on 2-23-2018 by happyfooddance]

[Edited on 2-23-2018 by happyfooddance]

Cou - 23-2-2018 at 12:49

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
More seriously though, I think it's a very broad generalization to say that "the experts" disapprove of us. What you see on r/chemistry is tainted heavily by selection bias. They're a tight-knit community of insufferable worrywarts, many of whom are bitter because they can't find jobs. Most of them probably have little to no experience with practical chemistry or research.

I've found since I've been in college, my professors, TA's, and other students that I've told about my hobby (chemistry majors and otherwise) have been very positive about it. In fact, showing my organic chemistry professor my home lab notebook (in addition to the fact that I clearly already knew a good amount of organic chemistry) helped me get a spot in his research lab during my first semester. I still work there, and I get paid now too. I discovered recently that I have somewhat of a reputation among the TA's and other chemistry majors as well- it seems like a lot of people already recognize me as "the guy with the home lab" before actually meeting me. Honestly it's really cool.

As far as having a home lab after you start working in a research lab goes, yes, the point is fun. If you don't think home chemistry is fun, you probably shouldn't be doing it. You probably won't discover anything new in your home lab, but you have freedom to try out whatever you want to do within the limits of your available equipment and chemicals, unlike in the research lab where although the resources are virtually limitless, you may be running the same reactions over and over again every day, or possibly just characterizing stuff. I can say from personal experience that while working in a research lab can be a fun and rewarding job, it doesn't replace home chemistry by any means. Plus, if you get permission (as I have) you can even bring in products from home to analyze in the NMR, or IR, or GCMS!

It is worth saying, though, that college presents a number of obstacles to amateur chemistry. Most college students live in a dorm or an apartment- that already rules out most chemistry. I am very fortunate, in that I live in a house owned by family members who have given me permission to build a lab in the garage. Even if you're lucky like me though, having time to actually do stuff is a huge challenge in college as well. Although I've moved all of my lab stuff into my new house, I've barely done anything in the last year since then (though I've slowly been working on building a fume hood, among other things). The bottom line is, a research lab and a home lab are entirely different. Having both available is ideal, in my opinion.


My concern was that if it is just for "fun" and I'm not discovering anything, then it would basically be dumping chemicals together for the hell of it. But I like the point that having a home lab notebook can gain you cred among the chemistry people at university.

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Cou]

WouldSynthesizeForFood - 23-2-2018 at 13:04

For me everything started with a fascinating discovery of copper glycerate and other colourful copper complexes at first year of chemistry in school. I became curious about possibility of making other brightly coloured compounds, made some of them and wanted some more in-depth stuff to learn about. roughly at this point I came across some old organic chemistry textbooks.

From that point on for some time I absorbed every available bit of information about everything chemistry-related for about three years and became interested not only in pure chemistry, but in chemical engineering. That led to choosing chemical engineering as subject of studies in college, where I got into research part of my department.

I went into research for the same reason I do hobby projects - nothing substitutes excitement of finding a prep in literature and successfully modifying it to your current possibilities, while simultaneously attempting to get decent yields with only a couple of weeks of work.

aga - 23-2-2018 at 13:04

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
... I've barely done anything in the last year ...

I find that hard to believe, seeing as you're in a well equipped Uni Lab.

I've never been to university as a student.

As a freelance 'entrepreneur', yes, but never as a student.

It'd be great to see a thread dedicated to random notes that you're allowed to post about your everyday educational activities (best check if you can post anything about that).

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 13:07

WouldSynthesizeForFood, your handle perfectly expresses what I was trying to say.

Boffis - 23-2-2018 at 13:09

Amateur science can go where ever its practitioner wishes to go, only limited by his resources, skill, experience and above all desire for knowledge. Those "professional" who are derogatory about amateur science, I suspect, are often bitter about this freedom and yet unprepared to do anything about there own situation except moan.

Not so science in academia or industry where it must be driven by the wishes and focus of the funding agent whether they be a company, a government or a charity. These bodies invariable want their resources to go into new and sexy science since that is were they perceive the rewards are. This is not a criticism, its just the way things are but it can't justify the current vilification of amateur science, chemistry in particular.

Vomaturge - 23-2-2018 at 13:09

I think this is an interesting question.
I agree that most of the "easy" discoveries have been made already. I also understand why professional chemists disapprove of chemistry experiments being carried out by amateurs with improvised or simplified (compared to what you'd find in a chemical industry or university lab) equipment. Part of it is probably concerns about safety, and part of it the inability to do some sophisticated experiments, or to draw conclusions from them, without the complicated, expensive hardware.

I think that home experiments do not have to be more dangerous than their professional counterparts. Yes, if you are DOING an experiment with highly poisonous fumes, for instance, a good, properly installed fume hood will keep you safer than simply opening a window. However, a sensible amateur without certain kinds of safety equipment can avoid the experiments that need it. Just the other day, I chickened out of an experiment involving isocyanic acid, simply because I knew I had no way of reducing my inhalation exposure to safe levels. Problem solved. The same goes for the idea that beginners aren't competent enough for chemistry. Sure, it takes years of higher education and experience to become a passable professional synthetic chemist, but but an unqualified amateur doesn't have to pick really complex experiments. Even a partial understanding of basic chemistry is enough to let you devise a synthesis for some simple compounds. Of course, everyone here knows this, but it's good to refute the claims that amateur chemists are dangers to themselves, or are bumbling through things which are too complex for them. Obviously, these "problems" with home chemistry do not have to be valid, but what of the benefits? Sometimes I've questioned whether my amateur interest in science is actually productive. I would generally say yes.

For one, there are some things we do because we like to, regardless of whether or not they serve a practical purpose. What's the point of building a model railroad? If you enjoy that kind of thing, you might find it more intellectually engaging than watching a movie, and healthier than, say, doing drugs. Same goes for amateur chemistry. The people who don't enjoy it, don't do it.

Also, at the top of this long-winded (sorry, readers) post, I said I agree that MOST of the "easy" discoveries have been made already. There are still things to discover via home experimentation, both to improve knowledge and the human condition. For examples of discoveries, see this thread:
http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=75685
For an attempt at fixing a real-world problem, see this one:
http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=80489

Most importantly, amateur chemistry helps give some extra hands-on experience which will help build a foundation for professional work. That's especially true for a guy majoring in chemistry. Sure you might not be finding anything new by detecting infrared, but by doing something that's new to you, you get a better understanding. Eventually, basic studying and experimentation might lead you to know enough about infrared to get in a professional lab and find something truly new, that revolutionizes telecommunications the world over. The same goes for chemistry. The extra experience from home experiments might help you with more complicated concepts later on.

Those are the points of amateur chemistry I can think of.
Edit: I have to agree that experiments or research you are doing for your own curiosity is often much more fun than doing it for work/school. That alone would be reason for some of the professional chemists to have home chemistry as a hobby.



[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Vomaturge]

WouldSynthesizeForFood - 23-2-2018 at 13:11

happyfooddance, IMHO this is one of the most prevalent reasons of having chemistry as hobby/

MrHomeScientist - 23-2-2018 at 13:16

As Texium said: if you have to ask this question, you should probably find another pastime. Hobbies don't need to have a point; The only reason you need is "I like doing it." I had to convince my girlfriend of this recently, funnily enough.

You don't need a reason to start a hobby, but that doesn't mean it won't ever become anything more. My hobby has turned into a moderately successful YouTube channel, gotten me involved in several STEM outreach programs at work, and enabled me to meet Steve Spangler!


Edit: Also, chemistry has turned me into an EXPERT at pouring things without spilling them. I used to terrible at it, but when you pour progressively more dangerous substances you learn to be careful pretty quickly.

[Edited on 2-23-2018 by MrHomeScientist]

mayko - 23-2-2018 at 13:24

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
What is the point of anything?


comic.gif - 4kB

clearly_not_atara - 23-2-2018 at 13:28

What's the point of amateur photography? Or chocolate making? Or perfumery? You can just buy those things for cheaper.

While true discoveries are indeed very rare rare, it's not that uncommon for people to improve on procedures that professionals never bother with, like making phosphorus. Or carbon disulfide.

Reddit is mostly full of redditors, so what you see on /r/chemistry are mostly students (who think they know more than they do) and techies with an interest in chemistry (who know very little and are afraid of everything). Most of the chemistry majors I knew in college did not use reddit. StackExchange is more representative of people who know what they're doing (although "experts" is an exaggeration). Reddit encourages people to comment as much as possible, so you'll see eg pchem guys who are afraid of every organic solvent exaggerating the danger of something and using their "qualifications" for votes.

LearnedAmateur - 23-2-2018 at 13:46

I literally just do it for fun, that’s why it’s a hobby. Well, and to learn, practical experience and running calculations yourself is arguably always better than staring at pages in a textbook. Doesn’t cost me much to do, and although I don’t have access to exotic glassware and reagents, the simple stuff can still be quite amazing and insightful. We all acknowledge that it can be pretty dangerous at times and there are innumerable (generally) safer pastimes, I mean many have been seriously injured and lost lives in the course of discovery, but there is something about chemistry which draws us all in and that’s where the amateur community comes from.

Vomaturge - 23-2-2018 at 14:37

@Cou my main point is that there are lots of things we do just for fun. We all have several pastimes. And of course, even carefully planned, safety-conscious chemistry (professional included) IS sometimes less healthy than a bit of cannabis or alcohol. Last time I checked, the "everyday chemistry" thread had a discussion going about chemical burns!:o but people hurt themselves bad rock climbing, horse riding, playing football. That doesn't mean everyone needs to stop, and have laws passed and enforced that exercise must take place in an approved gym. Yes, even for dangerous things, "just for the hell of it" can be plenty of reason!

Edit: the post I was replying to disappeared. Oh well, the point remains.

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Vomaturge]

Magpie - 23-2-2018 at 14:47

I've been thinking about chemistry since I was 13. But I was busy going to school, a university (for a ChemE degree), working for a living, raising 2 boys, and keeping my wife happy. Then I retired and the dam burst. I had the money and the time to do chemistry, now my main hobby. Even when I am hunting or fishing or eating or taking a dump I am thinking about how to solve a problem in the lab. I do my other obligations just so I can gain some time in the lab. This is more than just a hobby.


Cou - 23-2-2018 at 14:48

Quote: Originally posted by Vomaturge  
@Cou my main point is that there are lots of things we do just for fun. We all have several pastimes. And of course, even carefully planned, safety-conscious chemistry (professional included) IS sometimes less healthy than a bit of cannabis or alcohol. Last time I checked, the "everyday chemistry" thread had a discussion going about chemical burns!:o but people hurt themselves bad rock climbing, horse riding, playing football. That doesn't mean everyone needs to stop, and have laws passed and enforced that exercise must take place in an approved gym. Yes, even for dangerous things, "just for the hell of it" can be plenty of reason!

Edit: the post I was replying to disappeared. Oh well, the point remains.

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Vomaturge]


I try to avoid impulsively incriminating myself on the internet, especially on a forum that has a higher chance of being monitored by the pigs.

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 15:12

Quote: Originally posted by Cou  
Quote: Originally posted by Vomaturge  
@Cou my main point is that there are lots of things we do just for fun. We all have several pastimes. And of course, even carefully planned, safety-conscious chemistry (professional included) IS sometimes less healthy than a bit of cannabis or alcohol. Last time I checked, the "everyday chemistry" thread had a discussion going about chemical burns!:o but people hurt themselves bad rock climbing, horse riding, playing football. That doesn't mean everyone needs to stop, and have laws passed and enforced that exercise must take place in an approved gym. Yes, even for dangerous things, "just for the hell of it" can be plenty of reason!

Edit: the post I was replying to disappeared. Oh well, the point remains.

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Vomaturge]


I try to avoid impulsively incriminating myself on the internet, especially on a forum that has a higher chance of being monitored by the pigs.


I saw the post. Legal in my state.

Let's just call it a bioassay, and you are an expensive piece of lab equipment...

NEMO-Chemistry - 23-2-2018 at 15:15

Hmmm
Pro golfer /amateur Golfer, pro boxer /amateur boxer....pro skier / amateur skier. The difference between amateur and professional is pay.

Amateur is not a word intended to classify how good someone is, if it was then why do we have the Olympics? As far as I am aware the Olympics are for Amateurs only, so how come if Amateur is supposed to denote level of ability, why is the worlds fastest man over 100M a amateur?

As for Reddit....

Read it, done it, got the T shirt! I dont use it much, full of ass hats who generally have more opinions than brain cells. There are some 'Amateurs' here who can give the best a run for the money. This site has professionals, Amateurs and think outside the box types.

A good example is Edingburgh university and recovering gold. Go read the newspaper article and the paper they wrote. Some 9-12 months AFTER sreelips tips or whatever (sorry i forgot the name), came here with some questions on gold recovery the green way.

no offense to the guy intended, but he would struggle to write the equation of water forming. But watch his vids, his technique and ability is absolutely brilliant! he was/ is well ahead of the pros on metal recovery the green way.

So if he is an example of an Amateur then personally i dont have a problem with that label. Amateur chemistry is a unpaid hobby, pursued by people who have never been paid to do it, all the way to those who are paid alot for the knowledge they hold.

This isnt reddit, this is a community of people with a shared interest, from what i see here there is no distinction ever made between those with letters after the name and those without. Everyone gets treated according to how they act.

ZTS Texium or home lab guy (love that name!), is a good example. Slayed on reddit, a mod here and clearly a natural chemist. until recently he was unpaid for chemistry and therefore an amateur, again another example of why i dont mind being associated with Amateurs!

Think about it, ZTS is slagged on reddit by snobs with bigger mouths than iQ's, yet the guy knows more than most the muppet snowflakes who post there...So take your pick, aspire to be a reddit professional or a science madness amateur.....I know which title i would prefer ;)

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 15:34

Well said, Nemo...

I think for me this question comes down to "who does the most?" "Who makes the most things?"

I can only imagine it would be the guy or girl who lives in their lab.

I am educated. I don't have a college education. I had synthesized dozens of chemicals before ever realizing that I had done so. I wouldn't have dared call myself a chemist. I had too much respect for y'all.

One day I woke up, did my usual, made breakfast, saw off my girlfriend, and sat down to eat. "What's this?!" I had a 250 ml rbf in my pocket. I fell asleep WITH A BOILING FLASK IN MY POCKET. If this ever happens to you, you MIGHT be a chemist, I thought.

A degree is a thing to attain. But the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules, is another.

I am sure you can only learn it by doing it. So if you spend 16 hours a day at the lab, you will learn a lot. But if you spend 24, I can only imagine you'd learn more.

Cou - 23-2-2018 at 15:37

Quote: Originally posted by happyfooddance  
I am sure you can only learn it by doing it. So if you spend 16 hours a day at the lab, you will learn a lot. But if you spend 24, I can only imagine you'd learn more.


1 week in the library (or internet) for every day in the lab.

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 15:39

Your lab SHOULD have internet, in this day and age.

Texium (zts16) - 23-2-2018 at 16:13

Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry  
ZTS Texium or home lab guy (love that name!), is a good example. Slayed on reddit, a mod here and clearly a natural chemist. until recently he was unpaid for chemistry and therefore an amateur, again another example of why i dont mind being associated with Amateurs!

Think about it, ZTS is slagged on reddit by snobs with bigger mouths than iQ's, yet the guy knows more than most the muppet snowflakes who post there...So take your pick, aspire to be a reddit professional or a science madness amateur.....I know which title i would prefer ;)
Well thanks, though to be fair, I've never been slagged on Reddit as far as I know. I don't usually go on Reddit, so unless someone else posted something of mine on there, I haven't directly interacted with their people before.

Perhaps you are thinking of Zephyr/pinkhippo, who was indeed savagely torn up after posting pictures of his beautiful lab (which I have had the pleasure of visiting on a couple occasions). Not only did they accuse him of not being safe, in spite of having a working, professional fume hood, they had the nerve to accuse him of stealing the nice chemicals he had. They were completely ignorant to the fact that buying chemicals online is extremely easy, and often affordable.

happyfooddance - 23-2-2018 at 16:22

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
They were completely ignorant


Yes. Everything that they said against his beautiful lab, was a glimpse into how little practical chemical knowledge they had. That is definitely a lab deserving of praise, not criticism.

WangleSpong5000 - 23-2-2018 at 22:49

Pursuit of knowledge... greatest virtue there is in this life.

Not for financial gain... not because my parents made me (lol)... not because I want to manufacture drugs... not because I want to blow things up 'for the cause'... not for any external motivator that sullies the whole shebang (that's what programming is for) but because I can or rather I can a little bit... I want to say I can when I really can...

I thought I could very well. This forum makes me realise that I know nothing... and it's fucking awesome as I'm only at the begining of a journey that I've always known was one that makes this odd exsistance worth living.

And I huff ether like, pretty much every 20 minutes... I use an old rag I found in a toilet ages ago... fuck yeah

Reboot - 24-2-2018 at 10:17

For me chemistry is a bit like woodworking or doing a crossword puzzle. It's an exercise that I find interesting and relaxing, whether it leads to anything new in the world or not. :-)

If nothing else, 'hobby' science can be a real service to the public's interest in science. Check out Cody's Lab on Youtube. His videos of aluminum oxide growing from a mercury amalgam are scientifically meaningless, but they're pure magic for the kids who might grow up to be our next generation of leading scientific and technical minds. Nothing he's doing matters (in the original research sense). But watch him refine platinum from the dust left on the side of the highway by slowly eroding catalytic converters and you can't help but be delighted. :-)

Having a hobby lab at home also lets you try things that you shouldn't be trying at work/school (since you aren't authorized to use your time and the company's resources that way.) You give up some resources at home, but you gain freedom to tinker and learn, to tinker with the basics without any pressure to 'be useful'.

A hobby lab is, for me, a form of play.

VSEPR_VOID - 24-2-2018 at 14:15

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
What is the point of anything?


The edge

18thTimeLucky - 24-2-2018 at 16:15

Quote: Originally posted by Cou  
I notice that most experienced chemists, such as grad students and chem professors, strongly disapprove of home chemistry.

As everyone can agree, fun is a huge factor for being an amateur chemist. But if this reason is not enough, as Texium says, all kinds of chemists are fascinated, amazed, sometimes jealous of you and your chemical lab.
As you seem quite interested in the views of chemistry students and professors I will give you two ('quick' was going to be here but ahhh, detail my Achilles heel!) personal stories from my very limited interaction with them (only beginning uni this year).

I was talking to a fellow applicant at warwick uni on a coach on an applicant day and after telling her about experiments I do at home and how enthused I was with chemistry she said she hadn't been too sure on what to go further with but had decided she enjoyed chemistry and would go that route (I felt bad at this point!). In her eyes I was very intelligent and was very impressed.

Another chemistry applicant visit day I was invited to was at bath uni and I had an interview with a very friendly french academic. We got on very well from the start and brought up my chemistry blog which had been on my personal statement and how he had read a few posts and how blown away by it he was with all the experiments I did, obviously showing a fantastic love for chemistry. Now listen to this! He said very calmly that I was a brilliant student and he wanted to know what he/bath could do to make me choose bath as my firm choice. I told him the truth and said the uni is just too far away, unfortunately, from my partner's uni for my liking, for which he was respectful of, but I am almost certain if I asked for an unconditional offer he would have organised for me to receive one.

The point is, I want to stress that I am hardly intelligent, I am definitely in the bottom half of the applicants grade wise, and my blog shows my shit chemical knowledge compared to the amazing people on this forum. I can barely carry out a distillation! My name is 18thTimeLucky for a reason, hardly anything seems to work for me! But it is the love for the subject they are significantly interested in, and by god, if owning a chemistry lab at home isn't damn proof of your devotion to this field, then what is?

In short, grades are the short term indicator of a successful chemistry student, passion, shown by a home lab, is the long term indicator of a successful chemist.
Comparable to short term good looks and long term nice personalities in relationships. Muscles are flashy and all, but its not likely to work unless you are attracted to their personality.

(hopefully this didn't sound too much like a plug for my blog, especially with my signature that is always advertising it :o)

Magpie - 24-2-2018 at 19:25

I like tea and crumpets, but also lattés and strumpets. :D

Get some lab time and you will start to understand chemistry.

AvBaeyer - 24-2-2018 at 19:57

What is the point of "amateur" chemistry? First and foremost, it allows you to explore the world on your own terms. It can start out as just mixing things together to see what happens. It could start with a chemistry set and doing the experiments in the manual (well, perhaps not so much any more). It could start on a serious footing with an interest in why certain things happen or how things behave. Investigating the colors of flowers and vegetables and learning how these colors behave with simple chemical treatments is a common entry into "amateur" chemistry. It is amazing to me how many chemists that I have known started with the basement or garage lab set up. A good case in point is the very famous organic chemist R. B. Woodward. He started with a home laboratory and later went on to win a Nobel Prize. He was responsible for the synthesis of many natural products (who needs another milligram of chlorophyll or vitamin B12?) which in many cases relied on the Diels-Alder reaction, a reaction that fascinated him as an "amateur" chemist. The point being that his great enthusiasm for organic chemistry started as a boy chemist in his home laboratory. His story is not unique.

Those who diminish the experience gained in a home laboratory are not aware of the value of that experience. This is probably a case of envy among newly minted graduate students who somehow view themselves as "chemical experts." Granted, some home chemists are careless or living dangerously. However, from what I have seen on this forum, I have to believe that most everyone is careful and aware of the risks. I also see that there is a great deal of learning that goes on here, both from experimentation and from the passing on of information gained from experience.

The point of amateur chemistry? To learn and have fun exploring the world around us. We need to just keep on doing it.

AvB

WangleSpong5000 - 24-2-2018 at 20:54

What is the point of liking electro breakbeat. What is the point of falling in love when you know it'll end in disaster. What is the point of playing rugby, chess, sudoku, the 'gas or gulag' street game one plays with passers by. What is the point in hedonism. What is the point in stoicism. What is the point of burning your own flesh with the heated metal of a bic lighter. What is the point in taking on 5 bullies at once to stick up for someone and getting bottles smashed over your head. What is the point in life....

The question should not be 'what is the point?' But 'why need a point' ...

Intrinsic good is the only true good in this realm. Don't question for an answer as the question is redundant. Question because it's inherent in your nature as it is the root of all virtue and the greatest of all goods...

zed - 26-2-2018 at 16:55

The point?

Well, to quote my mentor, The Brain: "World Domination!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGUqwaORfbU

[Edited on 27-2-2018 by zed]

NEMO-Chemistry - 26-2-2018 at 18:24

Actually there isnt a point the more I think of it, its just the love of doing something you enjoy. If it works or not you have learnt something. I really struggle to see what people learn from hitting the shit out of a little white ball, but they tend to spend more money on long walks in the rain hitting the little white ball, than we spend on our labs.

Stamp collecting can get really expensive, ok there is some history to learn and a few other things. But ultimately what has it taught you? What is to be gained by collecting small bits of printed paper, paper that in reality only has value because someone says it has. Its a form of currency to get other bits of paper from one place to another, these days much of this has been side stepped by email, maybe one day people will collect email headers.

Gardening is a hobby, in some ways it can be like stamp collecting or like chemistry. You get to choose with gardening, study it and begin to understand plants and you learn, you learn alot. just plonked colours you like in the ground year after year and you learn little, so gardening has potential depending on your attitude to it.

Chemistry like all science is a learning experience, its normally pursued by people who are curious, people who like to question things. The point of any hobby is to enjoy what you do, that is the entire point. If your goal is to discover something new or important then it isnt a hobby, it becomes a vocation unless your paid then it becomes a job.

I dont think anything has a point, absolutely nothing has a point until you have a reason to do it or you give it a point. In my case the point of chemistry as a hobby is to try and understand how something I want to do works. I have an end goal, several end goals. If i was able i would likely goto university, i dont go because i am worried it will kill off what drives me. I worry i wont keep up with a set schedule, i worry i will look stupid and not fit in.

So instead i learn the bits i think i need and the bits i like, so those are my points for doing my hobby my way. I doubt others have the same points, or reasons if we want to be more precise.

point is really another word for reason, what reason do we have for doing chemistry at home, there we have finally reached the real question. But then once you reach that you discover only you can answer your reason, its a personal question with no single answer.


clearly_not_atara - 26-2-2018 at 19:34

Quote: Originally posted by happyfooddance  

I am sure you can only learn it by doing it. So if you spend 16 hours a day at the lab, you will learn a lot. But if you spend 24, I can only imagine you'd learn more.
If you spend 24 hours a day in the lab, you will be too tired to focus and likely to severely hurt yourself. Always be well rested when performing dangerous procedures.

18thTimeLucky - 27-2-2018 at 02:17

May I suggest this thread seems to be a good sticky for Beginnings, anybody who is considering home chemistry can see the opinions of many others on why such a hobby is so wonderful (and useful), hopefully convincing them of this fact or giving them some perspective. Also there is only 2 sticky posts in Beginnings so this would add to the small pile. Just a thought.

(Also just noticed NEMO that you have reached the same number of post as zed even though he was registered 8 years before you! :P )

Ubya - 27-2-2018 at 05:20

it's in my nature to make stuff, i like woodworking, i like gardening, i like drawing, i like making electronic circuits, i like biology, i like raising animals, i like fixing objects, i like building stuff, i really love just turning something into something else. chemistry for me is the best, i can transform things at the atomic level, something that amazes me, starting from something and getting at the end something compleatly different, i feel powerful doing it.
my father doesn't like my hobbies, my apartment is really small (47m^2) and i occupy all the avaliable space with my stuff, and everytime i make something he asks me quite annoyed "what's its purpose now?" well i need it for something else, then he would ask the same question about this new thing, and so on. the purpose of a home lab is in my interest. if you like chemistry, having a home lab is like having a home, you feel yourself in your lab. doing new (or old) experiments occupies my time in a way i find interesting and useful (even if it's not useful for the planets, even if it's just for me).

happyfooddance - 27-2-2018 at 08:27

Quote: Originally posted by clearly_not_atara  
Quote: Originally posted by happyfooddance  

I am sure you can only learn it by doing it. So if you spend 16 hours a day at the lab, you will learn a lot. But if you spend 24, I can only imagine you'd learn more.
If you spend 24 hours a day in the lab, you will be too tired to focus and likely to severely hurt yourself. Always be well rested when performing dangerous procedures.


The point isn't working 24 hours in the lab, it's the fact that if you live in your lab (home lab), the chemistry never leaves you.

Sometimes I'll have a fractional distillation or something refluxing overnight, I might wake up to use the restroom, and I'll go check on it... It is a nice feeling. I think if the lab was across town I would get worried about my projects.

roXefeller - 27-2-2018 at 09:14


Quote:

and everytime i make something he asks me quite annoyed "what's its purpose now?" well i need it for something else, then he would ask the same question about this new thing, and so on



Just tell him that it's finally for meth, it's what he's probably looking to hear. :D

woelen - 27-2-2018 at 12:09

For me, home chemistry is part of a broader endeavor, I would like to call amateur science (or home science). Doing home science at a reasonable level is something I enjoy very much. I always am eager to understand how things work, especially natural processes, but also man-made things. I also like to know about the more extreme things of what nature is capable of. What is extreme? To my opinion it is that which is far away from the common, from the things we take for granted every day. Understanding these extreme things makes me understand the world better. When a certain understanding works for common things and then the same also works for much more borderline or even extreme things, then that is great.

Home chemistry is one of the sciences which is most accessible at the amateur level, even with little resources. Despite all regulations of the last few decades, still a lot of funny and interesting things can be done in home chemistry. Biology and physics also are very interesting, but actually experimenting in these fields of science is more difficult, either due to safety concerns (e.g. working with life things, which could reproduce and spread without control) or due to high cost. Another rewarding subject of home science is mathematics, allowing experiments to be performed by means of computers.

All of this I do without getting money for it. I have a job in ICT (mainly consultancy, but also some software engineering). My science things I do at home. I have complete freedom in what I want to investigate, no need to worry about business cases, profitability, deadlines and that kind of things. There are only two real limits: safety and cost.

As I said, I like to find the borders of understanding. Hence my great interest in obscure chemistry, not usually published in standard text books. I really can be amazed by the wonderful compounds, which can be made from upper right elements in the periodic table (such as SO2Cl2, NOClO4, ONBr, ONCl). The same is true for all those colorful and fascinating transition metal complexes. This kind of chemistry is what I like most, because the specific colors or high reactivities make observations possible without the need of (expensive) equipment.

RawWork - 27-2-2018 at 12:17

Simply said, the purpose of amateur chemistry is freedom which you lack in professional chemistry.

NEMO-Chemistry - 27-2-2018 at 12:52

Quote: Originally posted by 18thTimeLucky?  
May I suggest this thread seems to be a good sticky for Beginnings, anybody who is considering home chemistry can see the opinions of many others on why such a hobby is so wonderful (and useful), hopefully convincing them of this fact or giving them some perspective. Also there is only 2 sticky posts in Beginnings so this would add to the small pile. Just a thought.

(Also just noticed NEMO that you have reached the same number of post as zed even though he was registered 8 years before you! :P )

Its official i am a post whore! lol

AJKOER - 27-2-2018 at 13:57

My current personal view of home chemistry is that, for me, it is a more challenging and advanced practice of the general science of chemistry!

The rationale is based on limitations (and increasingly so) on access to reagents and available equipment for the home chemists in various jurisdictions (or access without being placed on some list). To overcome, this can require more ingenuity and an expanded knowledge base. The latter could involve also experience in such diverse areas, as for example, the chemistry of radicals (including fenton and fenton-like reactions), electrochemical reactions, surface chemistry, photolysis, application of microwaves, sonolysis, physical chemistry, ....

Now, some may feel fine with following recipes with good access to reagents, but I feel it is more rewarding to do the same or more, with less!

This may also be financially rewarding for some as patents can involve simply doing something already done, but in a more timely (or even possibly slower) way at a much lower cost! One way I suspect this can be accomplished is by reading old texts (many available online) which detail a particular preparation and, based on more modern knowledge (like there is an electrochemical aspect to the reaction) improve the process (say by adding a good electrolyte).

One can even ignore the cost considerations if one can, for example, disinfect a large body of water to produce safe drinking water employing available items, when the normal supply chain of reagents, for whatever reason, has been disrupted.
---------------------------------------------------------------

Interestingly, per my comments above, it might be inferred that I am not actually recommending practicing home chemistry for those without a good background in the science. Perhaps, it is like someone who cannot swim going to the beach. It is best not to get into deep water before you can really swim!

[Edited on 27-2-2018 by AJKOER]

NEMO-Chemistry - 27-2-2018 at 16:21

"Interestingly, per my comments above, it might be inferred that I am not actually recommending practicing home chemistry for those without a good background in the science. Perhaps, it is like someone who cannot swim going to the beach. It is best not to get into deep water before you can really swim!"

probably some the best words posted on the forum.

There is a big difference between ambition and ability, confusing the two can kill.

zed - 2-3-2018 at 12:37

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/a_journey_of_a_thousand_miles...

That being said, discretion is the better part of valor. Walk, don't run.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIuIIqbyEIU

[Edited on 2-3-2018 by zed]

WGTR - 12-6-2018 at 11:48

I was thinking about this thread recently.

Everything your mind encounters causes it to adapt in some way. It's like training a muscle. You don't just spot train one area though. If you take care to train properly, then you become an overall strong person. Practicing amateur chemistry is just one more thing that adds to a well-trained mind, especially if your interests fall within the sciences. While you're at it pick up a musical instrument, program some stuff, study some electronics, etc.

It may not seem apparent when you're younger, but a lifetime habit of self-motivation and learning new things can bring you to a point in your 30's or 40's where every new thing you encounter is somewhat related to something you already know. Your mind is used to being curious and is trained to learn, you pick up new concepts rapidly, and can speak intelligently with a variety of people across multiple, but related disciplines.

Spending time at home with a chemistry set is never a waste of time, so long as your mind is engaged. The experience will help train your mind to think a certain way, and will follow you into other areas later in life.

Quote: Originally posted by Reboot  
Having a hobby lab at home also lets you try things that you shouldn't be trying at work/school (since you aren't authorized to use your time and the company's resources that way.)


It's not a black-and-white issue sometimes. If you work in a research facility, they may encourage you to come in after hours to play in the lab. They consider this time spent in the lab to be an investment in both yours and the business' future capabilities. Sometimes they may let you purchase small amounts of chemicals or lab supplies on the company nickel.

[Edited on 6-12-2018 by WGTR]

DrP - 13-6-2018 at 06:12

Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16)  
I think it's a very broad generalization to say that "the experts" disapprove of us.


Of course it is - that just comes across like the guy has a huge chip on his shoulder as usual.

Why would an expert resent an amateur finding something out? It is ridiculous to suggest and I don't believe it's true at all - a MASSIVE generalisation and distortion of reality as zts16 has already said.

SWIM - 13-6-2018 at 07:34

1: It keeps you busy when you're not at the waffle house.
2: It covers up body odors with more exotic scents like isoamylacetate
3: It can expose you to so much pthalate that you won't even need to make your own estrogen to release the woman trapped inside you.
4: It's more interesting and entertaining than asking, "What's the point?" type questions.


Fun Fact: Did you know former Senator Robert J Dole would sometimes call them," Pancakes houses"?
Holy Peter Storemare!


[Edited on 13-6-2018 by SWIM]

Texium (zts16) - 13-6-2018 at 11:15



pancakes house.jpg - 68kB

Magpie - 13-6-2018 at 12:13

I love Peter Stormare. He's a Swede you know, hence his sometimes crude English. Notice he doesn't bother with his seat belt. That's for wimps.

[Edited on 13-6-2018 by Magpie]

MrHomeScientist - 13-6-2018 at 12:22

You know, it's "burgers house" now.

coppercone - 15-6-2018 at 14:59

Really if you work hard you can do unique research in most fields in your house or document stuff that's poorly documented or horded internally by companies or explain stuff that's explained poorly for use of others. Tons of companies are just too paranoid to patent and rather keep internal trade secrets on manufacturing steps or designs etc. If you work on replicating what someone else is doing privately you might discover hidden shit.

It's alot of work, and some shit is just out of reach due to cost and regulation (i.e. studying neutron flux effect on custom alloys is not gonna happen at home unless your Dr. Venture or do some complete mad cunt shit). I can kind of see some nuclear physicsts getting pissed that someone talented is making a reactor at home rather then tackling serious problems (but its kind of short sighted on the professor) that there is a lack of minds in the field for.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the people you describe are kind of like ants where they are trying to force people into putting their effort into research projects described as being collectively good by society. I also get the feeling that they don't like the struggle that comes with doing stuff yourself and not being part of a collective... but that's why you can pay people privately to make stuff like complicated glassware or do custom synthesis to save you time.

Also if you work for a company and you are passionate you will find that its often worth doing it for yourself properly.. rather then designing around profit. I bet you will usually find problems in most places with how things are built and how they can be better.

A problem I ran into though is how many fucking crafts you need to know to do something, like you need to study a buncha HVAC bullshit, corrosion bullshit, electrical power system shit, metrology shit, just to build or even test/maintain a fume hood, whereas in a university you can hyperfocus on one thing and have some kind of established maintenance people take your mind off of doing a buncha maintenance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39qW-Q42QlU :cool:


[Edited on 15-6-2018 by coppercone]

roXefeller - 15-6-2018 at 18:19


Quote:

Really if you work hard you can do unique research in most fields in your house or document stuff that's poorly documented or horded internally by companies or explain stuff that's explained poorly for use of others. Tons of companies are just too paranoid to patent and rather keep internal trade secrets on manufacturing steps or designs etc. If you work on replicating what someone else is doing privately you might discover hidden shit.


It's offensive to generically brand industrial research as hoarding or paranoia. The cost to learn is expensive for anything that isn't already common knowledge. If a company gives away costly research without recovering some or all of the cost they will quickly become an ex-entity. Industrial or national espionage is an existential threat. The USA damaged Britain's position in the textile market during the industrial revolution through espionage. Other nations do it to the USA and others. In the news we hear about violations of intellectual property by the Chinese against many. The outcome might be beneficial for many sometimes but removes the incentive at other times.

The patent system, as I see it in America at least, is basically a giveaway to thieves. The only exception is for those who enforce protection of their own through the courts. But even then it isn't a sure thing to successfully defend a claim.

Texium (zts16) - 15-6-2018 at 20:36

coppercone: if you can write your future posts to contain fewer instances of "shit," that would be much appreciated.

hissingnoise - 29-6-2018 at 03:27

C'mon Tex, that word is so ubiquitous now, it's lost its cachet...



Abromination - 29-7-2018 at 21:06

I noticed this thread and it made me so mad I just had to say something. Cou, your full of bull$#*?
You have so many posts and they are all spam. I don't understand why you haven't been bannes yet. Amateur chemistry is an art. My parents often ask "and what is the point of making methyl salicylate (for example)" and I will respond "and why would an artist create a painting?"
Valuable discoveries have before been made by amateur chemists, and some can even save lives. Who knows, the cure for cancer could be discovered by an amateur chemist.
It is also valuble for people like me who are planning on getting a degree in chemistry.
If you were a real chemist, you would understand these things. The funny thing is I shouldn't even consider myself a real chemist cause hell, I havent even finished high school.
If you understood, you would know it is an art. It is what I wake up too in the morning and go to bed with at night.

MJ101 - 30-7-2018 at 08:45

Cou does bring up some interesting points. And he did say that he was playing "devils' advocate".

Just about every field of technology has been advanced by the work of "amateurs"; people who approach
a field with a love for it, and a burning desire to learn.

Just like most of you here, I too am an Auto-Dydact. I have taught myself electronics engineering and built a nice career for myself (28 years).
Yet I consider myself an "amateur", because I still have the love and the burning desire to learn.

Not everybody has that. And not everyone wants to teach you. If you don't believe that, just go to any Linux forum and ask a n00b question. See what happens.

They will deride and insult you for not reading the F*cking (or Phuqing) Manual.

Why should a chemistry forum be any different?

BTW: That's why I joined this forum. Smart people who are nice and who will tolerate beginner questions.

Who could ask for anything more. :)

@coppercone: There are two expletives, that, when respelled, can be written in corporate memos. :)

Sh*t = Schitt
F*ck = Phuque.

e.g. Production was low and product quality was schitty this week because operator #27 phuqued up the automatic feeder.


Abromination - 30-7-2018 at 10:20

Quote: Originally posted by MJ101  
Cou does bring up some interesting points. And he did say that he was playing "devils' advocate".

Just about every field of technology has been advanced by the work of "amateurs"; people who approach
a field with a love for it, and a burning desire to learn.

Just like most of you here, I too am an Auto-Dydact. I have taught myself electronics engineering and built a nice career for myself (28 years).
Yet I consider myself an "amateur", because I still have the love and the burning desire to learn.

Not everybody has that. And not everyone wants to teach you. If you don't believe that, just go to any Linux forum and ask a n00b question. See what happens.

They will deride and insult you for not reading the F*cking (or Phuqing) Manual.

Why should a chemistry forum be any different?

BTW: That's why I joined this forum. Smart people who are nice and who will tolerate beginner questions.

Who could ask for anything more. :)

@coppercone: There are two expletives, that, when respelled, can be written in corporate memos. :)

Sh*t = Schitt
F*ck = Phuque.

e.g. Production was low and product quality was schitty this week because operator #27 phuqued up the automatic feeder.



Im sorry. My comment was inappropriate and I completely agree with you. After looking at more of Cou's posts, I believe that there is some actual chemistry in there he just has his own sense of humor.

MJ101 - 30-7-2018 at 11:47

@Abromination: No apology necessary. As far as inappropriate goes, you spoke your mind and your heart at the same time. :)

The importance of taking a step back sometimes. Here's a little story which I hope will clarify my point:

A young bull and an older bull were standing on the top of a hill, surveying a herd of cows grazing.

The young bull says to the old bull:
"Hey! Let's run down there and have our way with one of those cows!"

The older bull thought for a moment and said:
"Let's walk down and have our way with all of them.".

:)

solinium - 2-8-2018 at 06:12

Quote: Originally posted by Cou  
I'm playing devil's advocate because I would love the idea of having a home chemistry lab, but before investing the money into it, I want to know about some good reasons to do this.

I'm already in college, going for a chemistry major, which will eventually allow me to one day possibly become a chemistry professor and do research in university labs. This is far more productive than a home chemistry lab, you need expensive equipment to discover new things nowadays. The times of accidentally discovering infrared light at home with just a thermometer and prism are over. So, what's the point of a home chemistry lab if I'm gonna be doing more productive research at university one day? Having a lab is fun, but is that really the only purpose, having fun and piquing my curiosity and nurturing chemistry interest without innovating? Biggest benefit I could imagine from this is that it makes me motivated to continue the chemistry career path towards professor.

I notice that most experienced chemists, such as grad students and chem professors, strongly disapprove of home chemistry. Just look at /r/chemistry on reddit, where all home chemistry posts are downvoted to oblivion and met with responses of "Are you a chemistry student or a nut? Are you trying to kill yourself? Do you realize this looks like a meth lab? I'd be very suspicious." Obviously the experts disapprove of us, so why do this?

[Edited on 23-2-2018 by Cou]
for fun and the intellectual challenge of some synths

AJKOER - 7-8-2018 at 08:46

An interesting aspect of amateur chemistry is that you do not always find what you're seeking or later discover an important application of what you have just observed or created.

For example, in the event of a power outage for a significant period of time, the water supply may no longer be safe. So knowing how to prepare a strong disinfecting mix as simply as acidifying hypochlorite with say CO2 (creating HOCl which is cited as about 100 times stronger than hypochlorite in killing microbes, see http://www.aerosia.com/popup_article.php?link=article_6.htm) and/or working in combination with sunlight acting on ZnO (see my prep thread on CuO at http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=84047#... and use Zinc metal in place of Copper) a photocatalytic salt capable of producing reactive oxygen species in sunlight (see http://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?url=https://www.resear... ), can further favorably interface with hypochlorous acid producing hydroxyl radicals and oxygen/singlet oxygen. The latter knowledge, which is likely more convenient on a large scale as opposed to boiling water, may just turn out to be a lifesaver.

So one should probably not diminish the importance of skills and the ability to make even simple compounds that comes with the practice of amateur home chemistry.

[Edited on 7-8-2018 by AJKOER]