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Author: Subject: Explaining your chemistry hobby
Belowzero
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The people that know I practise amateur chemistry are often curious what it is I do.

I try to explain that I am interested in doing synthesis of many different substances, making hard to obtain chemicals and being interested in less researched area's.

In practise this is often not enough to satisfy their curiousity and I feel that I fall short explaining.

They often proceed with question like; but what is it you actually try to achive or what is the goal of these products.

My answer is that it is scientific curiousity but this is almost never accepted as an answer, almost as if they think I don't want to tell them.

I am curious how others explain or answer such questions.
And perhaps could shed some light on your own motivation.
arkoma
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There are a bunch of folks I know that fish, and spend serious amounts of money on lures, and tackle, and boats.

I saw a glimmer of realization in one of their eyes when I explained I get every bit as much pleasure out of opening my cabinet and seeing my soxhlet extractor as they do at seeing a new rapala minnow lure in their tackle box.

My quarry is different than a damn fish, but the "actual" return on my spending is every bit as satisfying to me as a damn stringer of fish that cost me 45$a pound when I factor in money spent to yield. "Well, you could just buy that compound", "yeah, you can just go buy fish too"  Quote: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Mark Twain karlos³ International Hazard Posts: 979 Registered: 10-1-2011 Location: yes! Member Is Offline Mood: verrückt & wissenschaftlich Well, those who know I do this are only the inner family and my partner, and of those besides her it is only my old man who really do care and are interested about what it is I am doing exactly. And when I explain it, they hang on every word despite understanding like only every third. But I do love to explain and describe it, using analogues and try to make it easier understood with detailed explainations. I guess they can see then in my eyes why I like to do this so much And everyone else I know and consider my friends are hobby chemists themselves But for the rest of the world, they don't need to know about this, I keep my mouth shut to them. It is too much trouble and can cause real problems, even if I wouldn't make illicit compounds, I would still do it like this. Tsjerk International Hazard Posts: 2290 Registered: 20-4-2005 Location: Netherlands Member Is Offline Mood: Mood You already give the answer in the title of the topic. Just explain it is a hobby, just like fishing or collecting stamps. Fyndium National Hazard Posts: 432 Registered: 12-7-2020 Location: Not in USA Member Is Offline  Quote: Originally posted by Belowzero They often proceed with question like; but what is it you actually try to achive or what is the goal of these products. Sooo much this. I've heard it so many times it makes me question myself what I'm actually trying to do. I've tried to figure out analogues, like already mentioned stamp collecting, fishing, some people make miniature steam engines, and so on. I have ended up replying that it's a a hobby, and it means something you want to challenge yourself to be better at. The feeling of success for being able to synthesize, extract, purify and handle different substances, and the process and equipment itself. You can't buy that with money. Like said, you can just buy fish, but fishing is a hobby and you really don't need that$45 thousand aluminum boat, two dozen fishing reels and countless lures, fishing nets, etc. But it's the experience.

For any drug or bomb accusations I just reply that you don't need expensive specialized glassware for that - for profit they make them in buckets and kettles which are cheap and available without suspicion.
Belowzero
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 Quote: Originally posted by karlos³ But for the rest of the world, they don't need to know about this, I keep my mouth shut to them. It is too much trouble and can cause real problems, even if I wouldn't make illicit compounds, I would still do it like this.

I didnt have an actual lab for quite a few years and this was my approach last time I did, now I am more open about it.

Still there is something to be said for what you mention, I sometimes fear that people will misunderstand or even weaponize this knowledge in the form of extortion.

For the rest yeah perhaps that is the best explaination, it being just a hobby with no particulair end-goal, same as fishing not having an end-goal.
It's just a little more exotic than fishing
arkoma
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I like it a lot more than fishing.

 Quote: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Mark Twain

symboom
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It could be explained like a video game like easy synthesis chloroform to medium synthesis hydrazine sulfate or sodium azide to very difficult synthesis like octonitrocubane

Objective of the game obtain laboratory reagents
Lvl 1 making magnesium carbonate
Lvl 2 making copper metal from it's sulfate
Lvl 3 making potassium chlorate
Lvl 4 making ammonium hydroxide
Lvl 5 making hydrochloric acid
Lvl 6 making sulfuric acid
Lvl 7 making nitric acid
Lvl 8 nitration of cellulose
Lvl 9 making hydrazine
Lvl 10 making sodium metal
.....and so on
Lvl 100 synthesis of octonitrocubane

Explained like it's a game to see how far ones skills have progressed might make it more understanding for others.

Chemistry video Storage https://www.mediafire.com/folder/kbll6gz9bdb4q/Videos
Project Oxone-->CH2O/Cl2/ClO2/Br2/I2 Hydrogen Peroxide /LiH
mackolol
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I do it the same as you have described, just tell that I'm interested in it and like to discover chemistry.

To my parents, I tell them that I'm actually learning and practising some generally useful specific reactions such as reduction, alkylation and so on and that these reactions' skills will be desired when I will work as a chemist somewhere

And when people ask but why, what do these compounds really do? I just show them some luminol or triboluminescent complexes, or just some quick basic experiment such as HCl and NH3 clouds. This is usually enough for them.
Draeger
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I just try to explain it by also comparing it to other hobbies that are expensive and don't really have a practical use: it's just fun. But then the question arises why one would risk exposing oneself to toxic gasses and other such compounds. Then I can't reply. I guess you can't really explain this hobby 100%, at least when you work with Cl2 or such things.

Collected elements:
Al, Cu, Ga, C (coal), S, Zn

Collected compounds:

Inorganic:
NaOH; NaHCO3; MnCl2; MnCO3; CuSO4; FeSO4; aq. 30-33% HCl; aq. NaClO; aq. 9,5% ammonia; aq. 94-96% H2SO4; aq. 3% H2O2

Organic:
citric acid, sodium acetate, sodium citrate, petroleum
karlos³
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 Quote: Originally posted by Draeger I just try to explain it by also comparing it to other hobbies that are expensive and don't really have a practical use: it's just fun. But then the question arises why one would risk exposing oneself to toxic gasses and other such compounds. Then I can't reply. I guess you can't really explain this hobby 100%, at least when you work with Cl2 or such things.

Just reply with the famous quote of Johann Joachim Becher!
That should be sufficient to explain why one would risk exposition to toxic gasses and other such things

Don't know, you may not know it, so I add it to go sure:

 Quote: “The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king.” ― Johann Joachim Becher

Tsjerk
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When skiing down a mountain you can break your wrist, leg or neck and when riding a bike you can get hit by a car.
Syn the Sizer
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I usually tell people I have been keeping my skills sharp with COVID shutting down the schools. I explain I want to have a foot up on my classmates in the lab and keep my mind active during the down time.

When they ask what I make I explain the basics of Fischer Esterification, and the formation of salts and how I like the great smells and nice colours of the 2. They don't need to know any more than that and that is usually enough to appease most people after the drug jokes end. I even offer to let them see my salts and smell my esters.

I am not too concerned if people have a negative view of me, I didn't get into chemistry to make friends, and if the cops want to investigate, they will see I am not making anything illegal.

Though my neighbour asked me to rock up crack for him since I have the "skills" (not that you need skills for rocking crack) to do that, I told him no, not interested.
I thought to myself if I were to make drugs it wouldn't be rocking up crack, I would make shit like MDA/MDMA or HMA/HMMA, something you could actually enjoy.
unionised
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I have a big, expensive chemistry set.
Swinfi2
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For me it's like some people spend lots of money being a doomsday pepper, they stockpile food, they build a bunker, they make bug-out bags, etc.

Knowledge is power, and if for whatever reason society comes to an abrupt end (and there are many) who will survive? the guy who has a pile of resources, or the chemist who can make soap, concrete, explosives, medical supplies, drugs, fertilizers, the list is endless, you just need some research and practice to take in the parts that matter so it can work first time (after the fall and it's life and death).
symboom
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If some one asks :What's the reason and purpose of doing chemistry

This quote comes to mind -
"The reason anyone would do this (amature chemistry) if they could, would be because they could, which they can't."

- Rick

[Edited on 17-7-2020 by symboom]

[Edited on 17-7-2020 by symboom]
Cou
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It's funny that so many humans, as young kids, think it would be awesome to mix together chemicals like a mad scientist. Then they're 20 years old and complaining about "ughhh ochem" which is actually the epic chemical mixing that they thought science would be like.

outer_limits
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Average people can understand why somebody likes parachuting, downhill, extreme sports. Adrenaline is the thing that many likes.
But they tend to not understand why somebody would risk his health or even life by working with toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic compounds without any special purpose as a hobby chemist.
Even clandestine chemist are more understood because they have at least a clearly defined goal

It's hard even to explain myself why I am doing it, especially when a huge cloud of NO2 was produced. Average people don't find it funny if you ask them if they know how does the lungs edema smell

Herr Haber
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It's a hobby (and you probably have others). People have hobbies to learn, to keep themselves busy, get better at something or several things at once etc.
The one thing this hobby really suffers from is that well... it's a solitary hobby mostly. Not like boating or soccer. And it happens behind closed doors so who knows what you are up to ?

Why do I run several times the same reaction ? Why do you run one more loop today than you did yesterday ? You can probably explain the concept of yield from there.

Most people will understand an analogy with cooking even if they dont cook. They all eat
Tell them about how many cookbooks they have, how many recipes they tried lately. Everybody enjoys trying new food right ?
Then tell them you have the CAS registry and it's 158 million entries, 10-15000 daily additions and in many case the several possible pathways and yields.

I used that one just three weeks ago explaining that I would need several lifetimes even if I was only interested in a fraction of these chemicals. He understood allright.

Give them the DHMO joke ! Let them realize having gallons and gallons of solvent (or a precursor to rocket fuel!) in your bathroom isnt as bad as it sounds. I got a fun short lived relationship with a girl whose face was saying more and more "do you think I'm stupid?!" the more I was talking. I was messing with a few colleagues about hydrogen hydroxide when one who was actually listening did the maths and lifted his finger with a "wait a second" confused look.

Make yourself useful !
I made hand sanitizer during lockdown gave some to neighbours and colleagues at work.
From "potentially dangerous crazy chemist that will set the building on fire" to "usefull weirdo neighbour". The hand sanitizer at work is mixed with amyl acetate. Mine is not. Guess why they like mine more

Tell them about something they can understand. Oh, so your hobby is painting ? Let's talk about colorfull chemistry, pigments.
Oh, you're wearing blue jeans ? Let's talk about the historical importance of that dye in particular or the economic importance of all of them 120 years ago.

Of course, if the idea is to keep yourself busy and possibly making a buck or two start there.
Making money, even pennies is something everybody will understand.

The spirit of adventure was upon me. Having nitric acid and copper, I had only to learn what the words 'act upon' meant. - Ira Remsen
karlos³
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 Quote: Originally posted by outer_limits Even clandestine chemist are more understood because they have at least a clearly defined goal

I was visiting my parents where my dog resides now(I mentioned her, very old, and an ephedrine user) and together my dad and me made single doses for her, I weighed them, he packed them up...
And we had a funny talk during this, he asked "and how did you made this powder?", pointing to the vial of racephedrine HCl I took the doses out with a spatula, and I explained to him that it was a three step process(from propiophenone), and how its a controlled precursor, but that the initial precursor to the ephedrine is even an illegal drug
He nodded with a proud look on his face and said "wow"

It was much harder around ~15 years ago when I still pretended I do some undefined legal chemistry stuff
They didn't understand back then, but they do now.
Especially my old man does very well.
Just lately I started to supply him with racemic lefetamine capsules for his back pain, and the first evening after he did(again...) too much garden work, he called me apparently a little bit euphoric and told me its good and helpful stuff I send him there

Now they appreciate my hobby even more and see the usefulness and what is driving me in it, and I am happy they understand it now so much better over the last years.

Oh, and what was always a good thing and still is, to make something good smelling for your partner!
Mine loves the smell of piperonal(and oddly, of acetophenone), so I make occasionally somethings with a féw drops of them in it for her

[Edited on 25-7-2020 by karlos³]
arkoma
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If only the "masses" could see that we, mostly, are just curious primates with no malice in our hearts. Fortunately where I live I am just the village eccentric (advantage of living in a town of 200 souls).

And speaking of hand sanitizer, boarded an airliner no prob a month ago with 18 ounces of >90% EtOH. "3-1-1" rule. six three ounce containers, one quart ziploc, one passenger. Had it marked ">90%EtOH sanitizer". Was for my friend out west to use for cannabis tincture...LOL.

*edit* the EtOH was (ahemmm) locally produced

[Edited on 7-25-2020 by arkoma]

 Quote: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Mark Twain

karlos³
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 Quote: Originally posted by arkoma *edit* the EtOH was (ahemmm) locally produced

We are all lovable creatures if the people just get to know us!

I would produce the beta blocker someones gram needed, just out of generousity, I like to help people and to be useful.
macckone
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Mine is a little easier.
I am going through robert thompson's book with my daughter.
Tonight we did elephant toothpaste together.
That isn't actually in the book.
She really wants to learn cool demos and being able to blow stuff up.
outer_limits
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 Quote: Originally posted by karlos³ I explained to him that it was a three step process(from propiophenone), and how its a controlled precursor, but that the initial precursor to the ephedrine is even an illegal drug

Skip the reduction and let the dog have some fun

arkoma
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 Quote: Originally posted by macckone Mine is a little easier. I am going through robert thompson's book with my daughter. Tonight we did elephant toothpaste together. That isn't actually in the book. She really wants to learn cool demos and being able to blow stuff up.

I borrowed that book from the Mineral County, Nevada public library. It's a good one.

 Quote: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Mark Twain

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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Fundamentals » Miscellaneous » Explaining your chemistry hobby Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Responsible Practices   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues   » Detritus   » Test Forum