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Author: Subject: Advice for a 15 year old interested in amateur chemistry?
reaganf
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 11:34
Advice for a 15 year old interested in amateur chemistry?


First of all i'm sorry if this is the wrong forum to ask in. I'm 15 and interested in doing some hobby chemistry, Any experiments that might be good for a beginner to try? Also what would be a good way to introduce the idea of amateur chemistry to my parents? Thanks!


Also i'm sorry if i'm coming off as a kewl, i'm not interested in explosives or anything extremely dangerous.

[Edited on 27-10-2017 by reaganf]
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 12:08


Welcome to Sciencemadness!

Making various copper compounds from copper sulfate is a good intro to inorganic chemistry and various basic lab techniques.

When you have more experience, you could also try doing organic chemistry experiments, like making various artificial fragrances.

To help get your parents on board with this, I would suggest making clear plans for each experiment before actually doing the experiment, and then explaining to your parents what you plan to do and how you plan to stay safe. Keeping a well-organized lab notebook also helps.


[Edited on 10-27-2017 by Metacelsus]




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reaganf
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 12:13


Thanks man! I'll probably try growing copper sulfate crystals first!
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 12:35


Sodium Acetate.

Go to the kitchen, get baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (dilute acetic acid).

Put some vinegar in a glass (200ml would be good) then add baking soda little by little until it does not fizz anymore when you add it.
(if you add too much in one go it will fizz out of the glass and make a mess).

When that is done, filter the liquid with a coffee filter, then boil it down in a pan to about 40ml and then let it cool

You should end up with some crystals of Sodium Acetate the next day, maybe sooner.

If you get that far, you can recrystallise them to get them Pure ...




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 12:57


I think even that would be too advanced, aga. I really have to recommend copper sulfate crystals, reaganf, they are what I started with (I am only 18 and have only been doing home chemistry for a year). Parents can sometimes think 'chemistry=bombs, poisons and general other bad stuff'. But chemistry is vibrant and full of beautiful colour!

As long as you can get this across to your parents, they really begin to enjoy chemistry themselves (like my parents do, they are always asking what amazing things I am doing next). Crystals are great as anybody can appeciate them as long as you have a little patience. Copper sulfate is the obvious choice as the blue is just beautiful and the crystals are very easy to grow and it is very cheap to buy from eBay (£5 for 500 grams). You should be able to find lots of videos on YouTube as well as many articles which show you how to grow them.

Here is one I used and enjoyed:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKCS1DvORug

If you need any help, just reply in this post you have made and I am sure many more will come to the rescue! We all will want to help as we remembered the glorious days of fun when we first considered ourselves amateur chemists.




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"Amateur chemistry does seem like being in a relationship with someone very beautiful and seductive but has expensive taste, farts a lot and doesn't clean up after themselves, but you love them anyway" - a dear friend
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 14:28


You should probably find a place to do this, which is why aga's sodium acetate procedure works well for beginners. The kitchen is a great place to start (it has heating, ventilation, running water, escape route, etc.), but if you use it for cooking, inedible chemicals such as copper sulfate don't belong (and shouldn't be in the kitchen). Having a lab and a kitchen in close proximity to each other is never a good idea.

I don't see why you shouldn't start with sodium acetate; just ignore recrystallization for now and you should be fine. Add the baking soda slowly to the vinegar until fizzing stops, boil it down on the stove, and collect the crystals in the container you boil it down (preferably a metal pot).

I also recommend reading about chemistry. Any chemistry textbook will do, but if you want to get into labs, I highly recommend Robert Thompson's Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments (link to online pdf: https://zookeepersblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/illustrat...). You can also order it online. Even though it doesn't get too much into theory, it's a good introduction to both proper lab skills and experimentation. But only order it if you are ready to commit to amateur chemistry in general.

Good luck and have fun!

(This forum should really have a "new member" thread if they need advice in my opinion. Maybe a sticky in beginnings or something? Or maybe every new member is forwarded to this page? The guidelines could also be linked in this page too. Just an idea)




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 14:31


Quote: Originally posted by reaganf  
.... I'm 15 and interested in doing some hobby chemistry, Any experiments that might be good for a beginner to try? Also what would be a good way to introduce the idea of amateur chemistry to my parents? ...

Personally i think non-toxic Kitchen reagents and edible Adducts are pretty much in the Zone for what the OP asked for, as quoted above, especially regarding the Parents thing.

Copper chemistry is very nice and colourful, then gets toxic, especially to the one-in-30,000 who cannot metabolise it normally.

@reaganf : try the baking soda thing or the copper thing then come back this same thread (that you created) and show us pictures of the results.

Most of us just talk about stuff, and do not do much these days, so seeing some Action would be awesome, maybe shame us into doing more Chemistry ourselves.

[Edited on 27-10-2017 by aga]




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reaganf
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 14:44


Quote:

Personally i think non-toxic Kitchen reagents and edible Adducts are pretty much in the Zone for what the OP asked for, as quoted above, especially regarding the Parents thing.

Copper chemistry is very nice and colourful, then gets toxic, especially to the one-in-30,000 who cannot metabolise it normally.

Eh, i don't mind some toxicity, i'll be careful with it but if i didn't do any chemistry involving toxic stuff there wouldn't be that many interesting things, not gonna mess with strong acids, solvents, or cyanides but copper crystals are probably something i can do, got gloves and goggles at home and a well ventilated room with a cement floor that isn't used that would work great for this stuff.

[Edited on 27-10-2017 by reaganf]
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 14:49


Make sure you don't work with anything that smells bad, or your parents will put an end to your experimentation in short order.



Please remember: "Filtrate" is not a verb.
Write up your lab reports the way your instructor wants them, not the way your ex-instructor wants them.
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 15:04


One moderately easy compound to make is potassium tetraoxalate.

Advantages: safe precursors, no heavy metals, precipitates out of solution, unlike NaOAc where you have to boil it down. KH3C4O8 is soluble at about 2 grams per 100 mL.

Add a solution of oxalic acid to a solution of potassium sulfate and collect the resulting precipitate by filtration or decanting. Discard the filtrate (liquids) by adding baking soda until fizzing ceases, at which point it can be safely discarded into the sewer.

You can calculate the stoichiometry yourself rather easily; the reaction is:

K2SO4 (aq) + 2 H2C2O4 (aq) >> KH3C4O8 (s) + KHSO4 (aq)

Potassium sulfate is a common fertilizer additive IIRC. You can substitute potassium chloride or potassium bicarbonate but do not use potassium nitrate.

If potassium salts are unavailable, disodium monohydrogen phosphate also has a usefully low solubility.




[Edited on 04-20-1969 by clearly_not_atara]
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reaganf
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 15:41


I really appreciate all the support and ideas here, Thanks everybody!
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 15:59


I started hobby chemistry at your age. (I'm still a young guy)

First off, It's great that you're into this! I thoroughly enjoy this hobby, and I hope that you do too.

The main thing is getting your parents on board with this. Going over reactions with them, outlining the dangers, and showing them that you are safe enough is crucial. I was pretty lucky, my parents were cool with it, but yours might be different. Maintaining a journal is very important, as is a list of all the chemicals you have. (Both are also useful when the cops show up.)

One other tip that I have is to talk to your chemistry teacher. Tell them that you are interested, and offer to help clean up after labs, or during inventory. Though it is boring, it is very useful for getting started. My first forays into chemistry, before I even bought any of the equipment, was in cleaning up after school while waiting for the bus. My two chemistry teachers (I changed schools in grade 11) taught me a great deal, even going as far to replicate labs they did for higher grades personally for me.
After some time of gathering their character, tell them you are interested in home chemistry. (If you judge their character to be against that, then don't. But I think most chemistry teachers, in this society, would be happy to help.)
I did that, and ended up on a quite close personal relationship with my later teacher, even going as far as him coming to my lab one day, as well as him gifting me over $200 in glassware and supplies.

I've been gifted by my chemistry teachers Burettes, pipettes, test tubes, vials, beakers, FBF's, thermometers, buchner funnels, fritted funnels, tubing as well as a ton of other supplies.

In this society, teachers are generally overworked and underpayed, so they only get into the job due to a real passion for teaching younger generations. Showing them that you are interested in this topic MIGHT end you up with a starting collection of materials. Or even, a place to do some experiments. (Although the laws of restricted chemicals at high schools is usually pretty dumb.)

Also, although i'm sure you've done this, check out some of the great yt channels out there that brilliantly blend theory and lab, such as NileRed, NurdRage, Doug'sLab, Chemplayer, Cody'slab, Extractions & Ire, Allchemystery, etc. I'm sure other members can recommend others. (A lot of those channels are also members here on SM) If you want to learn a lot of introductions to chemistry, though not go too deep into the theory, CrashCourse has a series of 46 on chemistry.

Good luck!
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 16:41


One popular experiment is to write on paper with lemon juice as invisible ink. Heating the paper with a light bulb causes your message to appear.

I personally would not worry about getting your parents on board unless doing something potentially dangerous or controversial or if you want them to buy stuff for you. If you are growing crystals and mixing vinegar and baking soda, it doesn't really matter if you tell them. On the other hand, if you are distilling drain cleaners and paint strippers, you should run it past them first.



[Edited on 28-10-2017 by JJay]




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 17:08


If I were starting over, I would get a textbook on qualitative inorganic analysis, which answers the question of "what" is in something. The theoretical part of the book will teach much chemistry. The practical part of the book will have many reactions that you can run on a small (meaning cheap and less hazardous) scale, to learn the chemical properties of many chemical substances. At the same time that you are doing these reactions you will learn basic laboratory techniques. Finally you will learn how to systematically analyze a sample to determine what is in it. Analyzing a sample for its contents, especially when you have little or no idea of what is present, is very rewarding. Generally this can all be done with simple glassware, with no need for instrumentation.

Next I would move on to a study of quantitative inorganic analysis, which is the measurement of how much of something is in a sample.


Preparation (synthesis) of inorganic and organic compounds is also very interesting, but often requires a greater knowledge of chemistry and advanced laboratory techniques. And if you know analytical techniques then you are better able to assess the "what" and "how much" of the products you have prepared.
Also there are a lot of books from about 1930 to 1960 that describe how to set up a laboratory and do many simple experiments.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 17:37


Quote: Originally posted by reaganf  
First of all i'm sorry if this is the wrong forum to ask in. I'm 15 and interested in doing some hobby chemistry, Any experiments that might be good for a beginner to try? Also what would be a good way to introduce the idea of amateur chemistry to my parents? Thanks!


Also i'm sorry if i'm coming off as a kewl, i'm not interested in explosives or anything extremely dangerous.

[Edited on 27-10-2017 by reaganf]


Hey, dude! You came to the right place.
I'm glad to see that you're not jumping too far ahead like I did.
I got too far into the crazy stuff and got an unrealistic expectation of what Chemistry would be like. Definitely read up on it, and if you're a more visual learner, watch videos!! Great way to pass the time. I'd suggest these channels: Doug's Lab, Nile Red, Chem Player, The Chemistry Shack, Random Experiments International, Shiva Chemist, NurdRage, FranklyChemistry, John Black Super Chemist, Hegelrast.. so many others, too. Have fun with your Copper Sulfate experiment, if you choose to do that! Be careful, wear gloves, and goggles too.





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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 18:47


Get a Chemistry Text Book!

Nothing is more important than reading material. A forum and YouTube videos can not come close to competing. I would recommend looking though Piratebay for some good chemistry text books but thrift shops often have some books in stock. Reading them will help you understand the smaller concepts that are more important than you might think such as ph and dissociation.

Keep track of what you want to do and what you have done. Keep a lab note book. To do this you can use any note book but I recommend this one:https://www.amazon.com/Scientific-Notebook-Company-Trimmed-Laboratory/dp/0984516328/ref=sr_1_19?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1509158444&a mp;sr=1-19&keywords=lab+notebook&refinements=p_36%3A1000-2000

Always write in pen, cross out mistakes, keep track of what reagents you use, your procedure. The only difference between science and screwing around is writing down what you are doing and the results. Being accurate and careful is a must.

Remember that its always better to spend more money for a good product once, than to have to purchase faulty equipment multiple times. This is important to remember for buying ground glassware. To start I would recommend the following

A cheep hotplate from wallmart
A set of beakers and flasks from 100ml to 500/600ml
Gloves
Evaporating dishes
graduated cylinder 100ml plastic
Lots of jars, bottles, and containers
a pocket scale from amazon or ebay
a large dish for putting beakers in for water/ice baths

Start with the following projects

Copper acetate
copper carbonate
copper sulfate crystals
copper crystals
copper chloride
copper ammonia complexes
iron sulfate
iron chloride
iron oxide
potassium chlorate
ammonium nitrate (Nerd rage had a good video on this)
Zinc plating pennies
Nitric acid (Outside/fumehood)
Chloroform (Outside/fumehood)
concentrating ethyl/isopropyl alcohol
Diethyl ether from starting fluid (Outside/fumehood)
Caffeine extraction
Steam distillation
chromatography of marker dyes
ethyl acetate to sodium acetate
Acetic acid (Outside/fumehood)
Titration (I highly recommend this, you will use it to determine the concentration of the acids/bases you make)
Highlighter extractions
potassium nitrate recrystallization
Bromine water (Outside/fumehood)

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by VSEPR_VOID]

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by VSEPR_VOID]




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 20:01


If you do aga's experiment, add into it a little extra. Grab some Red cabbage, boil some to buggery until you get a red liquid. Cool it down and filter it.

This liquid acts like a PH indicator, test the vinegar in test tube thats got a few drops of the liquid added and do the same with the baking soda. NOTE downt your obs and then do the same with some the product you get from adding the Acetic acid to Sodium Bicarbonate.

Again write it all down.

Growing crystals, if you want to stay in the parent zone for a bit (food safe stuff), then get hold of pure sea salt or aquarium tonic salt, dont use normal table salt. Use that to grow crystals, add a bit of food colour to another set of the same stuff ;).

Getting the parents onside = glassware for Christmas and Birthdays, getting parents upset with bangs and smells at the start ends your adventure pretty quickly.

What country you in?

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by NEMO-Chemistry]
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 20:13


https://www.homesciencetools.com/product/chemistry-equipment...

This was my first glassware purchase. I believe that I was 12 or 13 years of age.

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by VSEPR_VOID]




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 20:30


Welcome to the forum!

As many have said before, I started (being serious about) home-chemistry at about 15. I stopped with the mindless mixing of chemicals and started learning the science behind what I had previously found fun. I'm now 18 and going to a university for a degree in Chemistry. It's fun!

I second the stuff about copper chemistry. Copper(ii) sulfate crystals are great, you can make (basic*) copper(ii) carbonate with baking soda, and then copper(ii) acetate from that with vinegar.

Some quick notes -
Doing chemistry without much equipment is very feasible. It just requires patience. So don't expect immediate results, and you will be rewarded with your efforts. You don't necessarily need a way to heat things right away. You don't necessarily need a way to filter things right away.

You can use cleaned-up jam jars and other glass food containers for beakers, and extra coffee filters with rubber bands on top of your jars to filter things. Don't think badly about your parents if/when they are unreasonable because they don't understand the science behind what you're doing. Just clear your experiments with them, use household items, and be patient with them - I had to wait till I was 16 before they let me buy any strong acids, for example.

Use cooking/eating items only with chemicals that are made to be eaten - potassium hydrogen tartrate (cream of tarter), sodium hydrogen carbonate (baking soda), dilute acetic acid (vinegar), etc.

Ease your parents into your hobby - mine were always dubious, it seemed. But after a few years, they got used to me being 'down in the lab' some wintery Saturday afternoon. Exhaust what you are able to do with the supplies you have. If that means all you can do is make a solution of sodium acetate right now, and can't even cook it down - so be it. You can set it aside and let it crystallize down over a month. If all you can do is make copper(ii) carbonate, so be it. Have fun doing whatever you're able to do, and look forward to when you're able to convince your parents to let you buy a few reagents. I guess my point here is that it's easy to look at what other amateur chemists are doing (perhaps even some at your age) and wish you were able to do those things. But there will always be that. I've begun to learn that with whatever you have, you can usually come up with new experiment ideas to try out. Believe me, it just gets harder when you have more reagents to choose from :)

My parents always respected a book source for an experiment more than online sources, and would often want me to find an experiment in a book to do so they knew I wasn't just making it up and so that it would be safe. If that's what's necessary, your local library should have some books that list experiments with household reagents.

It's so very easy to make chemistry a chore. You *do* have to be diligent, do the math, be safe, and clean up afterwards, but it should be fun and worth it to you, even if an experiment doesn't work. If there ever is a time where this isn't the case, then take a break.

Finally, find some stuff you like to do. I like biological- and food- related chemistry, like extracting lactose or caffeine, or fermentation, purifying reagents from various biological sources like asparagus or lemons, steam distilling cinnamaldehyde from cinnamon, etc.; I like collecting various-colored salts of copper and other metals; and I like crystallizing stuff. Figure out why you like doing home chemistry (those are my reasons), and do it!

Have fun. If you ever need advice or suggestions for what to do next, send me a U2U.
Nathan P1mental




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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 23:55


Have a look at Woelen's website! Everything there, from beginners to more advanced, well explained and including the safety procedures applicable.
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[*] posted on 28-10-2017 at 00:01


Another super-simple experiment to show your parents might be the following:

Get some ink cartridges for fountain pens. Those blue ones.

Next, get some sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and some vinegar or citric acid.

Take a small amount of water (maybe 5 ml) and drip some ink in there. It should be blue.

If you now add some carbonate, it should slowly turn red. This works even better with sodium hydroxide, but be aware of the heat.

You can reverse this by adding an acid, citric acid and vinegar should be very available. It gets blue again. If you used the carbonate it will bubble.

This might be a basic (pun intended) little experiment with household stuff, which doesn't require much equipment or time.




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[*] posted on 28-10-2017 at 01:08


Oh the good old times haha, I started amateur chemistry at 15 as well... never told my parents, they did realize on their own eventually but they never got into wandering what the hell I was doing... except when there were awful smells involved, then they would get very paranoid about it. My mum was very supportive though, bought me a lot of my lab equipment I just could not afford.
I was really into making inorganic nitrates to see which one would burn the best when mixed with sugar… then I tried making some complexes with copper, Tetraamminecopper(II) sulfate and Copper(II) dichloroisocyanurate. Then I got into organics, trying to make some copper aspirinate, acetamide, ethyl iodide, chloroform, iodoform, etc. Also compound extractions like vanillin from vanilla extract, amygdalin from apricot seeds, caffeine from coffee, isolation of aspirin, piracetam, ibuprofen, paracetamol, etc.
So much fun, sad that I don’t have the time I used to back then! Freaking college…
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[*] posted on 28-10-2017 at 01:25


VSEPR_VOID: A great list for beginner chemists, but I have a problem with a few suggestions.

Ammonium nitrate - yes, it's safe and easy to make but it is still an explosive at the end of the day so care must be taken, it's more of an intermediate level project. I guess it can be a beginner project if everything is kept at room temperature, but the next common step (thermal decomposition to N2O) requires a lot more care.

Nitric acid - no matter how you make it, there will always be danger involved hence this is something to do once the basics are covered and there's a proper workspace. I managed to colour a patch of my blue shoe red, destroy a rug, and almost gassed myself through making it which could've easily ended up with my death or at least a week or two of breathing problems

Chloroform - again, working with dangerous reagents, although NaOH isn't too bad as a solid. Breathing in and being intoxicated on the vapour whilst doing chemistry could easily lead to mistakes and spills, something which parents aren't too happy about especially if things get ruined, plus the negative connotations of the compound may dissuade them further.

Diethyl ether - another intoxicating compound, plus there's the risk of explosive peroxide formation if pure and stored for a long period of time. I've been doing amateur chemistry for several years now and still refuse to make it, mainly because of the extreme fire risk.

I know that for the above you mentioned to do it outside or in a fume hood, but I remember when I got stuck into the organic syntheses and on occasion, I would have quite a blasé attitude about mixing stuff together. I once made chloroform from ethanol and calcium hypochlorite, and when the temperature went up so did the vapour. Got out of the garage pretty fast (it had an open bit at the back so ventilation was good), but I did learn my lesson on safety pretty fast after that.

Bromine water - at a low concentration it's fine, I remember doing bond saturation tests quite early on in my school chemistry courses. Albeit, bromine is horrible for your body and I'd recommend this as one to play around with once some experience is gained.
---
One of my first home chemistry experiments was the extraction of salts from ash since we used our fireplace a lot. Potassium and sodium carbonate are the main ones, but there will also be some chlorides, sulphates, and certain calcium/magnesium salts. This is a great way to learn about qualitative testing procedures, since there will be a small range of ions - carbonates are tested with vinegar, chlorides with AgNO3, and sulphates with BaCl2, a positive result being fizzing, and for the latter two, white precipitates. Acquiring these reagents might be an issue though, I know it was at the time for me so I didn't I anything further after crystallisation.

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by LearnedAmateur]




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[*] posted on 28-10-2017 at 03:38


Chemistry is a great subject to learn, because for the other sciences, you typically need to know a lot of advanced math (calculus or statistics) in order to analyze data that you collect. With chemistry, it's much more focused on observation (the fun part!) as opposed to the math (the boring part), not to mention at 15 you probably haven't taken calculus or statistics yet. Most of the chemistry math is just algebra, which you probably already know pretty well.

So remember the scientific method, and use it! Especially if you observe something happening that is different from what you expected. State a hypothesis. Design an experiment to test your hypothesis. Do the experiment and observe the results. Conclude whether or not the results agreed with your hypothesis.




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[*] posted on 28-10-2017 at 04:30


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Khan Academy

If you have an iPhone, go to the App Store, and search for Khan academy

chemistry 1. There are many more of the same series, but if this is all new to you,

then start with the first video. I'm pretty sure the vids are sequenced in much

the same way as a text book is.

Have fun
Be safe
LEARN!

Also, it's important not to do like me and Tetra lol! I did the same thing as tetra,

but I jumped straight into organic chemistry. I knew some chem, but not enough

of the basics. I've learned a lot, but have found that I need to start all over

from the beginning. Oh well, I'm enjoying the learning process anyway.

Sometimes, the "borring" stuff turns out not to be so boring after all.

Hindsight, you know

[Edited on 28-10-2017 by ELRIC]
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