Top 10 Mad Science-Worthy Chemistry Experiments

Chemistry is a fascinating science, but it's often taught poorly in today's boring schools. Here's how chemistry should be taught: by mad scientists! Here's Neatorama's list of the Top 10 Mad Science-Worthy Chemistry Experiments:

1. Briggs-Rauscher Reaction


[YouTube Clip]

The Briggs-Rauscher reaction is a well known example of oscillating chemical reactions, also known as chemical clocks because the periodicity can be used to tell time. What's going on in the beaker is actually quite a complex set of chemical reactions. Here's how to do it: Link

2. Gummy Bear and Molten Potassium Chlorate

Who'da thunk that Gummy Bear can be so ... violent? Here's what happen if you drop a Gummy Bear (which is mostly sugar), to a tube of molten potassium chlorate:


[YouTube Clip]

3. Diet Coke and Mentos


Mentos in various carbonated liquids. From left to right: carbonated water (Perrier), Classic Coke, Sprite, and Diet Coke. By K. Shimada [Wikipedia]

You've all seen this before. The Diet Coke and Mentos experiment by Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz of EepyBird was the stuff of Internet legend back in 2007. But what exactly happens when you drop a Mentos into a solution of Diet Coke?

MythBusters explain:

According to Hyneman (he's the mustachioed MythBuster), it's a process called "nucleation," in which the particular chemistry of the Mentos candy interacts with the chemistry of the carbonated Diet Coke, causing the carbon dioxide gas, or CO2, to suddenly come out of suspension in the liquid and make a break for freedom. [...]

Hyneman says, "There's a cascade that happens with -- it's a little esoteric -- an ion exchange. Basically the Mentos start to dissolve, and it's like tripping a switch. It's not what you would call a chain reaction, because that's something else in chemistry terms, but it's a cascade whereon all of a sudden, all of the CO2 that was contained in the liquid is suddenly not as attracted to the liquid as it was before, because of this slight change in the chemistry that occurs."

Whatever you do, don't eat a mentos then chug a mouthful of diet soda, mmkay?

4. Elephant Toothpaste


[YouTube Clip]

Yes, even elephants need to maintain good dental hygiene, but what kind of toothpaste do they use? Here's a favorite chemistry demo called Elephant Toothpaste (no, elephants don't actually use this as a toothpaste, silly - it's only called that because it looks like the kind and quantity of toothpaste an elephant would use).

This one's easy to do, all you need is dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, and potassium iodide: Link

5. Grape Plasma

What happens if you put a grape and nuke it in a microwave? You get something very cool ... and dangerous at the same time, because it *will* ruin your microwave, release poisonous gases, and you *can* burn down your house - so don't do it, mmkay? Watch:


[YouTube Clip]

What just happened? Here's the explanation, according to The Plasma Universe:

It is relatively easy to generate a plasmoid using a microwave and a medium that will initiate the formation of a plasmoid, this can be caused by the carbon microparticles in the smoke from a naked flame or match, which ignites and moves about as plasmoids, and some biological cells are known to produce plasma under microwave conditions, such as grapes (electrons try to move through highly resistive grape-skin, and plasmoids may form) This is due to the fact that microwaves, being high frequency electromagnetic radiation in the GHz range, are capable of exciting electrodeless gas discharges in air, similar to the process used in Sulfur lamps.

Got that?

6. Burning Salts

Quick: what color is fire? Orangey red? Obviously you haven't seen alcohol, barium chloride, boron, strontium, calcium, lithium, sodium, copper, and potassium salts set aflame ...


[YouTube Clip]

7. Magnesium in Dry Ice

You've probably heard that fire needs oxygen to burn (indeed, the principle behind CO2 fire extinguisher is to use the heavier carbon dioxide to displace the oxygen needed by the flame).

But does a fire really need oxygen? Not burning magnesium! It'll burn even when encased in dry ice (solid CO2). Note: magnesium shavings are used - not powder, which will explode if you try to set it on fire.


[YouTube Clip]

8. Ferrofluid

Ferrofluid, a colloidal mixture of nanoscale magnetic particles in a solvent, reacts to magnetic field in an awesomely bizarre way. Sachiko Kodama uses ferrofluid to create dynamic sculptures called Morpho Towers:


[YouTube Clip]

9. Mercury Beating Heart


[YouTube Clip]

A drop of mercury in a solution of potassium chromate and sulfuric acid, set so it's almost touching an iron nail, will start to beat like a heart. Journal of Chemical Education explains why: Link

10. The World of Chemistry


[YouTube Clip]

John Farrier posted this back in May, 2009 but it's too good not to post again here. Behold, the World of Chemistry, a video from the Europe Research Commission using a dance party to explain basic chemical reactions.

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Don't miss these other fun science articles from Neatorama:


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Excellent Web site. Chemistry is fascinating, but I did not appreciate it as a student. It depends on the methodology that the teacher uses. It can be also boring!
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@Nihil and Neoncat:

The professors does say Mn, but they're Mg shavings; the University of Minnesota has a nice description of this presentation (the formation of MgO is so stable that it will take oxygen from CO2 to complete the oxidation) - http://www.chem.umn.edu/services/lecturedemo/info/Magnesium_and_dry_ice.html
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