I was reading a blog today, when I got a serious shock to the system. I read:
(emphasis is mine)
Kits Today: Wimpified
Compared to their robust ancestors, chemistry sets today are wimpy. They revolve around low-energy reactions and the quiet creation of crystals and polymers. The average set from the mall has no burner to provide a flame, no chemicals that go bang. It’ll let you prepare solutions that change colors or glow like a light stick, but that’s about it for excitement.
Why? It’s common sense to delete highly toxic compounds, and we’re certainly more focused these days on insulating kids from risk.
But mostly it’s fear: of liability, of terrorists, of the neighbors. Overreacting to methamphetamine trafficking, Texas has outlawed the Ehrlenmeyer flask. In August, panicky Massachusetts police ransacked the basement lab of retired chemist Victor Deeb, who was simply fiddling with experiments in his home.
The post concerned making your own chemistry set in this modern age, where the chemistry sets of yore do not appear in stores before Christmas like they did back in the 50's. I got my large, Gilbert set for my November birthday in 1958, just in time for a parental divorce and in time to become familiar with it before entering the halls of high school chemistry lab. After a sulfur smell came from it, my mother banned me to a tiny outbuilding reminiscent of an outhouse in shape, but a trifle larger. I built in a shelf for a lab table, put a lock on it to protect my set, and poured a bag of ready-mix concrete in front of the door to solidify to keep it from getting mired in mud. It was all the way on the back of the property, so it was far away from danger to the house. Since there was no electricity, all the experiments had to be done during light hours. That was probably a good thing.
I replicated almost all the high school lab experiments at home, where I had more time to appreciate them and think about how they worked. But I did not have access to sodium, nor did I want that. I was in rapture over the "spinthariscope" that showed me some evidence of "atomic energy". Woo-hoo! What adventure.
Well, back to the shock of Texas law and the (almost) death of the chemistry set. The Texas Department of Public Safety (state troopers/state police) entered into a memorandum of understanding with higher education folks in the state to prevent glassware of chemistry nature from coming into the hands of the public, some of whom might use it for nefarious and illegal purposes.
Who knew that we would come to the situation of failing our kids by incapacity to provide them with chemistry sets to stimulate their science leanings because of laws to "prevent" folks from creating illegal drugs. Whew. I'll have to think about that for a while.