Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

I believe that children are our future

I only have time for a quick post, as I’m about to run off to a meeting – but I was in a baby gear/toy store yesterday, and I’m sorry to report that the children’s chemistry sets were in the “Science & Magic” section.

That pairing really threw me for a loop – I guess any sufficiently advanced technology really is indistinguishable from magic…


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)


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    Uncle Al said:

    Light a match – that’s science. Demand it inflame a second time – that’s magic. Some would get a second match, some would wait in faith – and demand the first group charitably share during the intervening interval. Then, burn the witches with their own Devil’s wands.

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    Richard P. Grant said:


    But on the plus side, my youngest was trying to decide what she wants for her 8th birthday. I suggested a chemistry set.

    BEAMS all round. Then when we were in a craft shop last night she was whining because there was so much cool stuff, and could she buy this now, and have that for her birthday?

    “I thought you wanted a chemistry set?”

    “Oh Yes!” smiles.

    And yet she wants to be a surgeon when she grows up. I’m keeping this one, she’s special.

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    Revathi Bacsa said:

    Maybe we should be glad that there is still a chemistry set available, magic or otherwise. Is there a physics set or a geology set?

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    Richard P. Grant said:

    Revathi, it turns out that the ‘best’ one we could buy is little more than a glorified microscopy primer. It comes with a microscope (which looks to be the coolest part of the kit) and citric acid, bicarb and pH paper. Sigh.

    I see a great need for proper children’s chemistry sets for discerning parents, like what we had when I were a nipper.

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    Revathi said:

    Dear Richard,

    Tell me more about this chemistry set that you had.

    What experiments could you do with it?

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    Selma Holden Einstein said:

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd of prediction. (from’s_three_laws)

    Weren’t the original chemists called magicians or alchemists?

    So if my 7 year old nephew has a tendency towards magical thinking, why not give him a chemistry set and let him start from the beginning? I suspect that most chemists had similar dreams when were young and become skeptical because their imaginations were squashed by the limitations of scientific thinking.