Hey wanna play with radiation and stuff?

"No one can argue with the danger these kinds of toys represented, but it’s hard to deny their influence on the foremost scientific minds when they themselves were just discovering science." - Education News

When I was eight I requested a chemistry set for Christmas. This is curious given that years later I would earn my only D in chemistry but it was a fervent wish and it was granted.

When I got the small robin's-egg blue box I held it for a long time looking at the picture of the Bunsen burner and test tubes on the lid.

Inside in a bed of styrofoam nested brightly-colored chemicals in vials, strips of litmus paper, pincers for holding the tubes over the Bunsen burner and a flint lighter to light it.

There were instructions but it was more fun to just mess around.

The truth is I spent a lot of time simply staring at the chemicals and reading their names. Copper sulfate, copper chloride, potassium permanganate, this to me was a kind of poetry, their blues and greens and purples a visual drug. My favorite experiment was to watch the litmus paper turn from blue to purplish red before my eyes.

Eventually my brothers pillaged the box for any and all combustibles flammables and implements of potential mayhem leaving blanks in the styrofoam. The gaps spoiled the aesthetic of the box in my eyes as a composite object full of mystery and marginal chemist that I was I eventually lost interest in it.

Nonetheless my chemistry set phase must have left an impression...something about the immutable physics of substances and what happens when you heat cool mix dip and combine them.

I often tell my painting students, "Go ahead and try it nothing's going to explode!" I think my subliminal mad chemist kinda wishes it would.

I was being highly scientific in the studio aka kitchen yesterday The science of wiggle