Mad Science Features

News: This DIY Mini Tesla Coil Packs 380,000 Volts of Lightning

At one point in time, Tesla coils were actually used for things like wireless telegraphy and electrotherapy, but as technology advanced, they shifted to a slightly more enjoyable purpose—entertainment. What's even more entertaining than using a Tesla coil? Building your own. One of the best portable Tesla coils out there is this mini acrylic version by Daniel Eindhoven, aka TeslaCommander. It's made almost entirely of acrylic plastic, minus the steel sphere, and copper wire and tubing. When t...

Robot Basics: Using an H Bridge to Move Your Bot Backwards

I love robots. They have the potential to evolve into Asimovian destroyers of the human species, but have only just mastered the art of cleaning my rug. They have an ever increasing cool factor and a growing number of cheap and simple components that let the hobby roboticist reach for the burning miasmas of plasma. But to get to the stars, we need to start with the basics.

10th Time's the Charm: Success and Failures of Making a Jam Jar Jet Engine

I finally got around to trying out this jam jar jet project. The most successful and longest lasting pulse was somehow the only one I did not record. You can imagine how frustrating that probably was, though my tenth and final attempt was nearly as satisfying. But even the failures were fun to watch, especially the blue flame floating, almost dancing, around the jar. I especially liked the small foghorn sound that my first failed attempt produced.

Contest: Potassium Nitrate Crystals

Recreating one of Will's mad science experiments, I made some potassium nitrate crystals. This was definitely the most fun part of my DIY smoke mix. I can't win the contest, but I'm just putting it up here for fun, since I liked the pictures so much.

Glass Cutters Are for Tools: How to Dissolve Glass Using Sodium Hydroxide

Glass is one of the least reactive substances known to chemistry. It is the standard container material for almost all lab chemicals because it's so inert. But there are a couple of substances that have strong reactions with glass. Sodium hydroxide, aka solid drain cleaner or lye, can easily be stored in glass as a solid, but when molten, it reacts violently with glass and can actually dissolve it away! So, the next time you clog up your drains with broken glass beakers and flasks, rest assur...

News: This Real-Life, Working WALL-E Robot Is Absolutely Perfect (And Built Entirely from Scratch)

Want to build your own life-sized, working replica of WALL-E? Be prepared to take on a second job! Mike Senna spent two years perfecting his own version, working 25 hours a week and totaling somewhere around 3,800 hours for the whole project. He had no blueprints to go by, so he spent a lot of time watching the movie over and over to get everything just right. The video below shows some of the construction; skip to about the one minute mark to see WALL-E in action.

DIY Scientists Beware: When NOT to Use Household Chemicals for Your Projects

The only thing better than successfully pulling off a new experiment is doing it with household materials. You get to laugh in conceit as professional scientists everywhere spend all their grant money on the same project you just accomplished with some under-the-sink chemicals! However, there are times when DIY gets dangerous. Some household chemicals are not pure enough to use and some are just pure dangerous. Let's take a look at two problems I have encountered in the course of mad sciencing.

News: Pure Silicone Casting

For those of you who enjoyed the oogoo tutorial we did, this tutorial from instructables shows you how to make molds from 100% silicone gel for casting resin! I wonder if you could also cast other silicone shapes using a silicone mold...

How To: Make Surface-Mount Electronics at Home for Smaller, Cheaper DIY Gadgets

Whenever we make a homemade circuit, we use what are called through-hole components. Any components with long metal leads is a through-hole component. They are great for soldering to, but it's tough to fit enough through-hole resistors and capacitors into a smartphone. To get those last microns, we have surface-mount components for SMDs (surface-mount devices). These are all of those teeny, tiny things you see when you crack open your digital camera or laptop case.

Fire Texting: How to Write Secret Messages with Fire

Writing secret notes with lemon juice was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. All it took was a small flame to lightly scorch the paper and reveal the hidden message. Now that I'm tall and pay bills, lemon ink just isn't exciting enough anymore. Luckily, we can use another kind of invisible ink to write in fire! By using the saltpeter, we can whip up invisible fire ink in no time.

How To: Send Your Secret Spy Messages Wirelessly Through Light with This DIY Laser Audio Transmitter

Looking to transmit some super-secret audio communications to your other spy buddies? A laser is the perfect tool for getting your sounds heard from a small distance—without anyone intercepting them— even if it's just a cover of your favorite pop song. A laser audio transmitter uses light rather than radio waves to transmit sound. This is a much more secure way to send audio communications because the laser is a focused beam of light, whereas radio waves are not controlled, so they can be pic...

The Sweet Smell of Success: DIY Smoke Mix with Sugar and Potassium Nitrate

I finally got around to trying out another one of Will's mad science experiments and found out that this one was actually more satisfying (and less frustrating) than my slightly uncooperative jar jet. There's something very pleasing about making potassium nitrate at home in the kitchen and then watching the transformation from semitransparent liquid to spiky, frozen crystals. That was the best part for me, second only to igniting it with its sugar companion.

News: Potassium Chlorate—How Pyromaniacal Mad Scientists Take Care of Cockroaches and Pesky Gummy Bears

Pyromania is definitely nothing new on WonderHowTo. From flamethrowers and hydrogen fireballs, to flame-making pistons and wine corks, to simply burning steel wool fireworks and DIY smoke mix, we've covered it all. But when pyromaniacal mad scientists feel the need to release some tension in the lab, gummy bears and cockroaches become the victims of euphoric oxidation by way of molten potassium chlorate. A recent video by famous YouTube chemist NurdRage shows one of mankind's most despised cr...