Mad Science Features

How To: Design Your Own Custom Arduino Board Microcontroller

Microcontrollers are great. You can do anything from water your garden to catch wildlife trash diggers in the act—and on the cheap. I prefer to use the Arduino microcontroller because of the large and helpful community built around the website. Though it is my favorite, there are some drawbacks to using an Arduino board in every project. It gets expensive, the board can take up too much space, and the rat's nest of breadboard wires are a pain to repair.

How To: Create a PCB Etchant That Automatically Improves After Each Use

Etching your own circuit boards is tons of fun, but etching requires strong chemicals to dissolve the copper plating on blank circuit boards. The normal ferric chloride solution works well, but can be expensive and leaves permanent stains. Luckily, we can whip up our own etchant at home with everyday chemicals! Better yet, our new etchant will turn an eerie green color rather than the dull brown of ferric chloride.

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...

How To: Stop Bike Thieves Dead in Their Tracks! Make a Magnetically Controlled Bike Alarm

Bikes are a great form of transportation. They use human energy more efficiently than any other machine. You can keep it in your closet or hallway. You can even take it on the train in a pinch. However, this portability is also the bike's biggest draw back. If you own a bike in the city, chances are it will be stolen. Locks barely deter thieves armed with bolt cutters and crowbars. Throw the bike thieves for a loop and make a tilt-sensitive alarm. It will hopefully startle your bike's assaila...

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.

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.

Force Lightning: How to Make a Shocking Cookie Jar Any Sith Lord Would Be Proud Of

There is nothing more annoying than a greedy roommate. It's absolutely infuriating to wake up and find the cookies your mother just made for you gone without a trace. Your favorite drink is empty and the homemade meal you worked so hard on the night before is nowhere to be found. This irked me so much that I made this shocking cookie jar. When a cookie burglar touches the side and the lid of the jar simultaneously, a small electric shock stops them in their tracks.

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...

Red Wine: The Secret to Superconductivity

We've all heard of the power that red wine holds. It can help lower risks of heart disease, boost your brain power, and can even recharge your car battery. But last year, a group of Japanese physicists made headlines when they announced that they could induce superconductivity by soaking metals in red wine. But why red wine?

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.

News: This Levitating Light Bulb Defies Gravity (And Ditches Unsightly Power Cords)

Helping to prove that science is way awesome, an 18-year old electrical engineering student has successfully made a light bulb float. His name is Chris Rieger, and he's been working on his "LevLight" project for about six months now, with pretty amazing results. This feat of ingenuity was accomplished by using magnetic levitation, although that over-simplification masks how considerably difficult this undertaking was.