Mad Science Features

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.

How To: DIY Flanagan Neurophone Lets You 'Hear' Sounds Through Your Skin

In 1958, Patrick Flanagan invented the Neurophone, a device patented in 1962 that allows radio signals to be picked up by the human nervous system. The skin is the organ that receives the signal, converting it into a modulated molecular vibration, which the brain interprets into sound. Basically, it gives one the ability to 'hear' through the skin, making it sound like the audio you're hearing is actually in your head. It's kind of like having headphones in your brain. The only problem was th...

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: Discover the Hidden Micro-Monsters in Your Neighborhood Creeks and Ponds

There is a secret world hidden just beneath the surface of every pond, lake, and stream. Those waters are filled with wails of hideous creates murdering other hideous creatures for food and sport. Beautiful animals like dragonflies and damselflies that you see in the light of day start their lives in this sparse spartan hellscape. Luckily, being giant mammals, we can pluck these creatures from the depths and look at all of their cool behaviors! All you need is a pond, net, and curiosity.

How To: Create Practically Anything, Part 2: 3D Models in SketchUp

Creating any object you want is as simple as point and click if you have a 3D printer at home. If you don't have one handy, there are a few companies that offer printing services online. But to help services realize your design in extruded plastic, you have to make a 3D computer model for the printing machine. For beginners, the free Google SketchUp application is the best choice of software. Using only a few tool bar buttons and a scroll wheel computer mouse, you can model literally any obje...

How To: Make Super Fizzy Carbonated Beverages at Home with Dry Ice

Want to make your own soda or maybe just bring a dull one back to life? Homemade sodas don't always live up to the store bought ones because they can taste flat by comparison. This quick and easy method makes super fizzy drinks with only four ingredients. Because putting dry ice in a sealed bottle would effectively turn it into a bomb, you'll need to make a safety valve for the bottle.

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: 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...

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...

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.

How To: Build a Bomb-Defusing Robot Tank for the Revolution

War leaves a lot of stuff behind. Torn families, delegitimized institutions, mass graves, and unexploded ordinances litter the post occupation landscape. Whether or not you have driven the imperialist out, or are still in the phase of armed resistance, you will need the ability to safely diffuse bombs. My bomb defusing Silvia-bot can do it all. She can catch grasshoppers, cut wires, collect samples, tase enemies and even play chess! Materials