Mad Science Features

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...

How To: Make Your Very Own Blinding Sunbeam with a Lithium AA Battery

Taking apart batteries is one of those things that every adult you've ever known has warned you against. Today, we break the taboo and dive into a lithium battery. Lithium has some pretty cool properties—it burns instantly in water and glows blindly bright under flame. And with just one AA battery, you can make a blinding light beam inspiring supernatural awe in all dictatorial adults who doubted you.

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.

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.

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...

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: 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

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.

News: Freaking DIY Magma! Syracuse University Creates Recyclable Red-Hot Lava Flows

Believe it or not, it's possible to make your very own lava—if you have a furnace capable of heating up to 1,200 degrees Celsius, that is. Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson started the Syracuse University Lava Project to study basaltic lava and give students a hands-on way (hypothetically, of course) to learn about it. Oh, and they also want to use it for art projects. Sign me up for that class! It all starts with 1.1 billion-year-old basalt gravel, which apparently anyone can buy. They put the gra...

News: Winners of Mad Science's Sugru Contest

Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas in last month's Mad Science contest. The question called for your best idea for using Sugru, a temporarily malleable silicone modeling clay that self cures for a soft-touch permanent bond. It's a marvelous product for at-home quick fixes and for even making some cool DIY bumpers and grips for your electronics. William scoured through all of the comments and chose the two winners he felt best deserved a pack of Sugru.

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...

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 These Sonic Distance Sensors for the Bad Driver in Your Life

Today's fancy cars come with all sorts of options, from power mirrors to working seat belts. Some of us condemned to live in the reality of capitalist recession have no car, or perhaps a very modest one. But your modest car can still have some cutting edge technology wedged into the trunk and dashboard if you know what you want and where to look for parts. Today, we make a parking sensor using a sonic range finder, just like in the vehicles our owners drive!

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...

News: Explosive Polymerization Is Basically Magic

This video is by Adrian McLaughlin, aka plasticraincoat1 on YouTube, who shows us one of the most magnificent examples of explosive polymerization ever. In the video, what appears to be about 1/2 tsp of p-nitroaniline (which is short for para-nitroaniline, which is also referred to as 4-nitroaniline) is treated with a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid, in a ceramic dish, over a Bunsen burner flame.