Episode 11 – Death of the Chemistry Set


This week we talk with Steve Silberman, contributing editor for Wired Magazine. Steve talks to us about the demise of the chemistry set (as related to his article Don’t Try this at Home) and what that might mean for the future of scientific curiosity in our children.

Preview from the Show:
In the last few years, a kind of perfect storm of concerns and legislation has arisen that has had the unintended effect of discouraging amateur chemistry.

Kids really want to fall in love with science. And I know how much the teachers really want to communicate their own enthusiasm about science to their kids. But with fears of liability, and these restrictive laws, and just a kind of general paranoia, instead what’s being transmitted to kids is some kind of combination of boredom and fear.

I would say that one of the reasons that I became a science writer was that I had a well stocked chemistry set when I was in elementary school, that contained many things that I am sure are now illegal.

If we’re cutting off the possibility of future generations of being interested in science – at the same time that the performance of American kids in science starts to go down around 12th grade, the number of science and technology related jobs in the world are going continually up – so we’re creating a gap here where we need people in science and technology, but we’re no longer giving them the access to the things that could help them become interested in the subject.


Direct download: nstalol11.mp3