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United States

Submission + - Suppressing the amateur scientist

Fogg writes: According to the Wired article Don't Try This at Home, it has gotten to the point where selling a decent chemistry set in the U.S. is illegal, performing real experiments in high school chemistry class is becoming rare, and selling standard reagents from a website can result in a raid by the feds (as happened to the amateur scientist's dream store United Nuclear).
In the past several years, the CPSC has gone after a variety of online vendors, demanding the companies require customers to prove they have a license to manufacture explosives before they can purchase any chemical associated with making them. Many of these compounds, however, are also highly useful for conducting science experiments. Sulfur, for example, is an ingredient in hydrogen sulfide, an important tool for chemical analysis. Potassium perchlorate and potassium nitrate are widely used in labs as oxidizers.
The CPSC's war on illegal fireworks is one of several forces producing a chilling effect on amateur research in chemistry. National security issues and laws aimed at thwarting the production of crystal meth are threatening to put an end to home laboratories. In schools, rising liability concerns are making teachers wary of allowing students to perform their own experiments. Some educators even speculate that a lack of chem lab experience is contributing to the declining interest in science careers among young people.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

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