Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 90

Thread: The worst experiment you ever conducted

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    169

    The worst experiment you ever conducted

    A lot of people here have a fair bit of scientific background so I thought it could be fun to get the stories. Not sure if this shouldn't be in Off-Topic section so please feel free to move me. Anyway, any scientifically reasonable experiment (the 'placing a drunk friend's hand in a bowl of warm water while they sleep' doesn't count) in any scientific discipline counts.

    Anyway, mine is an optics experiment during my second semester of 1st year college. We were finding the focal length of a concave lens by propping it up to a convex lens of a known radius of curvature and using the Lens Maker's formula. It seem to be grand enough mostly until I did some calculations with the said Lens Maker's formula and got a focal length of more than a kilometer!!! I must admit I found it pretty funny, since imagine trying to find a focal length of this size using the approximate method of focusing distant object on a screen. I could just picture it:"Right, you start running that way with the screen until I look really small!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    The beautiful north coast (Ohio)
    Posts
    38,585
    You mean other than the batch I got mixing in the lab right now?
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

    All moderation in purple - The rules

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    169
    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    You mean other than the batch I got mixing in the lab right now?
    Well, do feel free to share... There's some very funny lab stories (mostly unintentionally funny). That's kinda the appeal of science on at least one level. There's the chance pretty much anything unexpected can happen (look at electron diffraction!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    609
    Milliken oil drop experiment with very (deliberately) crude equipment - sophomore year. My lab partner and I spent a total of about 24 hours in the lab. I forget how far off we were, but it was ludicrous. To our credit, we refused to fudge our data. We just handed in our results and took our lousy grade.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    996
    My 7th grade science teacher would be classified, some would say confined, as a "Mr. Wizard" type.

    He run the greatest experiments
    1. Building hot air balloons, almost burned out the class room.
    2. Showed us what sodium did when it interacted with water, burns holes in charkboard.
    3. Shows what strong acids do to metallic objects, namely a dime, stink up the entire school.

    The one I liked best or worst depending on your point of view was the demonstration the Leyden jar and the circle of victims, I mean friends.

    You know this one right?. The jar is used to hold a high static charge and used to demonstrate electric currents. After the normal display, normal for him anyway, he has the students form a circle and hold hands. One student is told to firmly hold one connector and guess who, gets to complete the circle of victims. It's amazing how fast a circle can become disengaged!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    12,017
    Well, I don't conduct many official experiments.... but I suppose you could count the time me and a few buddies decided to throw everything we could find in the kitchen into the blender (raw eggs, milk, katchup, mayonase, orange juice, etc.... oh, and um samples of every liquor in the cabnet ). None of use died or went blind from it.

    Scientifically speaking we did prove one thing, we were all defenately "under the influence"

  7. #7
    During an experiment that conducted with a group in college (same college as pilgrim) i ruined several 100 gram masses, a hotplate and a styrofoam base for calorimeters.

    The experiment was to create a mirage by shining a laser through a gap between a pan of ice and a hotplate.
    I used the masses to create a gap in between the pan and plate, the masses turned out to be pewter. All of a sudden the pan just sank in to the masses which had melted wrecking both them and the plate (pan was ok though).
    Then we restarted with brass props to replace the pewter ones.
    Shortly afterward we got a smell of cookies in the lab. Turns out the styrofoam base we proped the hotplate up it was also melting and we had been inhaling the fumes for almost an hour ("So Thats why my head and stomach hurts")

    Dispite the many mess ups, the experiment turned out well (unlike the stuff i wrecked)

  8. #8
    Many moons ago, in High School science, the teacher made the mistake of allowing us to come up with our own experiments and carry them out. One boy tried to make a mercury barometer. First, he softened a glass tube to make a J-tube--one of his failed attempts he set down (while still very hot) on the rubber hose connecting to the Bunsen burner, and it burned almost all the way through the tube with gas flowing through it....and got a good yelling at from the teacher. The same hour, he was caught by the teacher trying to pour a beaker of mercury straight, without funnel, into a 1/2-in diameter tube. (And we laugh nowadays when they evacuate a school because someone spills a drop of mercury)

    A small group (unfortunately, including me) was doing the "bell in a bell jar with no air" experiment. We were unable to find the rubber base to the jar that would seal it, so one student brought in a floor tile and a tube of sealant. We used the sealant to glue the tile to the bottom of the jar and left it for the required 24 hours to dry. We did a few vacuum tests to be sure it was truly airtight--it was. Now, to begin the experiment--put the bell in the jar...wait a minute...the jar is sealed up, how do we get the bell in? Darn. Four of us and not one of us thought of that for some reason.

    (so it took another day).

    Another group made a homemade motor (I wasn't in this one because I did that at home already once). Every time they connected it to the power supply (plugged into the wall, 6 volts or so DC output) the fuse in the power supply went out. (Later, it was found that the motor would short twice during each cycle because of misaligned armatures). So, one of them went to Radio Shack and got a higher-amp-rated fuse. Finally, it worked--the motor spun away, and then the power supply started to smoke.....

    That was a memorable week! We learned a lot about how not to do science experiments.

    Todd

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    2,182
    Our teacher filled a balloon with hydrogen, tied a thread to it, lit the thread and let the balloon rise... Blew up a tile of the ceiling.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    878
    At school, randomly adding chemicals to a test tube and heating the mixture over a bunsen burner. Whatever the resulting compound was, it bubbled and turned brown, then shot out of the tube and set fire to the ceiling.

    I 'liberated' an entire roll of magnesium ribbon from the science lab. Several of us went back to school after dark, lit the end of the roll on the tar sealed forecourt and retired to what we thought was a safe distance. When the roll ignited, night turned into day in a spectacular fashion, searing our eyeballs before we ran away, stumbling and tripping as we tried to see past the vivid green after-images in our eyes. The result of all that was an impressive crater in the tar seal and a headmaster apoplectic with rage the next morning.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Posts
    10,433
    Homemade fireworks. Hand mixed fuel, brown packing paper rolled bodies, construction paper warheads with powdered aluminum and magnesium strips. We lit one off that detonated high enough with a substantial enough boom that six Denver city police patrol cars and a chopper came through the neighborhood looking for us.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    10,362
    Thanks to y'all, Bauters, I got interested in the Sun's color. Bought some 3" convex lenses and played with them to figure how I could get, and then recombine, a spectrum. I glued them on magnets to secure them on a vertical plate aimed at the Sun. As I adjusted them, I failed to notice where the focal point was aimed...my pants caught on fire.
    Last edited by George; 2007-Aug-22 at 04:31 AM.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    9,571
    Not such a good story: just cracking hydrocarbons (heating crude oil to separate the different stuff).

    Luckily last period of the day; biked home with tunnel-vision and feeling quite happy.

    The point being: First time I got "high" - and it was at school, effectively "sanctioned" by the schools' dean of science.
    Thank you, members of cosmoquest forum, you are a part of my life I value.

  14. #14
    8th grade AP biology. We had to breed fruit flies. Some were white eyed, and others had vestigial wings. Throughout the semester we had to crossbreed the two types to create a white eyed, vestigial winged offspring.

    Well, my fruit flies freed themselves one night and my experiment was in complete chaos. I was too far behind to start the process over, and on the last day of the project, I looked through the entire colony but no desired offspring were to be found.

    While the teacher left to her office, I discovered that if you get a lighted match just close enough to the wings, the heat shriveled up the wings and looked just like vestigial wings! I and a few of my buddies "produced" what appeared to be successful offspring and made the grade.

    Not one of my prouder monents...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    1,397
    Well, this wasnít exactly an experiment, although I had done very little of it when I tried this. I had been playing around with electroplating at the Chem lab at UW where I was a lab assistant my freshman year. I was really just winging it, without following any written procedures, but rather my newly acquired knowledge of chemistry.

    One of the professors had a Zippo lighter that he had kept as a souvenir from WWII. I remember his name was Twelves. I was engraved with some meaningful sentiment. Anyhow, I offered to replate his precious WWII souvenir lighter, as constant usage had worn off much of the original chrome and exposed the brass underneath.

    Bottom line, I got the electrical connections reversed, and by the time I noticed, I had significantly etched away a great deal of the brass of the lighter case, especially where it was etched. I reversed the electrodes and plated the lighter, although it didnít look very good. In fact, it looked worse than when he gave it to me. Surprisingly he didnít complain, but I have always felt bad about such an irreversible stupid mistake.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    4,806
    does attempting to take the radiator cap off a 78 Chrysler Cordoba immediately after a 40 mile trip count? that cap shot about 30 feet into the air and was propelled by a solid stream of 200 degree coolant all the way up. luckily, i dove out of the way as soon as i realized i shouldn't have turned it that last click.it only took 3 gallons of water to fill it back up.
    lesson learned- the 16 year old me was a little more in tune with the physics involved with heat expansion and pressure.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Northern Utah
    Posts
    5,760
    We had 11 students in our AP chem class. The first lab was something very basic. Boil water. Record the temp on three different thermometers and compare the results. All groups used the same three thermometers. We should have had 9 total readings all around 100C. Not one was even close. one group couldn't even get their water to boil. It was a sad, sad day.

    I one read that if you are driving and the back wheels break traction and the car slides, you steer into the turn, keeping the front wheels pointed where you mean to go. On a motorcycle, you turn away from the skid. This didn't make sense to me based on the high power slick track races I'd seen on TV. I put on my helmet and "Storm Trooper Suit" (plastic body armor worn on dirt bikes), got on my 10 speed, and found an icy hill. My results were inconclusive because I fell so freaking fast I didn't have time to even guess which had more control. After about 4 tries I drove a pedal into the side of my calf and decided it was really stupid. I was about 15.

    Also about 15, my friends and I started talking about ways to launch bottle rockets from the handlebars of the three wheelers we had. This turned to the thought of bigger rockets., possibly with explosive payloads. 15, remember. I came up with a design for a rocket that would explode on impact that used a plastic nosecone, a penny, part of a nail, and a shotgun shell with a triple charge of powder and no shot. What we didn't have was a rocket. Now, to built the detonator we used a drill press and a grinder and some files. To build the rocket we used a card board paper towel roll, a Swiss Army knife, a manila folder and some duct tape. None of the fins were the same size or shape, and they were spaced almost like we meant for there to be 4 of them. We loaded it with a C-6-7 because if that made the rocket go the highest, it must mean they had the most power. After this, we set it up about 40 yards from a big hill and fired it off. It went straight for about 3 feet, then took off to the right and crashed though some bushes. We waited for almost an hour to go look at it. It was our only attempt, though I would really like to see if the detonator would have worked. I had a similar design for an air burst version.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    242
    Well, there was the time my chlorine generator sprang a leak and they wanted to evacuate the school before I picked it up and stuck it outsiide on the window sill. Then there was the time I discovered that bromine was a bit overly aggressive to use for etching aluminum /_-

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    13,423
    Quote Originally Posted by Tog_ View Post
    (snip)

    I one read that if you are driving and the back wheels break traction and the car slides, you steer into the turn, keeping the front wheels pointed where you mean to go. On a motorcycle, you turn away from the skid. This didn't make sense to me based on the high power slick track races I'd seen on TV. (snip)
    .
    You probably know this by now, but those slick track racing bikes turn opposite. That is you turn the handle bars to the left to turn right. The wheel still turns to the right. They do this because on a cycle you have to balance and as fast as they are going on some of those curves they can lean pretty far into the ground. Reversing the handlebars prevents the handlebars from striking the pavement. You have the side that would be out pulled tightly into you.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    169
    Quote Originally Posted by apoc View Post
    During an experiment that conducted with a group in college (same college as pilgrim) i ruined several 100 gram masses, a hotplate and a styrofoam base for calorimeters.

    The experiment was to create a mirage by shining a laser through a gap between a pan of ice and a hotplate.
    I used the masses to create a gap in between the pan and plate, the masses turned out to be pewter. All of a sudden the pan just sank in to the masses which had melted wrecking both them and the plate (pan was ok though).
    Then we restarted with brass props to replace the pewter ones.
    Shortly afterward we got a smell of cookies in the lab. Turns out the styrofoam base we proped the hotplate up it was also melting and we had been inhaling the fumes for almost an hour ("So Thats why my head and stomach hurts")

    Dispite the many mess ups, the experiment turned out well (unlike the stuff i wrecked)
    Hey Adam, good of you to join us. That was a good experiment, I remember that one! At least you had some results, though, unlike Damien and Tom. For anyone else reading this, they were doing the Bernoulli principle in a bottle, trying to compare water draining rates through differently sized nozzles. Think they found their bottle too small and ended up looking for a few gallon on, before findng their motion sensors weren't working. In the end they presented a graph which looked reasonable with a note saying this came from one of the obviously wrong experiments but looked the best so they thought to put it in.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    1,325
    Ha ha good topic.

    It reminds me of a chemistry lesson where we were to test water samples for a variety of properties, such as pH, dry residue, and foam test. The teacher encouraged us to bring in samples of water from around our homes. One rather earnest young student named Benjamin proudly brought with him a small bottle of water taken from a stream running through his garden. At the start of the lesson, while Benjamin was taking a toilet break, we poured his streamwater down the sink and replaced it with a mixture of acetic acid, salt and washing up liquid. I have no idea how we managed to keep our faces straight as he sat with a stopwatch for over ten minutes waiting for the foam to settle.

    clop

  22. #22
    Hey Adam, good of you to join us. That was a good experiment, I remember that one! At least you had some results, though, unlike Damien and Tom. For anyone else reading this, they were doing the Bernoulli principle in a bottle, trying to compare water draining rates through differently sized nozzles. Think they found their bottle too small and ended up looking for a few gallon on, before findng their motion sensors weren't working. In the end they presented a graph which looked reasonable with a note saying this came from one of the obviously wrong experiments but looked the best so they thought to put it in.
    Yea that sucked for them, everything went wrong.

    As for Liberating things for school labs, when i was 16 a friend of mine took 2 flasks of nitric acid from his school labs for us to play with. After we were finished he took them home and hid them under his floor. The flasks had no stoppers so the fumes from the acid spread freely under the floor of his room and burst a water pipe. His parents found the flasks later on when getting the pipes fixed, as well as flask of murcery, a sealed container of oil and sodium, and some cans of lighter fluid. He had the makings of a good bomb under his floor.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    N.E.Ohio
    Posts
    19,000
    How about a baking soda volcano taken to the next level?

    Take an ordinary spray can and pop the top open (you know have a can with a somewhat restricted opening)
    Fill 1/3 with pool chlorine.
    Add 1/3 vineger.
    Run.

    Makes a much more realistic volcano (which means much more dangerous)
    You get smoke, then a violent eruption, then the foaming. All while emitting a dangerous gas. The foam even hardens.

    One problem, no matter what you try to dye it with, it reacts and comes out white anyway.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    169
    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    How about a baking soda volcano taken to the next level?

    Take an ordinary spray can and pop the top open (you know have a can with a somewhat restricted opening)
    Fill 1/3 with pool chlorine.
    Add 1/3 vineger.
    Run.

    Makes a much more realistic volcano (which means much more dangerous)
    You get smoke, then a violent eruption, then the foaming. All while emitting a dangerous gas. The foam even hardens.

    One problem, no matter what you try to dye it with, it reacts and comes out white anyway.
    Monoclastic and pyroclastic flow then?

  25. #25
    Anything that causes hazardous gases to be released usually result in scary running episodes. I once made a serious error when cleaning a toilet.
    Green Gas, Me running, sore eye's not a fun experience by any means

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    169
    Quote Originally Posted by apoc View Post
    Anything that causes hazardous gases to be released usually result in scary running episodes. I once made a serious error when cleaning a toilet.
    Green Gas, Me running, sore eye's not a fun experience by any means
    Sounds like my stepdad painting the enclosed front porch. It started raining so he shut the door leading outside (the only ventillation). After a while he started feeling really great. After a bit longer he stopped feeling so good. In the evening he walked into the sitting room and passed out. Moral of the story, there's a reason why bussiness consultants are no use at DIY!

  27. #27
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    N.E.Ohio
    Posts
    19,000
    Quote Originally Posted by apoc View Post
    Anything that causes hazardous gases to be released usually result in scary running episodes.
    Just try growing up with a non-scientific dad trying to keep up with his scientific/engineer brother. Add in a backyard pool, and you get multiple chlorine gas releases.

    Other story: Dad was told that pre-mixing the chlorine with water helps dissolve it in the pool. They never said to add the chlorine to the water instead of adding the water to the chlorine.
    He proceeded to fill a bucket with chlorine in the basement... Nuff said?

  28. #28
    Other story: Dad was told that pre-mixing the chlorine with water helps dissolve it in the pool. They never said to add the chlorine to the water instead of adding the water to the chlorine.
    He proceeded to fill a bucket with chlorine in the basement... Nuff said?
    ouch.

  29. #29
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    N.E.Ohio
    Posts
    19,000
    Oh yeah... one more piece of pool chlorine advice.

    Don't use concentrated chlorine in one of those floating chlorinator feeder thingys.

    The cap has the capability of reaching a 30 foot altitude.

  30. #30
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1,212
    My worst experiment at work was when I was HALT testing a PanelPC. I was setting up a high temperature test to see how hot I could get the industrial PC and still operate it. I set up a test for 100C, and I was happy because the computer ran fine... until the plastic casing melted and the whole thing collapsed out of the test rig. Ooops...

Similar Threads

  1. The best experiment you ever conducted
    By The_Radiation_Specialist in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 2007-Oct-16, 10:05 PM
  2. Relativity(experiment DFERN and experiment DFERN b)
    By tsolkas in forum Against the Mainstream
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 2006-Jan-27, 02:57 PM
  3. Worst. Astronomy. Ever.
    By Kemal in forum Against the Mainstream
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 2005-Jul-29, 12:29 AM
  4. It Appears the Worst is Over
    By Peace_Rules in forum Astronomy
    Replies: 37
    Last Post: 2003-Nov-17, 11:14 PM
  5. Perhaps the worst of all...
    By The Rat in forum Small Media at Large
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 2001-Nov-19, 11:34 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
here
The forum is sponsored in-part by: