The short version: This is an awesome book.
I've been a fan of Theodore Gray's work in odd science for some time now — his amazing Periodic Table of Elements posters and puzzles are the subject of previous Boing Boing blog posts, and he contributes a monthly column about "chemistry, elements, and blowing things up" for Popular Science . I just received a copy of his beautiful new book, Mad Science, and the richness and eccentricity of its contents are just what I'd expect from him.
This thing is like an anarchist cookbook for happy mutants — page after page of recipes, hazard warnings, beautiful photographs, and quirky personal observations. Want to know how to turn ore into homemade titanium in a flowerpot? Copper-plate your iPod? Craft a "hillbilly hot tub"? Brew ethanol in your bathtub? All here.
The attention to detail will delight "makers" and nerd readers of all ages. I love the little skull and crossbones death-icons on pages where experiments could lead to loss of life.
Gray has a degree in chemistry, but I believe he is an "amateur scientist" in the true and honored meaning of the term. His work fosters the culture of tinkering and experimentation, which, as he says in the introduction, is the true source of all great scientific achievements.
Science is not something practiced only in labs and universities. It's a way of looking at the world and seeing truth and beauty everywhere. It's something you can do whether you are employed as a professional scientist or not. While I have a degree in chemistry from a fine university, I've never worked as a professional chemist. I do these demonstrations in my shop on a rural farmstead a half a mile from the nearest neighbor.