Pharyngula

Another casualty in the War on Drugs: an enthusiastic science student, of the sort that would normally go on to be a scientist, is arrested for having a chemistry lab.

A Canadian college student majoring in chemistry built himself a home lab – and discovered that trying to do science in your own home quickly leads to accusations of drug-making and terrorism.

Lewis Casey, an 18-year-old in Saskatchewan, had built a small chemistry lab in his family’s garage near the university where he studies. Then two weeks ago, police arrived at his home with a search warrant and based on a quick survey of his lab determined that it was a meth lab. They pulled Casey out of the shower to interrogate him, and then arrested him.

A few days later, police admitted that Casey’s chemistry lab wasn’t a meth lab – but they kept him in jail, claiming that he had some of the materials necessary to produce explosives. Friends and neighbors wrote dozens of letters to the court, testifying that Casey was innocent and merely a student who is really enthusiastic about chemistry.

Errm, having the “materials necessary to produce explosives” is an awfully low bar to set. If we’re going to go that route, let’s round up and arrest all the farmers — they’ve got fuel oil and fertilizer in bulk, and are a far more serious danger.

Don’t criminalize reagents. Monitor them, sure, but instead target the products of criminal chemistry. Anything else is going to have lots of false positives and is going to damage science education.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 28, 2008

    I’ve got all the reagents for firebombs in my garage. Empty bottles, gasoline and rags.

    I see the culture of fear put in place by Bush will survive his tenure.

  2. #2 Ted Powell
    December 28, 2008

    By their reasoning, they should also have charged him with rape. (I know, it’s an old one.)

  3. #3 AL Jeremy
    December 28, 2008

    Chances are pretty good that the average person has the materials to make an explosive in the cabinet under their sink.

  4. #4 Joseph
    December 28, 2008

    That sort of thing is just…heartbreaking. I hope he’s exonerated quickly.

  5. #5 Felix
    December 28, 2008

    Hello! Before commenting , I want to greet Prof. PZ Myers, congratulate and thank him for this marvelous blog. I am a frequent reader (as many ), but until now I didn’t comment.

    I think that is a disgrace and an absurdity what happened.Many a student,teacher and schools would have been arrested and shut with that accusation. Moreover, every science college and secondary school would have been shut if that was more than a pathetic attempt to cover an horrible mistake.

    I wonder, sincerely, if it is so hard to distinguish a meth lab from a “regular” chemistry lab?

    As a fellow student, Lewis as all my support.

    Happy New year!

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    December 28, 2008

    They could also make a nasty toxic chloramine gas.

  7. #7 SC, OM
    December 28, 2008

    I’ll bring this up again – no reason.
    Feel free to ignore.

    http://www.caedefensefund.org/index.html

  8. #8 Matt, Sexual Jihadist
    December 28, 2008

    I’ve been really annoyed by this for a while now. I was always enthusiastic about chemistry, but it seemed virtually impossible to attempt home experiments with any and every reagent under a tight watch. Or at least, anything more involved than a baking soda and vinegar reaction. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’ve found ways around some limitations, but I still remember telling my dad about an electrolysis experiment I ran, and being told that I had better take it all apart and get rid of it, because I might get in trouble.

    The sad part is that he might have actually been right.

    Most of the arguments about this go along the lines of “You could hypothetically make something dangerous with your chemicals.”

    Nevermind that it is perfectly legal to buy and own a dangerous device made for nothing but killing things; it’s called a gun, and for some reason, it is very important that we keep these legal and available for anyone with a license(or so I’ve been told by so many people).

  9. #9 mayhempix
    December 28, 2008

    You just can’t trust those future scientists. Odds are they will believe in evolution, and that road leads to (gasp!)… atheism!!

  10. #10 DuckPhup
    December 28, 2008

    Uh-ohhhh… I’m in trouble. I’ve got a bottle of Clorox? on the laundry shelf, and a bottle of iodine in the medicine cabinet, over the bathroom sink.

    They’re coming to take me away ha-ha… hee-hee…

  11. #11 zaardvark
    December 28, 2008

    I have a big bag of flour in the pantry; remember, remember the 5th of November! *lights fuse*

  12. #12 Ted Powell
    December 28, 2008

    From the linked article: “This is a stark example of how scientific curiosity is still regarded with suspicion…”
    As one of the characters (Deacon Mushrat, I believe) said in a Pogo strip some fifty years ago, “It’s these things that we don’t understand that are dangerous!”

  13. #13 Matt, Sexual Jihadist
    December 28, 2008

    SC @ 7

    Wow. I’m giving up on my ideas of growing bacterial cultures now, if that can happen.

  14. #14 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 28, 2008

    You just can’t trust those future scientists. Odds are they will believe in evolution, and that road leads to (gasp!)… atheism!!

    GASP not to mention knowledge and reason!

    WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

  15. #15 David Masten
    December 28, 2008

    How about ending the drug war? It is wasting a lot of taxpayer money, places the incentives to law enforcement counter to peaceful neighborhoods, encourages crime and is not doing anything to decrease the availability of drugs. Radley Balko at theagitator.com has been documenting the abuses and problems with the drug war for a while now.

  16. #16 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 28, 2008

    Would MacGyver now be considered a terrorist primer?

  17. #17 mayhempix
    December 28, 2008

    @SC, OM

    As another Kurtz once famously said, “The horror! The horror!”

  18. #18 Matt, Sexual Jihadist
    December 28, 2008

    and a bottle of iodine in the medicine cabinet

    I’m pretty sure Iodine is regulated quite strictly now in the states because of its use in drug labs….

    As I suspected! You’re a godless, drug addled commie, aren’t you!?

  19. #19 Doug Little
    December 28, 2008

    Your tax dollars at work!

    This is fucked up, I have a low opinion of law enforcement to begin with and then they go and do something like this.

    Where is the parity? might as well go around and arrest everyone with a gun on the premise that they could use it to murder someone.

    Where’s the motive? If they thought he was truly making bombs it seems like a mistake to go and arrest him without any surveillance to see if there are any other individuals involved. Or do they think he is “acting alone”.

    I hope they sue the crap out of the respective police department for being a bunch of fucktards.

  20. #20 zombie00x
    December 28, 2008

    The moron that tipped them off saw chemistry stuff and said, “Oh Lordy… that science is the work of the devil, git’em.” The police agreed.
    It is said that we fear what we do not understand. They can’t comprehend someone doing extra study work outside of skool cuz they ain’t never dun it.

    Similarly, I think the not understanding/fearing link is why mormon’s scare me.

  21. #21 Ross Miles
    December 28, 2008

    Before everyone jumps to a conclusion, from an American publication, read a source article pasted below, mark the hearing date, and remember the complaint originated from a woman who sold fertilizer, where now in Saskatoon it is somewhat colder than Minnesota. Beginning of winter, buying fertilzer, to grow what?

    “Student held on explosives charge released

    Teen mistakenly arrested for meth production allowed home for holidays

    By Lori CoolicanDecember 26, 2008

    A University of Saskatchewan chemistry student accused of making explosives in his parents’ garage was allowed to go home for the holidays after a Christmas Eve bail hearing in provincial court.

    More than 50 friends, relatives and supporters of Lewis Casey packed into a small courtroom Wednesday to hear his lawyer argue against the Crown’s request to hold the 18-year-old in the remand unit at the Saskatoon jail pending the outcome of the case against him.

    Seated in the front row, his mother’s face relaxed into a smile when she heard the judge’s decision.

    “I think it’s been a completely bewildering experience for him. I don’t think he would have ever imagined that he would be in the situation that he is today,” Casey’s defence lawyer, Nick Stooshinoff, told reporters after the hearing.

    “And certainly from the parents’ point of view, I think they’re quite shocked by the whole experience and certainly will do everything they can to ensure we’re not going to have a repeat of anything like this.”

    “Their position is that their son has never engaged in any criminal behaviour or improper conduct, has never been involved in anything remotely connected with threats to the safety of individuals or the public by creating explosive devices or anything of that nature.”

    Casey’s bail conditions include a nightly curfew of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., submitting to searches by police or Environment officers and abstaining from any chemical experiments, except at school under qualified supervision. He is also required to inform the university’s chemistry department of the charge he faces.

    Evidence and arguments presented at bail hearings are banned from publication. Casey is due back in court Jan. 26, when he is expected to enter a plea.

    In addition to the charge of possessing components of explosive devices, police initially charged him with producing methamphetamine. The drug charge was withdrawn a few days later, when police said they had mistaken the lab in the garage of his parents’ home on Ninth Street East for a clandestine drug-making operation.

    Stooshinoff said he doesn’t know precisely what type of explosive devices his client is alleged to have been making.

    “I think that’s really going to be a matter for expert opinion evidence that will be presented at the trial,” he said outside court.

    Casey was at home with his family on the afternoon of Dec. 18 when a group of city police officers came to their door with a search warrant. The first-year university student “was actually in the shower, and was removed from the shower” during the course of the ensuing search, Stooshinoff said in an interview.

    “The parties were all placed into the living room, and questioning commenced.”

    Police apparently obtained the search warrant for the home and garage after “a concern arose with a vender of fertilizer,” Stooshinoff said, adding it does not appear any neighbours or acquaintances had complained to police.

    He said it’s unclear what sort of experiments Casey was conducting in the garage.

    “My client is a very intelligent young man . . . he’s very keen in chemistry, a very curious young person and very capable, very knowledgeable in the area and he was always curious with regard to chemistry, chemical compounds, chemical reactions, that kind of thing,” Stooshinoff said.

    “So from my client’s point of view, it’s completely innocent insofar as he had no intention of creating any explosives or explosive devices. As people probably know, anything in your house can constitute or be used in chemical or explosive devices, including sugar and cleaning compounds, Mr. Clean, bleach, detergents, all those sorts of things.”

    lcoolican@sp.canwest.com
    http://www.thestarphoenix.com/Student+held+explosives+charge+released/1114799/story.html

  22. #22 Seokso
    December 28, 2008

    First they came for the amateur chemists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an amateur chemist. Then they came for the amateur geneticists…

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/genetics/2008-12-26-diy-dna_N.htm

  23. #23 Ted Powell
    December 28, 2008

    Clandestine???
    The linked article links to this one: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/Clandestine+discovered+Thursday+meth+police/1100289/story.html which uses the word “clandestine” four times, twice referring specifically to Casey’s lab, and twice as a more general reference.
    The article presents nothing to suggest that his lab was under a trapdoor in the garage floor, or behind a false wall in the house, or othewise deliberately concealed. Is the reporter intentionally libelling Casey, or does s/he simply think that “clandestine” is a word that goes together with “lab”?

  24. #24 Azkyroth
    December 28, 2008

    Anything else is going to have lots of false positives and is going to damage science education.

    Perfect for creating a general state of ignorance and fear.

  25. #25 Sven DiMilo
    December 28, 2008

    When I was about 13, the kid across the street was making decent quantities of various specialty gunpowders in his basement. You could buy replacement chemicals at the hobby store.

  26. #26 eyesoars
    December 28, 2008

    Sounds like the ‘fully automatic volvo’ notion that somebody mentioned some years back on one of the UUnet groups. In at least one U.S. trial, a prosecutor has tried to prosecute someone for manufacturing fully automatic weapons, based on the idea that having sufficient parts around to allow a master machinist to make a weapon that, with one pull, would fire three or more shots without additional intervention, qualifies one for a multi-year jail sentence for intent to manufacture automatic weapons.

    (It seems to me, and apparently to most machinists, that essentially any random collection of metal parts, plus a full machine shop and a master machinist, would qualify for prosecution under that standard.)

    As for the gasoline, jar, and rags being bomb-making equipment? That is essentially what’s happened in a couple of cases here in the twin cities as fallout from the pre-RNC raids in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Haven’t heard the final results of these; they’re probably still in process.

    What a waste. The Ramsay county sheriff needs a new job. Not in law enforcement.

    /es

  27. #27 eigenvector
    December 28, 2008

    It’s even worse! Any halfwit like me who likes to cook is doing chemistry. Think about it. So, come on, arrest me!

  28. #28 tim gueguen
    December 28, 2008

    Funny to see a Saskatoon story turn up on here of all places.

  29. #29 dorght
    December 28, 2008

    So what are the laws and requirements for doing chem or bio experiments at home? Would I have to sign a waiver to buy supplies? A loyalty oath? Our local public library is full of books with experiments listed in them.
    I find it pathetic that police officers that bearly passed high school get make the judgement to arrest and imprison someone like this.

  30. #30 Cowcakes
    December 28, 2008

    I used to own an orchard so I must be a reformed purveyor of mass destruction, what with the tonnes nitrogen fertilizer and hundreds of litres of diesel I used to store.

    Seriously, are they going to arrest everyone who stocks a kitchen and laundry cupboard, more that enough scope for bomb making there. Add a garage and a garden shed and you must belong to Jamal Islamia or Al Qaeda.

  31. #31 MP2K
    December 28, 2008

    I’ve never been willing to go so far as to build a chemical lab. I own The Anarchist Cookbook and Poor Man’s James Bond, and I have on my computer Steal This Book and a few other survivalist books. As far as the law is concerned that and a chemical lab is sufficient proof for anything. I could be the second gunman on the grassy knoll for all they know.

    Also, I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned that styrofoam + gasoline is effectively napalm (never tried it myself, though).

  32. #32 Matt, Sexual Jihadist
    December 28, 2008

    So what are the laws and requirements for doing chem or bio experiments at home?

    It’s really rather hazy. And the police seem to like it this way. They can come and investigate you if you give them a whiff of a reason. At the same time, it isn’t explicitly illegal, so that people won’t complain of their rights being violated.

    So you could start doing home chemistry experiments, no permit, no problem. But FSM help you if you attract the attention of the authorities.

    On the other hand, in Texas, they are quite clear about how paranoid they are.

    http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/criminal_law_enforcement/narcotics/narcprecursor.htm

    Chemistry laboratory apparatus(Glassware) requires a permit there.

  33. #33 'Tis Himself
    December 28, 2008

    eyesoars #26

    During World War II the British Sten Gun was designed to be made in almost any machine shop. The most basic model had only 47 parts. The plans were smuggled out to various resistance groups in German-occupied countries. One Danish resistance group produced around 200 Sten guns in a bicycle repair shop and over 2,000 Stens were manufactured in occupied Poland. It’s easy for a competent machinist to make automatic weapons.

  34. #34 David Harper
    December 28, 2008

    Wow, the Stupid Gas has drifted north of the 49 parallel.

  35. #35 Patricia, OM
    December 28, 2008

    Oh I feel all dangerous now!

    With all the eggs and chicken shit I have, who knows what I could make if I add Mr. Clean to it. 1984 here we come.

  36. #36 Kay Aull
    December 28, 2008

    SC @7

    Legal defense fund. I’ll pledge $50 right here – anybody got an address?

    Science deserves to be open. If it isn’t, we’re no better than the myths we displaced. Stick up for the amateurs making it happen.

  37. #37 Craig
    December 28, 2008

    Meanwhile, when my friend and I wanted to have a huge 4th of July fireworks extravaganza here in NY, where fireworks are illegal, we ordered them from a catalog whose customer service said “It’s not illegal for us to ship to NY, just illegal for you to have them in NY.”

    Got a call that the shipment was ready, so we drove to the Buffalo International Airport to the Airborne Express shipping terminal, dressed as our usual grubby selves, and proceeded to load the vehicle with huge brown boxes marked “CLASS C EXPLOSIVES” while various bored staffers looked on.

    A whole vehicle load of explosives, and not a peep from any authorities. We had a hell of a 4th.

  38. #38 Rick Miller
    December 28, 2008

    The police in my area tried to accuse my son of making a “bomb”. My son was thinking of doing some electrolysis to see if he could fill a balloon, just like I did when I was his age. It was just a few PVC pipes with nothing but water and air in them, not even glued together.

    So I asked the police, “Who called in the false bomb report?”, and ended up talking to an officer who kept repeating the phrase, “McGiver bomb”. I raised my voice a bit so the fire department guys standing around could hear me and demanded, “How would you recognize a ‘McGiver bomb’? Do you call in a false bomb report every time you see a few pieces of pipe or a 2-liter bottle?” Then I took my son elsewhere so they wouldn’t try accusing him of something else to justify their idiotic panic.

    Once they have accused someone of something, they are determined to make that person look guilty… of something… just so the truth won’t show: the truth that they go around accusing innocent people of ridiculous things all the time.

    Police work is mostly not like CSI. It’s a great career for people who couldn’t make it in science or engineering. Smart kids scare them.

  39. #39 Bad Albert
    December 28, 2008

    How times have changed. When I was young it was common for kids to get chemistry sets for Christmas. Funny you don’t see them anymore.

  40. #40 Nerd of Redhead
    December 28, 2008

    a bottle of iodine

    It doesn’t take much iodine to be over the 50 or 100 g(?) DEA limit for requiring a permit. We had a small amount ~500 g prior to use at work, used primarily to develop TLC plates, but we got rid of it because we would need a DEA license to store and use it. Paranoid nincompoops.

    Now days the idea of a garage chemistry lab is essentially defunct. The guvmnt will catch and prosecute you for either the reagents or the waste.

  41. #41 Matt
    December 28, 2008

    Absolutely amazed. Being a chemist who experimented with chlorine and brake fluid bombs, gunpowder, etc etc, I know that if I hadn’t messed around with some odd (read-illegal) stuff as a kid I would never have gone into chemistry. Its this sort of low level paranoia induced in ignorant, stupid people by the authorities that reduces the level of science understanding in the remainder of the populace. Really bloody annoys me.

    And on a separate note, love the blog. The links almost always give me a laugh.

  42. #42 Noni Mausa
    December 28, 2008

    My dad, as a college student, did electroplating in the barn, and electronics too. He made the console radio in my bedroom, still working fine when I moved out.

    Where I grew up, there were at least 5 junior chem labs in my neighbourhood — that is, on one city block. I didn’t have one because my specialty was critters.

    My ex had such a lab as a kid. Among the other things he made down there was mercury fulminate, which he used for practical jokes. (!) This is probably going a bit far, but he and his family survived the experience.

    As a high school student, a friend of my own age had a particle accelerator in her basement, built from scratch.

    Question: is it more dangerous to

    A) have chem labs in people’s garages, or
    B) make sure all our citizens are too stupid to pound sand?

    I know which I would choose.

    Noni

  43. #43 Rick Miller
    December 28, 2008

    Noni, that’s an excellent point.

    Stupidity is much more dangerous than knowledge.

  44. #44 Levi
    December 28, 2008

    I have a boxcutter, a brand new one with a sharp blade. And a Swiss army knife. These being the materials necessary to go on a stabbing spree, I should just turn myself into the police right now.

    I also have lighters, and a whole bunch of flammable objects, so put me down for potential arson too.

  45. #45 Asuam Inon
    December 28, 2008

    As a high school student, a friend of my own age had a particle accelerator in her basement, built from scratch.

    And then, teh city block was sucked into teh resulting black-hole.

    BEWARE OF TEH LHC!!!

  46. #46 Kate Wall
    December 28, 2008

    Nowdays even owning an erlenmeyer flask or a graduated cyliner is grounds for arrest thanks to the war on meth. I have a friend that has a collection of antique chemistry glassware – he would be arrested if the police ever saw it.

    Unfortunate that the climate of fear in this country has spilled over to people messing around in their garages. How many companies listed on the Dow started that way?

  47. #47 Nerd of Redhead
    December 28, 2008

    to people messing around in their garages. How many companies listed on the Dow started that way?

    The actual number would stagger you, One of the more famous recent examples being Apple Computer.

  48. #48 Jeeves
    December 28, 2008

    Stories like this make me wonder how far the rabbit hole we could go. Not to be pedantic or deconstructionist (okay, maybe) or anything but where does it stop? Anything could be a weapon if you give it thought. Just wait until someone gets bludgeoned with a microwave. Deadly that is! It just sits there, all unassuming. But its big and heavy and if you stick your head in it, bad things happen! Killer microwave, everybody! When they come for our microwaves, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The thing is, I rather like my microwave. What a shame.

  49. #49 Steve LaBonne
    December 28, 2008

    Fuck. So much for the idea of emigrating to Canada when things get too crazy here. Time to start looking for another planet, I guess.

  50. #50 ahmcguffin
    December 28, 2008

    A friend of mine who is retired secret service claimed that if the FBI is claiming they found bomb making equipment it means they found:
    -bleach in any amount
    -a timer or alarm clock of any kind
    -6 feet of “electrical wire”, as in something that plugs into an electrical outlet like lamps.
    That was around 1986. I’m sure the bar has been lowered here in the U.S. since 2001.

  51. #51 abusedbypenguins
    December 28, 2008

    I have this cool heavy duty box that I keep spare electrical parts in labeled “Dupont Explosives” all over it. When I move I’ll have to put a veil over it or the pigs will arrest me and blow it up.

  52. #52 Monado
    December 28, 2008

    It sounds to me as if the police barged in without evidence of actual drug-making, even if they did get a warrant. Goodness knows what they told the judge: we know where there’s a meth lab, probably. Then they found out it was some kid with a chemistry set. When the police make a mistake, their typical reaction is to try to find something else to charge you with, so that you spend all your energy trying to get out of that charge and don’t think of charging them with false arrest. By the time you’ve wriggled out of the second charge, if you ever do, you’re so glad to be away from them that you have no stomach for inquiring whether the first arrest or charge was improper.

    The discrediting of anyone who might challenge them starts with their noting that anyone who objects to what they are doing “appears to be drunk,” even if he or she is a teetotaler, and escalates from there.

  53. #53 JakeS
    December 28, 2008

    How many people are there who look at a bunch of chemistry equipment and think “Oh nos! There is no reason why anyone would have that stuff if they weren’t up to mischief! He must be making drugs and/or bombs!” More than I’d want to know about, probably.

  54. #54 Aquaria
    December 28, 2008

    Just wait until someone gets bludgeoned with a microwave.

    Oh, you can do much more than bludgeon someone with a microwave. If you know how to run the thing with the door open.

    The Serbs used open microwaves to confuse various enemy missiles in both Bosnia and Kosovo. I don’t know what effect it might have on other radar systems.

  55. #55 Peter McKellar
    December 28, 2008

    This is just more of the “dumbing down” being forced on us by governments.

    People, especially students, are so lame today (kudos to readers here for being outspoken). Roll over and do tricks seems to be all we are allowed these days. The recent UN anti-defamation laws are typical. It seems its OK to stone a rape victim to death under sharia law, but to comment on could get you extradited, potentially for execution for blasphemy. This madness is not yet binding on nations but it needs to be reversed post haste. Does anyone know – is that Moon guy running the UN a former Moonie?

    My neighbour (I’m on a farm) loves blowing things up with “ag(ricultural) bombs” – he even attended an evening course to show him how to make them – and ended up with a “powder monkey” certificate. He’s getting a bit old now, but when we first met, the first question he asked was “do you want that stump blown out of your bottom paddock?” :)

    My son was suspended from school (one afternoon only) for selling pipe bombs to his friends. The school was pretty good about it, the main issue was the sale and that his friends were too incompetent to make them themselves (and by inference probably not smart enough to be safe). But this highlights the quandry. If they had removed him from the school they would not have been able to run their LAN. He also ran lunchtime lectures for the teachers in the staffroom so they could learn about the net, PCs etc. sad but true that “qualified” teachers must rely on yr 6 students (and older) to bring them up to speed.

    Thunderstorms are rumbling and I will need to unplug in a sec, but worry for me – I’m about the start teaching microprocessor classes (around the arduino platform) in my local town. This leaves an alarm clock for dead as a triggering device…… I’m screwed :( – I hope oz is still semi-sane but I have my doubts now and then.

    (will view any comments when the storm passes)

  56. #56 Lurkbot
    December 29, 2008

    I am enormously saddened to learn that tincture of iodine is now regulated. The fun we had in 9th grade (43 years ago) making nitrogen triiodide from household ammonia and tincture of iodine, painting it on doorjambs when it was still wet, and watching people’s expressions when the door violently blew back open after they shut it! We didn’t know we were terrorists; we thought we were practical jokers! Oh, no difference, you say? Never mind…..

  57. #57 MattK
    December 29, 2008

    Fuck. So much for the idea of emigrating to Canada when things get too crazy here.

    Well that’s ’cause y’all screwed it up. You exported this crazy big brother war-on-terror/homeland security BS before you came over. It would be like 17th century Spanish colonists complaining that Mexico was overrun with smallpox.

  58. #58 D. C. Sessions
    December 29, 2008

    Water — check.
    Electricity — check.

    Oops!

  59. #59 Milo Johnson
    December 29, 2008

    Damaging science education is a feature, not a bug. If you have a scientifically illiterate populace, you can control them much more easily.

  60. #60 JJR
    December 29, 2008

    Completely OT, but some of the comments made me think of a comment by a older friend of mine who was waxing nostalgic about how back in the day, the average Radio Shack employee was a DIY type of fellow who liked to monkey around with electronics and wires, probably *had* built his own radio once, etc, but today it’s mostly just teenagers who may understand all the latest web application stuff for your cellphone but don’t have a clue about any of the underlying electronics or other hardware…I went into a Radio Shack recently to replace a defunct car-charger for my iPod. I had gotten a really cheap one at Target, but found out on my trip down to Houston from Dallas that it didn’t work; I got a replacement one from Radio Shack, and it works. But an “old school” Radio Shack employee would’ve been able to take the original one apart, find out what was wrong, and with a soldering iron and a little squinting could’ve probably fixed it. Nobody does that anymore, current economics makes it prohibitively expensive to fix anything, just buy a new one…

    The Canadian chemistry student’s case is just a travesty, as is the entire “war on drugs”. I hope the case is dismissed and the cops get sued/punished for wrongful arrest.

  61. #61 donna
    December 29, 2008

    I’ve got bleach and ammonia in my house — shouldn’t I be arrested, too?

    Good grief, this is dumb.

  62. #62 JHS
    December 29, 2008

    Ack. The stupid, it burns.

    Perhaps the cops who arrested him should be arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, since they clearly intended to carry out some heinous massacre with the firearms strapped to their sides. I mean, why would someone have a gun unless they meant to kill as many people as possible? It makes perfect sense.

    /snark

  63. #63 arachnophilia
    December 29, 2008

    …claiming that he had some of the materials necessary to produce explosives.

    of course he did. he probably had some ON him, too, when they arrested him. they did pull him out of the shower after all. with enough soap, you can blow up anything.

  64. #64 gypsytag
    December 29, 2008

    Its all part and parcel of criminalizing knowing too much.
    Welcome 1984, we knew you were coming……

  65. #65 JohnnieCanuck
    December 29, 2008

    Its almost as if Canadian enforcement agencies were envious of the DEA and Homeland Security. They certainly seem to have drunk the War on Terror Koolaid.

    This brings to mind the fools in Ottawa and their over-reaction to an iPod in an airline toilet.

    What bothers me about this is that the Judge at the bail hearing imposed all those conditions. What point? He figured out the guy isn’t a terrorist bomber, or he wouldn’t have let him go. That leaves the possibilities of innocence or practical joking kid. With no allegations of explosives being made, release into parental custody would have been appropriate.

    It’s a wonder they didn’t confiscate the family computers to check for bomb recipes and or kiddie porn.

  66. #66 gypsytag
    December 29, 2008

    what really is criminal is that he’s already being punished and he hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet.

  67. #67 Crudely Wrott
    December 29, 2008

    Cops and prosecutors are frequently stupid when it comes to blowing shit up.

    With a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of cleverness almost anyone can find a way to blow almost anything up.

    Detonations, while not welcomed unannounced, are not inherently threatening to long term human survival. Indeed, some are crucial to our survival. Think mining.

    Before we learned about explosives we spent a long time exploring the usefulness of blunt trauma delivered by hand.

    With that in mind it becomes difficult to see how we can cease, legislate or otherwise declare that we do not, can not and will not unload on each other. At any given moment.

    I propose that this situation embellished as it is with a plethora of ways to blow shit up, is equivalent to the situation that existed when we only had rocks and sticks.

    If the trend continues, expect to be challenged for proposing anything new.

    C’est la vie. So far.

  68. #68 Longtime Lurker
    December 29, 2008

    How soon before the odious Andy Schlafly calls the FBI and tells them that Lenski et al. are running a biological warfare lab?

    I hope Obama has the moxie to drop the whole “War on (Some)Drugs” boondoggle and to get smart about the “War on Terra”.

  69. #69 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    December 29, 2008

    The *war on drugs* is a political lie. It is a war on freedom.

    The problem is not use of drugs, it is abuse of authority and corruption of authority by greed.

    It is a parallel of religion.

    Just think about it for a minute. How could the police set up a “murder sting”?

    Drug enforcement is a sham and a scam.

    A scientific approach to the problem would be to legalize regulate and tax all drugs for 30 years and see how the statistics of murder and mayhem play out.

    It will never happen until the majority of the populace outgrows their childhood fantasies.

    I will be long dead before that occurs.

  70. #70 Crudely Wrott
    December 29, 2008

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye who said:

    I will be long dead before that occurs.

    Me too
    Sad but true
    But that’s what we do
    Taken altogether.

    E Pluribus Unum, somehow.

  71. #71 Vidar
    December 29, 2008

    When you see stories like this one, there can be only one conclusion with respect to the war against terror: the terrorists have already won.

  72. #72 Bob Carroll
    December 29, 2008

    This is so sad. Our not-very-distant ancestors were pioneers and we are wimps. Gilbert chemistry sets? Might as well ask for Acme terrorist kits. That we can still make NI3 and nitrocellulose? Wait til they come for our chlorox, lye, sugar, snd cotton. I expect any day that the Edmund Scientific catalog will be put on the new Index of Forbidden Books.

    Well, I’m a professional chemist, so I still have access to all the goodies we’ve been discussing. But If I got raided would my home analytical balance be confiscated? Not to mention the glassware which we use for decoration!

    I visited an artisan’s shop in New England a few months ago… She had on display a beautifully blown glass condenser, about four feet in length. The evil that that device could be put to boggles the mind.

    Well P. Z., it usually takes a lot of provocation to get me to comment. Keep up the good work. Provoke me some more. Please. I am a daily reader.

    Bob

  73. #73 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    #69

    The *war on drugs* is a political lie. It is a war on freedom.

    Submitted for your astonishment. The war on Meth, which is the evilest of evils on slow heroin days, has very recently made two things ‘contraband’ they are Iodine and Phosphorous.

    Iodine, Phosphorous and water produce Hydriodic acid in a cold reaction.

    Hydriodic acid refluxed with ephedrine yield methamphetamine.

    The United States, in an attempt to halt the manufacture of Meth, have made TWO, count ‘em TWO elements right off the periodic table controlled substances. They are making ELEMENTS illegal.

    Does anybody else think this is a bit weird and frightening.

    I was an atom, and when they came for the molecules I didn’t speak up. And when they came for the elements, there was nothing left to make illegal.

    It’s fucking crazy.

    You can’t even get LYE to clean out drains anymore.

    As fast as they make chemicals illegal, somebody devises a work-around.

    You can make DMT by extracting lawn clippings from certain grasses from the nursery with alcohol, acid base extraction, and whooooosh…

    Terrence McKenna here we go. What’s next? You need a license for sod?

    You can’t stop it, unless you make chemistry illegal, only allowed under gov’t supervision, and that’s what has been going on.

    Asa far as making explosives.

    The hardest thing about chemistry is NOT making an explosive, or a poison gas, those are easy.

    Ammonia and Chlorox make a great household ethnic cleanser.

  74. #74 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    Vidar@71

    there can be only one conclusion with respect to the war against terror: the terrorists have already won.

    The terrorists won long before 9-11, they are elected officials from the late 80’s.

    The drug-war laid the groundwork for the destruction of the constitution, and anti-terrorist.

    Property Seizure:

    You get arrested for suspicion of drug activity, they seize all your property and assets FIRST, then you must defend yourself, with no money, from a jail cell. If you are lucky enough to get acquitted, you must file in court to get your assets back, typically takes a year, if you can borrow the money for a lawyer, otherwise it goes to auction.

    Drug Manufacture:

    You can be convicted of conspiracy to manufacture an illegal drug by developing a unique molecule that is psychoactive. Even though it has never before existed, it is already illegal.

  75. #75 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    Alexander Shulgin says-go for it:

    1 AL-LAD 6-Allyl-N,N-diethyl-NL 2 DBT N,N-Dibutyl-T 3 DET N,N-Diethyl-T 4 DIPT N,N-Diisopropyl-T 5 alpha,O-DMS 5-Methyoxy-alpha-methyl-T 6 DMT N,N-Dimethyl-T 7 2,alpha-DMT 2,alpha-Dimethyl-T 8 alpha,N-DMT alpha,N-Dimethyl-T 9 DPT N,N-Dipropyl-T 10 EIPT N-Ethyl-N-isopropyl-T 11 alpha-ET alpha-Ethyl-T 12 ETH-LAD 6,N,N-Triethyl-NL 13 Harmaline 3,4-Dihydro-7-methoxy-1-methyl-C 14 Harmine 7-Methyoxy-1-methyl-C 15 4-HO-DBT N,N-Dibutyl-4-hydroxy-T 16 4-HO-DET N,N-Diethyl-4-hydroxy-T 17 4-HO-DIPT N,N-Diisopropyl-4-hydroxy-T 18 4-HO-DMT N,N-Dimethyl-4-hydroxy-T 19 5-HO-DMT N,N-Dimethyl-5-hydroxy-T 20 4-HO-DPT N,N-Dipropyl-4-hydroxy-T 21 4-HO-MET N-Ethyl-4-hydroxy-N-methyl-T 22 4-HO-MIPT 4-Hydroxy-N-isopropyl-N-methyl-T 23 4-HO-MPT 4-Hydroxy-N-methyl-N-propyl-T 24 4-HO-pyr-T 4-Hydroxy-N,N-tetramethylene-T 25 Ibogaine A complexly substituted-T 26 LSD N,N-Diethyl-L 27 MBT N-Butyl-N-methyl-T 28 4,5-MDO-DIPT N,N-Diisopropyl-4,5-methylenedioxy-T 29 5,6-MDO-DIPT N,N-Diisopropyl-5,6-methylenedioxy-T 30 4,5-MDO-DMT N,N-Dimethyl-4,5-methylenedioxy-T 31 5,6-MDO-DMT N,N-Dimethyl-5,6-methylenedioxy-T 32 5,6-MDO-MIPT N-Isopropyl-N-methyl-5,6-methylenedioxy-T 33 2-Me-DET N,N-Diethyl-2-methyl-T 34 2-Me-DMT 2,N,N-Trimethyl-T 35 Melatonin N-Acetyl-5-methoxy-T 36 5-MeO-DET N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxy-T 37 5-MeO-DIPT N,N-Diisopropyl-5-methoxy-T 38 5-MeO-DMT 5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyl-T 39 4-MeO-MIPT N-Isopropyl-4-methoxy-N-methyl-T 40 5-MeO-MIPT N-Isopropyl-5-methoxy-N-methyl-T 41 5,6-MeO-MIPT 5,6-Dimethoxy-N-isopropyl-N-methyl-T 42 5-MeO-NMT 5-Methoxy-N-methyl-T 43 5-MeO-pyr-T 5-Methoxy-N,N-tetramethylene-T 44 6-MeO-THH 6-Methoxy-1-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-C 45 5-MeO-TMT 5-Methoxy-2,N,N-trimethyl-T 46 5-MeS-DMT N,N-Dimethyl-5-methylthio-T 47 MIPT N-Isopropyl-N-methyl-T 48 alpha-MT alpha-Methyl-T 49 NET N-Ethyl-T 50 NMT N-Methyl-T 51 PRO-LAD 6-Propyl-NL 52 pyr-T N,N-Tetramethylene-T 53 T Tryptamine 54 Tetrahydroharmine 7-Methoxy-1-methyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-C 55 alpha,N,O-TMS alpha,N-Dimethyl-5-methoxy-T
  76. #76 clinteas
    December 29, 2008

    scooter,

    these links in ur last post are all messed up man…..

    This “the terrorists have already won” argument applies to a lot of things we used to take for granted,take not only chemistry kits,but stuff like air travel and the destinations youve taken off your have-to-see list,take internet censoring/email spying,take posting mohammed cartoons in a newspaper,the list is long….

    I was thinking of going to Bali for a holiday,but no way man,fuck that,only takes one fucktard dreaming of 72 virgins to blow up the cafe youre sitting in.

  77. #77 Matt, Sexual Jihadist
    December 29, 2008

    The problem is not use of drugs, it is abuse of authority …

    Agreed. Though, I don’t really think the people at the top are knowingly screwing everyone else over. It isn’t some conniving bastard who knows his chemistry but just wants to keep the knowledge to himself. Rather, they are just doing what is politically expedient, because they and everyone else in the country were raised on the same bullshit and misinformation.

    As far as I know, a set of (arbitrary) drugs was declared illegal in the past largely due to distaste for the people associated with them, and now everyone is just upholding (or expanding) the status quo.

    If you have a scientifically illiterate populace, you can control them much more easily.

    I’m not sure if I agree with the whole state-conspiracy-of-control thing. While politicians certainly might be cynical enough to do this, I find it much more likely that the people in charge of making the laws are just as incompetent and uninformed about chemistry as the police carrying out the deed. They probably really think that they are winning the war on the EVIL drugs.

  78. #78 Mike
    December 29, 2008

    Heads up, don’t be a victim of identiy theft – Panda Internet Security 2009 is selling for $20 when it usually sells for $80. It will protect you from over 2 million viruses, spyware and rootkits and has a web filter for the kids. This deal is only good until December 31st

    http://www.tinyurl.com/a3cyw6

  79. #79 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    Clinteas:

    these links in ur last post are all messed up man…..

    ACCCH so much for trying to show off in html.

    Here’s the source:
    http://www.erowid.org/culture/characters/shulgin_alexander/

    for the purposes of this thread don’t miss:
    http://www.erowid.org/culture/characters/shulgin_alexander/shulgin_alexander_raid.shtml

    I interviewed him years ago, after the publication of PiHKAL, and the subsequent raid of his property and revocation of his DEA license.

    He’s a character, and the absolute genius of psychoactive chemistry in our time. Hoffman gets all the credit since we live in a time when these subjects are taboo, but Hoffman just stumbled onto LSD, Shulgin discovered hundreds of tasty psychedelics like 2CB, which I got for a wedding present from a chem nerd friend.

    If the species survives militarism and fear of psychological experimentation, Shulgin will be seen as one of the greatest visionary scientists of our time.

    One of the things that used to urk me about Skeptics was their bragging about their clean minds, untouched by drugs which might interfere with almighty logic.

    Then I discovered Pharyngula, where the James Randis and Penn jilletes are not the norm.

    Somebody should tell them that a heroic hit of acid does not put them in danger of experiencing doG.

    Far from it.

    A good hit of acid and an ass kicking sunset will deliver you about as far from doG as you can get.

    -Merry St Stephen and to all a good night

  80. #80 RyRy Cooter
    December 29, 2008

    “[M]aterials necessary to produce explosives”, eh? Let’s see…

    Anyone here have table salt, iodine, and Drain-O in your house? You’re a criminal.

    How about just table salt and a mercury thermometer? Criminal.

    As already mentioned, fertilizer and a car with gas in it? Criminal.

    Take nitroglycerin pills for a heart condition? Criminal.

    Have Windex, platinum jewelery, and solid cooking fuel for camping? Criminal.

    Clorox and rubbing alcohol (or booze, or nail polish remover, or Sterno, or…)? Not explosive, but a chemical weapon, so… Criminal.

    I expect my visit from Homeland Security to detain me for possession of dangerous knowledge will be forthcoming. (Kidding. I hope.)

  81. #81 Robert
    December 29, 2008

    Heh – I’ve still got my dad’s uni chem book. When he was a uni student (early-mid 60s), making LSD and meta-amphetamines were standard chemistry experiments. The whole LSD explosion coincided with a boom in college attendance for a reason.

    In Australia, the sale of various cold medications are monitored as they contain pseudoephridine (sp?) – a precursor for meth. So they make the crooks take a few extra steps in making their drugs, and I have to suffer with a cold medication that doesn’t work as well as it should.

    (Actually, more seriously – crooks were knocking over pharmacies to get pseudophridine-based drugs. So they got classified like morphine as a controlled substance, which means that they get tracked and the chemists have to lock it up extra tight at night)

  82. #82 clinteas
    December 29, 2008

    Robert @ 82,

    people were buying pseudoephedrine-containing cold and flu meds by the truckload from australian pharmacies,and something had to be done about it.

    making LSD and meta-amphetamines were standard chemistry experiments

    Ah,the good ol days…..

  83. #83 Robert
    December 29, 2008

    *sigh* And I remember making gunpowder, flash powder, dynamite and even some low-grade plastic explosive. Explosives are fun.

    Useful, too. Farmers wouldn’t be able to run a modern farm without explosives, and it’s a lot cheaper (and safer!) to whip up a small just-enough batch yourself than buy dynamite from the shop and have to store it.

    Yes, you have to be careful with it, and be responsible. I also had to be careful and responsible with the band saw in shop class. And I remember being told to be careful and responsible when I learnt to shoot pistols. Pretty sure I was told that when I learnt to drive, too. All of which I was doing before 16. (well – I was only _learning_ to drive at 15; couldn’t take my license test until 16)

  84. #84 RyRy Cooter
    December 29, 2008

    Ramen, Scooter. Psychedelic drugs really take dualist nonsense down a notch for me, even. It’s like an extreme version of my favorite disproof of Cartesian dualism: I can get drunk. Psychedelics won’t put “god” or vitalism or energy woo or whatever nonsense into a mind that isn’t looking for them on some level. It can actually be quite fulfilling to contemplate or discuss with an intelligent person in the same state the more conceptual aspects of, say, physics on the more lucid (!=weaker) drugs, LSD being the most well-known example. Er, I would suspect.

    Ah, screw it, who am I kidding. It’s great from time to time. Hell, Francis Crick, the sane half of Crick and Watson, admitted to doing acid while contemplating the structure of DNA.

    Regarding doG… funny story about that. I had a “shared trip” with a less rational (than I, if I may be so arrogant as to claim this) friend on one of the less-lucid psychedelics, during which our trips were very much alike. She thought it was amazing how our minds were linked; I had my mind blown by the extent to which we could communicate and internalize nonverbal queues to mental states without even being aware of it. She saw “God”; I saw Jerry Garcia. Our later descriptions to a third person were effectively indistinguishable in terms of appearance, but the subjective interpretation was radically (well, okay, a little — Jerry was a music god) different due to our different thought patterns. I’ve actually been told by people that it sometimes annoys them how rational and analytical I remain on all sorts of substances, to the point of having the self-awareness to say “I’m not competent to make that decision/judgment in this state” when I’m really not (not gonna deny I’ve done stupid shit on drugs, but I do that sober anyway).

  85. #85 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    pseudo-ephedrine is the d isomer which yields the lesser l-meth. For raging hard-ons, total clarity, deteriorating into total paranoid addiction; one reduces L ephedrine to D Meth.

    It’s not bad if you’re bored, have a cast iron psyche, and somebody to fuck constantly.

    Call your doctor if you can’t kick it after twenty years

  86. #86 The Chemist
    December 29, 2008

    Oh fuck this shit. I keep hearing these stories and it pisses me the hell off! I would have a lab of my own if it weren’t for the fact that I live in an apartment. Rest assured however, the second I have a garage- the car will not be housed in it. Shit, I have a bottle of dilute ammonia, bleach, and acetone in my apartment as well as some very good kitchen knives. When will the cops come for me? For all anyone knows I’m on the verge of stealing someone’s kidney.

    Someone needs to see about having a resolution passed in their respective state senates.

  87. #87 clinteas
    December 29, 2008

    It’s not bad if you’re bored, have a cast iron psyche, and somebody to fuck constantly.

    *headdesk*
    LOL

  88. #88 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    RyRy@81
    Check this out sometime:
    http://acksisofevil.org/audio/inner157.mp3

    I think you’ll enjoy it

  89. #89 Notkieran
    December 29, 2008

    Hey, they should confiscate nails. You know, because terrorists keep making nailbombs?

    And if everyone uses screws instead, then we don’t need hammers any more, and that reduces the number of hammer murders….

    We’ll sweep the screwdriver shankings under the carpet, of course.

  90. #90 RyRy Cooter
    December 29, 2008

    Robert,

    Yeah, I feel sorry for my younger peers and really sorry for kids now. My parents got me a chemistry kit that I’m pretty sure would be illegal now when I was in 3rd grade. Went right out and made some sodium iodate and blew it up (with safety precautions — that was half the fun) in the back yard. Eventually moved on to a little RDX as a personal proof of concept. (Didn’t blow it up, since I didn’t have a detonator and was actually a little scared of it, so I just burned it.) Made napalm and gunpowder a few times as a kid. Played with model rockets a lot, too. Did wonders for my enduring curiosity, I tell ya. That stuff and a little target shooting also taught me to treat things with the healthy fear and respect they are due, something a lot of people seem to be lacking. Of course, I don’t do recreational chemistry anymore — don’t want to go to Gitmo for being too curious.

  91. #91 Samantha Vimes
    December 29, 2008

    I’m pretty sure almost everyone creates a small quantity of explosive every day, in their large intestine.

  92. #92 RyRy Cooter
    December 29, 2008

    The Chemist @87,

    Planning on making phosgene, are we? Criminal.

    Scooter @89,

    Holy shit! Do you know me in real life or something? (Seriously, how else could you point me to something so absolutely perfect?) I’m listening to it right now and it is PURE, 200 PROOF AWESOME!

  93. #93 The Beagle Project
    December 29, 2008

    Quite right too. Home chemistry is how Charles Darwin got started.

    /Fe-e

  94. #94 Noni Mausa
    December 29, 2008

    I forgot to mention, this arrest was in Saskatoon, a city whose police reputation isn’t tiptop anyway. Ah well, we do what we can.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/stonechild/

    Noni

  95. #95 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    I’m sorry but labs should not be constructed willy-nilly in residential areas. The results of an explosion do not bear thinking about. You might dismiss this student’s behaviour as “fooling around” but whether the student knows it, or not, they pose a very real danger to each and every one of us. If the individual is incapable of acting responsibly they should be barred from their respective chemistry department – which all of us subsidize – and their supervisors should be spoken to.

    For all intents and purposes many farmers do not have neighbours.

  96. #96 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    I’m sorry but labs should not be constructed willy-nilly in residential areas.

    You always provide a laugh petey

  97. #97 Simba
    December 29, 2008

    Pete Rooke- There are labs in schools which tend to have greater concentrations of people than residential areas and a lot of teenagers who might be expected to behave irresponsibly around interesting explosives.
    Where can I find (simple) resources on practical chemistry?

  98. #98 Last Hussar
    December 29, 2008

    I’m curious- What do farmers need explosives for? I played on farms as a kid, and while they had lots of chemicals (in plastic sacks- ideal for making forts with) never knew any to have/used explosives, shotguns for vermin, but not explosives. (I know they wouldn’t have been in the barns, but I’m sure Julian would have said if his dad had any.)

    Fertiliser bombs. All that needs to be done is reduce the nitrogen content to below 27% (from the more usual 31-33%) and you can’t make a bomb from it- this is what they done in Ulster to stop the provo’s. In addition you need Det Cord (a form of plastic explosive) to make it actually go boom (well at least thats what the terrorists in Ireland used), as well as the same amount of sugar as fertiliser (and no- I won’t tell you the best sugars to use).

    It’s actually easier to make a fire bomb- I can make one that fits in a cigarette packet (the police taught me, though I’ve never tried it). (It’s just struck me- the move away from filament lightbulbs will make fire bombs harder to build)

    The time device for either (with anti handling trip) can be made from a stereo (a proper one, with seperate speakers), an analogue wrist watch and a (largish) battery.

    How to spot a fertiliser bomb.
    Due to the low explosive power, and therefore the amount needed, these are usually in articulated lorries.

    Telltale 1) Are the ‘seams’ showing excissive corrosion? the Fertiliser/Sugar mix is very corrosive, and good for a max of about a month. The corrosion of the metal will start to show in about a week.

    Telltale 2) Between cab and trailer are 3 hydralic hoses- often red, yellow and blue. IF THERE IS A FOURTH/WHITE ONE (especially if not coiled) TELL A POLICEMAN IMMEDIATELY. This is the det cord- the timer will be in the cab, possibly hidden under a newspaper.

  99. #99 DiscoveredJoys
    December 29, 2008

    …and the greatest commandment of all is:

    Thou shall not make a Cop look stupid, for thy Cop is a zealous Cop and will persecute thee for the rest of your days.

  100. #100 craig
    December 29, 2008

    “I have a boxcutter, a brand new one with a sharp blade.”

    Boxcutters took down the world trade center.

  101. #101 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    @ Simba

    Good question – I don’t claim to have all the answers but I would hope that school labs would not tend to harbour explosive materials.

    I personally would not advocate any practical work for the sciences at high school level. Theory work – book learning – should not be underestimated and comprises far too little of the courses, as well as being far more cost effective for the taxpayer.

    At degree level – sparingly – practical work is obviously required to say nothing of postgraduate research. Still, book learning must not be underestimated. A good titre is nothing without the comprehensive understanding of what the aim is and should never be conducted merely to confirm what has been learned.

  102. #102 John C. Randolph
    December 29, 2008

    A bit of sanity, from some former soldiers in the war on drugs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LayaGk0TMDc

    Please support Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

    -jcr

  103. #103 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    Boxcutters took down the world trade center.

    Very true!

  104. #104 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 29, 2008

    I’m sorry but labs should not be constructed willy-nilly in residential areas. The results of an explosion do not bear thinking about. You might dismiss this student’s behaviour as “fooling around” but whether the student knows it, or not, they pose a very real danger to each and every one of us. If the individual is incapable of acting responsibly they should be barred from their respective chemistry department – which all of us subsidize – and their supervisors should be spoken to.

    For all intents and purposes many farmers do not have neighbours.

    Were you drooling when you typed that?

  105. #105 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Practical learning is where it’s at. learn by doing, not reading. Understanding the theory behind it all is good for rationalising experiments, but nothing is quite as stimulating and intellectually fulfilling than doing the experiment yourself.

    I remember burning out the motors at school during physics or lighting a bunsen burner hose on fire during year 7 science. Good times, I wouldn’t substitute that practical experience for anything. Theory is important, but you need that practical side to make sense of things. Science is not a boring subject like history, it’s learning by doing. And having a command of the forces of nature makes it all the more fun.

  106. #106 Marc Abian
    December 29, 2008

    Mike #79

    I will never use a company which is tied to scientology.

  107. #107 John C. Randolph
    December 29, 2008

    Boxcutters took down the world trade center

    Boxcutters, and decades of telling people “just do what the bad man says and you’ll be all right”.

    The thing that bugs me the most about the security theater at airports these days, is that hijacking is no longer possible, now that people know that a plane going down isn’t the worst thing that can happen. The shoe bomber was tackled by the other passengers, and it’s been years now since any perps attempted to take over an airplane.

    -jcr

  108. #108 Feynmaniac
    December 29, 2008

    Pete “disturbing analogies” Rooke

    I personally would not advocate any practical work for the sciences at high school level.

    Pete, this is one of the dumbest things you’ve said and that’s some pretty stiff competition.

  109. #109 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    Thou shall not make a Cop look stupid, for thy Cop is a zealous Cop and will persecute thee for the rest of your days.

    And who will you be calling when that spotty menace next door starts fooling around with the composition of napalm etc.?

    If, as reported, the student had bomb making materials in the lab – as a student he probably (sadly) had access to a vast array at the university on our dime – he should be prosecuted (perhaps sympathetically) under the Patriot Act. If he had more nefarious activities on his mind other than a simple unencumbered curiosity the student should receive a prison sentence (e.g. the discovery of The Anarchist’s Cookbook on the premises).

  110. #110 Kel
    December 29, 2008
    I personally would not advocate any practical work for the sciences at high school level.

    Pete, this is one of the dumbest things you’ve said and that’s some pretty stiff competition.

    Agreed. Pete’s off his rocker if he thinks science shouldn’t include experimentation.

  111. #111 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    Boxcutters, and decades of telling people “just do what the bad man says and you’ll be all right”.

    So true, a falsity the anti-gun brigade continue to perpetuate.

  112. #112 John C. Randolph
    December 29, 2008

    PZ, looks like you’re getting some spammers again. #74 sure doesn’t look kosher.

    -jcr

  113. #113 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    I will never use a company which is tied to scientology.

    A fair point well made.

  114. #114 Evolving Squid
    December 29, 2008

    To be fair, Canada doesn’t really have a “War on Drugs”… Hell, in some spots in Canada you can have a toke and if you’re not being an ass about it nobody is likely to even care.

    No, this incident is far stupider than the war on drugs. It’s “Cops with too much free time” – Saskatchewan is in the land ruled by the RCMP, and the RCMP are their own special brand of crazy… sort of Gestapo meets Bugs Bunny.

    You can bet that this lad will be strung up on trumped up charges because time and time again the RCMP has shown that it’s better to wrongfully arrest and press charges, hopefully resulting in wrongful imprisonment than it is to say “Sorry kid, we overreacted” and let him go.

    In time, at least, he’ll probably get a nice settlement like this guy.

  115. #115 Graculus
    December 29, 2008

    I’m curious- What do farmers need explosives for?

    Stumps.

    A stump puller is more effective, but I don’t think they’ve made them sinse the 1930’s. That is one big ass tractor.. in the top gear (18) it moves around walking pace, but it can pull absolutely anything if you aren’t in a hurry. I knew an old farmer that had inherited one (a Massey Fergusion, IIRC), it was something to behold in action.

    Politely email the Crown prosecutor. He/she is the only one that can drop the charges. The police and the prosecutors aren’t quite as cozy here as they are south of the border, at least in Ontario. The cops may not have been completely forthcoming about the situation.

  116. #116 Evolving Squid
    December 29, 2008

    IF THERE IS A FOURTH/WHITE ONE (especially if not coiled) TELL A POLICEMAN IMMEDIATELY. This is the det cord- the timer will be in the cab, possibly hidden under a newspaper.

    Interesting. In my time with the military engineers, det cord was always, always, always yellow… safety fuse was green, fast-burning instantaneous fuse was brown/orange. The only white on det cord was inside, if you cut it open.

  117. #117 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    Anyone here have table salt, iodine, and Drain-O in your house? You’re a criminal.
    How about just table salt and a mercury thermometer? Criminal.
    As already mentioned, fertilizer and a car with gas in it? Criminal.
    Take nitroglycerin pills for a heart condition? Criminal.
    Have Windex, platinum jewelery, and solid cooking fuel for camping? Criminal.
    Clorox and rubbing alcohol (or booze, or nail polish remover, or Sterno, or…)? Not explosive, but a chemical weapon, so… Criminal.
    I expect my visit from Homeland Security to detain me for possession of dangerous knowledge will be forthcoming. (Kidding. I hope.)

    If you have the expertise to construct such a bomb and the proven inclination to do so then you are probably on a security list somewhere. The problem is not only the raw materials but also the knowledge that is required to rework these components into something deadly – which is one of the reasons why I call for tighter controls on the internet.

    I shudder to think of a teacher who would dispense such information , or a library which would make it readily obtainable .. And yet the Google believe they can just wipe their hands clean and say “not my responsibility”???

  118. #118 Ranson
    December 29, 2008

    Yeah, this stuff drives me nuts, too. I did a lot of, uh, experiments as a kid (fortunately, not all of them exploded), and have the knowledge to do more. It’s hard to share that with my kids now.

    This weird enforcement always gets to me. The case of United Nuclear is a good example. The guy who runs it is a nut, but it’s a great supply house for chemicals, elements, and experiments. Hell, they sell pretty much anything radioactive in collectible amounts. They got raided a few years back — not for selling Uranium, but for selling chemicals for making fireworks. Because, you know, kids might order them online and blow shit up.

    Paranoia makes people stupid.

  119. #119 Feynmaniac
    December 29, 2008

    Pete “disturbing analogies” Rooke,

    Let me try and explain this to you in terms you might understand…..

    Say you wanted to become an expert sick, sadistic fuck. Sure you can imagine about gruesome stuff and maybe even post your sick fantasies under the pretense that they’re metaphors. But to really master the field you need some practice. That means rushing in an ER, go to a mother giving birth and try to eat the placenta. Or going to a graveyard, digging up a body, and skull-fucking the corpse.

    Similarly, experimentation is essential to science and should be practiced as soon as the subject is being taught.

  120. #120 Ranson
    December 29, 2008

    Heh, I almost forgot something else I did previously. I had a high school speech class where I needed to give an instructional, step-by-step speech. My topic?

    How to build an improvised antipersonnel land mine with a pressure-plate trigger. I borrowed an old Army field manual from a friend; you know, the kind you used to be able to buy at any surplus store. Hell, they even gave instructions on how to leach necessary chemicals from the plants and soil, though I didn’t go to that depth.

    I did leave out a crucial step that would prevent detonation. I had no illusions about how stupid my classmates were. However, the fact that I could actually do that speech without being run out of town shows what the difference of a decade makes (that was probably 1992).

  121. #121 Shaden Freud
    December 29, 2008

    At this rate, I hope the kid isn’t declared an enemy combatant, or whatever the Canadian equivalent of that is.

  122. #122 Graculus
    December 29, 2008

    If the individual is incapable of acting responsibly

    How the fuck do you know that he was acting irresponsibly, you drooling moron?

    Oh, right, your kind don’t need evidence, you just pull it out of your arse.

  123. #123 Malcolm
    December 29, 2008

    It appears that Pete has made good use of the holiday period to distil himself some weapons-grade stupid.

  124. #124 Peter Ashby
    December 29, 2008

    @Jeeves re bludgeoning with microwave ovens.

    Some years ago in Auckland, New Zealand a gun collector was let off after he shot and killed a burglar. He claimed self defence since the intruder menaced him with a deadly weapon: a video cassette case.

    They have since further restricted gun ownership and he would likely be arrested for his collection now.

  125. #125 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 29, 2008

    Graculus, you are mistaken. It is unknown if the teen was a good christian. If the teen is not a good christian, the Rookie knows that the student is capable of committing great harm.

  126. #126 JeffreyD
    December 29, 2008

    Learned to blow stumps with my grandfather, and the correct way to handle dynamite and caps and fuzes. Later, did black powder shooting and made match bombs and generally had some Huck Finn summers. While this all led me to liberal arts rather than science, it did teach me useful things about the world and working safely and was enormous fun. Oh, also ran moonshine for that grandfather, which taught me more things and led to even more fun on Alabama back roads at high speed – still hate Nascar though.

    I still have petey killfiled, but seeing quotes of his latest droolings almost make me want to unblock him. Almost. The queasy fun of reading him once would not make up for stories of mini skirted, leprous mailmen spitting into my milk while raping nuns, or whatever it was he spewed.

    Kids need to be able to experiment and people need to have an outlet for creative energies. Having capable mentors is the best way to do it, but they are increasingly rare. My real problem with the security forces in this issue is that they continue to provide bandaids for brain tumors. They look nice, but have no real effect. The hard work of counterterrorism is not in busting kids with bunsen burners, it is in understanding people and doing the slow dirty work of finding links and following the money trails. As for bombs, five minutes at a grocery store and paying with cash to avoid a paper trail will allow me to a simple and horribly effective timed explosive device. I am a liberal arts major, by gum, and don’t need no stinking lab!

    Ciao y’all

  127. #127 Mikael HafO
    December 29, 2008

    Tara at Aetiology wrote about a similar case, but this time a microbiologist, in 2007 –> http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/10/mail_harmless_bacteria_go_to_j.php (sorry, I don’t know how to link url:s)

    And as late as this October, my field, plant pathology, got yet another restraint when the rice pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae was added to the USDA list of “bioterror agents”.

    It’s pretty hard to conduct any research if you can’t exchange information and strains… Well, now I have to go kill some trees :)

  128. #128 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    Pete “well meaning fool” Rooke, if you want to be totally safe, just lock yourself in your basement away from computers and other deadly objects. Remain curled in fetal position until you visit god permanently. Total safety is a myth.
    Since you have no expertise in the matter, all your paranoid postings are worthless.

  129. #129 Feynmaniac
    December 29, 2008

    The Rooke,

    If, as reported, the student had bomb making materials in the lab – as a student he probably (sadly) had access to a vast array at the university on our dime – he should be prosecuted (perhaps sympathetically) under the Patriot Act.

    This took place in Canada, numb nuts. He’s immune from your Patriot Orwellian Act. Seriously, stop embarrassing yourself and just go.

  130. #130 Lora
    December 29, 2008

    Graculus @ 115:

    Don’t forget rocks. I live on an ex-farm in the Northeast that grows more boulders than hay. In this part of the US, you can blow up half your fields, use the resulting stone to construct a 200-head cow barn, and the next year there’ll be even more boulders to replace the ones you blew up. All hail plate tectonics…

  131. #131 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 29, 2008

    Just for the record, I had an extra chemistry course at school (preparation for the Chemistry Olympics), and once we (each of us) made gunpowder. Seems to have been part of the teaching standards. We lighted it, too, in the classroom of course; was loud, though less so than some other explosions the teacher occasionally made.

    We (all together this time) also made nitroglycerine. The teacher then took a drop of this yellowish oil and struck it with a hammer to detonate it, but, as expected, nothing happened — it wasn’t dry. We gave up, because drying nitroglycerine is way too dangerous (how would you take it out of the exsiccator without moving and thus likely triggering it, and the glass shards ripping your face off or something?).

    A primitive tear gas is something the teacher (alone) made during ordinary chemistry lessons. It wasn’t police-grade stuff, but bad enough.

    What kind of school have you been to, Mr Rooke?

    Also, I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned that styrofoam + gasoline is effectively napalm (never tried it myself, though).

    Really? Without any phosphorus?

  132. #132 Josh
    December 29, 2008

    All hail plate tectonics…

    Well yeah, and…glaciers.

    And Rooke, seriously–do you know what I can do with rubber cement…? Get over it.

  133. #133 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 29, 2008

    Of course the teacher also made nitrocellulose during ordinary chemistry lessons and let the more courageous among us burn some on their flat, open (!!!) hands. (It burns so fast that, allegedly, you don’t even feel any heat.)

  134. #134 Sven DiMilo
    December 29, 2008

    scoot, thanks for that audio link in #88–I enjoyed that, a lot.

  135. #135 Josh
    December 29, 2008

    Really? Without any phosphorus?

    Yep, but rubber cement works even better.

  136. #136 Zmidponk
    December 29, 2008

    Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick! It’s only a short hop from what happened here to prosecuting someone for stockpiling biological weapons – as they didn’t clean their bathroom properly.

    Oh, and Pete Rooke, what you seem to miss is that, if we were to restrict the ‘knowledge’ needed to construct the weapons and bombs from household items (which is NOT what actually happened here – the student was arrested for merely having the materials themselves, regardless of whether he knew how to make meth/bombs/whatever with them), then you get into the realms of the Orwellian idea of ‘thought police’, and wave goodbye to such things as freedom of speech.

  137. #137 Graculus
    December 29, 2008

    If you have the expertise to construct such a bomb and the proven inclination to do so.

    Where is the “proven inclination to do so”, you idiot?

  138. #138 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 29, 2008

    Graculus, I answered the question for the Rookie. If the Rookie knows that the student is a good christian, the Rookie is confident the student will be responsible. If the student is not a christian, that student will have no morals and is dangerous.

  139. #139 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    then you get into the realms of the Orwellian idea of ‘thought police’, and wave goodbye to such things as freedom of speech.

    Pete “well meaning fool” Rooke lives in England, where they don’t have such freedoms. The US Constitution is rather an anomaly in that freedom of speech, within certain parameters, is guaranteed.

  140. #140 MH
    December 29, 2008

    Marc #106 “I will never use a company which is tied to scientology.”

    Thanks for the heads up. If I ever need to regress from Linux back to Windows, I’ll be sure to avoid that particular anti-virus program.

    And talking of computers, I have one, and I like to program on it. I guess that would make me a cyber-terrorist to some cops.

  141. #141 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    Pete “well meaning fool” Rooke lives in England, where they don’t have such freedoms. The US Constitution is rather an anomaly in that freedom of speech, within certain parameters, is guaranteed.

    Play fair, Nerd. The UK doesn’t have the sorts of protection for freedom of speech that the US has and it would be good if it did, but independent observers (say Freedom House) generally class Britain as having freedom of expression enshrined in law and respected in practice (sometimes Northern Ireland is excluded due to intimidation of journalists)

  142. #142 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    @Pete Rooke (comments passim):
    Do you really have the slightest clue what you are proposing? In your proposed world a child with an aptitude for experimental sciences or engineering would set off into a career without ever knowing they have that aptitude.

    It would be the same situation that so sadly effects mathematics today. You can go through studying mathematics even into university without ever actually doing any mathematics. Hence, if someone with a natural talent for abstract reasoning and logical proof ever gets to discover it, it is a rare fluke. The many that would appreciate mathematics but never see any are tragedy and so would be the lost chemists you want to create

  143. #143 Graculus
    December 29, 2008

    The US Constitution is rather an anomaly in that freedom of speech, within certain parameters, is guaranteed.

    Nerd, you are being foolish, and incredibly parochial and ignorant.

    This from someone who likes you.

  144. #144 GaryB
    December 29, 2008

    I can actual see where the police might suspect bomb making, there have been several schools pipe bombed within the last few years in Saskabush and Regina, and a few kids arrested with pipe bomb making materials in their basements, but you have to question the meth lab. If their first concern was fertilizer, which is an extremely common material here, used to create a bomb, then why did they first cry meth lab?

    The Saskabush police have always been a bunch of confused people, Google “starlight tours” and “Neil Stonechild” to see how bad they are.

  145. #145 Pete Rooke
    December 29, 2008

    Nerd, you are being foolish, and incredibly parochial and ignorant.
    This from someone who likes you.

    The Nerd of the Redhead is certainly foolish: for the fool hath said that there is no God. On the question of free speech, the United States is pretty much unique in that respect. Elsewhere the bar the libel and privacy laws etc. (especially in Europe) tend to greatly empower those with the most resources. Here in the UK (I maintain duel citizenship) the phenomenon known as Libel Tourism is a blight on the nation: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=41250&sectioncode=7. This is counteracted by the fact the the standards in the press are generally appalling – the basest, sickest, ideological drivel you can imagine with both sides (from the Daily Mail/Telegraph to the Independent/Guardian) fighting their corner without any regard for truth (in science or morality) from stories about MMR, GMO’s, cellphone masts, education, religion (always a battle), technology (Google StreetView an invasion of privacy…) blinkered biased approach to the US (not merely political but cultural snobbishness) and on and on and on.

  146. #146 GaryB
    December 29, 2008

    EvolvingSquid:

    Saskatchewan is in the land ruled by the RCMP, and the RCMP are their own special brand of crazy… sort of Gestapo meets Bugs Bunny.

    Actually, although they have a training facility in Regina, the RCMP have no jurisdiction in either Regina or Saskatoon. This raid and arrest would have been by the Saskatoon city police.

    The rural areas are policed by the RCMP under contract.

  147. #147 Smitty
    December 29, 2008

    “… independent observers (say Freedom House) generally class Britain as having freedom of expression enshrined in law and respected in practice…”

    And completely undermined by its libel laws.

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article5362364.ece

  148. #148 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 29, 2008

    Posted by: Pete Rooke | December 29, 2008

    Nerd, you are being foolish, and incredibly parochial and ignorant.
    This from someone who likes you.

    The Nerd of the Redhead is certainly foolish: for the fool hath said that there is no God.

    It seems that the atrophied brain of the Rookie had a little spasm of joy over someone taking Nerd to task.

    Rookie, Graculus did not say that Nerd was a fool. Just that he was being foolish in this case. And I doubt that Graculus called Nerd foolish because Nerd lacks faith in a deity. But you just have to plop out your chunk of biblical wisdom. Also, it seems you are try to find an ally where there is not one.

  149. #149 Smitty
    December 29, 2008

    Oh gwad, I just agreed with Pete. Head hanging in shame.

  150. #150 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    December 29, 2008

    No worries, Smitty. Remember the broken clock.

  151. #151 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    Pete “well meaning fool” Rooke, Ever hear of the Official Secrets Act? Censorship, not free speech.

    Since Pete boy believes in an entity who’s existence he can’t prove, doesn’t that make him delusional and foolish? Or, he could prove himself right by using something better than a power point presentation, and show actual physical evidence for his delusions. I’ll acknowledge your lack of delusions if you do so, but the evidence must pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin.

    I probably made a mistake this morning, due to lack of sleep and lack of coffee. I will acknowledge my mistake once it is confirmed by some research and more coffee. Pete will not acknowledge his mistake about god no matter how much evidence is presented. Who is more foolish because they don’t acknowledge mistakes Pete?

  152. #152 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    from the Daily Mail/Telegraph to the Independent/Guardian

    hahaha! Equivalence fail! The Indie and even the Graun are thoroughly centrist. It goes Mail:Right::Socialist Worker:Left

    And completely undermined by its libel laws.

    Well, yes, sort of. But not to an extent were claiming freedom of speech doesn’t exist under English is justified. I’d like to see libel rolled back a way in England (my homeland) and I’d like to see copyright rolled back in lots of places but they are matters of degree. Saying there is no freedom of speech cheapens the struggles of those under truly authoritarian regimes. What there is in England, is too-far-from-perfect freedom of speech.

  153. #153 Smitty
    December 29, 2008

    “Well, yes, sort of. But not to an extent were claiming freedom of speech doesn’t exist under English is justified.”

    Agreed. My comment was a bit (intentionally) snarky, but only to make the point that the concept of free speech in the UK/Europe is a little less absolute than it is in the US.

  154. #154 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    After further review, I made a mistake this morning. Freedom of speech is enshrined in most European constitutions, with some limits applied. I hereby retract my post #139 from consideration.

    Pete, when can we expect your retraction of your belief in imaginary deities?

  155. #155 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    Nerd@154 wins Pharyngula

  156. #156 guthrie
    December 29, 2008

    SPeaking as someone re-creating medieval technlogy and who has had trouble trying to find actual chemicals around then (iron sulphate and sulphur, for example) I do actually agree with Pete Rook about chemical labs not being made willy-nilly in busy neighborhoods.
    They should be carefully set up or made so that there is a minimal amount of dangerous stuff, with appropriate safety precautions. (somebody at school with my dad killed himelf whilst making home made explosives when a teenager)

    That said, anyone advocating less practical work for science classes in in my view barking mad and clearly knows nothing about the world of science. Firstly, practicals are necessary to build practical skills, which are oddly enough necessary should you want a career in science or a science related subject. These practical skils can include such things as hand-eye coordination, experimental design, awareness of what can go wrong or what has gone wrong, use of equipment, and health and safety concerns.

    Secondly, they help keep people interested. By any definition I am an intellectual, with a house full of books. Would I have been able to stick at science without practicals? No.
    Thirdly, value for money in any attempt at scientific education is not simply bums on seats, no matter what the UK government want you to think, with their policy of reducing labs and cramming ever more people into lecture theatres. You have to have the practical skills. Someone who got a degree form the same uni as I, 20 years earlier, pointed out how he had gotten twice as much lab time as I, and it showed in my performance of the work I was supposed to do at that time.

  157. #157 Coyote
    December 29, 2008

    Pete, are you really this stupid?

    Oh wait, nevermind, that’s an obvious answer.

    To condone the arrest of this young man was absurdity, and then to advocate the abolishment of practical chemistry? Madness. Arresting a young man because of a chemistry set he MIGHT be able to cause harm is like arresting someone for having bleach and ammonia in the same house: Potentially dangerous, yes, but not harmful unless some ass decides to do something with it.

    As for the removal of practical chemistry from the curriculum, let me put it in terms your tiny brain can handle:

    Would you be very interested in the Bible if you were told you could read it but not actually obey any of its tenets?

  158. #158 John C. Randolph
    December 29, 2008

    What do farmers need explosives for?

    1) Clearing fields: Depending on how old a field is, rocks can emerge due to frost heave, and if they’re too big to just pick up and haul away, then it’s kind of handy to break them apart with a drill and some dynamite.

    2) Entertainment

    -jcr

  159. #159 Evolving Squid
    December 29, 2008

    Actually, although they have a training facility in Regina, the RCMP have no jurisdiction in either Regina or Saskatoon.

    Didn’t know that… I figured the RCMP were everywhere in SK.

    Although the general commentary about the RCMP still stands :)

  160. #160 Marc Abian
    December 29, 2008

    If their first concern was fertilizer, which is an extremely common material here, used to create a bomb, then why did they first cry meth lab?

    Interesting. I also found this weird.

    the complaint originated from a woman who sold fertilizer, where now in Saskatoon it is somewhat colder than Minnesota. Beginning of winter, buying fertilzer, to grow what?

    If there’s no use for fertiliser in winter, why try and sell it? Why not just close up for a well earned holiday?

  161. #161 Tpaine
    December 29, 2008

    Fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. I notice several comparisons between temperatures in Minnesota and saskatchewan. Well, I can tell you there aint a heluva lot in it. These same people probably think Minnesota is warmer than say vancouver or Victoria. :)

  162. #162 zy
    December 29, 2008

    This just in, the FDA is set to criminalize farming:

  163. #163 Interrobang
    December 29, 2008

    After listening to a friend talk about a really nasty police abuse case in Stark Co. OH yesterday, I’m having trouble with picturing any police force as being anything but malign right now, which is sort of a shame, since I will eventually have to venture out in public again.

    Science is not a boring subject like history, it’s learning by doing.

    Anybody who thinks history is a “boring subject” hasn’t been doing it right. One of the best ways of doing history is to “learn by doing.” Ever attempted to construct a recreation of a medieval garment from a piece of cloth the same size and shape as the one the original came from? You’ll learn more practical geometry doing that than in a semester of math classes. Also, for example, attempting to make your own clay pots or arrowheads, or learning how to use an atlatl, will convince you that “primitive” doesn’t mean “stupid” in a big hurry.

    Even the more hands-off sorts of history get interesting as soon as you get to start working with primary sources. I really recommend it. I think all history should be taught with a heavy primary source component.

  164. #164 Graculus
    December 29, 2008

    the United States is pretty much unique in that respect. Elsewhere the bar the libel and privacy laws…

    Still a drooling moron.

    Nerd@154 wins Pharyngula

    seconded

  165. #165 OrchidGrowinMan
    December 29, 2008

    OK, I, too, had fun with chemistry as a kid, and had the best chem set in the neighborhood by combining G-sale finds, Dad’s old stuff, and lots of “repurposed” drug-store and horticulture materials. Did my share of loud, smoky and stinky stuff (Bright Lights, Bad Smells and Loud Noises: what could be better?) ‘Not quite up to Uncle Tungsten level though ( http://www.oliversacks.com/tung.htm ). How many Oliver Sackses are going to fail to develop because we discourage them to pursue knowledge, or interdict the excitement?

    The most fun I had and HAVE is extracting pigments from plants, which might make me (and my kids) run afoul of BOTH the drug and bomb enforcement agencies. Reflux extraction is right-out at the moment, because I don’t dare unpack my glassware, but we manage anyway.

    Bob @72: The already linked Texas law makes condensers, and Erlenmyer flasks, illegal there.

    However, it IS legal to make and use most pyrotechnics in most of the US, at least for now, but you’d better use a mason jar for mixing, not an illegal Erlenmyer flask: http://www.skylighter.com/

    All this pisses me off something fierce, like when they raided plant stores and confiscated dirt because indoor Cannabis was the crisis-of-the-moment: http://www.hr95.org/Tuckers.html
    From this site, one of many tropical-plant tip sites that contain similar warnings: http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq3410.html:
    “It may be of interest that in the USA, extremist efforts by the Drug Enforcement Agency has led to their confiscating the customer records of companies that sell HID bulbs, because they think that users of such lights are likely to be growing illegal crops. (Indeed—much of the best lighting information is available from web sites dedicated to marijuana growing!). Make sure that you keep your nose clean, because in their fervor the D.E.A. has been known to confiscate entirely legal collections of orchids! This bizarre miscarriage of justice was carried out under the name “Operation Green Merchant” during the 1980s.
    < \QUOTE>

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Vk5HA8Hh3wMC

  166. #166 Crudely Wrott
    December 29, 2008

    Scooter @88-

    Well and truly linked.

    Very close to what I recall. (Whoops! Transient Flashback!) As I was saying . . .

    And I agree that all the really good shit is free.

    ‘Anx.

  167. #167 bluescat48
    December 29, 2008

    When I was a teen, I made explosives, ie: mercury fulminate, gunpowder, smokeless powder. I never had any intension of using these to create havoc. I also made alot of non explosive chemical substances, too, ie soap, inks etc.

  168. #168 Black Jack Shellac
    December 29, 2008

    This is why you can’t buy Chemistry sets any more, with any decent array of chemicals. Another victim of the lunacy that is the war on terror.

  169. #169 Psi Wavefunction
    December 29, 2008

    ” Posted by: Pete Rooke | December 29, 2008 7:50 AM

    @ Simba

    Good question – I don’t claim to have all the answers but I would hope that school labs would not tend to harbour explosive materials.

    I personally would not advocate any practical work for the sciences at high school level. Theory work – book learning – should not be underestimated and comprises far too little of the courses, as well as being far more cost effective for the taxpayer.

    At degree level – sparingly – practical work is obviously required to say nothing of postgraduate research. Still, book learning must not be underestimated. A good titre is nothing without the comprehensive understanding of what the aim is and should never be conducted merely to confirm what has been learned. ”

    As a scientist-in-training, my verdict is: BULLSHIT.

    UTTER BULLSHIT that is the reason education itself does very little for one’s intelligence and creativity (and aptitude in science), whereas almost every graduate student I’ve talked to has had an abysmal experience with the wonderfully theory-based undergraduate system. Theory dissipates from the mind roughly 5min after the final, and does nothing to improve one’s mind. Practical work done by yourself is the only way to learn. Even in math.

    Book learning is stale, passive and utterly useless. Not to mention outdated — many modern biol texts still show phylogenies that are over a decade out of date!

    You can learn from books, but only when you’re working on something yourself. Practical work is the way.

    And as for taxpayer money cost effectivity: why not abolish school altogether? Send ‘em to Sunday schools/Madrassas/etc instead, let the churches pay! 100% cost-free for the taxpayer!

    -Psi-

  170. #170 Emmet Caulfield
    December 29, 2008

    Freedom of speech is enshrined in most European constitutions, with some limits applied.

    It’s also enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (albeit defanged somewhat by §2) which all 47 Council of Europe countries have ratified. AFAIR, the limited number of precedents have interpreted the limitations of §2 very narrowly, meaning that protection of Freedom of Expression in Europe is actually pretty strong.

  171. #171 Psi Wavefunction
    December 29, 2008

    ” Posted by: Pete Rooke | December 29, 2008 8:00 AM

    Thou shall not make a Cop look stupid, for thy Cop is a zealous Cop and will persecute thee for the rest of your days.

    And who will you be calling when that spotty menace next door starts fooling around with the composition of napalm etc.?

    If, as reported, the student had bomb making materials in the lab – as a student he probably (sadly) had access to a vast array at the university on our dime – he should be prosecuted (perhaps sympathetically) under the Patriot Act. If he had more nefarious activities on his mind other than a simple unencumbered curiosity the student should receive a prison sentence (e.g. the discovery of The Anarchist’s Cookbook on the premises). ” [emphasis mine]

    Good luck with that. In Canada.

    Pete, I’ve read your other comments and… you’re a moron, btw. Just thought I’d emphasise that point a little further. Just for kicks.

    Should I mention I have 24h access to various cytotoxins and genetic engineering equipment (and bacterial cultures made for efficient transformations) in my lab? Oh, and they PAY ME too. Your taxpayer dollars (my PI gets NSF from the states) are hard at work training the next generation of bioterrorists! *rolls eyes*

    As for the knowledge… any knowledge can be put to deadly use. Especially psychological manipulation. Now when can I see religious organisations be put under arrest for posessing that knowledge?

    And finally, I’m Russian. Just thought I’d scare you a little more. And not anti-communist either XP

    -Psi-

    (PS: not pro-communist either, just like I’m not pro-democracy or pro-capitalism, or pro-anything for that matter… people, government and societies suck beyond all hope. I’ll go enjoy my little microbial friends instead…)

  172. #172 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    Yeah, I really stuck my foot in my mouth (or keyboard) this morning. I’m still saying Hail Ramens in penance.

    Most of the limits to free speech in Europe that I read about seemed to apply to not deliberately offending or insulting people. Especially minorities within the country, be they religious or ethnic. Canada has taken that idea to such an extreme, it appears to have stifled even semi-spirited debate. And the Moslems are taking that even further with the latest UN General Assembly resolution.

  173. #173 Ktesibios
    December 29, 2008

    I wonder what these fucknetted pigs would have made of the electronics shop I used to have in my attic when I lived back East.

    Not only was it full of racks of incomprehensible gizmos with screens and meters and flashing lights, for that “evil overlord lair” ambience, but some of the gizmos had once belonged to the US Army (never mind that they were items of off-the-shelf test equipment- they must have been military weapons). In addition, because I made my own printed circuit boards, the shop also contained chemicals, some of which were somewhat hazardous (the developer for positive photoresist PC blanks is basically a strong solution of sodium hydroxide and the electroless tin-plating kits I used contained sulphuric acid; I also had iron(III) chloride etchant solution and a package of dry ammonium persulfate etchant-when one of my cats got into the cabinet and peed on the persulfate the results were rather interesting.)

    In fact, what I was doing in the shop was pulling in a bit of extra money repairing guitar amps and other audio equipment and also designing and building various effects gizmos for my PA- but I could have been designing and building highly accurate timing devices for bombs, or gadgets for stealing cable TV service or something even more nefarious.

    I don’t doubt that the mere look of the place, in conjunction with ignorant, fearful idiots with guns and a legal system of equal ignorance could nowadays have put me under the jail.

    I wonder how long it will remain legal for my workplaces to maintain tech shops where we do repair and construction work for our own operations.

  174. #174 Djinna
    December 29, 2008

    Back in the day, when people learned that I was a chemistry major, I used to get one of two questions – can you make drugs, and can you make bombs. I didn’t worry about the people who asked if I could make drugs, that’s a question that a normal college student might ask, but I kept an eye on the people who asked if I could make bombs.

  175. #175 Dipole Moment
    December 29, 2008

    Canada has taken that idea to such an extreme, it appears to have stifled even semi-spirited debate.

    It “appears” that way for much the same reason that Whitewater “appeared” to be a horrible blot on Bill Clinton’s reputation–a unrelenting multi-year propaganda assault by right-wingers with an axe to grind (in Canada’s case for not endorsing the Iraq war).

  176. #176 Canuck
    December 29, 2008

    When I was an undergraduate in Chemistry I made mescaline as one of my projects in the advanced organic synthesis course in fourth year. The prof knew it. I did it in the university’s chem lab too. It was a nice little synthesis project too. And nobody got arrested.

    But it was the 70s, after all. People weren’t paranoid and the poison of political correctness hadn’t raised its head yet.

  177. #177 Lora
    December 29, 2008

    @162:

    Uh, you have to actually read the whole text of the actual regulation. The seed contamination thing only applies to sprouted seeds, e.g. alfalfa sprouts sold fresh for salads and stuff.

    The regulation says, if you’re making bean/alfalfa/broccoli sprouts, the kind you put on salads, you can’t grow ‘em in poop and you have to make sure the water and growing spaces are clean. And goes on to say that all cGMPs apply to food processors thereafter when it comes to packaging and shipping.

    The interpretation of the DailyKos in this instance is a little bit crackers.

  178. #178 Last Hussar
    December 29, 2008

    [q]Ever hear of the Official Secrets Act? Censorship, not free speech.
    [/q]

    The implication is that this poster doesn’t think the US has any laws to protect state secrets. It is illegal to publish the name of a CIA covert operative, as the Whitehouse was reminded a couple of years ago.

    Can someone please give me an example of why I have no freedom of speech, and what you can say in the US that I can not say here, apart from defamation/character assassination.

  179. #179 Brian X
    December 29, 2008

    We have reached the point where law enforcement considers even Twitter a potential threat, even though a publicly accessible, clear-text-only service like Twitter is of no use to anyone trying anything on the sly.

    Go figure…

  180. #180 RyRy Cooter
    December 29, 2008

    @ Pete Rooke,

    Go fuck yourself. It’s pieces of shit like you that have ruined school curricula. You seem to positively relish the prospect of crushing children’s interest and curiosity. Or maybe you just don’t “get it” (“it” being anything)?

    I’ll spell it out v e r y s l o w l y. Kids aren’t going to be interested in reading a textbook about something with zero relation to reality. If they are discouraged — no, prohibited! — from seeing that knowledge in use or applying it themselves, it will be, at best, terminally boring. This is exactly what drives people out of the sciences (and maths, and history, and…). Or is that a feature, not a bug, to you? Do you think the sciences should be reserved for bookish scholasticists with no taste for reality? Oh, wait… “The Nerd of the Redhead is certainly foolish: for the fool hath said that there is no God.” Yup, seems to be the case. Interesting to see that you hold duel citizenship… Therefore, I hereby challenge you to a duel. I suggest any-weapon-you-can-build-from-unrestricted-equipment at dawn. (I’m bringing a Gauss gun.)

    It’s nice to see at least that you are honest enough to say I should be in trouble for having dangerous knowledge and that you are against learning chemistry. Since apparently you are a complete moron (and an evangelical one at that, eager to spread the good news of moron-hood), I’ll actually spell out what the chemicals I was referring to are and why I would have that dangerous knowledge:
    1. Sodium iodate. Very basic textbook chemistry. Why is sodium idodate explosive and sodium iodide perfectly safe? The contrast is a great example to understand simple chemical bonds. Or are you opposed to chemistry students learning that there are unstable compounds and why they are unstable?
    2. Metallic sodium. Gotta know how dangerous metallic sodium is around water for simple safety. Actually learned this particular method from a history book talking about early methods of making sodium hydroxide, which shows up in everything from Drain-O to lutefisk to pretzels to rockets. The metallic sodium is just a step you have to go through to get there (and it’s in solution in the mercury anyway, so settle down).
    3. Ammonium nitrate bomb. Anyone old enough to have watched or read the news in 1994 knows this.
    4. Nitroglycerin = nitroglycerin. Duh.
    5. RDX. I actually think this one is utterly fascinating, and I guess that’s why I’m (sayeth Pete) dangerous: I’m curious. With what I stated, there are a hell of a lot of intermediate steps, the vast majority of which are common chemistry textbook stuff. I actually didn’t learn how RDX was made until I was in Civil Air Patrol in high school. That’s also where I learned how to make napalm.
    6. Phosgene. It’s a fucking industrial solvent used every day, one that just happens to be a Schedule III chemical weapon. Learned this one by accident, actually. I made the mistake of trying to use acetone and chlorine bleach to clean the same thing. In the sun. In a way that caused them to pool. I.e., I didn’t know better, so I made a potentially dangerous mistake. (Fortunately, this only produced trace amounts, but enough to be a serious irritant over and above the chloroform created by the initial reaction.) Which, to me, says it’s important to learn how dangerous stuff is made if only so you don’t accidentally make it. To you, Pete, it seems to say that household products and scientific knowledge should be banned.

    As an aside, the only practical (i.e., hands on) learning involved in knowing this stuff is SAFETY. Everything I’ve listed could be (and actually was at least once) figured out from a theoretical understanding of chemistry. You’d just risk dangerous mistakes in actually doing it if you hadn’t yet learned HANDS ON.

    I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, Pete, but here’s what it seems you’re saying. Prohibit knowledge. Burn books. Crush curiosity. Censor the internet. I’ll say it again: Go fuck yourself, you fucking knowledge-hating fascist.

    Psi Wavefunction @170:

    Well played, sir or madam, well played. I somehow think Pete might have trouble sleeping tonight.

  181. #181 Paul Burnett
    December 29, 2008

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor yet. See http://www.amazon.com/Radioactive-Boy-Scout-Backyard-Nuclear/dp/037550351X. Those were the days…

  182. #182 ndt
    December 29, 2008

    In Minnesota, at least, you can still buy Erlenmeyer flasks. My local home brew shop sells them to make yeast starters in.

    (I bought one and made a bong out of it.)

  183. #183 Kemist
    December 29, 2008

    Oh, dear…

    I’ve better change careers then, if just mentionning “I’m a chemist” puts me on somebody’s terrorist list. Now I understand my Moroccan friend’s distrust of american borders. A muslim and a chemist.

    Don’t mess with me, I hang out with pretty dangerous people.

    That reminds me, once in my undergrad years we made picric acid (an explosive and regulated substance). Then we dusted it on the floor to walk on. It was pretty cool.

  184. #184 Pete Dunkelberg
    December 29, 2008

    Bottle of iodine (solution)? Tincture of iodine? I had quite a bit of the real crystals way back in school days. Neat stuff. I don’t recall what ever became of it or my glassware. I was a very nice boy, and only one of my rockets ever blew up.

  185. #185 AJ Milne
    December 29, 2008

    Casey’s bail conditions include a nightly curfew of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., submitting to searches by police or Environment officers and abstaining from any chemical experiments, except at school under qualified supervision. He is also required to inform the university’s chemistry department of the charge he faces.

    Ah, yes. Presumption of innocence? As if.

    This is the fruit of declaring war on abstract nouns to make political hay–and what comes of creating this paranoid atmosphere, a Kafkaesque presumption of omnipresent guilt. The assumption is at any time, you may be called upon to explain what you’re doing to authorities. No, they don’t have to have a good reason you shouldn’t–you are expected to have a good reason you should. And thus is a rather critical equation for the sane functioning of our society reversed.

    In a sane world, the officious uniformed asses responsible for this snafu would be the ones with the bracelets ’round their ankles. Please make yourself available to us 24 hours. At any moment, we may have to check you for runaway paranoia, rank anti-intellectualism and generally being a menace to the sane functioning of a free society. Yep–we mean you. Assume the position. Ya twits.

    In related news:

    Have a friend that excels in math and science? Report him..

  186. #186 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    AJ Milne @184, bravo!

    Slightly OOT, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who considers the demonisation of recreational drugs to be akin to that of alcohol during the Prohibition, or that the current anti-drug regime is entirely akin to the Prohibition.

  187. #187 scooter
    December 29, 2008

    Speaking of EXPLOSIONS.

    If you want a REALLY awesome explosion, dry ice bombs give off a report roughly equal to a stick of dynamite.

    They are also relatively harmless, unless it goes off next to your ear.

    Dry Ice Bomb:

    12 oz plastic bottled water bottle, thicker plastic bottles do not work.

    Dry Ice

    Water

    Beat dry ice into a powder with a hammer. Fashion a paper funnel and put an inch of dry ice powder into bottle.

    USE GLOVES!!!

    Add water to 1/4 full.

    screw on cap TIGHTLY, and get rid of it.

    It will go off in one to five minutes, be patient and stay at least 12 feet away so the air pressure does not harm your eardrums.

    If you want all the boom, yet none of the fire or shrapnel, this is one loud sunavabitch, nice and deep too.

    Happy New Year!!!

  188. #188 Cannabinaceae
    December 29, 2008

    Just think – let the fuzz start growing on your old bread and you’re experimenting with microbes; you could be a bioterrorist! Oh no! Don’t dump it down the trash disposal, you’re poisoning the water supply! Do you know how easy it is to extract DNA from strawberries (there’s a margarita recipe somewhere on the internet for that even). What a threat!

    Maybe we should just start randomly picking people we think are connie symps and “turning them in” anonymously as terrorists*.

    Back issues of Scientific American – are these now the equivalent of pro-terrorist propaganda, like The Anarchist’s Cookbook?

    I used to cherish our family trips to Portland, OR (from down in the mid-Valley) so I could spend essentially all of my saved allowance money on lab equipment at OMSI (the science museum – had a great store). Later, I used to frequent a lab supply outfit (now defunct) in the U District when I lived in Seattle.

    If there is a better way to repudiate curiosity – indeed, to materially impair individual futures and fortune – to degrade the future potential of the USA, I hope I never hear of it, though I fear I will.

    *For the sarcastically impaired, I think this would actually be a vile practice; the kind of thing that, say, connie symps and the religiously self-righteous would do to enlightened reasoners, absent a valid brief against them. Besides, they’re so much better at it, having had so much experience.

  189. #189 Nerd of Redhead
    December 29, 2008

    Scooter’s dry ice bomb was featured in a Mythbusters episode. Adam and Jamie were very impressed with the boom.

  190. #190 Dr Benway
    December 29, 2008

    I’m all for blowing stuff up. Woot!

    But please, try to go boom where there are no nesting birds or small mammals.

    Several of my neighbors really dig fireworks. July 4th, sadly, falls in the middle of the nesting period for many migrating birds in my area.

    This baby robin lasted a few hours the morning of July 5th, thanks to a nervous, doting, parent.

  191. #191 John Marley
    December 29, 2008

    @scooter(186)

    2 liter plastic bottles work nicely, too.

  192. #192 Kemist
    December 30, 2008

    @191

    lol. They get all stretched and round with no “little feet”. A variant of this is to shoot the pressurized bottle with a BB gun.

    Speaking of dry ice. We used to have parties in the chemistry department where we had drinks made with cheap juice and some 95% alcohol from the solvent cupboard (4$ for 4 liters) with dry ice pellets in them. They smoke like crazy and later you would find pieces of ice with holes in the shape of a dry ice pellet mold.

    Well, we had to be careful not to give those to people who might be drunk enough to swallow a dry ice pellet.

  193. #193 Bubba Sixpack
    December 30, 2008

    Allright, who told the more sane countries out there, like Canada, that it was a good idea to follow our (the United States’) batshit insane anti-drug and counter-terrorism laws and practices?

  194. #194 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    @scooter,

    Dry ice bomb? Pshaw. A couple years back, a bunch of us here at [unnamed college] who stayed around for break had a liquid nitrogen party. You know, liquid nitrogen ice cream, freezing things and smashing them, etc. The best, though, was a liquid nitrogen version of that dry ice bomb. *Very* nice boom. The only disappointment was that we didn’t have a trebuchet to launch it. (And like John said, 2 liter bottles are a good container for it.)

    @Cannabinaceae,

    Ah, The Anarchist’s Cookbook, that takes me back. One of the times I actually did get in trouble for my curiosity. I was in grade school and had heard vague, terrible things about all the horrible stuff on this newfangled internet, including that book. Curious little bastard that I was, I just had to see what all the fuss was about, so I looked it up. While I was at it, I also downloaded the source code (no executable binaries, mind you) of the big news scare at the time, some cracking program called (IIRC) Satan. Looked at both, said “meh” and shrugged my shoulders, wondering what the big deal was, and promptly forgot about them. Then the school found out, suspended me, and revoked my internet access for like a month.

    @ndt,

    Yeah, the Erlenmeyer flask bong is a classic. Built one entirely out of chem equipment once, using a pipette as the down stem. The bowl didn’t work too well, though, so it was really only good for finishing roaches.

    @Paul,

    Thanks for reminding me of that story, I had almost forgotten it. These days that kid would end up in Gitmo, Boy Scout or not. Then we’d all hear on the news about the terrible nuclear terrorist plot foiled by DHS. Might even get confirmation of it after they tortured a confession out of him. (Shit, I wish I could believe I was exaggerating.)

  195. #195 guthrie
    December 30, 2008

    Anarchists cookbook? Way back in 1995 I was also curious so looked it up using the uni computers. This was before they had any kind of filtering or anythin, in fact my year was the first to get e-mail addresses.
    I found something purporting to be it, but it seemd to have so many stupid dangerous recipes (eg mercury fulminate) that I thought it wasn’t worth bothering about, besides, I wasn;t into making bombs.
    Over the years it occured to me that it might have been deliberately stupid and dangerous recipes, after all to a certain way of thinking, the best way to find your terrorist is after he’s blown himself up with his own bomb in his own garage.

  196. #196 Dancaban
    December 30, 2008

    72 virgins? They got it well wrong. It’s a virgin…72!

  197. #197 RyRy Cooter
    December 30, 2008

    but it seemd to have so many stupid dangerous recipes

    Nope, that sounds just like I remember it. I’ve actually considered the possibility it was a poison pill, too, but considering that the author (William Powell, IIRC) more recently went all ‘born-again’ and recanted the book, I’m inclined to think it was just written by an idiot.

  198. #198 Kemist
    December 30, 2008

    Allright, who told the more sane countries out there, like Canada, that it was a good idea to follow our (the United States’) batshit insane anti-drug and counter-terrorism laws and practices?

    Haven’t you heard that we’ve elected, for the second time in october, that conservaturd Steven “Squarepants” Harper ?

    He tries to imitate Bush in everything. He tried to have journalists banned from the return of dead soldiers’ bodies. He cut down science funding. He’ trying to pass a law that would allow 14-years-old kids to be tried as adults. He’s trying to censor artists. He reneged on the Kyoto agreement, which we had signed under Jean Chrétien. He’s trying to put an end to a gun registry program initiated under the previous government.

    We’ve got our own gunnut antiabortionist fundies too, you know. Just visit Alberta (which is a very nice hiking and sightseeing destination; just avoid cities).

  199. #199 fucbush
    December 30, 2008

    we allow people to buy guns in the store so that people can carry the gun and shot people on the street,
    but we don’t allow students to do some chem experiment,

    what is the fucking law…in Canada..

  200. #200 sara
    December 30, 2008

    And Thames & Kosmos sells a genetic engineering kit for children that enables you to isolate the DNA from a tomato.

    Little Shop of Horrors awaits.

  201. #201 trrll
    December 31, 2008

    If you have the expertise to construct such a bomb and the proven inclination to do so then you are probably on a security list somewhere. The problem is not only the raw materials but also the knowledge that is required to rework these components into something deadly – which is one of the reasons why I call for tighter controls on the internet.

    I never knew a male chemistry student who did not have the expertise to construct a bomb and the inclination to do so. Any halfway informed high school chemistry student can make a explosive or firebomb out of household ingredients–and could do so before the internet even existed. I’ve heard of an injury or two, but they are surprisingly rare. Chemistry students tend to be more careful than the average kid playing with fireworks, which is a far more common source of injuries. I’ve never known anybody to injure somebody else with homemade explosives.

    The biggest area of ignorance among law enforcement personnel seems to be one of scale. Very commonly, people are harassed for implausibly small amounts of potentially explosive materials (or even innocuous materials, like modeling clay, that only look to somebody like they might be something explosive). It’s easy to make explosives, but for pretty much anything that is easy to make, it takes quite a bit of it do do serious damage beyond, say, blowing off the experimenter’s finger. Your prospective terrorist is going to have barrels of chemicals, not bottles. Frankly, an old-school molotov cocktail would do a lot more damage than anything some kid is likely to cook up in a home lab, and the only materials needed are a tank full of gas, a bottle, and a rag.

  202. #202 charles
    January 1, 2009

    1) IN the distant past I have used UREA fertilizer on my walkway in the dead of winter, as it will melt the Ice as well as salt, but will do so with less damage to the grass.
    This kid may posibly have been up to something, but the shifting of what he is accused of is disturbing.
    Of course I rember back many years ago when I was a KID myself that Sulfer, saltpeter and acctivated charcoal were all sold in the home remidy section of the drugstore – side by side.

  203. #203 Karen Bryden
    January 2, 2009

    The Iodine Bomb

    This is a true story that took place in Calgary in 1962.

    When I was in high school, two teachers had a lasting influence in my life. One was Mr. Jordan, my math teacher. The other was Mr. Renee, my chemistry teacher. I didn’t follow a traditional path as a youngster. While other girls were into cheer leading and boyfriends, I was into bombs and rockets.

    Don’t get me wrong! I didn’t have an axe to grind. I simply enjoyed my chemistry class. On Saturday mornings, I would descend the creaky old stairs to the basement of Osborne’s, the store that supplied chemicals to the school. There I would find the old chemist, always wearing glasses and the same old sweater, sitting in his creaky old chair. I would talk enthusiastically about my hobby. He would caution me about storing and mixing chemicals. He seemed to see a glimmer of intelligence in my eyes, for I was afforded access to chemicals that would not normally be sold to children.

    In chemistry class, we were studying the periodic table. One day after class I remarked to Mr. Renee, “You know, if I combine an element from the left hand side of the table with an element from the right hand side, say magnesium and iodine, it should make a pretty good bomb”. He said “Yes, but don’t do it because it will explode in your face! And don’t even get them close to each other because iodine sublimates (turns directly from a solid to a gas). Left in proximity, they are liable to explode”.

    One evening, my father had to go to a business meeting. I took two test tubes, filled one with iodine, another with magnesium, stoppered them, and wrapped them together with copper wire. Then I put this combination into a third container filled with flash powder, and installed a fuse.

    I took it to the field behind the nearby school. I realized that the explosion would be more efficient if it was contained, so I dug a hole, put the bomb in, and covered it with rocks. I lit the fuse and ran. Rounding the corner of the school, I figured I was home free. What happened next was the loudest bang I had ever heard in my young life.

    When my father arrived home after his meeting, the lights in the house were turned off. A troop of boy scouts, rousted from their meeting, were running around outside the school and the cops were cruising up and down the street. When he opened the door, he was pulled inside. “What happened?” he asked. Mom replied “Your kid set off a bomb”.

    When things quietened down, Dad took the dog for a walk down the street. The good news was that I hadn’t shattered any of the neighbours’ windows. I had to inform him of the bad news. I had made two iodine bombs. The second one was in a drawer in my bedroom and I was a bit worried about it.

    Dad decided on the spot to buy all my chemicals (including the bomb) and get them out of the house. The next morning, he drove to the countryside and threw them in a ditch, where he said they fizzled. I can only imagine that some subsequent night a farmer was aroused by a terrible explosion and wondered “What hath God wrought”?

    That was the end of my chemistry hobby. Instead, I resolved to concentrate on math with Mr. Jordan. I wound up with ten fingers and two degrees in engineering. My focus shifted to my other hobby, airplanes. It’s funny how rocks seem to crop up in my stories. I must tell you the story about rocks and airplanes.

  204. #204 stokes_brolandish
    January 2, 2009

    i am an organic chemist. anyone with any lab experience will agree that it is unsafe (as well as impossible to do anything rigorous) in a garage.

  205. #205 Sili
    January 3, 2009

    You were in the ChemOlymp, David? What year?

  206. #206 Skeptigirl
    January 6, 2009

    I wonder which paranoid neighbor tipped off the police rather than asking the boy or the family what the lab was for?

    And I wonder how much police embarrassment over not being able to recognize a benign home chemistry lab from a ‘clandestine’ meth lab has to do with the police trumping up another charge in this case?

    Could be the police and the neighbor have no concept of an actual interest in science, it could be paranoia and face saving, or most likely, a combination of ignorance, fear and cover up of a mistake.

  207. #207 Lori Coolican
    January 6, 2009

    As the reporter who wrote the story you are all talking about, I would just like to say I appreciate seeing the healthy debate on here. May I also add, in defense of the media in general, that the original article written at the time of this young man’s arrest was based entirely on a city police press release in which THE POLICE, not the reporter, referred to the lab as “clandestine” and said he would be charged with producing meth. No other information was available. If anyone libeled this young man, it was the police. Please don’t shoot the messenger!, okay?
    And for the love of all things democratic, please read the link to the ORIGINAL article, not some regurgitated American version of it. If you want facts, get them from the source that actually did some research!

  208. #208 Mirax Terrik
    February 10, 2009

    The problem is that here in Canada, the government doesn’t take a proactive role in writing out what the police’s ancillatory powers are. The police don’t know the extent of their powers, and neither do citizens, because they’re not codified. Take for example the case of R. v. Godoy, which happened in 1999. The police entered a house because they received an interrupted 911 call (a woman phoned, said “help”, and then the phone was disconnected). This is considered a situation that is extremely high priority (obviously). When the police got to the house, a man came to the door and refused to let them in. So, in this situation, what can the police do? Can they enter without a warrant, or do they have to issue a telewarrant, which will probably take a few hours? The answer: at the time, we didn’t know! There was no rule to this situation. So the police, without knowing what to do, barged in and found that it was a serious case of domestic abuse.
    So, the question is, were they allowed to barge in without warrant? Technically no, yet the Supreme Court of Canada, several years later, decided that they were. What is this? It is a form of retroactive law. I’m not saying that the police shouldn’t have been allowed in (they should have), but by the year 1999, don’t you think parliament should have codified some form of ancillatory power for the police in a situation like this? I mean, it is a pretty obvious scenario, that at some point, the police may run into a situation like this one … shouldn’t Parliament have predicted that they should perhaps codify what the police can do it a situation like this? I think so, but Parliament doesn’t.
    The government has just left it up the the Supreme Court of Canada, and the SCC has made it quite clear that they’re not interested in jotting down what the police can/can’t do. Essentially, we have this bizarre retroactive system of laws going on here in Canada …
    So yes, here in Canada the police will go ahead and be overzealous, because they’re trying to see what they can get away with. In fact, in many cases where the police HAVE violated a charter right (particularly s.8, on search and seizure), it is oftencase that, if the police found evidence, it will be admitted regardless. I sometimes wonder if whether the police know full well that they are violating our rights, yet they don’t care because they know if they find incriminating evidence, it will be admitted regardless.

    Cheerio!

  209. #209 cygideon
    May 12, 2009

    Being an older adult interested in chemistry (I am a Reg. Pharmacist) the last thing I would ever do is tell anyone what my hobby is. All I can think of is the crowd with pitchforks going after the Hunchback!

  210. #210 William Penrose
    May 17, 2009

    Perhaps the police were only helping the lad with an important life decision — to help him get over chemistry before it’s too late. If one of my grandchildren announced a plan to study chemistry, I’d kick their butts, too, for wasting their opportunity for a useful education. There are no jobs and no research funding in chemistry. Future discoveries of any importance will be few and far between. Except cleaning up the crumbs, chemistry is over.

    Proof? Look how eager new branches of chemical science are to avoid the taint of chemistry: they call themselves nanotechnologists, or drug discovery specialists, supromolecular scientists, anything but chemists.

    [I'm a veteran of a 42 yr career in chemistry.]

  211. #211 hery
    January 25, 2010

    Got a call that the shipment was ready, so we drove to the Buffalo International Airport to the Airborne Express shipping terminal.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.