Book Review: ‘Mad Science 2’ by Theodore Gray

Thanks to Netgalley and Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers for a copy of this wonderful book to review.

I feel envious of any science geek yet to discover the wonderful works of Theo Gray. But not that envious as I have had the pleasure of having them in my life for the last few years. Theo’s books speak volumes about the simplicity and beauty of the elements and chemistry in general.

Theo is a chemist, educator, element collector, photographer and a mad man; so essentially a scientist with a camera. But he is much, much more than the rest of us.

His latest book carries on from his first ‘Mad Science’ Book  by showing great backyard science experiments coupled with his unique, yet effective safety message which boils down to “just don’t be a dickhead”. Some of these experiments could be tackled by anyone, some are aimed more at the chemist, and others are given with the message “REALLY don’t do this no matter who you are.”

Highlights involve making tomato puree between two neodymium-iron-boron magnets, burning diamonds, floating an aluminium foil boat on a volume of sulfur hexafluoride, X-ray photography with radioactive sources, extracting bismuth from Pepto-Bismol… I might just end up naming everything in the book if I carry on.

The first project that I’m going to tackle is photography with a radioactive source. I have a piece of trinitite in my collection that would come in handy for a source. Also Theo suggests potassium chloride, which is sold as “diet salt”, as a source due to the relatively high abundance of potassium 40.

I’d recommend this book and all Theo’s books to science geeks especially chemists.  The ‘Mad Science’ books would also be great for people who love to tinker and have sheds. But I think the best recommendation would be to buy these books for young teenagers who have any interest in science. You’ll be setting them up to be great scientists.

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