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Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists

Subtitle: The Coolest Experiments and Projects for Science Fairs and Family Fun

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Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists

The cover from Ken Denmead's 2011 book, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, published by Gotham Books.

Gotham Books

This is a book of some great science projects and experiments, with the intention that they be conducted by a parent (not necessarily the Dad, despite the title) together with their youngsters, with an eye toward getting them engaged with science. The experiments are grouped into sections based on amusing, tongue-in-cheek Geek-related themes, as outlined below.

The writing is engaging and extremely accessible, even to those who don't have a strong scientific background - or even really any scientific background. Each experimental section includes a table that clearly outlines the concept, cost, difficulty, duration, and material list involved. The cost/difficulty/duration are also listed conveniently in a table in the appendix, making it easy to immediately go to the project that fits your current needs.

The book also covers some great general information on the scientific method, as well as specific sidebars on the hypotheses involved in the various projects, how they could be extended or modified, and neat tips along those lines.

Section 1: Experiments for Moonbase Alpha

Now that the U.S. government has gotten out of the business of running missions into outer space, it seems that the way has opened up for the free market to take over ... which means that just maybe we'll actually see a future where space travel becomes relatively common and accessible to all. If so, the youth of today will need to understand how to survive in the hostile environment of outer space, and that's the theme of the experiments in this section. If you're going to create an army of clones or build a warp engine, you'll need to start out with some of the basics.

  • Extracting Your Own DNA
  • Space Agriculture
  • DIY Mind Control
  • Growing Crystals for Power
  • Biosphere Breakdown
  • Can You Dodge a Laser?
  • Spaceship Design: Building Your Own Wind Tunnel

Section 2: Inside the Mad Scientist's Kitchen

As anyone who has ever watched the Alton Brown television series Good Eats can attest, food and science go hand in hand. In fact, there was recently a set of books called Modernist Cuisine which was selling for over $600, which explored in detail the science behind cooking. Before investing in those tomes, however, it might be best for your budding food scientists to tackle some of these kitchen- and food-based projects.

  • Making Your Own Topsoil
  • Growing Tasty Sea Monsters
  • Exploring Fluid Dynamics: The Magic of Mentos and Soda
  • Understanding Calories: Junk Food in Flames
  • Thermodynamics: Keeping It Cool without Electricity

Section 3: Apocalypse Survival Guide

Geeks know that the apocalypse is coming (the question is just whether it happens before or after we establish our orbiting moonbase). We aren't sure if it'll be zombies, robots, aliens, vampires, religious zealots, or Al Gore, but we're pretty sure that it's on the way in some form or another. The next generation of geeks must be trained and ready to step up to the plate and re-populate the Earth and reform society. The alternative - a future in which we never develop hovercars - is too horrible to contemplate. This set of experiments are perfect for teaching the basic survival skills that the next generation will need.

  • Building a MacGyver Radio
  • Making Top Secret Invisible Ink
  • Steam Power, Steampunk Style
  • Mastering Alchemy
  • The Science of Siege Warfare
  • Post-Apocalypse Particle Detector (a variant of the classic cosmic ray detector)
  • Mapping Your Ecosphere

Section 4: Fun with Fire and Electricity

The title on this one is really self-explanatory. All of the experiments are aimed at understanding and manipulating the two most basic forms of energy that humanity deals with: fire and electricity. The Introduction also includes helpful safety information which is particularly relevant to this section of the book.

  • The Music of Fire: Building a Rubens' Tube
  • Playing with Plasma
  • Electrolysis: Splitting Molecules for Power
  • What's the Best Ammunition for Your Potato Gun?
  • Deadly Dust: A Tickling Bomb?
  • Emission Spectroscopy: Identification with Flames
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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