Ten Things I’ve Learned From Failed Experiments

Family GeekMom
I learned from my mistakes. (See Number 7) And no, my daughter was not with me that day.

To trot out another overdone cliche, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. It never applied to me. If I didn’t pick it up immediately, I would get frustrated and drop it altogether. I have a terrible habit of pulling back and quitting when things don’t go right the first time. I suck at taking criticism and often lash out toward my critic. Even when I know full well they are correct. Especially when I know they are correct.

Seeing as I’m doing my best to recreate myself this year, I thought I would embrace my failures and share my new-found, hard-earned knowledge with the GeekMom readership. I’ve listed my ten most intriguing experiments that failed so that you may save yourself the trouble of recreating them. This ranges from home remedies to science experiments to experimental cooking. None of them went so well.

  1. Alka-seltzer does not a good toilet bowl cleaner make. I thought perhaps the effervescence would help break up the grimy grossness. Nope. It pretty much just makes dirty, fizzy toilet water. (On a related note, it does nothing for clogged drains either.)
  2. Contrary to popular Aegean bridal movie, Windex doesn’t do a darn thing for mosquito bites. You smell like Windex and you itch. Fail-fail.
  3. You cannot substitute construction paper for poster board or papier-mache when making an old-school volcano. You know the kind, with baking soda and food coloring and vinegar. For the record, vinegar eats construction paper. No, really, it dissolves it. (On a related note, baking powder is also useless for this experiment.)
  4. Combining a can of Cream of Celery soup and a can of corn does not taste like creamed corn. It tastes like grass.
  5. Hairspray and wasp spray are not interchangeable as bug anesthesia. I figured you can hairspray flies to anesthetize them before preparing them for bug collections. It traps their wings and makes them easy to collect. Surely it would work on wasps. It doesn’t. It just makes them mad.
  6. Driving around with 10 two liter bottles rolling around loose in your hatchback is a terrible idea. You see there is this thing called pressure and plastic doesn’t handle it well.
  7. When transporting a dewar of liquid nitrogen, remember that it is, in fact, liquid and liquid shifts in its container. And if a dewar of liquid nitrogen dumps over in your car while you are driving, the resulting cloud makes it damn hard to see.
  8. Be sure to triple check your shipping address when ordering from a science supply company. Your neighbors will be very angry to discover vacuum-sealed, dissection-ready cat carcasses on their doorstep. (At least mine were.)
  9. Hanging your son or daughter’s first tennis shoe from your rear view mirror is awfully cute. (You know the ultra tiny ones that did them no good as they couldn’t actually hold their head up yet, but gosh darn it, the shoes were so tiny and so cute you had to buy them…yeah, those shoes.)  Also; an awful idea. Rubber compounds do, in fact, melt in 225 degree (F) vehicles and paying to have a professional remove a puddle of rubber from your E-Brake is expensive.
  10. Back to Alka-seltzer and pressure and plastic, in an attempt to combine the knowledge gained from other experiments, I tossed a bunch of tablets into a water bottle, capped it off, tossed it away from me, and waited for the subsequent ka-boom. It didn’t happen. Alka-seltzer, it turns out, does not build up enough pressure to overcome the strength of a plastic water bottle. Even when you use twenty tablets. Really you just end up looking very odd as you fearfully approaching a slightly foamy water bottle. (For the record, dry ice does work…well.)**

**Disclaimer – Do not attempt experiments at home. Contrary to the evidence above, I am a trained professional and have been instructed on the proper and safe use of explosives, explosive compounds, and potentially dangerous elements & chemicals. Attempting experiments without proper training can result in serious injury or worse. I’ve said that and I know you are still dying to try the dry ice thing, but please be responsible!


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6 thoughts on “Ten Things I’ve Learned From Failed Experiments

  1. It should also be noted that dish washing liquid is not an acceptable substitute for dish washer liquid. It’s amazing how many bubbles your dish washer can make from just a tablespoon of Palmolive.

    On a related note, a dust pan makes an excellent bubble scoop when you make the above-mentioned mistake and bubbles start pouring out of your dishwasher and filling your kitchen with ankle-deep suds.

  2. Saaayyy . . . this was an interesting and entertaining article. I had kids, I know . . . honestly this was better than much of the drivel I find on wired! Thanks for sharing. Kudos to Carrie for her story too! I never knew and surely would have tried it my self!

  3. @Carrie, I’ve done that, too! Heck of a mess, but at least everything comes out scrubbed and shiny!

    Now I really just want someone to explain to me the difference between baking soda and baking powder.

  4. A can of condensed milk and corn is not cream corn but if you throw in a 1/2 cup of cheese its not bad either. Just strange.

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