science is all about learning how the universe around us works. Experiments,
when feasible, are often performed to study nature's behavior. If
actual objects or materials are inaccessible,
computer simulation may be called upon for a closer look. Either
way, marvelous and quite unexpected beauty is revealed in addition
nature's secrets. The pictures and videos that you will encounter here
are recordings from some of my experiments. The intent is to encourage
you to explore the surrounding universe through your experiments.
remember my first chemistry set. I was about 9 or 10 years old. The
set was an A.C. Gilbert kit in a blue metal box. I recall placing sulfur
in a spoon and heating it over an alcohol lamp until the sulfur caught
fire, sputtering glowing blue droplets all over the place. However,
I quickly extinguished my bed sheets (my bedroom doubled as a lab) and
moved on to the next experiment. But it was my second kit, a
Chemcraft set in a red, wooden box, which opened
to both sides from the middle, that proved the most exciting. In that
delightful kit, The Porter Chemical Company included a small, silver-gray
aluminum capped plastic tube with a lens on one end and sealed on the
other. Inside, on the sealed end, was a small, round disk of cardboard
coated with zinc sulfide. A trace amount of a radium compound had been
coated or mixed in with the zinc compound. I am quite sure that I didn't
wait too long to try it out. After accommodating to the dark for the
required 15 minutes or so, I peered into the tube. An incredible display
of flashing sparks of light appearing like a meteor shower became visible.
The longer I stayed in the dark, the more visible the flashes became.
That little tube (really, a viewport into the world of the atom) is
called a spinthariscope
and was invented by Sir William Crookes at the turn of the 20th century.
The device and its wonders are discussed in greater detail on one of
the pages to follow. Incidentally, as you can see from the photo animation,
I still have the device and it continues to work quite nicely. Well,
that was it. That sight, my introduction to radioluminescence, was all
I needed to start me off on a quest to see and learn as much as I could
about the incredible world that we live in!
produced this site so that I can share my passion for
science with others. One of my goals has been
to develop novel approaches and techniques in order to explore the
world in a different light.
There have been pleasant successes along the way, and that's always
exciting. I have even managed to come up with several cost-effective
of doing some interesting science. Every now and then
a winning blend of new, improved, and less
are scattered throughout the site. In the Special Methods section,
technique that I originally developed purely for optical microscopy
that carries over nicely to scanning electron microscopy. Using
few dollars worth of chemicals, a researcher can triple the value
least for some very select applications. Also, in
that section, I discuss my low-cost, optical interferometric microscope
be used to detect nanoscale
in height. I discuss my cathodoluminescence macroscope too. Most
recently, I added a section on my experiments with laser-induced
breakdown spectroscopy. After an incredibly successful landing
on August 6, NASA's Curiosity rover will be
well-established technique to examine the mineralogy of Mars.
In the LED
I present an inexpensive system that enables experimenters and
to use LEDs for fluorescence
microscopy. Elsewhere, I explain how I create
ammonia snowstorms on a microscope stage. If you're interested
in dusty plasmas, you might want to have a look at my experiments
an off-the-shelf, surplus atomic absorption tube that should get
you started. You'll find that in the Plasma Science section.
In other sections
of this site, I delve into additional areas of science.
try to make my References section as complete as
possible. The listing of books, papers, and links expand upon
what I've developed and written for each section. Credits listing
specific software used, links to other Web sites that may be of
and notes of appreciation are also included.
something you see on this Web site will encourage you to enter the
of science or to explore new and different ways of doing things. I
hope that after your visits here you will agree that, to paraphrase
of everything in God's physical creation—is truly the
My gratitude to Discover Magazine for including me as part
of its December 2008 issue highlighting contributions being made
from all walks of life. And special thanks to Popular Mechanics for
their June 2009 online article with an inside look at amateur
science that included a discussion of some of my work.