From the November 2011 issue

Chemistry in action

See examples of how the science of stuff works all around you.
By | Published: November 28, 2011 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The universe, in all its splendor, is really just made up of the same stuff. Protons, neutrons, and electrons — different combinations of these subatomic particles are what make water wet and gold glow. Fantastically, the same rules that govern how mater interacts with itself in distant protostellar clouds and extrasolar planets, a discipline called chemistry, also hold sway on Earth. But apart from helping scientists better understand what’s going on millions of miles away, this science can provide some entertainment, too.

Here are a few examples of such chemistry at work. All take advantage of different aspects of chemistry, and all are capable of happening not just on Earth, but any similar environment. But don’t try any of these for yourself unless you have the proper training.

Credit: Bob Pflugfelder,

Credit: Tom Szymborski,

On the other hand, for some fun chemistry experiments you (or your kids) can do, check out the following “Hooked on Science” videos by Jason Lindsey. Each one also comes with an experiment guide, which explains exactly how to go about replicating his results at home. For more, check out