Experimentation is both fun and highly educational. The vast majority of experiments are well designed and are completed without any problems.
But there are countless examples of times when experiments can, and do, go horribly wrong. You probably have some examples from your school days.
Here are 7 humourous, and thankfully harmless, examples of simple experiments that did not go to plan.
What are some easy science experiments?
We've already covered quite a few in the link above. But if you want some more examples of easy science experiments here are some you can easily do at home (credit to noguiltmom.com): -
- Light refraction with a water bottle.
- Frozen Slime recipe.
- Write Invisible Messages.
- Edible Chocolate play dough.
- Inverted balloon in a bottle.
- Hot ice.
- Egg-drop experiment.
What errors can occur in an experiment?
Errors in experiments are something of an occupational hazard in science. Whatever can go wrong, usually does.
It is the job of an experimental practitioner to identify and eliminate any, and ideally all, errors that could possibly arise during their conduct of the experiment.
Errors may occur in the following areas, but not limited to (credit to businessdictionary.com): -
- Human errors during the experiment or during data entry following its completion,
- Systematic or design flaws in the experiment itself,
- Random, unforeseen errors introduced by environmental conditions or other unpredictable factors.
A good experiment design should seek to minimize experimental error, in order to produce the most accurate data possible.
What should you not do in a lab?
There are some basic things that should never be done in a research lab. In fact, there are many exhaustive guides, codes of conduct and health and safety regulations on just this subject.
But, generally speaking, the following are good-examples of no-no's when working in a lab (courtesy of adastra.fit.edu): -
- Wearing open-toed shoes.
- Keeping long hair down.
- Eating or drinking.
- Erasing data from your notebook.
- Showing up late.
- Forgetting to label samples or materials.
- Incorrectly disposing of your materials.
- Wearing shorts.
Examples of simple experiments that went horribly wrong
And so, without further ado, here are 7 simple experiments that did not go to plan. They really should've known better.
1. Exploding sheep lungs
One class experiment that went horribly wrong involves a bicycle pump and some sheep's lungs. In the biology class, the teacher was showing their pupils the anatomy of the lungs.
On this particular day, the class was to dissect the lungs to examine their internal anatomy. But, the teacher had another 'great' idea, or so they thought.
They had decided to use a bicycle pump to show the class how the lungs look when the inflate and deflate. Unfortunately for the lungs, and the class in general, the teacher was a little overzealous with his pumping.
Within a short period of the time, the class, and classroom were showered in a gory blanket of sheep lung bits and old blood. We wonder how the teacher explained that one to the class's parents.
2. More explosions - this time with potassium
In one chemistry class, the students were being told about chemical reactions - - especially with potassium and water. The teacher told the class that a very small amount of the metal will fizz and dance on the water surface.
Then she was called out of the classroom.
Inevitably one student decided to find out if she was right but wanted something of a more impressive result. The class clown grabbed a baked bean sized piece of potassium and threw it into a beaker full of water.
As you have probably already worked out, the result was indeed impressive. It exploded gloriously, sending chunks of water and broken glass in all directions.
Shocked, the class sat in silence for a few moments and then the smoke alarm went off. The entire class was evacuated to the playing fields.
3. "How high is too high"
Here's another 'simple' experiment that went horribly wrong. At least, it could've been a lot worse.
A class of students was asked to conduct their own home experiments of their design. One student decided to find out how high was too high for something to fall.
It seems reasonable at first glance, but what did she decide to use as her test subject? Some fruit? An Egg?
No, apparently she was trying to find out the maximum height a human can safely fall - - as you do.
After starting out at reasonable heights, presumably, she pushed the experiment a little too far. What were her results?
The above image tells you all you need to know. Thankfully she managed to walk away with only a few broken bones and a bruised pride.
4. "Teats: An Exhaustive Comparative Study"
In yet another simple experiment that went wrong, this ingenious student had a brainwave. He decided to conduct an experiment to study the purpose and morphology of teats in various mammals.
His experiment started out reasonably enough by studying cows udders. However, being a teenage boy, he managed to shoehorn in the human female anatomy.
Using various pornographic magazines as his source material, it appears he was quite 'thorough' in his data gathering. We'd be interested to know the reaction of his parents and teacher.
But, more importantly, how did he rank at the science fair? Kudos for imagination.
5. "All that glitters is not gold"
In another simple experiment that went horribly wrong, a class was being told that gold can't be dissolved in common acids. One student didn't believe it and decided to find out for themselves.
They had recently gotten engaged and wanted to test the premise using her recently acquired 18k engagement ring. Dutifully the student bought themselves some sulfuric acid and dropped her gold ring into it.
It seems her fiance hadn't been entirely honest with her, and the ring quickly began to dissolve in front of her very eyes. Shocked and surprised, she decided to try to rescue what was left of her ring before it was too late.
Thankfully, and much to the relief of her friends, she quickly came to her senses and left the ring to its fate.
This experiment could've gone a lot worse!
6. Countdown to destruction
As an accident investigator will tell you, most tragedies are the end result of a chain of, usually avoidable, events. This is epitomized by this next example of a simple experiment that went horribly wrong.
An undergraduate biology student recently recalled one such example during their days at university. In their third year, they managed to accidentally set a petri dish full of ethanol alight.
It seems simple enough to deal with apart from the fact that ethanol had been accidentally spilled over the paper bench cover prior to this event. Within seconds the entire bench was engulfed in flames.
Thankfully no one was hurt and the student actually graduated.
The moral of the story? Always clean up your workbench after spills!
7. Always pay attention!
And finally, here is another example of a simple experiment that went very wrong indeed. One student managed to accidentally set their lab notebook on fire while conducting a simple experiment.
In an attempt to try to extinguish the fire, they managed to accidentally elbow the ignited beaker off the counter. This almost led to a nearby printer catching flame!
The student's teacher has since used the accident as a cautionary tale for their students as a lesson of the importance of paying due care and attention at all times!