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Chemistry party ideas!
January 20, 2010 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm throwing a chemistry themed birthday party. I need help generating some awesome ideas.

H is turning 33 next weekend. He's a chemical physicist. He LOVES chemistry and physics. I'm planning a small (20 people or so) gathering of his friends at our house to celebrate. After running across this cake and this periodic table, I've been inspired to toss in a few nerdy chemistry ideas to make it interesting.

So, a few of my own ideas to get you started:
H uses benzene in the lab at work a lot. I am planning on making appetizers out of round foods (tomatoes, cheese balls, meatballs, olives) and toothpicks in the shape of benzene molecules. I'm thinking in terms of those molecule kits I had in college to build molecules in 3D for visualization purposes. I have not tried this yet, but I hope this will work.

My best friend is an excellent baker and makes cakes for our common friends for their birthdays. In brainstorming a bit, we've thought about making a cake in some way incorporating the element Arsenic (atomic number 33! ...oh, and not using ACTUAL arsenic obviously). Possibly decorated to look like Arsenic's spot on the periodic table? Or maybe decorated to show it's atomic structure?

We also have access to dry ice and liquid nitrogen. We've done a trial run of making martinis with liquid nitrogen a few weeks ago and it turned out AMAZING. This may be the signature drink of the evening.

I'm sure we are just scratching the surface of the potential here. What other awesome ideas come to mind? Help me mefites...you are my only hope!
posted by Carhart to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
mandatory lab coats, drinks out of test tubes and/or beakers, of course.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:53 AM on January 20, 2010


I did these "poison bottles" filled with candy for a Halloween party, the label sheet is linked in that photo. (Here are my bottles, sorry no close-up.) They were pretty cute. I bought a few different glass containers at the craft store for the candy, and stuck the labels on with double-stick tape.
posted by sararah at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2010


I used this company to source bulk lab glass for my sciencey wedding. They were super helpful and reasonably priced. (I have a bunch of flasks and shotglass/beakers leftover too. mefi mail me if you're interested in them)

We used to play with liquid nitrogen in college a bunch. Ice cream is fun to make and tastes a lot different than just regular store bought. Also, "progressive" drinks were very popular. Make vodka ice cubes, and as the ice melts, your drink gets less watered down.

Maybe you can play a game of celebrity but with scientists. Mix in some fun pop-culture/fictional scientists too like Bruce Banner, Emmet Brown and Beekman.
posted by mrsshotglass at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2010


Safety goggles in addition to mandatory lab coats :)

Maybe make or somehow obtain this, using dry ice in water instead of the fog machine: http://www.instructables.com/id/Biohazard-beer-barrel/ (Needn't be "biohazard" -- "chemical hazard" would be equally awesome. Also make sure the space it's in has decent ventilation if you're planning on using a lot of dry ice -- it would suck to suffocate your guests.)
posted by kataclysm at 7:10 AM on January 20, 2010


Liquid nitrogen ice cream, made on demand in front of the person.
You could slap MSDS tags on all the food/drink - those diamond stickers that show chemical hazard of poison/explosion/corrosion.
Depending on how boisterous your friend/party is, you can arrange to spill something on him and then throw him in the shower (ala the emergency chemical showers in the lab).
posted by backseatpilot at 7:10 AM on January 20, 2010


A bookstore at a university would have some of these or order them. Put them up around the party.

Check out Not so Humble Pie for containment suit cookies, periodic table cookies and more.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2010


This was the first thing I thought of when I saw your post. I guess an idea you can get from it is having different guests come as different chemicals and explain why they are that chemical or something, but that would require a general chemistry knowledge. :P
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 7:33 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Carefully) crack open a couple big glow sticks and make them into liquid party lights in test tubes, beakers or what have you.

Need validation for the science nerds? It's a catalyzed reaction, the fluorescent dye is what accepts the energy from the reaction and transmits it as light.
posted by lizbunny at 7:34 AM on January 20, 2010


It's not a party unless it has some cool party tricks
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:35 AM on January 20, 2010


Black light and gin and tonics!

* The quinine in tonic water is black light reactive. Ideally buy a quality brand like Fevertree, which may have slightly more quinine than big name brands.
posted by carlh at 7:39 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Serving drinks in test tubes and beakers is awesome, but themed drinks are even awesomer!

Something like blue curacao, vodka, lemon, and seltzer will be blue, fizzy, and delicious.
Those disgusting pucker liquors come in a rainbow of colors for your mixing pleasure.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2010


Cherry Jell-o shots with powdered sugar sprinkled on top would probably look like petri dishes. More biology than chemistry, perhaps, but still...
posted by carlh at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This Rube Goldberg drink-maker is really intense, but something on a smaller scale might be fun. Maybe do a titration-type setup for dispensing booze?

Also, you can label everything in a science-y way; If I had more science knowledge I could give examples, but all I can think of is labeling salt as NaCl like this. Pi shaped ice cube trays (or maybe you can find molecule-shaped ones). This cocktail shaker set is cool too.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:49 AM on January 20, 2010


I was going to suggest liquid nitrogen ice cream too! One word of caution add chocolate chips after you add the nitrogen else they turn into tooth breaking bits of agony.

Sounds like a great party!
posted by a22lamia at 7:54 AM on January 20, 2010


Oooh - you can get some super cheap pipettes and use them as drink stirrers.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2010


Periodic Table Cookies!! are a must!
posted by labwench at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2010


Make Periodic Table Cupcakes
Test tube shots, of course.
You could go all molecular gastronomy on him: Make powdered Bailey's using Tapioca Maltodextrin, Beer Crisps with Methocellulose (here's an example of crisps being made from juice), Hot Ice Cream, etc.
posted by cross_impact at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2010


Dry ice to make that foggy look?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:25 AM on January 20, 2010


Load up your CD with a bunch of Jonathan Coultron songs.
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on January 20, 2010


Use toothpicks with olives, cherry tomatoes, or gumdrops to make molecules.
posted by defreckled at 8:46 AM on January 20, 2010


With some Dunkin Donuts munchkins and maybe some straws you could make yourself a nice yellow arsenic allotrope.
posted by Askr at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can make Jello shots in actual Petri dishes. Although they are a little challenging to consume.
posted by grouse at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2010


I'd go with erlenmeyer flasks over beakers. Looks more science-y.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:08 AM on January 20, 2010


Google chemistry jokes, put them on index cards, and pull them out and share them throughout the evening.
Haven't you always wanted a brain mold?
Make a logo, like EvilMadScientist or Better Living Through Chemistry and use it liberally.

awesome thread
posted by theora55 at 11:06 AM on January 20, 2010


How about liquid nitrogen ice cream?
posted by jonp72 at 11:06 AM on January 20, 2010


Thought of another favor. You could buy chocolate bars, and then print off wrappers with CHoCoLaTe spelled out with periodic table elements. You could also have a game where people try to come up with as many words as possible spelled with elements.
posted by sararah at 11:25 AM on January 20, 2010


Lots of great suggestions upthread! I'll just add: check out the Hungry Scientist Handbook. It would make an excellent gift for your friend.

Oh, and web site.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:31 AM on January 20, 2010


Oh, and if you've got LiN2, just dump a bag of the colored, fruity mini marshmallows directly into the LiN2. Handle with care, you kind of have to toss the marshmallow in your hand to keep it from freezing to your skin. Pop a few in your mouth and chew with your mouth open - they are crunchy, cold, and taste like lucky charms marshmallows, and smoke comes out your nose/mouth. We use these at chemistry demos for kids and they go absolutely nuts!

You could make flubber/gak (the "Amy's flubber recipe" on that page is very similar to what I have used). We also do this at school demos also and it always cracks me up how much the adults love to get in there and make their own batch alongside the kids.
posted by sararah at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2010



Oh, and if you've got LiN2, just dump a bag of the colored, fruity mini marshmallows directly into the LiN2. Handle with care, you kind of have to toss the marshmallow in your hand to keep it from freezing to your skin. Pop a few in your mouth and chew with your mouth open - they are crunchy, cold, and taste like lucky charms marshmallows, and smoke comes out your nose/mouth. We use these at chemistry demos for kids and they go absolutely nuts!



Without more temperature controls, I really don't recommend this.
--

molecule of the day
and molecule of the month have some useful structures/pictures and amusing anecdotes that you could work into cards.
posted by lalochezia at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2010


lalochezia - as long as you've allowed the marshmallow to be in the air for a few moments and any surface liquid nitrogen to evaporate, it isn't really dangerous. Of course, any application of liquid nitrogen has its inherent dangers, but I've never known anyone to be injured by liquid nitrogen marshmallows. This may not be sanctioned by Your Favorite Regulatory Authority, but neither is liquid nitrogen ice cream.
posted by sararah at 12:10 PM on January 20, 2010


You could make flubber/gak (the "Amy's flubber recipe" on that page is very similar to what I have used).

If you're making flubber then you have to have a tray of Non-Newtonian Fluid on hand as well. For extra-scienciness, break open a glow stick & empty it into the liquid. Have paper towels on hand so people can clean off their hands after playing with it.
posted by scalefree at 12:43 PM on January 20, 2010


Fantastic ideas guys! I can't even pick a favorite. This will be the best nerd-a-thon EVAR!

Sincerest thanks to all!
posted by Carhart at 1:37 PM on January 20, 2010


All of this is awesome. If your friends are the kind to get into it the only thing missing is dressup. Have a prize for best science themed costume. Keep the theme broad so people can come as scientists, chemicals/molecules, scientific concepts, or just draw a chemical outline on their tee shirt.
posted by shelleycat at 2:22 PM on January 20, 2010


Oh or decorate your own lab coat would be cool, blank lab coats and fabric paint and pens and stick on sequins and stuff. I don't know how easy it would be to get reasonably priced lab coats for that though.
posted by shelleycat at 2:23 PM on January 20, 2010


I've had good results with UV G&Ts using regular tonic water (Schweppes, Canada Dry, or even generic), but don't let that deter you from going top-shelf as carlh recommends.

If you have dry ice to hand, consider making carbonated fruit. This stuff has been a huge hit every time I've made it.
posted by tellumo at 11:50 AM on May 19, 2010


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