Enjoy scientific curios collected over decades

A chemist takes his cabinet of curiosities online


SMALL WONDER  Ross Kelly purchased this thermometer in Switzerland and displays it online.

Jaclyn Lundberg

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In Renaissance Europe, scholars and collectors built curiosity cabinets and filled them with marvels of art and natural history. Catalogs of the contents of these privately held “wonder rooms” were sometimes published to share scientific knowledge, and larger collections formed the basis for museums. Fast-forward to 2013, when chemist Ross Kelly of Boston College realized that his own collection of wondrous objects could be shared in that most 21st century mode: over the Internet.

The result is a series of more than 30 short videos highlighting the gadgets he has collected over more than 25 years in his Scientist’s Curiosity Cabinet. He and two undergraduates demonstrate toy cannons, a levitating globe that spins, flash paper and many other devices. If the videos’ brief explanations of the science underlying a boom or bubble don’t satisfy, Kelly has provided links to more in-depth discussions.

Filed under “seemingly impossible,” Kelly’s square gears actually work. Jaclyn Lundberg
Holding one of the bulbs of this hand boiler makes the liquid move through the tube into the other bulb. Jaclyn Lundberg
Kelly demonstrates how this simple electrical motor works. Jaclyn Lundberg

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