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Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture [Paperback]

Robert Bruce Thompson , Barbara Fritchman Thompson

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Book Description

April 29 2012 1449396593 978-1449396596 1

Experience the magic of biology in your own home lab. This hands-on introduction includes more than 30 educational (and fun) experiments that help you explore this fascinating field on your own. Perfect for middle- and high-school students and DIY enthusiasts, this full-color guide teaches you the basics of biology lab work and shows you how to set up a safe lab at home.

The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments is also written with the needs of homeschoolers firmly in mind, as well as adults who are eager to explore the science of nature as a life-long hobby. To get the most from the experiments, we recommend using this guide in conjunction with a standard biology text, such as the freely downloadable CK-12 Biology (

  • Master the use of the microscope, including sectioning and staining
  • Build and observe microcosms, soda-bottle worlds of pond life
  • Investigate the chemistry of life from simple acids, bases, and buffers to complex carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, enzymes, and DNA
  • Extract, isolate, and observe DNA
  • Explore photosynthesis, osmosis, nitrogen fixation, and other life processes
  • Investigate the cell cycle (mitosis and cytokinesis)
  • Observe populations and ecosystems, and perform air and water pollution tests
  • Investigate genetics and inheritance
  • Do hands-on microbiology, from simple culturing to micro-evolution of bacteria by forced selection
  • Gain hands-on lab experience to prepare for the AP Biology exam

Through their company, The Home Scientist, LLC (, the authors also offer inexpensive custom kits that provide specialized equipment and supplies you’ll need to complete the experiments. Add a microscope and some common household items and you’re good to go.

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Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture + Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture + Illustrated Guide to Home Forensic Science Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture
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Product Description

About the Author

Robert Bruce Thompson is a coauthor of Building the Perfect PC, Astronomy Hacks, and the Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders. Thompson built his first computer in 1976 from discrete chips. It had 256 bytes of memory, used toggle switches and LEDs for I/O, ran at less than 1MHz, and had no operating system. Since then, he has bought, built, upgraded, and repaired hundreds of PCs for himself, employers, customers, friends, and clients. Robert spends most clear, moonless nights outdoors with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope, and is currently designing a larger, computerized, truss-tube Dobsonian that he plans to build.

Barbara Fritchman Thompson is, with her husband Robert, the co-author of numerous books about computers, science, and technology. With her Masters in Library Science and twenty years' experience as a public librarian, Barbara is the research half of our writing team.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They Do It Again! June 16 2012
By John Jacobson - Published on
Robert Bruce Thompson and his wife Barbara Fritchman Thompson are now focusing on the home school market. After writing primarily about computers and astronomy for years, they are writing science lab books for the home school market. Their first book for that market was Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, this one is covers building a home lab for biology experiments. This is not a biology text, as the subheading states, "All Lab, No Lecture." They also sell kits to supply materials for the lab experiments for each book in the Home Experiments series.

In spite of the statement "All Lab, No Lecture," there is a great deal of prose in the book, all of it written in clear, insightful style. Few writers can match the clarity and economy of the Thompsons' writing.

The book begins with instructions on setting up a lab, including chapter and verse on microscopes, culture, histology, and general laboratory equipment. There is basic instruction in using a microscope, mounting and staining specimens. Chemist that he is, Robert then spends time in labs exploring acids, bases, buffers, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, enzymes, and vitamins.

In all, there are 33 labs listed, with multiple procedures within each lab. That authors have attempted to cover the main areas of biology intro courses, a partial listing of subjects covered include:

DNA chemistry
Gel electrophoresis
DNA separation by gel electrophoresis
Chlorophyll and photosynthesis
Cell division
Sampling plant populations
Rhizobia effects on plant growth
Air pollution testing
Soil and water pollution testing
Mendelian genetics
Culturing bacteria
Bacterial antibiotic sensitivity
Simple plants
Seed plants

It's amazing to me that the authors were able to present so many subjects in such detail in this book. And the clarity and depth of writing also amazes me. I'm a physician, and have been studying biology for many years. The writing in this book meets or surpasses that of other books I've read on these subjects.

There is an 11 page index, there are review questions for each lab session, and the illustrations including the photomicrographs are of good quality.

For the aspiring young biologist, the home schooled high school student, and the older person who would like to catch up on current laboratory science, this book is highly recommended. As with all books in this genre, for maximum safety, younger students will need to be closely supervised as they do the experiments.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource. May 26 2012
By CuteEverything - Published on
A few days ago, Mr. Jack Andraka, was awarded the $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award for inventing a new way to detect pancreatic cancer, which uses a paper-based sensor that can be dipped into blood or urine, is 90 percent accurate, costs three cents to make, and takes five minutes to run. That means his test is 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive, and over 100 times more sensitive than current testing practices. He invented the test in five months, start to finish, after his uncle died from the disease. The kicker? The Moore Award is for high-school science fairs. Mr. Andraka is a freshman. He is 15 years old. So how can you raise your own, young Jack Andraka?

Well, one great way to start is to get a new book in the O'Reilly "DIY Science" series, Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments. The book explains, in clear and straightforward ways, how to run your own biology lab experiments in your own home. There are chapters on how to set up your own, for-real laboratory at home, how to use a microscope, and other basic techniques. Then, a long series of chapters walks you (and your young Dexter) through experiments and studies for the entire range of biology: from Osmosis, to DNA Separation, to Cell Division, to studying Proteins, Enzymes, and Vitamins, and much more.

After you go through all of these experiments, you would be well on your way to becoming a scientist (or at least a lab technician) in your own right. Note that Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments is not really for young children, as biology itself gets pretty complicated. But you and your child should at least gain a broad and practical understanding of the wonders of the living world around us. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be on your way to changing the world. Just like Jack Andraka.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly fun and informative; highly recommended for all levels May 3 2012
By Ken L Lawrence - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ever since the authors wrote the "Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments" I have been eagerly awaiting this book. Both books are exceptionally well written for all levels of experience. I use these books for self education to expand my knowledge on various topics and conduct my own experiments and these are perfect for me.

This book is laid out succinctly with abundant illustrations and numerous suggestions for keeping your expenses to a minimum. Very much appreciated. I have a lot of books on self taught biology and this is by far the best. If you do like this resource, you should also check out the associated chemistry book.

I now eagerly await their book regarding Forensic science and experiments, which has been previously hinted about.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Lab Guide for Maker & Homeschooler on Microbiology May 24 2012
By Ira Laefsky - Published on
This excellent guide to home based microbiological experimentation provides clear instruction and excellent pedagogy for the maker/hobbyist and for homeschooling. The equipment, mostly microscopy, and its selection is clearly described, as are the procedures for all experiments. Full description and instruction is provided around each experiment, and thought-based factual and essay questions are provided for education and enlightenment. This book is excellent in the fun and education it offers, as is the companion volume on home chemistry experiments.

I have only two caveats to offer about this excellent handbook: Firstly, some may prefer or choose to supplement its pedagogy with a clear hierarchical description of the corresponding biology taught in a more lecture/traditional text form to supplement the experiments. Also, despite the title the book concentrates exclusively on microbiology as opposed to other biology experiments that might be performed at home, such as dissection of plants and animals visible to the naked eye, experiments involving bioluminescence, or the production of cellulose from the fermentation of kambucha.

A thoroughly educational and simultaneously entertaining introduction to microbiology for the home Maker and for in-home education.

--Ira Laefsky
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Good Instructional Guide Feb. 20 2013
By Dezrtrat - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was quite surprised when I started going through this book. It is an excellent introduction to biology lab work. While the authors sell a kit to use with the experiments, they list all the equipment needed and even suggest less costly / more obtainable alternative materials and equipment.

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