This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Progress in the Lab

I apologize for not updating this blog the last several days. I tend to wordsmith these posts far too much and as a result, it can take a couple of hours for me to write these posts. Watching TV while I’m writing these things doesn’t help either. In my first ever post on this blog, I mentioned that I would be chronicling my attempts to create a lab in my basement where I could perform some basic, fundamental experiments that I can no longer do at work. Hey, if mechanical engineers can put together a metal fabricating shop in their basement, what’s wrong with me having a lab? Anyway, I haven’t mentioned this project at all since, mostly because there has been little progress. I’ve been somewhat successful scrounging around for equipment, but I have yet to decide exactly where I’m going to be doing this. Since we have a finished basement, the decision is not going to be easy. I have an office downstairs which already looks like a cross between an alchemist’s lab and an office in Hogwarts, but I don’t relish the idea of working with chemicals in close proximity to bookshelves, computers, and carpeting. The other choice is in the furnace/toolbench/litter box/storage room, but it may be a tight fit. Ultimately, however, the decision will probably depend upon the WAF.

In the world of media center computers, there are those who seek to create the perfect HTPC (home theatre pc). By outfitting a computer with TV tuners, capture cards, remote controls, and the appropriate software, you can build the equivalent of a TIVO on steroids, with far better control over the image quality. There are plenty of websites and forums where posters (guys mostly, go figure) can share their attempts at building the perfect HTPC. Due to the sometimes less than friendly user interfaces, the success or failure of these projects can often be tied to one overriding consideration -- the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor. Entire threads are devoted to this subject. Such is the power of the WAF.

The two main areas I’ll be focusing on will be aqueous transition metals, which often require the presence of strong acids, and recreation of alchemical experiments, which can result in the generation of noxious gases. My lab will have to be able to handle both problems, which probably limits it to the furnace room. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

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