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).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Laxatives and Boredom

Catchy title, huh?

My daughter recently discovered she has an in-grown toenail and the doctor recommended she soak her foot in a warm Epsom salt bath. So of course she asked us what the Epsom salts did. My wife thought Epsom salts (essentially MgSO4) kept the bath warm longer, but that didn’t seem very likely to me since you could get the same effect from cheaper salts like NaCl. So of course, I had to look it up.

Apparently, MgSO4 absorbs through the skin and does reduce inflammation. It acts as a calcium channel blocker and relaxes the smooth muscle groups (blood vessel walls, for example). If you absorb enough of it, it can lower your blood pressure. If you consume enough magnesium (for example, Milk of Magnesia or Maalox) you’ll discover it behaves as a laxative. If you consume MgSO4, you'll discover it is a very good laxative since the sulfate group enhances the effect.

Irrelevant fact: MgSO4 was given the name Epsom salts in honor of the town in which it was originally discovered back in the 1500s -- Epsom, England.

I was looking over the statistics for this website today and noticed that while traffic has been slowly rising over the past several months, a very noticeable periodicity has begun developing. It’s a weekly cycle, with a minimum on the weekends (no surprise there), and (almost) always peaking on Wednesdays. It’s a triangle waveform, with Tuesdays and Thursday roughly equal but lower, and Fridays and Mondays equal but lower still. Not the distribution I would have expected. Does this represent middle of the week inquisitiveness, restlessness or boredom? Perhaps I should save my best posts for Tuesday evening?

Question of the day: Do you find your blog reading habits to be that structured?


Ψ*Ψ said...

My blog reading habits aren't that structured for this site...I check everything daily through a feed reader.
Glad to hear your traffic is picking up. You have a cool site here. :)

Katie Collette said...

Hmm, it's interesting to think about. I check my blogs daily through a reader as well and only click-through if there are pictures i'd like to see closer or if I want to leave a comment. Could it be that I tend to click-through and leave comments more in the middle slump of the week? It's possible.

Chemist Ken said...

I hadn't thought about the effects of feed readers. Since you often see only the title and possibly the first line of a post on those things, perhaps I should pay more attention to making my titles catchier. Maybe my titles are more interesting on Wednesdays.

Ψ*Ψ, you seem to get lots of hits on your site (based on the number of comments). What tricks did you use to get people to realize your site existed?

Ψ*Ψ said...

--Keep an extensive blogroll--people will often link to you once they realize you've linked to them.
--Post about 2-3 times a week in the early phase of setting up a blog if you want lots of readers. Once you're established, you can fall back to a post a week and keep a decent readership.
--Respond to comments--it keeps the thread going.
--Decent content is a must! (Or fluff. But keep whining to a minimum or no one will be interested.)
--Lots of pictures!
--If you're not sure how to go about things, pick something well-read and see if you can tell what makes their site so popular. I did this with Tenderbutton in the early days.
--Be patient! Lots of bloggers expect attention from the beginning. In reality, it takes people a while to notice your site and then a little longer to decide it's worth reading. This is why so many fizzle out within weeks of starting. Keep writing. Comments will follow.

FWIW, I think you're doing everything right, though you might consider more images in your posts. You definitely have something cool going here. Keep it up! :)

Chemist Ken said...

Thanks for the suggestions,Ψ*Ψ. Maybe I'll start including picture of some of my cats. That always seems to work.

Ψ*Ψ said...


The Chemist said...

I check the blogs in my blogroll every day almost. It is rather methodical. I get online, rev up Thunderbird to collect email from the three addresses I maintain, and if I just plan on surfing I do a quick run-through of the stuff in my blogroll. Then I go about the net reading news and youtubing without any particular structure.

I don't have that many readers either, maybe even less than you. However, if you comment on other blogs as much as I do, there tend to be a few people who'll saunter over to see what you're up to.

It helps to limit your topic range, I'd guess. If what you write varies too much in terms of audience appeal or topical nature, you'll lose people that would otherwise be interested about specific tidbits. Still, that's a guess. I'm testing it out, I'll let you know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.
Cell blocker

Anonymous said...

I am an nurse studying inorganic and orgarnic chem this summer (RN to BSN program). I was looking for a topic to write about that illustrates the relavence of organic chem to nursing:so I googled "chemistry of laxatives" and found your site: very cool. Am still looking for a topic! Any suggestions?