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 18, 2009

Modern Chemistry (Sets)

My neighbor is planning to buy a chemistry set for her son (second grade) and she asked me for some suggestions. It was a chemistry set that I received back in second or third grade many years ago that sent me down the path to a career in chemistry, so I thought I’d spend a little time trying to find a good one. I’ve talked about this before, but they just don’t make chemistry sets the way they used to. Perhaps for safety reasons, perhaps for environmental reasons, perhaps for liability concerns – there just are not that many chemicals in chemistry sets any more. And that’s a real shame.

My chemistry set (Chemcraft) had plenty of chemicals in it, and there were plenty more you could order. These days, you are lucky to find ten chemicals in a set, sometimes as few as two or three. I did find a Thames and Kosmos set which contained 20 different chemicals, but many of them were boring and the set cost about $250! I finally suggested a less expensive version of the Thames and Kosmos set to my neighbor. Of all the sets I checked out, it appeared to be the best one. The deciding factor was the inclusion of potassium permanganate. Even my old chem. set didn’t have that one. How did permanganate slip through the safety police?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New World Order?

Not really chemistry related, but….

There was one of these so-called “town hall” meetings in my area yesterday to discuss President Obama’s proposed health care plan. Turns out it was less than a mile from my house, which meant that all the streets in our neighborhood were filled with parked cars and frantic drivers attempting to find parking spaces. It took a while for me to drive my daughter to soccer practice.

Debates like this always bring out the crazies. I noticed one sign that read something like “This is the USA, not the USSR.” Ignoring the fact that the USSR no longer exists, comparing attempts to ensure that some kind of health care exists for the millions of people who cannot get it now to communism or socialism is beyond stupid. Might as well hold up a sign that says “I’m a moron.” Try to put a little thought into this debate people. There are plenty of valid reasons to like or dislike the plan. Let’s try and stick to the real issues, okay?

My wife tried going to the meeting, but she was turned away, along with hundreds of others, since the auditorium filled up quickly. On the way back home, she ran into one guy who explained why he was against the health plan -- because it was basically a government plot for population control. This plot was apparently a part of the world takeover by the New World Order. Implemented by the Illuminati, I suppose. Shades of Sarah Palin. I certainly hope he did not contribute to the gene pool.