Happy Birthday!

October 23rd, 2009

Today is Cate’s third birthday.  Here she is enjoying one of her birthday presents (that she got a little early):

Cate swings to avoid te Big Bad Wolf

Cate swings to avoid the Big Bad Wolf

As we celebrate Cate’s birthday, let’s not forget that today is also Mole Day.  So can chemists take the day off?


October 9th, 2009

When I arrived at work this morning, I thought I heard the sound of fireworks

barack obama peace prize winner

Barack Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

… but no, it was the sound of thousands of wingnut heads exploding at once.

Happy Days

September 14th, 2009

Here’s a picture of Cate having a Happy Day at Broadway at the Beach.

Ayyyyyyyyyyy!  (800x600 JPEG, click to enlarge)

Ayyyyyyyyyyy! (800x600 JPEG, click to enlarge)

Broadway at the Beach has added a bunch of old rides from the Pavilion and called it the Pavilion Nostalgia Park. While i never went to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion while it was open, the rides do remind me a lot of what you could ride at the county fair when I was a little kid.


September 10th, 2009

There’s a reason I never leave my food unattended around students:

The teacher had stepped away from her desk for a few moments around 3:30 p.m. Sept. 2. After returning, she drank her tea and noticed it had a “peculiar taste,” according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report.

The taste of … hand sanitizer.

At the time of the incident, five students were in her classroom waiting on a school bus, the report stated. The students told the assistant principal and school resource officer they didn’t see anyone put anything in the teacher’s drink.

Of course they didn’t see anything.  And whichever one put the sanitizer in this teacher’s drink just wanted to make sure the drink had been disinfected.

Sodium peroxide

September 8th, 2009

I went looking through the chemicals the other day, and I decided that it had been too long since I recorded a good chemical demonstration video.

So I pulled out some sodium peroxide, Na2O2. The MSDS sheet looks interesting:



Contact with combustible, organic, or oxidizable substances may cause extremely violent combustion. May react explosively in contact with large amounts of water.

it’s a strong oxidizer, plus it reacts with water?  If there were ever a substance tailor-made for a cool reaction demonstration, sodium peroxide would have to be it.  So let’s see … what would happen if you took some sodium peroxide, sprinkled it on top of a few combustible cotton balls, and then added water?

No, really.  I’ve found this demonstration mentioned in several of my chemistry books. (Ever notice how the more impressive chemical demonstrations involve doing things the MSDS specifically warns against?)

The idea behind this particular demonstration is that the reaction of sodium peroxide with water will release hydrogen peroxide and quite a bit of heat.

Na2O2 + 2H2O –> 2NaOH + H2O2 … and lots of heat.

Under these conditions hydrogen peroxide also decomposes, releasing oxygen – which will speed up any combustion that happens to be occurring.

2H2O2 -> 2H2O+O2

In short, we get oxygen and a lot of heat.  This usually makes for a fun demonstration.  Take a look.

Looking a little more closely, you can see that after only a few seconds, the cotton catches fire.

The flame is bright orange, probably due to the presence of sodium ion in the flame.

The flame is bright orange, probably due to the presence of sodium ion in the flame.

And after several seconds more, the evaporating dish just can’t handle any more.

Bang!  You can't see it in the video, but there's a sand bath just below this evaporating dish - in case something like this were to happen.

Bang! You can't see it in the video, but there's a sand bath just below the evaporating dish - in case something like this were to happen.

… and this is why we always wear safety glasses when doing chemical demonstrations.  But perhaps I should have given the camera some safety glasses, too?

Baby got back

August 28th, 2009

This blog occasionally features Friday pictures of some of our favorite animals.  This time, though, we’d like to show you something different.  A real tomato, if you will.

Baby got back!  (800x600 JPG, click to enlarge - if you're the kind of person who wants to do that sort of thing)Should this picture have come with a “not safe for work” warning?


August 24th, 2009

Looks like flu season has started…

The college has received word of the first confirmed case of the H1N1 virus in one of our students.  The student sought treatment and is now recuperating at home. The faculty members of that student have been informed today and students who were attending those classes will be notified by faculty.

One of the drawbacks of teaching is exposure to every illness that comes around – from common colds, to stomach viruses, to the hottest new flu pandemics.  Sigh.

Advice that’s always on topic

August 15th, 2009

Here’s The Weather Channel with some helpful advice.

Beware of hurricanes and other kinds of storms

Beware of hurricanes and other kinds of storms

The real problem with the health care debate

July 28th, 2009

This article is making the rounds today.  While it’s no surprise that Democrats find South Carolina senator Jim DeMint’s right-wing posturing useful, it was interesting to see this little nugget at the bottom:

At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

“I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’ ” Inglis recalled. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”

Here we have the real problem with the current health care debate – distilled down into just seven words:  “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”  The reason we’re having much of a debate at all over these issues is that many people simply don’t know whe’s providing their health care or what they’re paying for it.

Words spinning into the void

July 15th, 2009

In South Carolina, you can reliably assume that newspaper “Letters to the Editor” pages will contain a fair amount of right-wing political craziness.  That’s normal for South Carolina.  But sometimes, things lurk deep in the Letters.  Terrifying things – like this letter – which must be seen in its entirety to be fully appreciated**:

Published: July 15, 2009

Just the other day I had an officer call to my house. I responded, “So you called the police?” “Yes,” the person said said. “I was to get even.” The person told me “do what you have to.” Well, I had already knew what I was going to do: call the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on her to make my point.

But you know God has a way of changing things. Where is the good in that?

The Bible does not tell me to do evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good. The battle is not mine; it belongs to the Lord.

But I remember a time; this lets me be reminded of whose I am. Then I heard a voice, just stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And before you know it God will make everything turn out all right. He’ll make your enemy become your footstool. Be very careful of the stone you throw; that has a way of coming right back to you. We are all at different levels, so we should never compare ourselves to others.

Remember to sweep around your own door before you try to sweep around mine. All I am doing is trying to make things better; with it comes change. We must remember a generation comes behind us; we must make it better.

Thank you Chairwoman Bertha Scott and Lake City Housing; the change is good. Now others can sit on the porch and enjoy the view. Keep up the good work.

L**** B****
Lake City

What’s more frightening?  The letter itself, or the fact that the paper deemed it worthy of publication?

I think, as a response, the paper should publish the picture below (grabbed from a Fark thread long ago):



**Letter reproduced here due to scnow’s annoying tendency to break its own links.