Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mr. Wizard's Lab

Although the primary goal of this blog is crotch humor, I also want it to serve as an educational resource. Unfortunately, a review of my more recent posts indicates that I've been remiss in this capacity. Thus, I've decided to post a brief primer on chemistry, which even includes an instructional experiment that you can use to impress your family and friends. However, to make the most of the hands-on activity, some basic chemical background is required.

Everything in the universe is composed of matter, which naturally occurs in one of three states: gray, legal, or fecal. Matter is comprised of molecules, which are, in turn, made of atoms, which are the basic building blocks of nature. Chemists use chemical equations to describe how these atoms and molecules react to form new substances. For example, below is the equation for the demonstration that follows:

CaH2(s) + 2H2O(l) → 2H2(g) + Ca(OH)2(s)

On the right hand side of the arrow, we have the reactants, while the products are found to the left of the arrow. The products are typically sub classified into groups known as Good Shit and Bad Shit, but analytical chemistry is beyond the scope of this discussion. Essentially, what the above equation states is that 1 molecule of calcium hydride (CaH2) will react with 2 molecules of water (H2O) to form 2 molecules of hydrogen (H2) and 1 molecule of calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2). Notice that we have two molecules of one type combining with a single molecule of a different species - this is a very important class of chemical reaction. It was first discovered in 1767, by French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, and is known as the Ménage à trois. You may have also noticed the lowercase letters in parentheses that follow each molecule like (s), (l), and (g). I really can't remember what these symbols indicate, so I doubt that they are anything important.

As anyone who has had intimate relations with Dyckerson* can verify, it is nearly impossible to manipulate objects on the molecular level. Thus, chemists use a more convenient unit of measure known as the mole. Like a dozen consists of 12 objects, a mole is comprised of a shitload of molecules and this quantity is referred to as Desperado's number. Desperado's number is a famous chemical constant and was even celebrated by contemporary musician Don Henley, who has a strong following amongst chronic self-abusers. Thus, the concept of the mole can be applied to a chemical equation in order to quantitatively determine amount of products produced by known amounts of reactants. This determination is known as stoichiometry, which has Greek origins and means "silly-assed calculations that should be avoided." Thus, we'll move on to the experimental portion.


If you skipped the above nonsense and went for the interesting part of the post: Good for you. I did precisely the same thing for four years and they gave me a degree for it, so you're in good company. Regardless, what follows is a demonstration that you can perform** for your children and family to show them that chemistry can be fun.

1. First you need to assemble the reactants. For our purposes, a 50 gram bottle of calcium hydride and about 50 milliliters of water will be sufficient. I trust you know what water looks like.

2. Next, weigh out a portion of calcium hydride. In my case, I chose 42.1 grams because that's my lucky number, but feel free to use whatever feels good.

3. Obtain a suitable reaction vessel in which to combine the reactants.

4. First add the calcium hydride and then the water. Observe the resulting reaction. You can verify that you've done it properly, if your results resemble the following:

I've certainly enjoyed taking this opportunity to show you how entertaining science can be. Next time, we'll discuss the commercial aspects of chemistry in a pair of essays entitled "Home Distillation: It's the New Scrapbooking" and "Maximizing Your Meth Lab Dollar."

* - I was speaking hypothetically. This has never actually happened.

** - This is utter bullshit. This is one of the dumber things that I've posted in a while and my propensity for stupidity is well documented (1, 2, 3). Seriously, don't do this or anything like it.


At 7:25 AM, Blogger puerileuwaite said...

Couldn't I simply run over R(2)+D(2) with my car tires, and save the calcium hydroxide to sell as Meth through my blog?

It seems obvious that in the development of commericial applications, we should refine our processes for peak production efficiency.

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You killed R2D2!

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Kira said...

how much cooler than this is a kid's volcano project?

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Kalleigh Hathaway said...

I think I was starting to fall asleep during that post until the "BOOM" at the end woke me up. That's what happens when a silly little liberal arts major tries to read Assclownopolis writings.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Broadsheet said...

I wish I'd had you as my TA in organic chemistry! We nearly blew up our dorm experimenting with the principles of distillation chemistry.

Nevertheless - good use of work related resources in a blog post. I'm sure your boss has plenty of extra R2D2s around.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger anonymouscoworker said...

In your warning in the footnotes, you forgot to mention this delightful faux pas.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger tfg said...

puerilewaite-Actually calcium hydroxide was a product of the reaction, so we can still blow up R2 and sell burn bags on your blog. Win-win.

anon-I was getting tired of his lip.

kira-Aside from the shrapnel, much cooler.

kalleigh-Yes, this post is funnier if you've had chemistry.

broadsheet-Yes, but our corporate Tater budget is huge. You know the drill, use it or lose it next year.

ACW-Oh yeah, who could I have forgotten that barrel of laughs.

At 11:43 PM, Blogger Mighty Dyckerson said...

I don't have any of that calcium shit in my medicine cabinet. Can I use Viagra and Maalox instead?

It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above your ass, muthafucka!

-Don Henley

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dummy. Why didn't you show the explosion?!?!

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Hanmee said...

Where did your get your hands on R2?

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Luck o' the Irish said...

So THIS is what engineers do. I'm very disappointed there wasn't a blow up doll involved.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Dr. Zombie said...

So - I tried this and used a lot more than you did. And it blew up a whole metric fuckton than even I could have expected.

My lawyers will be contacting you about compensation for the fact that I now have NO hair on my body...

At 1:44 PM, Blogger tfg said...

dyck-Why not? I doubt the Viagra is going to do you any good otherwise.

anon-My attorney doesn't think much of your idea.

hanmee-Costco for $12. It came with a Darth Vader Tater and Stormtrooper Tater.

LOTI-Actually, we gave an inflateable doll to our Comptroller when he retired.

Dr. Z- You know owe me $50 for the full-body Brazilian wax job.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

You are seriously funny. A little deranged, but that is easy to overlook.


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