Efficiency with Your Hands or Your Mind?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

Another question that comes up over and over in my mind:

Is the purpose of teaching chemistry to help students learn how to be efficient with their hands or with their minds?

You could argue both come hand in hand, (no pun intended) but the way a teacher designs a lesson can heavily impact what students take from it.

Do I want to teach chemistry as something that they should remember as formulas, math computations and information tables? As a subject that when they leave the class, they can do practical chemistry (as in lab techniques)? As problem solvers that no matter what discipline they study, they can use the analytical and critical thinking skills they have learned in chemistry? As a prerequisite to something else (organic chemistry, etc.)? As a science and simply learn how the world works? (more…)

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 5:47 am  Comments (1)  

Ends vs. The Means

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

I had read recently a book entitled, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. The book was a historical account of the events that led up to the making and use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were many social, political and ethical conflicts/themes addressed in the book and one to really think about (in terms of chemistry) is the ends vs. the means.

In the book, there was a constant pull between the ethics of making the atomic bomb (because it can destroy everything in a couple mile radius) and the justification of using it to end the war sooner and ‘save more American lives’. Personally, I still don’t see the need to use the bomb, but the conflict pulled me back to think a bit more broadly:

*Are the negative impacts and damage to the global environment justification for researching advancements in chemistry?* (more…)

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Experimenter or Experiment?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alailkum,

One day I was walking in the science building at school and I passed a research lab labeled: photochemistry and catalysis.

(I love how it is the photochemistry lab and the lights are almost never on.)

I was thinking about experiments that must be done in that lab. It must involve atomic behavior in the presence of light (photochemistry–>photo=light). So when results are taken by whatever was done with light and compounds, the conclusions must be made with assumptions about the known behavior of light. So in my mind, what would you make your conclusions based off of? Light as a particle or light as a wave? Looking at the results from either point of view can affect what conclusions you want to make. (more…)

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Slow and Steady?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

I was looking at some kinetic and equilibrium related notes from last semester and I had a reaction written down:

2C6H14 + 19O2 <–> 12CO2 + 14H2O

(in language for Spiderman or non science people)

simple gasoline + air <–> CO2 + water

At room temperature, (and exposed to air=O2) what happens to an open barrel of gasoline?

It just sits there. You don’t see water flying everywhere and CO2 fuming.

But according to my notebook calculations, that reaction is product favored at room temperature. Product favored means that at equilibrium, there is more CO2 and H2O than gasoline. Equilibrium means when the concentrations of both sides of the reaction are not changing anymore. So why isn’t there water flying everywhere when you open the nozzle to fill your car up with gasoline? (more…)

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 7:34 am  Comments (1)  

A Polar World?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

Often when hearing the term ‘polar’ the arctic comes to mind. Polar bears, anyone?

***To really get to the point of the post, get past after the two breaks***

But polarity in chemistry refers to a molecule’s electron distribution and intermolecular forces between molecules of the same type. So let’s use water—

Water is H2O. (Really, Faith786?) (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2010 at 8:26 am  Comments (3)  

What I learned in General Chemistry II Lab

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

This warranted its own post just because I felt like I took two different classes with lab and lecture (probably because I had a different professor for lab than for lecture). Looking back at it, this semester in lab was in some ways even more messed up than last semester although last semester I broke more things.

Gen Chem Lab Part II: Revenge of the Volumetric Flasks

—Apparently wearing a head scarf can be a safety hazard. Actually, I am the safety hazard.

—I believe when synthesizing alum crystals not to use steroids. I believe in 100% organic alum crystals!

(In this lab, my professor put extra crystals in people’s beakers to get the alum to crystallize, but I waited an hour for mine in an ice bath beaker because I believed in them!)

—My scarf and I learned something about each other—my sanity in lab is directly correlated with the state of my head scarf so I always have to fix it before lab. (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2010 at 7:14 am  Comments (2)  

Lies My Chemistry Teacher Told Me: Ka vs. Ksp

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

(Warning: heavy chemistry content!)

Today’s chemistry dilemma, Ka vs. Ksp (Kb is being neglected because everyone likes Ka more than Kb–I am feeling chemistry politically incorrect at the moment.)

Ka means the ratio of a chemical reaction of an acid at equilibrium. The ratio is the product of the concentrations of products (right side) divided by the product of the concentrations of the reactants (left side). So basically, if you have an acid reacting with water like:

HF + H2O <–> H3O+ + F-

The Ka is ([H3O+][F-])/([HF]). Liquid water is never written in because numbers get huge and slightly messed up. (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2010 at 6:53 am  Comments (4)  

An Ode to Carbon

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

This was written last fall between two classes on a white board at school. I never finished the poem because in the middle of writing it, I had to use the bathroom and when I came back, I lost my train of thought. =)

So here is my rough draft of my poem:

An Ode to Carbon

O carbon, o carbon, you are so very sweet.

Your intricate structures and shapes so neat. (more…)

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm  Comments (2)  

What I learned in General Chemistry II

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

This post was coming for some time, but I had to wait for the semester to end before I can fully collect everything. This post is strictly about what I learned from lecture. Lab will have a separate post:

What I learned in General Chemistry II (lecture):

—“Kinetics is not something edible.”

—“Rate laws. There is more than one.”

—I need more than one banana or soy milk to get through general chemistry II. (more…)

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm  Comments (4)  

It is a Chemistry Miracle!

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

I was doing my typical twenty commute to school and I realized something: There are so many miracles in chemistry. (Well, they are explainable, some not too much, but I think it is amazing how things work together.) (more…)

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)