H2SO4

I can never understand why a student doesn’t enjoy studying. I suppose the fault must lie with the student’s immaturity or the teacher’s boringness. I remember how much I dreaded waking every morning to milk the cows when I was young. The menial was meaningless to me then.

But what causes me to really scratch my head (or rub my baldness) is chemistry. Why don’t more students love it? Math students should love the orderliness of it. The cook and the cow milker use it every day. Isn’t it cool these days to eat more proteins and fewer carbohydrates? Why then the apathy?

So I lecture and I diagram and I digress in chemistry. I talk about our stomachs and the students wonder why you can’t drink hydrochloric acid if that is what is in your stomach anyway. We pass around the small vial of HCl and practice wafting instead of sniffing. This knowledge I pass down from Lester Showalter and my time in his ninth grade chemistry class. Some students sniff and get burnt.

Another student notices the small skull and crossbones on the label. He pulls out his pencil and adds, “if swallowed, buy a coffin.”

I hope they are enjoying it a little bit.

This past week we made hydrogen.

I stopped along the main street in town and entered a tiny auto parts store. “Acid pentru baterie?” They pointed me down the street to the next shop where I bought some diluted H2SO4 in a bottle labeled “electrolit.”

Zinc was more difficult to resource. Asphalt shingles do not exist in Romania, so zinc strips don’t either. I researched the metal roofing screws that I had left over from my house, and discovered they indeed were coated with zinc.

In an ideal demonstration my sulfuric acid would have been concentrated, and my zinc would have been in beautiful chunks. But we made do with what we had, and what we had made hydrogen.

No pictures of the effect a match had on this little balloon. But it did make a handy pop.

Johnny was a chemist. Johnny is no more. For what Johnny thought was H2O, was H2SO4!

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