Chem 103 Chemistry in the News - PowerPoint

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					In the April issue of Newskokie, the news organ of Skokie, IL, Larry
Berman of that village saw an article suggesting the use of
“nonchemical control methods” to fight grubs in your lawn. Among
the nonchemical controls suggested was “a solution of castor oil,
liquid detergent, and water.” Berman telephoned the Skokie
government's Environmental Division to ask why castor oil and
detergent were not chemical. The lady who answered told him
because “chemical is poison—if it's not poison, it's nonchemical.”
Owing to her job of negotiating leases for store space in a shopping
center, Leonie Batkin-Allen of Los Altos, CA, keeps up with the
retailing business. Thus she noted the other day in Women's Wear
Daily that Clinique Laboratories Inc. soon plans to introduce “the
first chemical-free sunblock.” Instead of chemicals, the product will
be based on titanium dioxide, which, Allen says, “I am very familiar
with as my husband is in the paint industry.”
William Dorrance of Kailua, Hawaii, writes that he had been
“reading with detached amusement the descriptions of misuses of
„chemical‟ until I encountered such in my very own living
room.” The episode involved a young man his wife had hired to
clean the rugs and carpets.

As the chap was assembling his apparatus in the living room,
Dorrance asked him what kind of stuff he was using. In a
soothing tone, he reports, the carpet cleaner replied, “No
chemicals. It's one third water, one third carbon dioxide, and one
third a mixture of soaps. But no chemicals.”

“Stunned by the enormity of his disclosure,” Dorrance says, “I
retired to my study to brood.”
Jay Holt of Atlanta found himself recently in a coffee shop in a local
mall. His college-age waitress wore a button touting the shop's
decaffeinated coffee as “100% chemical-free.” Holt, wishing to be a
good ambassador for chemistry, started the following dialogue:
Holt: Your coffee can't be chemical-free. Coffee is composed of
Waitress: Our coffee supplier uses water to remove the caffeine, but
some companies use chemicals like ethyl acetate.
Holt: Water is as much a chemical as ethyl acetate.
Waitress: No, it's not. Anyway, our coffee is 99.99% caffeine free.
Holt: But then it still has 0.01% caffeine, and caffeine is a chemical too.
At this point, Holt says, he sensed that the waitress was becoming
annoyed, plus the line behind him was growing, so he went off to
regroup and drink his “excellent cup of chemical-free cappuccino.”
                         Perils of conversion
A forecast that blue roses initially could fetch $78 apiece in Japan
raised the question of how the marketer arrived at that particular
number. Roger Meyer of Irvine, CA, and Jerry Goodman of Valhalla,
NY, leapt into the breach in parallel. Both believe the $78 likely
resulted from conversion from 10,000 yen.
Meyer thinks 10,000 yen “probably isn't outlandish” for one blue rose
in Japan. Last year, he says, “I paid 5,000 yen for a packet of
watermelon seeds.”
Goodman, meanwhile sees the situation as another example of the
pernicious “conversion of units with the carrying over of too many
significant figures.” Specifically, he mentions the conversion of body
temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit. From 37ºC, which he terms an
approximate value, you get 98.6ºF, “a number that will live in infamy
because it has about 1.25 too many figures.”
       No way to specify normal temperature in humans
Remarks on converting body temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit
prompted Robert Essenhigh of Columbus, OH, to note a further source of
confusion: “the „normal‟ temperature in England is—or used to be—98.4, not
98.6 ºF (the source perhaps of the myth of the cold-blooded Englishman).”
Curiously enough, neither of these temperatures, nor their Celsius equivalents,
appears in the section on “Normal body temperature” in the 10 th edition of
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.
The Principles says it isn't practical to specify a maximum normal body
temperature because of the small differences among normal people. In
general, however, an oral temperature above 99 ºF in somebody resting in bed
is probably indication of something haywire. Oral temperature may be as low
as 96.5 ºF in healthy people.
The oral body temperature of healthy humans rises from, say, 97 ºF on getting
out of bed in the morning to 99 ºF or higher between 6 and 10 p.m. It drops
slowly to a minimum between 2 and 4 a.m. Heavy exercise can cause body
temperature to rise markedly. Marathon runners, for example, often have
temperatures between 103.2 and 105.8 ºF. If the body's compensating
mechanisms fail, you could wind up with heat stroke.
           Syringe-pencils trigger loud outcry in New York

Eugene LeDoux sent in an Associated Press story from the Rochester, N.Y.,
Democrat and and Chronicle reporting on novelty lead pencils that look like
hypodermic syringes and are being sold to young people. The pencils incorporate
a clear, calibrated plastic cylinder containing a red fluid that looks like blood. You
press a plunger to push lead into the writing position. These dandy little items are
made in Taiwan, the newspaper said, and sell for $1.00.

City and state officials in New York want sale of the pencils banned, according to
the AP, and school officials said they would confiscate then from students. A New
York City councilman was quoted as saying, “This promotes the image that a
syringe is a toy and kids are sure to associate it with drug dealing, not doctors.”
And according to the press report, “He added that there was also the danger of
lead poisoning from children who stick each other with the syringe-pencils.”

LeDoux agrees that the syringe-pencils are bad news, but he was perturbed by the
lead-poisoning remark. He thinks it perpetuates the belief that legislators go about
their work “without even a basic knowledge of simple scientific facts.”
Early name: plumbago - “black lead”

1789: German mineralogist A. G. Werner devised the
name graphite from the Greek meaning “to write,”
with reference to its use in pencils.
Somebody in West Orange, NJ, with an illegible signature sent
in a report of proceedings against a brokerage firm that had sold
39 million shares at from $2.00 to $8.00 each in a company that
said it had a process for converting volcanic beach sand from
Costa Rica into gold. The correspondent notes that “no one ever
went broke overestimating investors‟ ignorance of chemistry.”
                  Diamonds from cremations
Christian Wamser of Camillus, NY, was intrigued by a report in
the Syracuse, NY, Post-Standard that a Chicago woman had
become “the first person in the world to have the carbon from her
body transformed into diamonds.”
The Chicago company, LifeGem, is working to patent and
process for extracting the carbon from cremated bodies and
pressing it into diamonds. LifeGem‟s plan is to offer its service
through funeral homes. The company would extract the carbon
from cremated remains and ship it to a facility in Germany that
presses it at 3,000°C for eight weeks. The Chicago woman‟s
remains, says LifeGem, yielded six half-carat diamonds that were
given to her family.
All diamonds, the company says, are certified by the
Gemological Institute of America.
                       The Business of Death
… LifeGem uses a advanced high-nitrogen, low-oxygen technique to
turn the carbon from cremated remains into a diamond for memorial
rings or necklaces.
Formed in 2001, the Elk Grove Village, IL-based company charges
anywhere from $2,699 to $18,999, depending on the size and cut of
diamond, and expects sales this year to reach $7.5 million.
Wearing the diamonds, says one customer, helps “celebrate life, rather
than mourn death.”
                        EPA stops boy scientist
Al Denio of Eau Claire, WI, pointed out the Associated Press dispatch
about an unidentified lad, age 18, who was trying to isolate all the
elements in the periodic table. The boy lives in Union Lake, MI, about
25 miles northwest of Detroit. Among other feats, he had made a
Geiger counter, isolated thorium from old lamps and americium from
smoke detectors, and had acquired some radium of undetermined
Somebody must have ratted on the kid, however, because the
Environmental Protection Agency turned up. EPA's Jack Barnette,
according to AP, said, “He [is] a pretty bright kid . . . He didn't think
he was doing any harm.”
In any event, an EPA team wearing protective clothing cleaned up the
kid's shed (i.e., laboratory) and shipped the contents—in 39 55-gal
drums—to a radioactive waste dump in Utah. The cost to the
government was about $50,000, according to the AP dispatch. The boy
declined a physical checkup.
                   Avogadro and His Big Number
A newspaper story was quoted here recently, with jocular intent, to the effect
that a mole “is a unit of measurement like a dozen or a case, for example a
mole of M&Ms would be equal to 18 tractor trailers full.” Readers too
numerous to mention leaped to the task of explaining that the newspaper had
erred. Sample comments:
“Perhaps the point of the note was to test our intuition, or it was so obvious
that it was supposed to be amusing, but you don‟t have to be Enrico Fermi to
know that a mole of M&M candies will not fit in 18 tractor trailers. Or 18
trillion tractor trailers, for that matter.”
“My calculation is that if you assume an M&M occupies 0.1 cm 3 and is a cube
and packs perfectly, then a mole would occupy a cube about 244 miles on a
side. This is a helluva lot more than 18 tractor trailers.”
“My chemistry classes at Dobbs Ferry High School were interested in the item
on the volume of a mole of M&Ms. We filled a half cup (118 mL) with 120
M&Ms; therefore, one M&M per mL was a good estimate. After conversions
to liters, cubic meters, cubic kilometers, and finally cubic miles, we
determined that a mole of M&Ms would occupy approximately 150 million
cubic miles. Eighteen tractor trailers doesn‟t even scratch the surface.”
                  Carbon dioxide versus trees

An ecological issue is raised by Sidney Toby of New Brunswick,
NJ, regarding the uptake of carbon dioxide by trees. He says,
“There are some strange figures afoot.” One report he saw said,
“One tree can assimilate about 13 lb of CO2 per year, or enough to
offset the pollution produced by driving one car for 26,000 miles.”
A little calculation shows the statement to be “clearly absurd,”
Toby says. If the average car gets 25 miles per gallon, 26,000
miles corresponds to an output of about 11 tons of CO2. It has
been estimated, that a young apple tree produces about 44 lb of
sugar per growing season, which is equivalent to an uptake of
about 66 lb of CO2. Thus even 100 young apple trees would not
remove the CO2 produced annually by an average car until the
trees had grown to more than twice their size when planted. Toby
says he's all in favor of planting trees. “But a lot of patience is
required, and one should not raise people's hopes unduly.”
          Bottled water analysis makes interesting reading

A statement that rings true is, “Bottled waters are perceived by many to taste
better, to have fewer impurities, and to confer higher social status on the
consumer than does tap water.” The statement is made by Herbert Allen, Charles
Haas, and Mary Ann Henderson in their report of an extensive analysis of bottled
waters (CHEMTECH, December 1991, page 738). Allen is at the University of
Delaware, Haas is at Drexel University, and Henderson is with Mobay Corp.,
New Martinsville, W.Va.

Despite the strong growth of the bottled water industry, the authors say, relatively
few studies have appeared on the chemical content of bottled waters. To
contribute to the database, they analyzed 37 brands of mineral waters for 31
parameters. Nine of the brands were domestic, and 28 imported. All waters tested
were purchased in retail outlets in the Chicago and Pittsburgh areas. The waters
were purchased in different stores when possible, or else from different
shipments. The bottles usually carried no lot numbers, so nothing definitive can
be said about statistical differences among samples.
Allen and his colleagues compared their analytical findings with drinking water
standards for the U.S., Canada, the European Economic Community (EEC), and
the World Health Organization (WHO). Of the 37 waters analyzed, 24 were out
of line with one or more requirements of the U.S. drinking water standards. Four
of the 24 were domestic brands.

All waters tested, the authors report, were under the limits for barium, calcium,
cadmium, chromium, lead, nitrate, and zinc; cobalt silver, and nickel were
undetectable. No standards apply to beryllium, molybdenum, or tin, but very
little of any of them was found in any sample.

Among other parameters with no standards, alkalinity ranged from 4 to 3476 mg
CaCO3 per L. Allen and his coworkers think anything over 500 mg per L is
significantly high, and they found such levels in 15 of the 37 samples tested. The
concentration of lithium varied from 2 to 5240 g per L, and vanadium varied
from less then 2 to 23 g per L.

Potassium exceeded the EEC maximum in 10 samples. One, at 54.4 mg per L,
had more than four times the maximum of 12 mg per L.
The U.S., Canadian, EEC, and WHO standards set a lower limit of 6.5 for pH.
Twelve of the 37 samples measured lower than that. The 10 of these 12 that were
sparkling waters were degassed before analysis; had not the carbon dioxide been
removed they would have been even further below the 6.5 standard.

Most people can tolerate up to 100 mg of sodium per liter in drinking water, say
Allen and his colleagues. The recommended maximum for people with
hypertension, however, is 20 mg per L, and that is the EEC guideline. Of the
waters tested, 22 exceeded 20 mg per L sodium, and 17 exceeded 100 mg per L.

Sulfate concentrations ranged up to 1230 mg per L, and four of the waters
exceeded the U.S. drinking water standard of 250 mg per L. Two of these had
magnesium concentrations above 30 mg per L, which, the authors point out, “can
lead to a pronounced laxative effect.”

Given their data on bottled water, Allen, Haas, and Henderson conclude, “It is
unlikely that a survey of community water supplies would find a high degree of
noncompliance. Maybe we'd all be better off drinking tap water!”
         Domestic mineral water said to be magnifique

A previous report on the contents of bottled water prompted Albert Weller to
send from Columbus, Ohio, a copy of an advertisement for Ohio Springs
mineral water (bottled in Sandusky). “It may not be French,” says the ad, “but
c'est magnifique.”

Ohio Springs comes from the headwaters of Lake Erie. This “sparkling 94%
natural beverage is a domestic water with a distinctively foreign flavor.” In
fine print, as usual, are the contents: “water, calcium chloride, sodium
chloride, potassium, magnesium, bismuth, antimony, mercury, carbon, lead,
zinc, plutonium, PCB, DDT, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, fish particles.”
       Big Flats warned of high nitrate levels in water

Big Flats, NY, issued a newspaper warning to people living in
Big Flats Water District 2. They were urged not to give local
water to children younger than one year because the Water
Department had found that nitrate levels in District 2 wells were
exceeding the state recommended maximum of 10 ppm (nitrate
can cause methemoglobinemia in infants and can be lethal).
The story also urged residents “not to boil the water because
boiling causes nitrates to multiply.”
Tom Theis of Potsdam, NY was impressed by a report on
microbial tranformation in groundwater that said in part, “The
nitrate in the aquifer is microbially transformed in sulfate.”


John J. Mitchell of Fishkill, NY, found on the package insert that
came with his GenTeal eye-drop dispenser the following
remarkable behavior ascribed to sodium perborate: “Upon contact
with the eye, sodium perborate turns into pure water and oxygen,
thereby minimizing the irritation that may be caused by
An anonymous contributor, who wrote, “I can't stop laughing,”
sent in a newspaper story about three janitors who in the utility
room of an elementary school in California tried to euthanize a
gopher that a student had found on school grounds and brought
to them. To that end they sprayed the rodent with several cans
of “a freezing solvent used to clean gum and wax off floors.”
One of the janitors then tried to light a cigarette, and the
resulting blast blew all three men out of the room. All
apparently came out okay, as did the 16 pupils who were treated
for minor injuries. The gopher was released later in a field.
                    Use care with bug bombs

Charles Smith of Huntington Beach, Calif., sent in a story from
the Los Angeles Times about an explosion caused by bug bombs
in a house in Santa Ana. The place had a roach infestation, and
well-meaning people went after it with some 57 bug bombs.
These devices, says Smith, are single-use sprayers usually
containing 5 or 6 oz of petroleum solvent and a pyrethrin-type
insecticide. In the instance at hand, the pilot light was left on in
a stove. Fortunately, the residents had been evacuated from the
1,300-sq-ft house before the blast rearranged the walls and roof.
The roaches probably survived.
                     Wavelengths for newcomers

Malcolm Solomon of Palo Alto, Calif., pointed out a column by Lloyd
Oakley in the August issue of Psychic Reader's (Déjà Vu Publications,
Berkley, CA). Oakley, who is billed as "a clairvoyant and a caterer,"
begins by stating, “Sunlight is an important part of one's diet.” In
enlarging on this theme he gives “some simplified versions of how the
different wavelengths of light effect [sic] you. The scale of light rays or
waves can be divided into three easy-to-understand groups:

        Below 400 nm per second is infrared. This is heat.
        Between 400 and 700 nm per second is ultraviolet light. Color,
        or the rainbow, falls into this category.
        Light traveling more than 700 nm per second is gamma
        radiation—the stuff in science fiction movies. Inappropriate
        amounts of this light are not good for the body—too much and
        you might turn into a large green turtle.”
                      Flotsam and jetsam

Gregory van Buskirk and Sharon Kantor sent from Danville,
CA, a hair-raising magazine story on pollution in the home that
said in part “Chloride in water is a potential hazard, especially
in showers, when the heat can cause it to vaporize, producing a
toxic gas . . . . Installing a water filter in your home will help
avoid any potential exposure to chloride gas.”
                         Sweating hydrogen

The Land's End catalog for November carries an ad for Thermaskin long
underwear that says in part, “H 2O (also known as sweat) is attracted to
Thermaskins like ants to a picnic. Our Constant Comfort process
separates the 'H2' from the 'O' . . . making evaporation take place much

This ad has been pointed out (so far) by Judith Bonicamp,
Murfreesboro, TN; Linas Kudzma, Murray Hill, NJ; Eileen McCauley,
Davis, CA; Patrick Woster, Detroit, MI; and Amy Sue Waldman, Irvine,

All are deeply concerned about the explosive potential. Says McCauley:
“My husband, who isn't a chemist but is very practical, pointed out that
one wouldn't want to light a match in a room full of people wearing this
         Japanese company makes beer with hydrogen in it

A truly weird development—beer with free hydrogen in it—is the topic of an
Associated Press dispatch datelined Tokyo.

Asaka Beer Corp., according to the AP, makes this novel beverage by replacing
part of the carbon dioxide in beer with hydrogen. The company's marketing
director, Hideko Saito, is reported as saying that the carbon dioxide-hydrogen
balance is maintained so as to prevent “the rate of combustion from increasing
dramatically.” The bottle caps have safety valves to forestall excessive buildup of
pressure with rising temperature. Also, the AP says, “the bottles are packed in
special crates lined with concrete to prevent chain explosions in the event of fire.”

Why would anyone want beer full of hydrogen? Well, in Japan they have these
karaoke sing-along bars and discotheques, which are very popular among 20-
somethings. People whose lungs are spiked with hydrogen speak and/or sing in
uncharacteristically high voices owing to the physical properties of the gas. As a
result, the AP reports, “chic urbanites can now sing soprano parts on karaoke sing-
along machines after consuming a big gulp of the [Hydrogen Beer].”
An offshoot of the Hydrogen Beer craze, says the AP, is blowing flames from one's
mouth using a cigarette as an ignition source. “Many new karaoke videos feature
singers shooting blue flames in slow motion, while flame contests took place in
pubs everywhere in Tokyo on New Year's Eve.”

When the AP story was written, a bottle of Hydrogen Beer cost about 1,200 yen, or
$11 in U.S. money. That ratio is no longer correct, however, because the value of
the dollar has been tumbling. In any event, the AP says, Asaka has hesitated to
market the beer in this country “due to legal complications.”
                          Man inhales hydrogen

John Hylin of Incline Village, NV, passed on an item from The Annual of
Scientific Discovery: or, Year-Book of Facts in Science and Art (Gould &
Lincoln, Boston, 1850). To wit:

“M. Van Alsten, of Rotterdam, has recently fallen a victim to his devotion to
science. He was the author of a work on chemistry, and was desirous before
finishing it of testing to what degree a man might without danger inhale
hydrogen gas. He tried the experiment on his own person and, in spite of all the
exertions of his physicians, he died in a few hours.”

Hylin thinks breathing hydrogen “is a practice probably banned by the
Occupational Safety & Health Administration, but I have never seen the
                               Quiche Math

A story about the mathematics of quiches appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. It
said that the Coffee Garden in Salt Lake City makes scrumptious quiches that
require four fresh eggs per quiche.
An inspector from the county health department stopped by the Coffee Garden
recently to say that the Food & Drug Administration had found evidence that
one of every four fresh eggs carries Salmonella. Thus, she said, restaurants
should never use more than three fresh eggs per quiche. The manager on duty
asked whether they could throw out three eggs from each dozen and use those
that are left in four-egg quiches. The inspector wasn‟t sure but said she would
research it.
                       Irritating fumes reported

George Tiers sent from St. Paul, MN, a report from a local newspaper, the
Pioneer Press, about a painting job scheduled for the fourth floor of a
building occupied at least in part by county employees.

The maintenance people told employees of the scheduled painting date, as
they do in the event of any work involving materials that emit fumes.

As it happens, the Pioneer Press reported, the painters fell behind on other
jobs, and therefore the painting at issue didn't occur on the scheduled day.
Nevertheless, “about 20 employees of the county attorney's office
complained about irritating fumes.”
       Oxygenated fuels program audited in Colorado

Colorado mandated an oxygenated fuels program in 1989 to reduce
the state's carbon monoxide air pollution problems. A recently
completed audit of that program's effectiveness and cost shows that
the program contributes to a limited reduction of automobile
emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The program
reduced carbon monoxide emissions by more than 24,000 metric tons
in 1991-92, but at a cost of more than $1000 per ton. The audit found
most emission reductions were from 10% of the cars with highest
emissions, with or without oxygenated fuels. Most other cars showed
very little or no emissions reduction. The audit report says much
more cost effective reductions would be achieved by concentrating on
targeting the highest emitting vehicles and cleaning them up. An
equivalent carbon monoxide reduction could thus be obtained at a
cost of about $100 per ton. The audit was performed by PRC
Environmental Management of Denver.
                       The rice-methane problem
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), headquartered in Manila,
Phillipines, is looking into emission of methane from flooded rice fields and
what to do about it. Methane is, of course, one of the greenhouse gases, whose
presence in the atmosphere is believed to be causing global warming.

Flooded rice fields account for 95% of the world's rice production, according to
the IRRI. They also emit an estimated 25% of the methane that enters the
atmosphere. The atmosphere concentration of methane is about 1.7 ppm, as
opposed to 350 ppm for carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. Methane
traps heat 30 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, however, so its
concentration is equivalent to about 51 ppm of carbon dioxide.

What to do? “Farmers can't quit growing rice to reduce methane emissions,”
points out H.U. Neue, coordinator of methane research at IRRI. Instead, the
institute will focus its research on reducing emissions while maintaining output
of rice, which Neue terms “the world's most important food crop.” The first
experiment, which began in September, entails measurement of methane
emissions from fields where fertilizer is applied by different methods.
Meanwhile, Angela Moss of Britain's Agricultural Development Advisory
Service (ADAS) said at a meeting of the Society of Chemical Industry that
atmospheric levels of methane are rising at twice the rate of carbon dioxide.
Methane, moreover, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,
she pointed out. Enteric fermentation accounts for 15% of global methane
emissions, with dairy cows the worst offenders among ruminants.

ADAS scientists are studying the effects of diet on emission of methane by
ruminants. Barley grain appears to be the worst diet and green grass the best.
Chemistry & Industry reports that dinosaurs may have been a significant source
of methane during the Cretaceous period. This view was aired by Simon Brassel
of Indiana University at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Brassel has been investigating the fossilized remains of dinosaur dung deposited
80 million years ago, more or less. The remains, he says, show evidence that
herbivorous dinosaurs' digestive process involved bacterial fermentation. The
methane thus produced, Brassel opined, could have contributed to a rise in mean
global temperature.
                         Australia fights methane
By early, June, Australia farmers had signed up more than 635,000 sheep and
410,000 cattle to take part in a methane vaccine program proposed by Australia's
national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research
Organization. The idea is to reduce the animals' emissions of methane, a
greenhouse gas, and thus slow global warming. Sheep and cattle produce about
14% of Australia's total greenhouse emissions, measured in CO 2 equivalents.
The methane vaccine “discourages” methanogenic archae, ancient organisms in
the animals' rumen that produce methane by breaking down feed. Current
experimental results suggest that the vaccine will reduce methane emissions by
about 20%, the equivalent of about 300,000 metric tones of carbon dioxide
annually. Reduction of methane from feed leaves more nutrients for the animal,
so the vaccine also is expected to yield modest gains in animals' liveweight and,
in sheep, wool production. Summing up, CSIRO anticipates that the methane
vaccine program will offer the following:
    Vaccine at minimal cost or free for some or all participants in the program.
    Productivity gains.
    Greenhouse gas abatement.
    Marketing sheep and cattle as environmentally friendly enterprises.
                      Cold molecules for hot

Jim Moore of Troy, NY, says he recently “suffered the trauma of
purchasing a new automobile,” but the pain was eased somewhat
by a sales-type who said, “Eventually the Freon molecules in your
air conditioner will heat up and the system will not be as efficient.
Don't worry! Just bring the car in and our service department will
remove the hot molecules and replace them with cold ones.”

A prod from his wife, Moore says, “made it clear that my normal
tendency to clarify such nonsense would not be productive and . . .
I was able to hold my peace.”
Dear Dr. GUI:
So, I fill up my ice cube tray to the very top and stick it in the freezer. A month
later I take out the tray (OK, so I don't use much ice) and notice that the ice cubes
are gone. I live alone and I don't think thieves would break into my house just to
steal my ice cubes. Where did they go? How can I keep them from disappearing:
I mean, it's a real bummer to have a hot date and find that I don't have any ice to
chill down the $2 bottle of champagne I bought.
Dr. GUI replies:
Normally, I don't talk to people who buy $2 champagne, but I'll make an
exception just this once.
What you are experiencing is called, in technical terms, sublimation. Sublimation
happens when something that is solid becomes a gas without first becoming a
liquid. Normally, in the case of ice, you heat it and it becomes liquid water. Heat
it more and it becomes steam, a gas. But if the conditions are right, as is the case
in your freezer, ice can become water vapor (a technical term for cold steam)
without having to melt first. It all has to do with something called molecular
For the longest time scientists believed that molecular bonding, a measure of
how well molecules stick together, was something that just happened. But
today psychochemists are starting to understand the true inner feelings of
molecules and their reasons for bonding. It turns out that molecules do have
feelings and those feelings directly affect how willing they are to stick around.
Image if someone stuck you in the freezer and ignored you for a month.

So, what can you do? Talk to your ice. It worked for plants, and it can work
for ice, too. Tell your ice how grateful you are that it exists. Encourage your
ice to keep bonding. Remind it of the long-term benefits of faithful bonding
relationships. Sing songs of empowerment to it, such as “We Shall Overcome”
and “Frosty, the Snowman.” Do this and your ice will stick with you through
thick and thin.

Then again, your ice might think that anyone who talks to it is really whacked
out and want to sublimate and get the heck out of there.
                   Optimum proof for vodka

Guy Snow of Harrisburg, NC, writes that he thinks he can
explain how Mendeleyev concluded that 40% by volume (80
proof) is the best proportion of alcohol for vodka. Mixing water
with high-test alcohol is exothermic, Snow says, until the alcohol
is sufficiently hydrated, which seems to be at about 80 proof with
vodka. If you gulp a shot of higher proof, the mouth feels hot and
dehydrated; thus you want the highest proof that does not cause
this sensation. The same phenomenon, Snows says, indicates that
the best proof for some bourbon is 86, and for at least one scotch,
it is 86.4.
Proof: Being of a certain standard as to strength; said of alcoholic
liquors. (In the United States, "proof" is a measure of alcohol
concentration expressed as percent of the concentration of "proof spirit"
defined below, i.e., a beverage of 100 proof is 50% alcohol by volume.)

Proof spirit: A strong distilled liquor, or mixture of alcohol and water,
containing not less than a standard amount of alcohol. In the United
States proof spirit is defined by law to be “that mixture of alcohol and
water which contains one half of its volume of alcohol, the alcohol
when at a temperature of 60° Fahrenheit being of specific gravity
0.7939 referred to water at its maximum density as unity. Proof spirit
has at 60° Fahrenheit a specific gravity of 0.93353, 100 parts by volume
of the same consisting of 50 parts of absolute alcohol and 53.71 parts of
water,” the apparent excess of water being due to contraction of the
liquids on mixture. In England proof spirit is defined by Act 58, George
III, “to be such as shall at a temperature of 51° Fahrenheit weigh exactly
the second, third, and fourth proof spirits respectively.”
From Robert Clark of Sequim, WA, comes an ad that reads:
“Vinegar's key ingredient is alcohol. Unlike many budget brand
vinegars which derive their alcohol from petroleum, Heinz
Vinegars use only sun-ripened corn or crisp, juicy apples and