The Science And Tradition Of Winemaking

Since my last name means "grapes" in Italian, it is fitting that my father and brother are both amateur winemakers. While my dad stubbornly sticks to medieval techniques, my brother, a chemical engineer, makes use of science. But although our understanding of winemaking has deepened, and although additives serve an important purpose, the basic process... Continue Reading →

Just What is a Chemical Change?

If a teacher reviews chemical versus physical changes in high school or even in a freshman course, the chances that he'll come across misconceptions regarding the topic are as good as those of seeing autumn colors in Quebec. This is normal because classifying change is a tricky concept given that students barely know the subject. In order to make sense of the... Continue Reading →

Reflections On “Breaking Bad”

Sep 18, 2012.  Updated August 10, 2013 and August 15, 2014 and July 17, 2018. Since Breaking Bad became a hit in 2008,  many male chemistry teachers across the continent have been asked by their students, "Sir, do you watch Breaking Bad? Because the character reminds me of you." It's not difficult to figure out... Continue Reading →

Why Are There Acids In the World?

 Acids form by burning a non-metallic substance like carbon, sulfur, nitrogen or a witch and then adding the product to water. (Witches, as you know, should only be burnt if it’s their wish to be cremated.) The process can occur with or without technology. If sulfur dioxide formed by burning coal or roasting ores is not... Continue Reading →

Good Things Come to Those Who Are Patient

There is a classic high school demonstration in which a few drops of the glycerin(CH2OHCHOHCH2OH) are poured on top of a pile of potassium permanganate (KMnO4) powder. At first nothing seems to happen, which of course begs the question: "Sir, what's supposed to happen?" which in turn begs the cliche-reply, "Good things come to those... Continue Reading →

Chirality Beyond Breaking Bad

Thanks to a couple of Breaking Bad episodes from seasons 1 and 4, it's possible that more people know about enantiomers than ever before. If you're not a fan of the show or if you have forgotten a bit of organic chemistry, enantiomers are molecules that are non-superimposable mirror images of one another. As Walter mentions... Continue Reading →

Fun With Elemental Symbols

Since all matter including people consists of elements, it's nice to see proper names entirely composed of elemental symbols, like , or if you recall the actress who played the part of a sultry James Bond villain,, or if we stick to chemistry .  In the English language alone, there are also thousands of improper... Continue Reading →

How To Remove Graffiti

He stood by the door of a subway car, looking from side to side to see if anyone was looking. Maybe my clothing camouflaged me against the background of my seat. More likely, I did not pose a threat, and certainly he didn't realize I was a teacher at his school. He opened his long... Continue Reading →

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