She blinded me with science

I’ve been non-existent on the blog as of late and I do apologize.
Life gets real busy sometimes and I’ve no idea how to slow it down.
Accept it and put up something resembling a post, I guess.
Found this sitting out in cyberspace and thought of my daughter Sarah.
Off to work.
I’ll be by for a visit very soon.
Hope everyone is well . . .

~m

A DIALOGUE WITH SARAH, AGED 3: IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT IF YOUR DAD IS A CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR, ASKING “WHY” CAN BE DANGEROUS
By Stephen McNeil

– FROM THE ARCHIVES –

SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?

DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do I use soap?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does soap form micelles?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does it mean that?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.

SARAH: Like a monster?

DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.

(pause)

SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.

DAD: We are talking about soap.

(longish pause)

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?

(pause)

SARAH: I don’t get it.

DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.

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8 thoughts on “She blinded me with science

  1. And neither do I! I couldn’t even make myself read all of that last complicated paragraph! I successfully avoided chemistry throughout my academic experience. (Do I sound like Hobbes?) I admit it would be cool to know some of that stuff. I’d probably know just enough to get me in trouble.

    You’re doing great at this post-resembling stuff, btw.

    You sound like Calvin, I think. {cool} He was always looking for ways around the system.
    I got a chemistry kit for Christmas years ago and I think about present day and how it could be used.
    Man, I had some seriously scary toys.
    ~m

    Like

  2. you have a life OUTSIDE the blog????
    get outta here!!!!!
    you’ve been blogging long enough to know that’s against the rules michael…tsk tsk tsk!
    😉
    notice how i deftly avoided any discussion regarding science?

    😆
    ~m

    Like

  3. Crazy thing is – she probably understands the whole chemical bonding electrical atomic and whatever else happens with the dirt and the soap. The question is this -how does the laundry get clean? Hmm?

    Hmmm, how does that laundry get clean…
    Maybe Sarah knows. 😉
    ~m

    Like

  4. That picture is FREAKING ME OUT! Yet, I’m strangely attracted to it… And yeah, who gave you permission to have a life outside of the blogzone? What’s that like, by the way?


    Crazy pic, huh?
    There were many ways to go but I chose this one.
    The colors looked good with my template.
    A bit of ‘posting feng shui’ if you will.
    ~m

    Like

  5. it’s soooo bad that i understand that conversation and half of it is from my lectures from the past week. nice work, dad.

    Your mother figured as much.
    First thing she said when she read this post is, “Sarah probably understands this.”
    Maybe this is a conversation you can have with your son or daughter someday. 😉
    ~d

    Like

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