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Author: Subject: Teaching my wife Organic Chemistry!
Trips
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 06:46
Teaching my wife Organic Chemistry!


I've recently acquired the whole basic range of organic equipment (rotovap, filters, flasks, vacuum pumps, hotplates, etc. etc. etc.) with the intention of teaching my wife the joys of Organic Chemistry. Unfortunately, we're currently in an apartment, and stinky volatiles are kindof out.

... I know the thought process there wasn't tremendous.

Haha! Anyways, I'm looking for some neat experiments that show neat princples, preferably without a lot of stink. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything! lol!

Any suggestions?
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:02


Quote: Originally posted by Trips  
I've recently acquired the whole basic range of organic equipment (rotovap, filters, flasks, vacuum pumps, hotplates, etc. etc. etc.) with the intention of teaching my wife the joys of Organic Chemistry.

Any suggestions?

Yes, have you considered the option of teaching crows to fly underwater?




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Trips
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:13


Well, most of what I say in my day to day life pertains to chemistry in some way or another... And she does have the desire to understand what I am talking about.

Do you intend to say that it is impossible to teach your wife organic chemistry, that it will be very difficult, or it will be impossible/difficult to do without a stink?
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DJF90
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:26


Before you start with the organic chemistry she'll need to have a basic understanding of physical and inorganic chemistry. Moles, intermolecular forces, electronegativity, valence and bonding... only then will she be able to understand the organic chemistry. When you do finally get to the good stuff, simple reactions like Sn1 chlorination of tert-butanol, oxidation of an alcohol to aldehyde (I'd suggest 1-propanol), dehydration of cyclohexanol etc will provide good practical foundations.
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:27


Sorry Trips, my comment was neither funny nor smart, but it was certainly sexist and could be construed as calling your wife's intelligence into question.
I'm considering deleting it altogether . . .

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BromicAcid
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:29


As you probably know, most of organic chemistry can be taught on paper. The experimentation is only necessary to enforce real world concepts unless you are training her for production. That being the case you don't really need a massive experimental expedition since you only need a single experiment to illustrate a given technique or principle.

If you look into the modern books designed for teachers to show experiments they are usually the most watered down versions available that will still teach a given principle, and that is the type of book that you should probably look at. Still, most chemistry principles can be illustrated through cooking if necessary :)




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Trips
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 07:40


hissingnoise -> Don't bother. I call my wife's intelligence into question often too.

DJF90- All good suggestions, but I would like something ... dramatic. She's... a wonderful person. But simply showing that something has changed from a clear liquid to a white powder is PROBABLY not going to be all that impressive to her, and I'd like to express that you can RADICALLY change the form of something with simple experiments that she can understand mechanistically eventually. She HAS taken first-year university chemistry, though our program really only discussed organic in terms of nomenclature. But as for mols, valence, etc... she has the necessary groundwork.

BromicAcid- Yeah. I'm not training her for production, but ... the more thorough I want to be as a teacher... the more excuses I have to buy funky chemicals to play with on my own!!! :D I want it to be fun for her and exciting so she encourages further chemical purchases.

Haha!

Thanks guys.
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DJF90
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 08:03


Well considering that many organic reactions produce white powders it might be better to switch to a more colourful branch of chemistry, although from your first post this would seem non-conducive to her understanding your organic babblings! The best compromise I can think of is to either dabble in dye chemistry, or try simple reactions that will give extended pi-systems (and thus hopefully coloured products). I recall obtaining an orange product from the knoevenagel condensation of cyclopentanone with 2 eq. 4-methoxybenzaldehyde (both of which are colourless liquids).
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watson.fawkes
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 08:28


Quote: Originally posted by Trips  
Anyways, I'm looking for some neat experiments that show neat princples, preferably without a lot of stink. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything!
Test-tube scale synthesis of esters. Use a good stink in your favor.

All the paper-learning in the world will be largely irrelevant without some experiential motivation behind it. So do some sensory-rich experiments first, and then get to explaining the mystery behind it. I've suggested smell; color would also work.
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 08:33


I have no way of knowing your wife, her interests, or her abilities. In all likelihood she is willing to try to learn organic chemistry to please you or to appear more pleasing to you. You must decide what the motivation is, and if the work, costs, and outcome will be worth it. Try to be objective about this. She might be happier doing something else, where she isn't directly 'competing' with you. Since she is your wife, the priorities are not work related, but more basic. Think long term happiness, understanding, and support. You need a wife more than a lab partner.

Just from a mathematical point of view, what are the chances that a subset of women who like organic chemistry will link up with a subset of men who like organic chemistry? I'm sure it could happen, but it's not likely.

I wouldn't normally say anything, but you brought it up on a public forum for discussion. Best to you both.

Have you thought about work in DNA? I know this is a two meaning suggestion, but DNA work doesn't involve much stinky equipment, and is actually a lively field.
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entropy51
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 09:00


Quote: Originally posted by Trips  
Unfortunately, we're currently in an apartment, and stinky volatiles are kindof out.
An apartment is not the best place, but a little chemistry can be done there. If you're very, very careful.

Someone who isn't entropy lived in an apartment for over 10 years and did a fair amount of inorganic and organic experiments there. He didn't get into any trouble but he constantly reminded himself that he couldn't do anything to endanger the other residents.

The bromination of benzene, done on the balcony on a cold day when no one else was on their balcony, was a little bit over the top however.

[Edited on 20-11-2010 by entropy51]
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hissingnoise
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 09:28


Not trying to put you off Trips, but if I had a penny for every time my wife has said, "I'm not interested in chemistry" I'd be in Forbes!
But then my wife and I are polar opposites - Scorpio and Taurus!

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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 10:05


Quote: Originally posted by entropy51  

The bromination of benzene, done on the balcony on a cold day when no one else was on their balcony, was a little bit over the top however.


That must have been funny. I would have like to have seen SWIE doing that one! :D

My experience: When you are a young married couple your wife will cheerfully do almost anything you want to do to promote family harmony, etc. This changes with time. Now I just encourage her to spend whatever she wants on trinkets, gifts, and the like so that I can spend same on lab equipment and chemicals. :D




The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 11:44


Azo dyes are visual and interesting, and are historically important too.

You can soak cloth in a solution of either the diazonium salt or the phenolic compound, and then in the other solution to get colour-fast dyeing.

You can vary the amine that you start with and/or the phenol to look for interesting colours. For example, you might brominate the amine with bromine water, or nitrate the phenol.

edit:- You could split the diazonium salt solution in half, heat one half to convert to a phenol, and then couple it with the remaining diazonium salt.

Acriflavine is an interesting OTC aromatic amine to try.

[Edited on 20-11-2010 by Paddywhacker]
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 12:42


If you'd kept your mouth shut hissingnoise, I would have thought you were just saying it was impractical... not sexist :P

-ahem- As has been thoroughly mentioned, apartments are severely unsmart places to do chemistry. Do you have access to anywhere more suitable?

My wife has also always been at least somewhat interested in my wafflings, to the point where she's actually planning out a graduate diploma in science, to complete after she graduates with her BA in English and Classics :P




“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.
I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
-Tesla
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 18:47
When you're ready to do the physical work...


An obvious suggestion: esters!

Why? Because of the interesting fruity aromas!

http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/ethylacetate/smells.htm
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 19:00



Quote:

Don't bother. I call my wife's intelligence into question often too.


I hope she doesn't ever visit this forum!

I wish my girlfriend was interested in science. Or anything for that matter. I find it extremely difficult to understand a lack of intense curiosity, much less a lack of any curiosity at all. I attempt to get an idea of it by thinking of things like reality shows, celebrity gossip and "clubbing" and then applying my lack of interest in those things to science. How could anyone feel that way about science?!

*sigh*




"There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry ... There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress." -J. Robert Oppenheimer
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[*] posted on 20-11-2010 at 19:53


Trips look into voilently exothermic reactions. It sounds strange but excitment has a strange way of drawing people to it.

Find something she can participate in such as adjusting formulas for a bigger bang. Woman like the numbers and if you can get the attention one way or another you will have someone to do your math for you for the rest of your life.

I say everyone like big boom. Esp if its unexpected. Perhaps a reaction that takes a minute of staring at before it takes off and goes kapow.... The excitement leading up will stir anyones soul.





Knowledge is useless to useless people...

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[*] posted on 21-11-2010 at 04:20


Quote:
The excitement leading up will stir anyones soul.

I knew sex would enter the equation at some point!

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[*] posted on 21-11-2010 at 14:04


MagicJigPipe: How can you stay sane with someone who isn't curious? I'd go mad.



“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.
I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
-Tesla
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[*] posted on 21-11-2010 at 16:03


Mme Science Squirrel has no interest in chemistry and asks me to fix her computer when it goes wrong.
But she speaks fluent French and English, sings very sweetly in the local choir and is a good dancer. We share interests in politics, art and literature.
I think I can forgive her non interest in smells, bangs and blue screens!
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[*] posted on 21-11-2010 at 20:09


I am learning organic chemistry (and self taught) from my husband, so I can give you some ideas.

This isn't intended to be sexist but very often science turns women off because they use high falutin' language for common knowledge. So try changing the way you think about chemistry and the language you use.

Have you ever watched "Good Eats" on the cooking channel?

Even before I was officially interested in Chemistry I enjoyed that show. The chef often explains the chemistry of cooking - what purpose does baking soda serve for example. Cooking is one way through which you can reframe information she already has.

Then there are various household products which perform certain functions - why do they do what they do - concepts such as enzymes, soap (saponins) etc. I still remember 9th grade biology teacher explaining how soap helps combine oil and water.

Other fun things include distillation, soxhlet etc using herbs and spices. Essential oils are really fun. Find things to make which she might enjoy.

Other tips from someone who's spent a year learning from her husband:

Be patient and allow her to progress at her own pace. There are many things which you might be comfortable with that may take her a while to feel confident enough to attempt.

(husband didn't understand why I didn't want to vacuum distill my first kava extract)

He drove me crazy asking why I was messing with percolation when we have a soxhlet setup. Then once I saw him do one, I felt confident enough to do it myself. What I learned about packing a percolation column is very applicable to the soxhlet tube and I still use percolation for cold processing herbs.

Also get a good microscope, we're all big kids inside and they're fun.

Good luck, pm me if you need more ideas.





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[*] posted on 24-11-2010 at 09:42


Two words:

Molecular gastronomy!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_gastronomy

Basically the preparation of exquisite meals using basic food ingredients, combined with some organic and inorganic reagents and laboratory apparatus. Then, you'll slowly be able to replace her set of crystal glasses with Pyrex 600 ml tall beakers! ;)

Robert
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[*] posted on 24-11-2010 at 11:01


I can hardly wait for KitchenAid to come out with a rotary evaporator. ;)



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[*] posted on 24-11-2010 at 11:03


SWilkin676 gives a good idea and if anyone should know it would be her. If your wife is into those expensive smell good bath soaps perhaps you could attempt to make some. The entire process could turn something very simple into something complicated. You could make the soap, you could make the essential oils for it. Plenty of sights and smells avalible to please the senses as one learnes the processes behind it and in the end it is functional.

Ethylalcohol extractions then simple distillation can make perfumes that my X girl use to enjoy making since it involved walking out in nature and collecting various smells then blending them into a light perfume.





Knowledge is useless to useless people...

"I see a lot of patterns in our behavior as a nation that parallel a lot of other historical processes. The fall of Rome, the fall of Germany — the fall of the ruling country, the people who think they can do whatever they want without anybody else's consent. I've seen this story before."~Maynard James Keenan
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