Back on Track

The Periodic Table of T Shirts project suffered a setback this week. Despite my initial delight at the first batch of t shirts, other participants had not been so lucky. Quite a few have been waiting for ten days or more and one had problems with payment, fearing that the security of their website had been compromised. Further investigation shows that reviews are either 5 star or zero; there seems very little middle ground. It just goes to show that you get what you pay for.

I hope that will offer advantages in reliability and also in having separate shops in other countries in Europe and in the US. Their custom t-shirt printing engine is simple and self-evident. Logos should be resized to 20cm wide (8.5 inches). The widest range of colours is available in the men’s standard t-shirt, but colours are limited for the women’s t-shirts. I will continue to look for a reliable supplier with a decent colour range for women.

I have updated the colour descriptions to match the supplier’s catalogue here.


Painting a line in the road

When the going gets tough in class, I might tell my students the story about the man painting the line in the middle of the road. It’s an old joke but it expresses how it feels to be a chemistry teacher sometimes. Let’s call the man Stan.
The foreman checking Stan’s work comes to speak to him. He wants to know why he painted 200m in the first hour, only 50m the second hour and a measly 20m in the third hour. “Well,” says Stan, “I’m getting further and further away from my paint pot.”
I thought about telling this story today but thought better of it. We were measuring the Enthalpy of Neutralisation with some Year 10 students. They added the acid to the alkali, diligently measuring the temperature rise. Results in hand we set about doing the calculation. We went back to review how we worked out the energy released. Not too bad, as we had covered it only the last lesson. Then we needed to work out the number of moles reacting. Let’s go back and remind ourselves how we work out the number of moles of acid in 50ml of 2.0M HCl (not the units we used in class of course). Units of volume need to be reviewed as well of course as we need to convert to dm3. No, we don’t add the number of moles of alkali to this do we, because we look at the equation and see that they react 1:1 and so the number of moles is the same. We spend a little time looking at the equation. With all this done, we just about have time to put the numbers into the equations and work out the answer. What does it all mean? Sadly this is completely lost in the process of reviewing the principles we needed to solve the problem in the first place.
Is Chemistry a difficult subject? It is if you don’t carry your paint pot with you every step of the way. Should I expect my Year 10s to be completely fluent in the language of chemistry and to understand and recall everything they have done so far? I don’t think so, yet. Perhaps if we keep going back they will eventually get it. However, by the time we return to where we started the objective is sometimes lost.

We Are In Business

The first shirt arrived this week and I have been sending logos all around the world as a result of a number of helpful retweets. Here is yours truly modelling the silicon version in lovely “paprika” (which looks a lot more like salmon pink). With another 92 still to be claimed as of today (May 9 2012) there is an element left with your name on it.



About The Cycling Scientist

I enjoy teaching science. I enjoy cycling. I love Twitter and have found it an extremely useful device to keep up with new developments in teaching and learning, science issues and news from Team Sky and others that doesn’t make the mainstream sports news. However, I have used Twitter only to explore the great work of others and I haven’t really contributed much. That has to change!
Recently I took part in the #RealTimeChem twitter event and even won a gold award on St George’s Day for my post! It was great seeing all the posts from practising chemists around the world. I was taken back in time 20 years to my lab days in Southampton and I could even recall the distinctive smell as if I’d just stepped out of the lift and onto the organic chemistry floor! Through Twitter I have also discovered great blogs from chemists just like I had once been (please read that last sentence carefully- I am not suggesting I was a great chemist). It was a revelation; I still felt part of it! These days, running a TLC for the students is a real chore as I do it so rarely and the most complicated NMR spectrum I need to explain is ethanol.
The fact that I am interested in what the chemistry fraternity is blogging about while doing #RealTimeChemistry is cause enough for me to contribute to the general discussion about chemistry, science, environmental issues, teaching and learning. Oh, and cycling! Whether anyone will be interested in what I write is immaterial. It will be good for me!

As Sure as Eggs is Eggs

The College farm is currently thriving under the stewardship of farmer Jon. Committed to sustainability, the farm aims to be self-sufficient and independent of any grants from the College. Recently the parents’ association spent a lovely Sunday afternoon planting trees to replace the hawthorn and sycamore that have been cleared from the valley. They were rewarded with a barbecue serving sausages made with pork reared on the farm and butchered a short distance away. These were quite delicious and even more palatable given the low food miles they required from farm to plate.
The farm also produces free range eggs. Sadly these are not able to be used in the College kitchens as they are not date stamped. The fact that the pupils can watch them being laid is not good enough for the bureaucrats. At present, the cost of a date stamper is well beyond the farm budget so we won’t be seeing our own eggs being served in the dining hall, a mere 400m from the hen house, anytime soon. Luckily the eggs are available to staff and I can attest that they make lovely cakes and are delicious as part of a traditional full English breakfast. I wonder how many other small holdings are falling foul of such regulation- designed to protect us, of course- and watching local restaurants instead buying eggs from far and wide.