HOME-LABORATORY STUNTS WITH LUMINOUS SUBSTANCES
By Raymond B. Wailes
AMONG the most mysterious and beautiful of chemical experimerits are those producing substances that glow in the dark. With the aid of your home laboratory, you can make any number of common household products self-luminous. Coffee, tea, pepper, chili powder, mustard, cocoa, ginger, and many other groceries will produce a really visible light in a dark room, after you have treated them with the proper chemicals. You may even be able to make a flower from your garden emit enough illumination to allow you to read a few letters of print, and you will find that oil of bergamot, an ingredient of inexpensive perfumes, gives an especially strong glow.
All that you will need to produce these strange effects is a little grain or J denatured alcohol, a common alkali such as lye, hydrogen peroxide from the drug store, and one of the newer, “made with electricity” bleaching liquids and laundry whiteners. There are several of these liquids, widely advertised and obtainable at any grocery store. They are solutions of sodium hypochlorite, and you will find that this statement appears on the labels of the bottles.
Suppose you start in by purchasing about an ounce of oil of bergamot at the drug store. Add half a teaspoonful of it to an ounce of grain alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or radiator alcohol. Also dissolve in the liquid several pieces of solid sodium hydroxide (ordinary household lye will do), or potassium hydroxide. Now add about half a teaspoonful or so of drug-store hydrogen peroxide, and a like amount of the sodium hypochlorite solution. Darken the room, or take the mixture into a dark closet.
Chemistry Spins a Yarn
By Kenneth M. Swezey
TRANSFORMATION of tree fibers or cotton linters into rayon fabrics is one of the greatest achievements of modern industrial chemistry. Chemically, rayon is almost pure cellulose, the same as cotton and linen. But instead of using cellulose as found in nature, the rayon chemist starts with cheap and plentiful spruce and hemlock trees, or the fuzz that clings to cotton seed after it has been ginned. He chops these up, dissolves them, and then causes the cellulose to reappear in silky filaments that may be spun, twisted, knit, or woven into forms that compete successfully with cotton, silk, linen, or wool.
WHAT IS A QUANTUM?
By PAUL R. HEYL, Ph.D. Physicist United States Bureau of Standards, Author of “The New Frontier of Physics”, Contributing Editor Scientific American
“Do you remember,” said the visitor, “when I came here some time ago, asking you to tell me what an atom was?”
“Yes,” said the scientist, “and I could not do it.”
“Perhaps you did better than you thought. Now I have another question to ask you.”
“I hope it is something easier this time.”
“Well, it isn’t about Einstein. I only want to know what the quantum theory is all about. What is a quantum, anyway?”
“You do not seem to be getting any more moderate in your demands,” said the scientist. “How much do you know about it, to begin with?”
Mercury … THE LIQUID METAL
Important Alike to Science, Medicine, and Industry, This Fluid Element Is So Heavy That Iron Floats in It
By KENNETH M. SWEZEY
MERCURY, the only metal that is liquid at ordinary temperatures, solidifying at its freezing point of â€”39 deg. C, is one of the most fascinating elements. Because of its wide distribution and the simplicity of its metallurgy, it was known to the ancients. It was the principal substance the alchemists believed could be changed into gold and silver. Since then it has found wide use in medicine and in the arts.
Both the common term “quicksilver” and the Latin chemical name hydrargyrum, “water of silver,” eloquently describe the elusive liquid metal that does not wet glass and that is so heavy that iron nuts, bolts, and washers float in it like corks. Because of its weight, mercury is an ideal liquid for barometers and suction pumps. Its high boiling point (357 deg. C.) and even thermal expansion make it a fine fluid for thermometers. Although mercury actually can be changed into gold now by the miracle of atom smashing, the transmutation will never make anyone rich, for the cost far exceeds the value of the final product.
. . . most useful precious metal, it is prized for coins, jewelry, plate, photography, and medicine.
By KENNETH M. SWEZEY
OF THE precious metals, gold, silver, and platinum, silver is both the most common and the most useful. Beauty, malleability, sonorousness, and resistance to atmospheric oxygen have put it in demand for coins, jewelry, tableware, ornaments, and bells since the beginning of history. Because it has the highest electric conductivity of any substance, it is prized in electric equipment. Silver nitrate, its most common salt, is used in making indelible ink and hair dyes, in photography and silver plating, and in medicine as an antiseptic and germicide taken both internally and externally.
From brazen helmet and warrior’s shield of the ancient world to the modern flashlight cell and galvan-ized steel plate, zinc has worked in the service of man.
By KENNETH M. SWEZEY
THOUGH it seldom makes headlines, humble zinc ranks with iron, copper, and lead as one of the most widely used metals in the world. Hundreds of thousands of tons of zinc are used annually as a molten dip to coat iron and steel pipes, tanks, and roofing for protection against corrosion. The process is known as galvanizing.
Brass is made of about 30 percent zinc and 70 percent copper. Granular zinc and zinc dust are used in the laboratory to release hydrogen from acids, to recover gold and silver from solutions, and in organic synthesis. More than 500,000,000 zinc cases for use in electrical dry cells are manufactured every year.
Are Scientists Monsters?
“Lord, what has happened to people’s thinking!” writes a Mr. R. C. C. of San Francisco, telling us how “shocked” he was to read artist-writer Frank Tinsley’s article, Atomic Duster . . . Deadliest Weapon, in the December issue. Quoting Mr. Tinsley’s statement that his atomic-powered, ramjet missile (see cut) is not pure dream dust but that such a weapon is mentioned in the latest progress report of the hush-hush Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft project, the reader asks:
“How can a man have such a perverted mind as to call a weapon designed for wholesale cold-blooded murder progress? What right has science to create and release such forces under the guise of progress and jeopardize the life of every living thing?”
HOME EXPERIMENTS WITH HYDROGEN
by VERNON TRACEY
HYDROGEN, the lightest of chemical elements forms a very interesting field of experiment for the home chemist. It can be produced easily in several ways for experimental purposes; one of the most common of which consists of the action of sulphuric acid on zinc.
A flask into which is dropped a few grams of zinc scraps is fitted with a rubber stopper, thistle-tube and delivery-tube as shown in the photo. The thistle-tube is fitted into the stopper so the end will be about 1/8″ from the bottom of the flask. The end of the delivery-tube is near the top of the flask. Dilute sulphuric acid is poured down the thistle-funnel and hydrogen is produced when it comes in contact with the zinc. The top of the thistle-funnel is covered with a piece of glass to prevent the hydrogen from escaping. The hydrogen flows out through the delivery-tube and is collected in a bottle over the pneumatic trough.
Table-Top Oil Refinery FOR THE HOME CHEMIST
By RAYMOND B. WAILES
Mechanized Armies Make Oil Supply Vital,” “Shortage of Fats Imperils Nation at War”â€”headlines like these spotlight what used to be routine items in a country’s shopping list, and give them new interest for home-laboratory experimenters.
Envious eyes the world over turn toward our vast forests of oil derricks, and the rivers of crude oil that refineries turn into gasoline for vehicles of war and peace. What makes their enormous production possible is the modern “cracking” process for extracting gasoline. Once the crude oil was simply distilled to separate, in turn, the gasoline and other substances it contained. Today, in addition, by-products of the distillation are “cracked” or broken down into gasoline, doubling the total yield.
From the Bronze Age to World War II, this metal has been useful to man.
By KENNETH M. SWEZEY
WHEN you next speak of tin, be sure it’s with respect. For tin is not only one of the most useful of the common base metals, but it is by far also the most expensive. At a price of 52 cents a pound, this erroneously maligned metal is more than three times as costly as aluminum, is four times as dear as copper, and is 40 times as expensive as iron. What’s more, its important contribution to everyday living and to industry makes it worth the price.
Tin is one of the most ancient and honorable of metals. Alloyed with copper to make bronze, it has been used to fashion weapons, utensils, and tools since prehistoric time. In this alloy, tin makes the copper harder and more resistant to atmosphere and gives it a lower melting point. The tin mines of Cornwall, England, now supplying tin for the Allies’ war effort, have been in almost continuous operation since the Bronze Age.