Monday, November 04, 2013

science (and dread) in everyday life

Karen has a small but impressive collection of antique salt-and-pepper shakers.  One had such an encrustation of salt on its inside that the holes were mostly blocked.  She had been soaking it in water for a couple of days, but the salt remained.

This morning, she asked me if I could get the salt layer removed.  "Easy," I said, "just add some vinegar to the water."  I did so and, an hour later, the salt is mostly gone.

The NY State Board of Regents (funded by the 1960's taxpayers of Elmira, New York) insisted that my Liberal education include basic chemistry. Sodium chloride is a base.  Lower the ph with an acid (acetic, in this case) and the base commences to dissolve.

My moment of self-congratulation was short-lived, as I immediately thought of the escalating acidification of our (one-and-only) planet's oceans.  Calcium carbonate cannot stand up to Carbon dioxide - same principal.  Goodbye shell-fish, coral, and the web of Life that depends on these.

Nothing will be done - we will collectively just let it happen, and try not to think about our grand-children looking at us with the same incredulity as us looking back on World War I and the Spanish Inquisition (to name but two).

Applied Science - how easy to do on the micro level - not so easy on the macro.

1 comment:

Barry in Portland said...

Oops - my bad - you LOWER the ph when adding an acid to a base. DOH!!!