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Title

Vinaigrette and Mayonnaise

Take a balloon, a perfectly ordinary-looking blue balloon, pour dry ice over it, hey presto, it deflates, then remove it from the dish and, voila!, it re-inflates.… Thus did PTJ yesterday present an experiment and, although he didn’t identify it as such, Boyle’s law, I seem to half-remember, is proven. For proof of a half-remembered proof, or proof, at least, that my memory still works, I head, where else, to Wikipedia!

January 27, 2010
 

Take a balloon, a perfectly ordinary-looking blue balloon, pour dry ice over it, hey presto, it deflates, then remove it from the dish and, voila!, it re-inflates.… Thus did PTJ yesterday present an experiment and, although he didn’t identify it as such, Boyle’s law, I seem to half-remember, is proven. For proof of a half-remembered proof, or proof, at least, that my memory still works, I head, where else, to Wikipedia!

Wikipedia is not something I use in my own field, but in the last year or so I’ve found myself using it more and more for areas that are outside of my expertise. I assume that’s how others use it too, as I find it hard to imagine a chemist looking up Robert Boyle (a fellow son of the sod, another fact that I think I might have once known) when she could, qua chemist, write the entry herself. Anyway, I was right about Boyle’s law: the balloon deflated because dry ice is cold. It was all pretty impressive, very visual, a ‘reaction’ for all to see, but that isn’t what stayed with me most after yesterday’s class, no it’s the element, mixture, compound classification that I’ve mostly been thinking about.

My earlier supposition that elements are ‘elemental’ was correct, they can’t be broken down into other…things (file under, “for want of a better word”), or, more sciencesque (and after a peek at my notes) they contain only one type of atom. Then there are “mixtures,” which can be separated by physical properties like density, and “compounds” which can only be broken down by a chemical reaction. Background being the leading cause of foreground, I immediately thought: vinaigrette is a mixture, mayonnaise is a compound, and, with still less confidence, lettuce is an element. Then in the early hours of the morning, while not sleeping yet again, I thought, “No, that’s not right, mayo is a mixture because you could break it down in a lab.” Then I thought, “My mayonnaise extrudes a little of its olive oil on a warm day, I bet if I put some in a saucepan and heated it up it wouldn’t become decidedly un-mayonnaise pretty quickly, so it’s only a mixture!” Thus warring with myself (a war I couldn’t resolve at home as my course materials were all in my office) I eventually drifted off to sleep thinking that as subject for internal, insomnia-driven, dialogues go, mayonnaise beats the hell our of “stuff I wish I’d done,” or “stuff I really will do this time.”

Thus I make progress.

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