Mnemonic = memory aid

Several years ago I came across a Chem 201 exam with the following written in the margin: “Albert is sick and in pain, so I brought clean forks”. Afterward I asked the student what that was all about and she re-wrote it for me:

AlBert is SiCk and in PaiN, SO I Brought Clean Forks

This little ditty helped her remember which elements were found in the same column of the periodic table. Pretty clever. Do you have a chemistry mnemonic or tip to share? You can submit your tip as a comment.

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Liquid mercury

We won’t be using liquid mercury in the o chem lab, but it was widely used in many of the research labs where I worked. I even played with some liquid mercury when I was little. This video shows you the vapors produced by even tiny amounts of liquid mercury. Check it out.

Mercury Vapor Experiment – Bowling Green State University

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C7 H10 O3 contest – Week #1 Results

Week #1? Yes, that’s right. Last week’s contest brought in only three entries and the results were so intriguing (see below) that I thought it would be fun to extend the contest two more weeks. So I will collect entries this coming week and name a new winner, and then I will repeat the entire process the following week. So you have three chances to win in all.

The rules for entering the contest this week are identical to those from last week. Any 3-5 people in the class may combine on an entry and turn it in to me by lab lecture next Th (Sept 18). Just draw an isomer of C7 H10 O3 on a piece of paper, add your names, and you’re in! There are two constraints: winners from this week should not re-enter (give others a chance!) and I won’t accept multiple entries from the same person.

OK. So what did this week’s entries look like and who won?

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Localized Molecular Orbital pictures (from lecture)

If you would like to look at the pictures of localized molecular orbitals (impress your parents! amaze your friends!) that I displayed in yesterday’s lecture, download the following PDF files.

Propene, CH3-CH=CH2

Formaldehyde, CH2=O

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Hyperventilating about hypervalent atoms

This question came up after lecture and its one worth bringing to the o chem public: Should sulfuric acid be drawn with double bonds (the way I originally drew it in lecture) or with single bonds+formal charges (the way I subsequently drew it)?

There is more here than meets the eye.
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Study Tips

An idiosyncratic assortment of suggestions and observations based on 23+ years of teaching.

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Four Unsolved Problems

Once you get used to them, you may find that the problems
in your textbook have a game-like quality. If you make the right mental
“moves”, you will nearly always solve the problem. It’s a nice way to
get started thinking about organic chemistry, but not terribly realistic.
Modern organic chemists spend most of their time working on problems that can’t
be solved just by making the right moves. These problems are both scientific
and technological and if we ever solve them, we will change how the entire world thinks and lives.

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The Joys of Being a Chemistry Student

My first genuine taste of organic chemistry came in my sophomore year of college (73-74). I studied from a large (1000 page) textbook not too different from yours. There was a lot to remember, but I was doing alright until the second quarter when a subtle and unannounced change in the book quite threw me. Continue reading

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