Monthly Archives: August 2011

Chemistry Dessert: an incorrect Theory

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In 1897, a man named J.J. Thomson devised a Theory to explain the concept of the Atom, which he called the “Plum Pudding” model. In his model (photo 1), he used plum pudding to demonstrate his theory. The plums were negatively charged Electrons floating around inside a positively charged mass (the pudding). As the Electrons are negatively charged and the mass would be positive, well, opposites attract, so the Electrons stay in the “pudding”.

Thomson was almost correct, but from what we know now, at the center of the Atom, there is a positively charged Nucleus, with negatively charged Electrons floating around the Nucleus (photo 2), keeping separate because the Electrons repel each other, but staying around the Nucleus because the Nucleus is positive.

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Collecting the Elements

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Now take stones, my hobby, view them microscopically, and you’ve got Chemistry. So now I have started “collecting the Elements”, and so far have got: C,Al,Fe,Na,Ag,Cu and Pb. In case you forgot your Chemistry, that’s Carbon (Graphite from a pencil), Aluminum, (Aluminum foil), Iron (a magnet), Sodium (kitchen salt) Silver (leftover silversmithing scraps), Copper (wire), and Lead (fishing weight).

In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier published a list of only 33 Chemical Elements, less than half of the 102 currently known Elements. But it was in 1869 and 1870 that Dmitri Mendeleev and Julius Meyer published the first Periodic Tables.

War in the Mines

With the rush in the Comstock Lode (same place as in my last blog) everyone was making claims, saying that their claim followed the silver veins, but the problem was, there were two (seemingly) separate veins on the surface, and one mining party would claim one, and another mining party would claim the other, but the veins would be in a V shape, joining about 140 feet underground, so the mining parties would meet  eventually and a fight would ensue over ownership of the vein. To make things worse, the Civil War was just beginning, and lets just say, if the Rebels and “Unionists” met underground, someone was going to get hurt. Oh yeah, there were no police, and in whatever courts their were, the jury were usually bribed.

Mining solution

In my last blog, “That danged blue stuff” I told you a bit about the silver found near Virginia City, Nevada. Well, mining silver and mining gold are two different things. Gold is found in hard Quartz, and relatively near the surface, whereas silver is in soft ore, deep underground, and large quantities of ore must be taken out, creating large “caverns”. So cave-ins were very frequent. and many lost their lives. It was a man named Philip Deidesheimer who came up with the solution. Copying Bee cells, he designed small wooden structures stacked on top of each other, thus they could be roofed and floored and so protect the miners.

That danged blue stuff

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“That danged blue stuff!” said the miner as he flung away the blue gravel. “Clogging our mekaniks and gettin’ in our clothes” he muttered as he went back to work. That miner, among dozens of others, was mining for gold in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1858. An onlooker, B.A. Harrison, picked up some of those blue rocks and put them in his pocket. On his next trip to California, Harrison gave them to an assayer, Melville Atwood. Atwood found out that there was not only $876 worth of Gold, but also $3,196 worth of Silver per ton of “that danged blue stuff”. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, but Atwood wrote to Don Davidson, in San Francisco and told him about the Silver ore. The Nevada silver rush was on.

What started the Industrial Revolution

With the discovery of Coke, (a fuel made from coal) people could smelt Iron ore much faster, meaning the cost of Iron went down, so then the manufactureres of the recently invented steamboats, locomotives, etc. could buy more Iron and make more of their “merchandise”, and Inventors could make more inventions without having to worry about cost! Thus was the Industrial revolution started.

Ruby and Sapphire

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Ruby is a variety of Corundum (Aluminum Oxide) and so is Sapphire. Well, to get this strait, (people usually get confused when I tell them about this) we have the mineral Corundum. Now some of those Corundum crystals are growing in Iron and Titanium deposits, causing, over time, the Iron and Titanium Atoms to get into the crystal, therefore turning it blue! Now some other Crystals are growing in deposits of Iron and Chromium, turning them red! So the only difference between Ruby and Sapphire is the color. So  Ruby is red Corundum and Sapphire is Corundum of any other color.