Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kitchen Science!

I recently did a bit of science in my very own kitchen. The purpose of the great experiment was to see if I could carbonate water at home. I pretty much live on soda water so the practical nature of this experiment is obvious. If I could introduce bubbles into my own filtered tap water I'd save money, save the planet by not using so many plastic bottles, and save my back from hauling all those liters home.

It's a simple procedure. All I needed was a couple of bottles and a tube with air-tight caps. One bottle was filled with ordinary water. The other bottle was where the science would happen. First I poured in white vinegar. The plan was that I would then introduce sodium bicarbonate to the vinegar. The mix of acid and base would produce carbon dioxide. I would seal the bottle with a tube running into the other bottle, forcing the gas into the water and making a lovely fizzy drink. What could possibly go wrong?

In my research on this subject it was suggested that the experimenter must be careful when initially mixing the chemicals. If they meet too quickly the experiment might not be successful. This was good advice, but it failed to take into account my butterfingered condition. The vial of of powder that I meant to gently place in the bottle somehow slipped from my hand and dropped into the bottle. The result was instantaneous and not at all what I intended.

The bottle I was standing over erupted into a small but spectacular geyser. My first reaction was to jump away, but as the geyser continued to spurt I grabbed the bottle and quickly maneuvered it into the sink. With the crisis over I took a moment to survey the result. I had managed to spray a vinegar and baking soda mixture over every surface of my kitchen, including counters, pots, pans, appliances, utensils, floor, and, of course, me. As vinegar dripped from my hair, over my glasses, and down my neck, I reflected on the harsh mistress that is science. All I had wanted was a refreshing beverage. Instead I had just douched my face.

Would this little setback stop me? If it did, then what would become of man's search for knowledge? I pressed on, using the remainder of my vinegar in a second attempt. This time I was considerably more careful mixing my chemicals. I am pleased to report that the second reaction was under control. I would call it a great success if it wasn't for the fact that the target water remained pretty much unchanged. It might have been a little bit bubbly with an almost undetectable carbonation, but for the most part it remained still.

I am, however, undaunted. I will make another attempt, just as soon as I finish cleaning the kitchen. And my girlfriend stops laughing.

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