Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why chemistry gets me through the day

I haven't blogged in a few months, but I enjoy my chemistry professor too much not to mention him. He is about 40 years old, wears his hair in a ponytail almost all the way down his back, frequently sports a bowtie, and just as frequently has a line of chalk across his rear despite the fact that there is no chalkboard in our classroom. When the students work in small groups during class, he walks on top of the desks, making rounds to answer questions. I'm sometimes jealous that he walks on the desks and want to jump up and follow him. (I often wanted to walk on the desks in high school, but, the one time I did so, my teacher told me not to do that because he and the school would be liable if I fell and hurt myself.) After our first exam he surveyed the class: "The exam was a) very difficult, b) somewhat difficult, c) meh, d) not difficult." When we learned about limiting reagents, our book used the anology of making s'mores--if you need 1 graham cracker, 1 chocolate bar, and 2 marshmallows to make 1 s'more and you have 100 of each ingredient, how many s'mores can you make? My professors happened to walk by as I said aloud to myself, "A whole chocolate bar for one graham craker?! This is a poorly constructed s'more." We then had the following conversation:

"Not if you use the right kind of chocolate. Maybe if you're using some junk called Hershey's."

"What kind of chocolate are we using? Ghirardelli?"

"Ghirardelli is the lowest acceptable grade."

"It's arguably the best American chocolate."

At this point, he shrugged and walked away, but I called him back. "Wait, if you had really good chocolate, why would you ruin it by putting it in a s'more? I mean, if you're making dessert out of graham crackers and marshmallows, you probably don't care about the quality of your chocolate."

He just smiled and nodded his approval.

He is a fascinating man. I told my best friend that if my chemistry professor were 10 or 15 years younger, we would definitely be friends with him.