Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gunther Interview - Part II

As a consequence of winning the A.A. Michelson Award at CMG'08, I was interviewed for CMG MeasureIT e-zine. The second installment appears in this month's issue. Free access, but requires sign-up if you're not already registered.

As you can see, I still have my Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, although it's showing signs of wear by now. It's open at the one experiment I could never get to work; making rayon. I'm now inclined to think there might be a bug in the recipe, but that never occurred to me back then. I just wanted to make it in the worst way.

I had no idea this book had been banned by the US government---more proof that lawyers are guilty of having too much control. Not only is there nothing in that book which could rationally be declared as dangerous (any more than getting up in the morning is dangerous), correct laboratory techniques and safety are foremost in this book, e.g., it explains how to handle a bottle-stopper correctly (you never put it down) and how to smell odors without smelling. Moreover, starting around 10 years old in Melbourne (where there were a lot less lawyers), I could happily take the tram into the city and ultimately purchase compounds like aniline and nitrobenzene, both of which are now listed as category-3 carcinogens. That was dangerous! (but who knew?)

Looking at the above photo, I only now noticed that the boy is not wearing safety glasses and a 2% HCl solution is required for this experiment. When I checked in the book, I see that it recommends wearing an apron to protect your clothes, but nothing about protecting your eyes. That is a very serious omission, but doesn't rise to the level of banning the book. A simple erratum would do, and that may have happened later. My older cousin purchased this 1st edition for my birthday, while he was visiting the USA in 1960. Curiously, I never noticed this omission before, probably because I always wore safety glasses and a lab coat, without exception. I can only assume that was due to my father's influence; one is so clueless at 10. He's 100.5836 years old today, btw. Live safe, live long!

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