Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lesson 2 Lab: Weighing on an Analytical Balance & Distillation

Lesson 2 Lab: Weighing on an Analytical Balance & Distillation


Begin by viewing the following Thinkwell video

After you watch the above video, answer the questions below in sufficient detail:

(a) (2 pts) What are the features of an electronic balance? Include all of those discussed in the video.

Answer: Professor Gordon Yee notes that an electronic balance has different features such as electronic read-out and the tare. However, other analytical balances have features such as custom LCD display with seven alphanumeric characters, ergonomic leveling system, cursor keys for navigation through menu, one function per key, stability levels, filters, stability indicator, auto-zero tracking, weigh below capability, menu and calibration lock-out switch, factory reset options, spill gutter and removable draft shield doors (Precision weighing balances, 2012).

(b) (1 pts) What does “tare” mean? What is the importance of the ability to 'tare' when taking the mass of your sample?

Answer: The tare is useful in resetting the weight to 0.0000g hence, allowing weighing by difference. The tare is important because it helps to weigh the weight of the sample not the weight of the sample and the container.

(c) (2 pts) What is the difference between weigh boats and weigh paper, and in what circumstances should you use each?

Answer: According to professor Gordon Yee, weigh boats or filter paper can be used as carrying vessel of the chemical to be weighed.  Professor Gordon explains that Weigh boats are containers used to prevent reagents from contacting the balance pan. On the one hand, Professor Gordon notes that a filter paper is a cheaper version of the weigh boat. Weigh boats or filter papers are made of polypropylene, a plastic that does not adsorb water. Filter paper is typically inexpensive compared to weigh boats. Weigh boats do not need to be handled with care. Also, filter papers can help all the material down into the crease and direct it easily into the vessel being used without spilling.

(d) (2 pts) What is the difference in how you weigh smaller amounts vs. larger amounts, and what is the role of the scoopula in this? Explain.

Answer: The role of the scoopula is to help transfer solid materials. For example, professor Gordon used a scoopula to transfer potassium permanganate from a container to a weighing vessel for measurement purposes.

(e) (1 pts) What is the difference between “accuracy” and “precision”?

Answer: According to professor Gordon, accuracy is a degree of agreement between a measurement or a group of measurement and the actual value of a given quantity whereas precision is the reproducibility of a measurement of a given quantity (Thinkwell, 2012).

(f) (2 pts) Suppose that your instructor gives you two samples and claims that they are both calcium sulfide (CaS). Through a series of tricky chemical reactions, your instructor has you decompose both samples into the constituent calcium and sulfur, and you weigh each of your sample components on the analytical balance. You find that one sample produced 6.30 g Ca and 2.54 g S, while the other produced 3.40 g Ca and 1.90 g S. Are these results consistent with the law of constant composition (see Chapter 5)?

Answer:   Mass Ca / Mass s 6.30g/2.54g = 2.48
                Mass Ca / Mass s 3.40g/ 1.90g = 1.79
These results are not consistent with the law of constant composition, so the information that the two samples are the same substance must therefore be in error.


Please watch the following Thinkwell video:

After you watch the above video, answer the questions below in sufficient detail:

(a) (1 pts) What is the basic concept behind the technique of distillation? How and why does it work?

Answer: The basic concept behind the technique of distillation is separating a mixture of liquids or vapor mixture of two or more substances into fractions of desired purity by the removal of heat. According to professor Gordon, distillation works because of the fact that the vapor of a boiling mixture can contain more components that have lower boiling points. For example, in the experiment when the vapor is condensed, it contained more of volatile components, which would make the original mixture contain lower volatile material. 

(b) (2 pts) Describe the apparatus and setup for a distillation. Include all components.

Answer: The components of the apparatus include columns, adapters, condenser, a reflux, reflux drum, reboiler,  ring clamps,the feed and heat source. To setup a distillation station one has to begin with the round-bottom flask. To secure the flask, one can use three-pronged clamp, two rings stand and a ring stand. Place the ring clamp and three-pronged clamp on the ring stand. As observed on the video, the ring clamp goes on the bottom and will hold the heat source. Also, you need a Y-adapter secured on top of round-bottom flask. According to the university of Colorado (2012), the Y-adaptor sits on top of the round-bottom flask and then the condenser will secure the Y-adaptor to the system. Both the Keck clip and versatile clamps are also needed. The vacuum adaptor should be connected to the condenser and secured to the Keck clip. Then the steamed funnel should be placed on top of the Y-adaptor followed by pouring the liquid to be distilled. Professor Gordon notes that the flask should be between ½ and 2/3 full and when done one should remove the funnel. At this stage add the thermometer adapter and the thermometer. Professor Gordon notes that the thermometer should be added last because it is large and can break.  At this point, one can place the heat source on the ring under the round-bottom flask and start heating.

(c) (2 pts) Imagine that you wanted to perform a distillation at your own home, but you did not have the fancy lab equipment that you saw in the video. How could you do it? How could you improvise in terms of equipment?

Answer: Lets say I wanted to distill lemon water at my house. I would get two containers. I would make sure one of the containers is transparent. I would fill the transparent container with lemon water then join it with the other container at the neck.
I would go a head position the container so that the one with lemon water in it is in the sun that way it can heat up. I would also make sure the other container is kept cool in the shade and angled so that distilled lemon water will collect at the bottom. In my experiment, the heat causes evaporation of the lemon water in the filled container, which then condenses in the cooler container and then collects as distilled water in the bottom of the container.

(d) (1 pts) What is the difference between fractional and simple distillation? What is meant by “theoretical plates”?

Answer:  According to the University of Colorado UC (2012), fractional distillation is the process of heating up a mixture containing different substances with different boiling points, and drawing the different fractions off as they each boil and liquefy at its own level. On the other hand, simple distillation is a process of distillation that can be used in separating liquids that have varying boiling points such as liquids that vary between 10-20 degrees. According to the university of Colorado UC (2012), liquids that have lower boiling points distill first and the other liquid component is left behind. In this process, vaporization and condensation occur side by side (UC, 2012).
A theoretical plate is a stage at which two phases of liquid and vapor phase of a given substance can reach an equilibrium point with each other. In an experiment, the more the theoretical plates the more the efficacy of the separation process.

(e) (1 pts) What is meant by “bumping”? What is meant by “reflux”?

Answer: Bumping is a process in which a solvent becomes superheated hence releasing large vapor bubble and explosively forcing liquid outside of a flask.
A reflux is continuous boiling of a solution in a flask where the evaporating solvent is cooled and returns to the original reaction flask (UC, 2012).

(f) (3 pts) Suppose you performed a distillation of a solution containing butyl alcohol (C4H10O, also known as 1-butanol), sec-butyl alcohol (C4H10O, also known as 2-butanol), and ethyl alcohol (C2H6O). Butyl alcohol and sec-butyl alcohol have the same chemical formula, but they do have a different arrangement of their atoms (i.e. they are shaped differently), so this makes them have slightly different properties from one another. During the distillation, you collect the FIRST product that comes out, and set it aside. Then, you collect the SECOND product, analyze it, and determine that it has a formula mass of approximately 74 amu. What is the identity of this second product that you collected? How do you know? (HINT: You will find the table at http://www2.stetson.edu/~wgrubbs/datadriven/petermurphy/flame/table1.htmlvery helpful when answering this question!)

Answer:  Based on the assumption,  we can see that Butyl alcohol (C4H10O) has a higher boiling point of than ethyl alcohol (C2H6O) . This is why ethyl alcohol would be collect first before butyl alcohol.  In other wards,  ethyl alcohol has a lower molecular mass of 46.1 amu than that of Butyl alcohol, which is approximately 74 amu.  This is why it is concluded that the mass of the second product collected  is butyl alcohol.

defines Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer

The above image shows a phytoplankton bloom in the Black Sea. This image was captured in June, 2012. The image is interesting to me because it captured all corners of the 436,400 km2 (168,500 sq. mi).
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center NASASFC (2012), the above shows the sea with a rich palette of teal, turquoise, green and milky blue (NASASFC, 2012).

NASASFC (2012), noted that the image above is of Azov Sea. From the image, I can see a mixture of colors. These colors include tan green, blue and whitish. NASASFC (2012), notes that the tan color might indicate not only phytoplankton but also sediment that circulate in the waters (NASASFC, 2012).
The image is important because it can help environmental planners to understand the bloom of phytoplankton in this region. For example, as it is noted by the NASASFC (2012) that this is an annual occurrence, the image can help environmental planners to learn and plan for the extent and intensity of the bloom being affected by the nutrients that wash into the Sea. It can also help environmental planners to learn about the mixing of layers of water and the temperature of the waters.

The website data.gov (2012) defines Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer  MODIS as a key instrument aboard the Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) satellites (Data.gov, 2012). The website importantly notes that Terra's orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon (data.gov, 2012).

Basically, the MODIS is the only reason scientists have been able to make theories and conclusion. For example, the website data.gov (2012), notes that Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS view the entire Earth's surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands (data.gov,2012).  It is this data that is sent back to earth and then scientists make predictions based on this data. This data is helpful to everyone. Policy makers rely on scientists to make policies that protect our environment. In general, a good environment means good health for everyone.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Herbal Medical School

How to start a  green herbal medical school?
Community resources: Herbal Medical school
Those that have visited Asia and Africa can tell. Herbal medicine is universal especially in developing countries. Remember history has shown that herbal medicine is effective in treating diseases.  However, the challenge is that there are no books, libraries, sources, specialized universities and standardized methodologies to deliver the herbalist education. In many countries, older people have the knowledge of herbal medicine. In some countries such as Uganda, I saw people using herbal medicine to immunize their children. They term this as “Kyogero”  The “kyogero”  is a mixture of different plants (which I don’t know of course) the plants are boiled in hot water. The water tends to change to green after boiling it with the mixed plants. Parents use this water to shower their babies. According to unrecorded history of Uganda, people used to live longer than 90 years. However, these days the life expectancy for Ugandans both males and females is below 55 years. Remember that Uganda is now using modern medicine to immunize children. So what does this represent?
What is green herbal medicine?  
According to the University of  Maryland Medical Center,  it is noted that herbal medicine can also be called botanical medicine or phytomedicine. The university explains that herbal medicine refers to using  plant seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes.

Why should I start a green herbal medical school?

In United States and many other countries, herbal medicine is unregulated. There are many reasons as to why herbal medicine is unregulated in United States. We all know United States is a source of most innovations. Authorities in United States have no reason to regulate herbal medicine since studies proved to be both positive and negative. This is why authorities in United States have invested in university research. Methodologies are being developed to have a standardized herbal medical treatment. So to me this is an opportunity to start a green herbal medical school. Starting a green herbal medical school will not only help to create jobs but also will help in organizing methodologies, prevent the death of herbal medicine and will help improve our environment.  Today, many of us take plants for granted. If someone asked you to state the importance of plants to human, you will be surprised of the answers.
What are the advantages of starting a green herbal medical school?
Any university needs libraries, archives, research labs and so on. After developing herbal medicine libraries, archives, research labs and methodologies of delivering herbal medicine, students that graduate from your university can easily start they own practices after school. Note that Herbal medicine is not regulated in United States and many other countries. This means that you do not need a license to practice herbal medicine in countries where it is not regulated.

What are the challenges of starting a green herbal medical school?
1.     Finding professors with knowledge about herbal medicine might not be an easy task.
2.     Sources of herbal medicine may need greater investment because you will need to grow different plants for research.
3.     Authorities may at one point regulate herbal medicine. However, it should be noted that regulation always comes with both positive and negative effects. So this is not a big deal.
4.     Finding students who may be interested in studying herbal medicine may require extensive marketing and advertisement.
5.     Many other challenges may pop up. So keep that in mind.
Where can I start a green herbal medical school?
In general all developing countries are good places to start herbal medical schools. Developing countries have had herbal medical practices in the past but not standardized. Developing countries have fewer medical regulations compared to developed countries. My suggestions would be China, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo and Rwanda.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Keystone Oil Pipeline

The proposed Keystone oil pipeline is a system designed by a Canadian company called TransCanada to transport crude oil from northeastern Alberta province in Canada. It was proposed that crude oil would be transported Alberta province in Canada to different states in United States. The proposal consisted of operational phases. Phase one (Keystone pipeline), Phase two (Keystone- Crushing Extension) and Keystone XL pipeline expansion segments. The appropriators of the Keystone oil pipeline proposal claim that this project would create jobs. However, this proposal to construct oil pipeline has faced critics ranging from environmentalists, independent refiners and property owners. Such criticisms led the White House to the reject this proposal and postpone it to 2013.  The white house cited many factors as to why the proposal was rejected.
Search EngineIt is stated that in November 2011, republicans in the senate and congress introduced legislation that was meant to force the Obama administration to approve the Keystone oil pipeline within sixty days. Obama noted that the deadline was politically motivated. He went on to explain that there was no clear review of the Keystone oil pipeline proposal.  In his rejection Obama clearly concluded that the Keystone oil pipeline was not in line with United Sates national interests. The president was quoted saying, the decision was not a judgment on the advantages of the pipeline but the arbitrary nature of the deadline presented by senate republicans. In his rejection statement, he said, the deadline given prevented the State Department from obtaining necessary information to approve the project and protect American people. From this view, the president through his departments uses benefit-cost analysis to evaluate projects.

According to Bruckner in his article Pipeline Threatens Health and Environment, the proposed pipeline would pass over the Ogallala aquifer; this aquifer provides drinking, farming water to millions of Americans. In case of pipeline leakage, this could cause water pollution. This would lead to shortage of drinking water and irrigation water for those families that depend on Ogallala aquifer. It is also noted that TransCanada the company responsible for the proposal, dumped ten thousands of oil into American soil (Bruckner, 2012).  Accepting the same company’s proposal without proper risk evaluation can cause future environmental problems. The White House argues that federal agencies responsible for project and policy assessments require enough time to assess risks and benefits.
In Natural Resource Economics, Field explains that identification and elaboration of repercussions of a designated activity (Pipeline project) should be undertaken before any public project is initiated (Field, 2006). This explains that the Obama administration was following the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA). This law requires that federal agencies carry out environmental impact assessments of any proposed project that significantly have direct impacts on human environment (Field, 2006). The proposed pipeline would have direct impact on Americans. The Obama administration has an obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment before approving the pipeline project.
On the other hand, critics state that Obama’s decision to reject the proposed pipeline was largely influenced by groups of environmentalists. These groups threatened not to campaign for him in November, if he did not reject the project. Field in Natural Resource Economics notes, the problem with benefit-cost analysis is that few people can be against an idea of having a certain policy enacted but its concrete application and good analysis can be politically controversial because it can discover results that are contrary to the interests of politicians, agencies, and interest groups (Field, 2006). Obama was influenced to reject the project proposal because of his political interests.
In conclusion, the Keystone pipeline project proposal is a sensitive proposal that requires proper risk assessment. The Obama administration postponed this project to secure enough time for proper evaluation. Political factors might have played part in the decision to postpone the project but were not the major cause for the rejection.

Barry, C. Field. (2008).  Natural Resource Economics. Long Grove, IL: Waveland press, inc.

Bruckner, S. (2012, Feb 20). Pipeline plan threatens health and environment. Richmond Times Dispatch.  Retrieved from: http://www2.timesdispatch.com.

Efficient policies

Efficient policies

Local policies like those related to public services and goods like livestock farming tend not to be efficient but equitable if they are implemented at the scale of a municipality, county or metropolitan region. Although an efficient policy initiated at a municipality level tend to be equitable, it is not always efficient because of the economics involved.

According to the article entitled Toward a Theory of equitable and efficient Accounting policy,   policy can improve community self-reliance, save consumers and citizens money, create local main street jobs, catalyze local economic investment, and protect the environment (Baruch, 1988). However, these outcomes do not include costs-analysis to the community the environment. For example, in the United States, water treatment utilities pay farmers to adopt low polluting management practices because they think this option is more cost-effective for them than an upgrade of their water treatment plant (EPA 1996).
Looking at the other angle, we see that the funds used to pay farmers adds a cost to the public because water utility companies recover these costs from the public.
Equitable comes from the responsibilities of local governments  that set policies which influence communities through equitable availability of public services like clean water.

Apart from Theory of equitable and efficient Accounting policy, policies that privatize public properties like land, water, mineral to mention but a few, are not equitable. Whenever a policy is passed to allow private usage of public property, there is a tendency that individuals or companies given charge of these properties become profit motivated. Hence creating shortages and high prices that affect the rest.

I think that efficient policies are equitable if they are divided and managed at local levels. For example, if a natural resource is discovered in a community, these communities should be responsible for that resource. On the other hand equitable policies are not always efficient because population increases which makes it difficult to satsify everyone.


EPA (1996) Draft Framework for Watershed-Based Trading. United States Environmental Protection Authority, Washington DC.

Baruch, L. (1988). Theory of equitable and efficient accounting policy. The Accounting Review, 63(1), Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/247676