April 27, 2006

Ethanol and Your Feelings

I have been poking around on the internet for information about ethanol, and while most of the sites are boring MSDS clones - chemical encyclopedias - the best of the bunch by far are the chemistry professor sites. They just make me smile.

I imagine these professors sitting in front of their computer, books strewn all over the desk (so big they don't need to be dogearred) papers stacked haphazardly, squinting at the screen, switching noisily between the reactivity of aldehydes and an html code book, wife/husband on the phone calling about dinner ("I'll be home soon, I'm just finishing up some things."). The sheer dedication is endearing.

They spend their week teaching dumbed-down chemistry courses called "Chemistry and Your Feelings" to students who don't care, trying to relate to biology students by spritzing organic chem with biochemical principles like amino acids, and squeezing in whatever research in which they are personally interested.

And yet, they still find time to type up a cohesive, clear explanation of the facets of ethanol, like this one. The professor presents the facts very clearly, touching on the industrial and recreational uses of ethanol (fuel, alcoholic beverages). At the end of the page, he warns students about the dangers of drinking in college. All in all, I thought it was a good tie-in. :-)

Science professors catch a bad rap from students. Most see them as silly or off-putting or uncaring, but the reality is that they are none of the above. They love what they do, can't help that it is "hard," and want students to learn.

It just makes me smile.

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