The Educational Case for Recycling

If you are an advocate of laboratory instruction as an integral and essential part of chemistry education (as I am), you have to face several obstacles.

The first obstacle is that you have to have the materials to do laboratory work. This wasn’t a problem some forty or fifty years ago as there were countless funds available to outfit and supply the laboratory.

Second, you have to overcome the mentality that work in the lab serves to prove what was said in the lecture is correct. If you are using the lab as part of the learning process, you have to create experiments that don’t prove the lecture correct but show how to use the lecture or perhaps even develop what is covered in the lecture.

Then, there is the problem with disposal. If we are to have a “green” chemistry lab, we have to be sensitive to the materials that we use. It would be nice if the raw materials that we use and produce were environmentally friendly but that is not always the case.

And finally, how do you relate societal issues such as “green” chemistry and recycling to the issues of a chemistry class. Some textbooks simply add a few lines of commentary to a textbook problem but never really address the issue.

In what I like to consider “a favorite problem”, I have created a scenario that addresses the environmental question and works within the context of the chemistry course.

My favorite problem

An article (written in the early 1980s) in the Journal of Chemical Education discussed the problem of toxic waste disposal in freshman chemistry laboratories.

The essence of the problem was “what to do with some Co2+ solution that was left after an analytical problem. Should the solution be diluted to a safe level and disposed of by pouring down the drain or shipped off as liquid waste; should it be precipitated and shipped off to a landfill as solid waste; or should it be recycled and used again during the next semester. The calculations for this problem are typical calculations for an introductory chemistry course and one can set up the calculations to be dependent on the size of the class. The only information that an instructor would be need would be the cost of the original raw materials as well the cost of shipping liquid and solid wastes.

In order for the students to do the calculations, they need to know how many students are in the course in question.

It probably bothers some people that I give the exact same question each time but the beauty of it is that since this number will vary from semester to semester, the answers to some of the questions will vary as well.

But, from an environmental standpoint, it always appears that that recycling is the best solution.            

Assume that one of the experiments for this class requires that each student use 100.-mL of a 0.050 M Cr(NO3)3 solution. At the completion of the experiment, each student will have 200.-mL of a 0.025 M solution that must be dealt with in some manner.

  1. What is the accepted IUPAC name for the compound used to make the solution?

The EPA-designated toxic threshold concentration for total chromium is 5.0 ppm. Note that while only Cr(VI) is considered toxic and we are using Cr(III), the threshold limit is for total chromium. Solutions containing more than 5.0 mg/L of chromium in any form are considered toxic and cannot legally go down the drain. It is also illegal to dilute a solution to a concentration below the threshold limit and pour it down the drain.

  1. What concentration, in ppm of chromium, will each student end up with?
  2. Can students dispose of their solution by pouring it down the drain?
  3. What is the total volume of solution that this class would have to dispose of? Note assume that for the purposes of this test there are ten students enrolled in the course at the time of the experiment.
  4. To what volume must the combined solutions be diluted in order to reduce the concentration to acceptable limits?
  5. Would diluting the combined solutions be a reasonable solution?
  6. Can the combined solutions be disposed of by pouring them down the drain?

An acceptable and legal alternative to dilution would be to send the solution to an EPA-approved landfill.

  1. Assuming the cost of packing, transporting, and disposing of these solutions is $6.08/L, what would it cost to send this class’ chromium waste to such a landfill?

A third alternative would be to precipitate the Cr(III) as the hydroxide.

  1. What amount of solid NaOH is needed to precipitate the Cr3+ as the hydroxide?
  2. How much chromium (III) hydroxide is made?
  3. Assuming that the total amount of solid waste can fit into a 500-mL beaker, what will it cost to ship this waste? (Use the same shipping costs as before.)

Care must be taken to assure that the chromium (III) hydroxide does not go back into solution as the tetrahydroxochormate(III) complex as indicated in the following reaction, Cr(OH)3(s) + OH(aq)w Cr(OH)4(aq) Kf = .4.

  1. If the complex cannot be more that 5 mg/L (the legal limit for chromium in a solution), what pH must the solution be in order to insure that the precipitate does not dissolve and from the complex
  2. At this pH, what is the molar concentration of Cr3+ in the solution (Ksp for Cr(OH)3 = 6.7 x 10-31)?
  3. Using current catalog information found on the worldwide web, what does 500 g of Cr(NO3)3 cost? (Don’t forget to include the reference you obtained.)
  4. What would it cost to prepare the necessary amount of Cr(NO3)3 solution for next year’s class, assuming the size of the class remains constant.
  5. What does 500 mL of hydrochloric acid (stock solution, 13.6 M) cost?
  6. What would it cost to prepare the necessary amount of chromium (III) solution by dissolving the leftover Cr(OH)3 from this year’s experiment in hydrochloric acid?
  7. Of the various alternatives presented in this problem (dilution and disposal into the public water system, transportation of the liquid waste to an authorized landfill, transportation of the solid waste to an authorized landfill, recycling of waste), which is the most logical? Why?

The Clash of Science, Culture, and Religion

I am trying to clean off “my desktop”.

Academic Freedom

There was a report in “Inside Higher Ed” about an adjunct that lost her position after going public with threats made against her after she took against the stand for the separation of church and state. –

I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a movement both against science and education in general in this country. We are seeking to turn our schools into factories that turn out mindless automatons rather than individuals who will seek solutions to existing problems and problems that haven’t even popped up.

There are many people in society today who are arguing for a plan that will in the end hurt them. You hear individuals who want to reduce taxes to the point where the Federal Government cannot operate yet they will not consider the fact that the military-industrial complex is a part of the Federal Government. We will cut funds that help people but keep spending money on those things that hurt people. That, at least to me, seems counter-productive.

See “The Nature of Academic Freedom” for additional thoughts on the topic of academic freedom.

Scientific Thought

As a member of the Methoblog, I get a summary of all the posts, including my own that get posted to the Methoblog. (If you are a Methodist blogger and not part of the Methoblog, you really are missing out on spreading your thoughts and knowing what others are thinking – go to to submit your blog.)

Among the postings the other day was a note from Dave Faulkner (“Big Circumstance”) about a lecture that Scot McKnight gave at BioLogos“With a Tear in His Eye”. While my focus is on chemistry and the development of scientific thought, I have to also consider the view that comes from the pulpit as well. I think that the point that McKnight makes about the need for pastors to have an understanding of scientific thought is a critical one. The comments to this post are well worth reading.

I have encountered students who have a similar crisis as described in the talk – where the physical evidence before them contradicts what they are told they have to believe in order to hold onto their faith. The challenge before us is not to make them choose which to follow but to help them understand what each side is telling them.

I have also encountered students for whom science has eliminated the need for a god – see “A Particular Moment in Time” – but when you put science in the place of religion, you create some alternatives that should not exist. There are links in “A Particular Moment in Time” that deal with scientism and the creation of a scientific religion.

Astronomical Observations

I live in the part of the country that didn’t see the annular eclipse of the Sun the other day but I have seen several solar eclipses so I didn’t let that bother me. I cannot recall if I even heard of the transit of Venus across the Sun back in 2004 so I hope the weather will allow me to carefully observe the transit on June 5th. For more information on this interesting astronomical occurrence and the precautions one needs to take, go to “Everything You Need to Know: Venus transit on June 5 – 6”. Check out “What’s the best way to view the June 5 – 6 transit of Venus safely?”; remember that you never look directly into the Sun and there really isn’t any amount of protection that will protect you (what one might use to observe an eclipse will not necessarily work for a transit).

My favorite science museum, The Exploratorium, will have an on-line feed –

“I Hear That There Are Divisions Among You”: Discerning the Broken Body at General Conference 2012

I will not always agree wit the thoughts that others have concerning what transpired at GC2012 but the only way we are going to go forward is when we know what those thoughts are.

Uniting Grace

ImageCourtesy UMNS

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

The matter of unworthiness has a sticky history in Protestantism.  Most astute readers of Scripture now agree that Paul’s concern for “eating unto damnation” was not an issue of individual sin, but rather of communal brokenness that made a mockery of the Lord’s Supper.  At issue in Corinth was not a bunch of sinners eating something that they had no business eating (for we are always sinners asking for scraps and sips of grace), but that the community was unmaking the…

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Friday Afternoon Humor

It’s Friday afternoon; it was not a good week for the job search. So I sought some humor might relive the stress a little bit.

Yes, I stole these from other places but they have been around enough that I don’t have to put in the references!

First, one of my all-time favorites:

A young executive was leaving the office late one evening when he found the CEO standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” said the CEO, “this is a very sensitive and important document here, and my secretary has gone for the night. Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said the young executive. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the machine, “I just need one copy.”

Then we have some brilliant memos:

In 1998 a business magazine ran a contest asking for Dilbert-like quotes from people who had real-life Dilbert-like managers. Here are some of the winners.

  1. As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks.  (Microsoft Corporation – this one took first place)
  2. What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter (Lykes Lines Shipping).
  3. How long is this Beta guy going to keep testing our stuff? (Programming intern, Microsoft Development Team)
  4. E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.  (Accounting Mgr, Electric Boat Company)
  5. This project is so important that we can’t let things that are more important interfere with it. (Advertising/Mktg. Mgr, UPS)
  6. Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule. No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We’ve been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks, and I’ll let you know when it’s time to tell them.  (R&D Supervisor, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing/3M Corp.)
  7. My boss spent the entire weekend retyping a 25-page proposal that only needed corrections. She claims the disk I gave her was damaged and she couldn’t edit it. The disk I gave her was write-protected. (CIO of Dell Computers)
  8. Quote from the boss: “Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.”  (Marketing Executive, Citrix Corporation)
  9. My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my boss, he said she died so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said, “That would be better for me.” (Shipping Executive, FTD Florists)
  10. We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.  (AT&T Long Lines Division)
  11. We recently received a memo from senior management saying, “This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above.” (Microsoft Legal Affairs Division)
  12. As director of communications, I was asked to prepare a memo reviewing our company’s training programs and materials. In the body of the memo one of the sentences mentioned the “pedagogical approach” used by one of the training manuals. The day after I routed the memo to the executive committee, I was called into the HR director’s office and was told that the executive VP wanted me out of the building by lunch. When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn’t stand for “perverts” (pedophiles?) working in her company. He showed me her copy of the memo, with her demand that I be fired, with the word “pedagogical” circled in red. The HR Manager was fairly reasonable, and once he looked the word up in his dictionary and made a copy of the definition to send to my boss, he told me not to worry. He would take care of it. Two days later a memo to the entire staff came out, directing us that no words which could not be found in the local Sunday newspaper could be used in company memos. A month later I resigned. In accordance with company policy, I created my resignation letter by pasting words together from the Sunday paper. (Taco Bell Corporation)
  13. This gem is the closing paragraph of a nationally circulated memo: “Lucent Technologies is endeavorily determined to promote constant attention on current procedures of transacting business focusing emphasis on innovative ways to better, if not supercede, the expectations of quality!”  (Lucent Technologies – formerly a division of AT&T)

I also posted some interesting performance reviews a few years ago – “Performance Reviews”

I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

When you see how the Arab world was radically changed by the nature of social media (and the lack of knowledge by many in power about what could happen) you have to appreciate what is taking place in #gcc2012. I will continue to reblog posts from those who are active in this mode. I have said it before but change only comes from the bottom up and this is one way to do it.

We Your People, Ours the Journey

Monday night was magic.

We had our first Twitter Chat for #DreamUMC, the conversation born out of the strong desire to keep shaping the future of our denomination in the wake of General Conference. You can read the full archive of the chat here, or you can view bullet points of answers to the questions we discussed (and some unofficial demographic info) at the facebook page.

First of all, wow! There were 171 people tweeting, and many many more I know who were “lurking,” or as I call it, actively listening. We sent 1,272 tweets, not including retweets. That’s a lot of conversation in an hour! Although dominated by younger voices, the conversation spanned generations, came down fairly even on gender representation, included voices of clergy, laity, and folks between the two, and crossed the U.S. pretty well. We have some work to do…

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2012 Twitter Hashtags and Live Streaming for #UMC Conferences

I do not Twitter but I recognize that this is an important means of communication and one that redefines the local community for the 21st Century.
If such methods as Twittering can change the world, what can it do for the United Methodist Church and the people called Methodists?

Rev. Andrew Conard

At the end of the #dreamUMC chat last night, I volunteered to collect hashtags for United Methodist conferences this year. I hope you will find it helpful to stay connected across the denomination.

Will you please help me complete this list? Please send me an @reply on Twitter @andrewconard or leave a comment on this post with dates, clarification on hashtags, link if it is being live streamed or additional conferences.

Please tweet or share this link to this post to spread the word –

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“A New Plan”

This is the message that I presented at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, Brighton, TN on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 4 May 1997. The Scriptures for this Sunday were Acts 10: 44 – 48, 1 John 5: 1 – 6, and John 15: 9 – 17.

I should note before I start that I have been told preachers should never preach about money. This sermon, though it may sound like it is about money, is not about money but rather, is about planning.

You have probably heard, read, or seen something dealing with financial planning. Now it may have been an ad from some financial institution or an investment firm talking about retirement; it may been about handling debts. Whatever the ad said, for any financial plan to be successful, it will take a long period of time.

Even if you are planning on winning the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, it takes several months of action on your part for the people with the balloons, the cameras, and the check to appear on your doorstep.

Similarly, God’s plan for each one of us requires a long period of time. From the very beginning, God has been thinking of us. I think it the one great mystery of salvation that God has known us and about us long before we ever came into existence.

The God-who-is has always been searching for me. By his choice, his relationship with me is a presence, as a call, as a guide; he is not satisfied with speaking to me, or showing things to me, or asking things of me. He does much more.

He is Life, and he knows his creature can do nothing without him; he knows his child would die of hunger without bread.

But our bread is God himself, and God gives himself to us as food.

Only eternal life can feed one who is destined for eternal life.

The bread of earth can nourish us only for this finite earth; it can sustain us only as far as the frontier, the bread from our fields is not sufficient; if we want to march along the roads of the Invisible, we must feed on bread from heaven.

This bread from heaven is God himself. He becomes food to us walking in the Invisible. “The God Who Comes” by Carlos Carretto

And Jesus told His disciples that He picked them, not the other way around.

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I call you friends, for everything I learned from the Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15: 14 – 16)

Through all of history, God has never forgotten His plan. Whether it was His promise to Noah and his family after the flood

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you — the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you — every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the water of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all l living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9: 8 – 17)

or his promises to the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, God has always shown his commitment to the plan. It would seem that every prophet from Isaiah to Joel has spoken of God’s caring for us. We know that God sent His son Jesus because he cared for us, because he had a plan for us. As written in John 3: 16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that who so ever believed in Him would have everlasting life.”

But God’s plan is not single-sided. Though it is by God’s grace that we have been given this plan, we cannot simply stand idly by. Action on our part is required. We cannot know God’s Grace if we do nothing! Even if we wait until that last minute before death to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we know that we will receive God’s grace.

If our hearts, like those who listened to Peter preach, are open to the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will be there for us.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who came with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit has been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Acts 10: 44 – 48)

The most difficult thing about following God’s plan is that we often feel that it is too hard, that we cannot meet the challenge. But Jesus only gave us one commandment to follow

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15: 9 – 14)

Granted, this commandment is a hard one. It challenges everything we hear and see today. Consider the Pope. After he had recovered from the attempted assassination, he went to the jail where the assassin was and forgave him. The love that Jesus wants us to show others is like this. While we might agree with the penalties someone must pay for their crimes, how is it that we can forgive someone for their actions? Sometimes, it seems a lot easier to take the easy way out. The recent meeting in Philadelphia shows such a conflict. How many people are willing to volunteer, how many people are willing to help others? I have always been amazed that those who help others often times are not far removed from the situations that the ones they are helping are in. Consider the following thought:

We should try to be so closely united to Our Lord that we reproduce his life in our own, that our thoughts and words and actions should proclaim his teaching, so that he reigns is us, lives in us. He so often enters within us in Holy Communion. May his Kingdom reign in us.

If he sends us happiness let us accept it gratefully. Like the Good Shepherd he sets us in rich pasture to strengthen us to follow him later into barren lands. If he sends us crosses let us embrace them and say ‘Bona Crux,’ for this is the greatest grace of all. It means walking through life hand in hand with our Lord, helping him to carry his Cross like Simon of Cyrene. It is our Beloved asking us to prove how much we love him. Whether in mental suffering or bodily pain ‘let us rejoice and tremble with joy.’ Our Lord calls us and asks us to tell him of our love and repeat it over and over again all through our sufferings.

Every cross, great or small, even small annoyances, are the voice of the Beloved. He is asking for a declaration of love from us to last whilst the suffering lasts.

Oh, when one thinks of this one would like the suffering to last forever. It will last as long as Our Lord wishes. However sweet the suffering may become to us, we only desire it at such times as Our Lord sends it. Your will be done, my Brother Jesus, and not mine. We long to forget ourselves, we ask nothing, only your glory. (“Meditations of a Hermit” by Charles de Foucauld

Life today is not easy. There are cynics among us who would ridicule us for believing in Jesus today. But I think that many of these people are probably leading very miserable lives today.

I can imagine John sitting down writing those letter to his friends and thinking about the problems he had to endure as a disciple of Jesus. But he could remember what Jesus told his disciples.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15: 12 – 14)

Today, John tells us

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.

God’s plan is very simple actually. Accept Jesus Christ into our heart and then live a life which shows that Christ is a part of our lives, loving others as we know Christ has loved us.