When language gets in the way of science

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

There I was trying to help my stuck-at-home grandson with his chemistry school work.  It was an on-line test about reactions such as what happens when an iron nail is put into copper sulphate solution, or carbonates and other compounds are heated.  It did not go well.  For example, despite having a lot of chemistry in my background, I did not know that Iron(II) hydroxide, when heated, gives off hydrogen.  That seems a very abstruse piece of knowledge.  I now know that it's the Schikorr reaction:

3 Fe(OH)2 → Fe3O4 + H2 + 2 H2O        But how ridiculous to expect a 12-year old to know this.

Then there was this question:   "What gas is produced when a carbonate undergoes thermal decomposition?"

"undergoes thermal decomposition", I ask you.  This is brainless. What's wrong with "... is decomposed by heating"?  Or even, "... is heated"?  Thus a test of science becomes (again) a test of English jargon.

You will be wondering, I know, given all the focus on carbonates (calcium carbonate featured a lot), whether an opportunity was taken to link it to the carbon cycle and climate change.  Sadly, you already know the answer.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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