One of my favorite cartoons ever is The Far Side, by Gary Larson. For many years, I purchased the daily desktop calendar and always looked forward to my daily Far Side chuckle. I often saved the pages, and would send them to friends when I ran across one I thought they would especially appreciate. When they stopped producing the daily desktop calendar, I was heartbroken! Okay… so I wasn’t heartbroken, but I *was* supremely disappointed. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that Gary Larson was publishing a special edition this year in support of a wildlife conservation charity whose name escapes me at the moment. This year, life is good, because I, once again, have a reason to get up in the morning. That’s probably enough melodrama for one post, so on with the story…
When yesterday’s episode was revealed, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as it brought to mind an especially funny memory from my days at HU.
My freshman year at HU, I was a pre-med major, and had to take a two-part “general chemistry” course required of most all freshman science majors. Included in the course requirements was a weekly chemistry lab where were were able to see what we were learning in action.
Approximately midway through the second semester, we had a lab called the “ten test tube experiment.” A week before lab, we were given a list of ten different solutions – Sodium Chloride, Hydrogen Chloride, Ammonia and seven others that I have forgotten sometime during the last nine years. We were told to put together a chart listing identifying characteristics of each, and also how each of the solutions would react with each other (generate heat, give off smoke, precipitates, no reaction, etc.). When we arrived for the lab, we were given a set of ten test tubes, and were given a specific amount of time (I think an hour and a half, or so) to figure out which test tube held which solution. Our grade for the lab was based not only on properly identifying the ten solutions, but also on how long it took us to identify them.
Now, in my lab, there was a student named Zac Smart. He was one of those people who is book-smart, but who is a few bricks short of a load in the common sense department. He did some really stupid stuff in the name of science, causing some folks to call him Zac “not so” Smart behind his back. This particular lab was one of those times…
Zac wanted to finish the experiment as quickly as possible in hopes of getting a better grade, so he devised a “shortcut” to help narrow things down from the get-go. Two of the ten solutions we had to identify were acids. Zac decided that the quickest way to determine which of the solutions were acids would be to place a couple drops of each of the ten solutions on his arm. His reasoning was that the two that burned would be the acids. Problem was, Zac didn’t realize jut how much those acids would burn. Soon after he placed the solutions on his arm, his arm began to smoke, and the rest of the folks in lab started pointing and hollering. Skippy, our poor lab assistant, was in shock, but he quickly snapped out of it and remembering his lab safety training, rushed Zac over to the wash station for chemical spills.
I don’t recall if Zac was allowed to complete the lab after his little “shortcut.” However, I do remember that the story of “the stupid freshman who put acid on his arm and burned it” quickly spread amongst the science majors, and soon it was all over campus. The burns weren’t too big, maybe dime-sized, but boy did they look nasty. Poor Zac got so sick and tired of people asking to see his burns, and he would snap at anyone who ared to ask. Zac transferred to another school after that semester, but his escapade forever changed the instructions for the ten test tube experiment..