Harry Potter and the chemistry lab

November 4, 2013
The Experience, Marina Stuart '16  |  The Experience, Academics

“SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY add 17ml of 6% hydrogen peroxide.” That is copied word-for-word and inflection-for-inflection from my General Chemistry 103 lab manual.

This was part of the experiment I did last week, a section of a 3-lab experiment I will eventually write a lab report about.

Chemistry does not come easily to most students, myself included; I frequently find myself up late trying to memorize common ions and the difference between a p-orbital and a d-orbital. But there is one part of chem I am always a little excited to go to: chemistry lab.

Why? Because it’s just like potions class at Hogwarts.

But seriously, we go over a brief procedure on the board, and then use our lab manuals (like a textbook) to do the experiment. Some are gifted (or lucky) and their solutions come out exactly as described, while others sit and watch green brown slush gurgle in their cauldron *ahem* beaker.

In lab last week we did two different chemical equations, and our solutions changed from the color of orange juice, to the color of carrot juice, to looking like old hot chocolate and finally to a bright green you could only get from liquefying jolly ranchers... all in a little over an hour. If that isn’t magic, what is?

During the part of the lab when we had to “SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY add 17ml of 6% hydrogen peroxide,” we had heated our solutions to a boil and were slowly pouring in the hydrogen peroxide. Yes, that’s the same stuff we use to clean our cuts. As I poured the first few drops into the solution, it frothed, bubbled and made an angry hissing sound. “Oh my god,” exclaimed my lab partner, “it’s just like potions!”

While it’s sometimes hard to find fun in our 8 a.m. lectures, the sheer enjoyment (and Harry Potter comparisons) of chem lab makes it all worth it.



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