Monday, February 16, 2009

Violet (a chemist's view)

I love the web. It brings you to weird things like this page for a physical chemistry class at the University of Illinois.

Of special note is the page of homework helpers, where it would appear a teacher's assistant with a dark humor streak created a series of chemistry problems set in the world of the candy magnate/munitions factory owner/brutal murderer Willy Wonka and the chemistry behind his various ways to eliminate the sweet innocent children who visit his factory. (There's also a series of Hellboy problems in there, not to mention Robert Browning. That that, English department.)

They are posted in reverse chronological order, and as it happens, Violet is first and provides the setup for the series. Problem 3 on her page asks -- and answers -- the question, "Does Violet keep expanding till she’s no more or does she return to her normal size and live?"

I am not a chemist so I did not understand a word of it. However, all of them are funny and I recommend taking a few moments to poke around. He also tackles such burning scientific questions as the nitric acid content of a chocolate river and how many children Wonka does in every week.

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