Historical Perspective

Mass Spectra

In this Activity, students solve puzzles that are analogous to finding the amino acid sequence of a peptide using mass spectrometry. Students identify words that have been broken into letters or groups of letters. In many textbooks instrumental analysis and various types of spectrometry are mentioned only in passing.

Millikan: Good to the Last (Oil) Drop

In this Activity, students simulate Millikan’s oil drop experiment using drop-shaped magnets and steel BBs. Students determine the mass of a single BB analogous to the way Millikan determined the charge of a single electron.

Cool! Rates of Heating and Cooling

In this Activity, students measure the rate of warming for a chilled thermometer bulb held in room temperature air, for a chilled bulb held between two fingers, and for a few milliliters of ice-cold water. Students discover that the warming process is not linear. This Activity emphasizes the importance of measuring temperature change and its relevance to other experiments.

A Candle in the Wind

In this Activity, students investigate physical changes that occur in a candle to learn how a candle functions and how you can blow it out. This Activity is based on a series of lectures presented by Michael Faraday in the 1850s.

Apple Fool! An Introduction to Artificial Flavors

In this Activity, students investigate flavorings by making artificial "cooked apples" from a mixture of crackers, sugar, cream of tartar, and water, as is done for the filling in recipes for Mock Apple Pie. This Activity focuses on consumer chemistry, and can be used to introduce natural and artificial flavors or lab experiments that make esters.