**Hey – side note 10/1/08.  I “see” in my blog stats a lot of you coming to this post from searches for “phi” or “phi symbol”.  I don’t get it – I can’t find myself that way!  Could you leave me a comment with how you got here with those search terms?  Thanks so much!

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OK, this is going to sound a little funny coming off the last post, but I need to say it.

Today, general chem. The guy is trying to talk about light. He does not like to use technical terms so he uses terms like “jiggle” and “wiggles like Jello” to describe the behavior of electron clouds. Whatever. I have sent him at least one previous email to respectfully request that, in addition to whatever weird analogies he wants to use, he also add the technical terms so I can look it up on (insert appropriate source here…I mean, it’s general chemistry. Wikipedia suffices, for Pete’s sake). That worked for the last section (whereupon I produced a…terrible grade). He’s back at his crazy magic again.

(Example: Talking about a building with an antenna on it. He draws a picture of the building, and says, “It has these…err…whiskers on it. Anyone know what these whiskers are called?” I sit there, trying to figure out WTF he’s talking about. ANTENNA. I mean, are we 5 years old? Just say ANTENNA! SHEESH!)

So today. Hot off the heels of Antenna v. Whiskers, we have…the crazy discussion of wave frequency and…I’m gonna screw this one up…Planck’s constant (which he never actually named but thankfully I have taken a little bit of chem before…a VERY little bit) and…something that is denoted by the greek letter, phi. Here is a picture of phi for those of you who don’t know or haven’t thought about this in 18 years:

Now, until I actually looked this up on Wikipedia, I did not know that the little symbol on the right in this picture was ALSO PHI. So I am going to sound stupid here, and then figure it all out in a minute. Let’s just go with the picture on the left (the circle with the line through it). Professor has been drawing randomly shaped Os with lines of various angles (from 45* to 90*) going through them, all ostensibly referring to this character.

(As a side note, I use the circle with a 45* line through it to indicate “no” or “not” in my shorthand notes, but I know this is my own darn problem. It has the potential to be confusing but I am coping with it Just Fine, thankyouverymuch.)

Girl in class: Is the line supposed to be going up and down?

Professor: What line?

GIC: The line going through the circle.

P: Oh, you mean the line for phi? I guess that could be confusing. Maybe I should change that. [Erases the symbols in the equation.] I’ll use f instead.

(Draws some very lazy cursive fs. The fs lack a curly head. They also lack a curly foot, so – I swear – the friggin’ fs look exactly. like. ts. And little t, time, is *also* firmly embedded in this equation.

Me: Those fs look like ts. Since it’s PHI, what about using P instead? [side note to readers: does this not make sense to you?]

Professor, in complete and total exasperation and disgust, proceeds to subtly berate me, comparing me to the person who drove the plane into the Everglades because he was too distracted by the light on the dashboard, and changes the phis back to circles with random lines through it.

Whatever.

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Round 2:

Background:

1) I flunked exam. Average was not flunking. Ergo, I suck. I know it.
2) There is no partial credit for any answer. Ergo, perfection is expected, or else you will flunk. I own my total laziness and realize that is why I flunked. Okey doke.
3) Last question on the exam, which I will type out for you:

The rate law for the reaction A + B –> C + D is

delta C/delta t = kexpt (A)(B)/(E)

A suggested mechanism is:

Step 1: (blah blah blah) + H20 –> blah blah blah; rapid equilibrium, noted Keq

Step 2: blah blah blah blah –> blah blah blah; slow step; k

Step 3: blah blah –> blah blah + H20; rapid equilibrium

(Without getting technical, because it’s not all that super relevant, the rule is that you ignore all steps below the slow step.)

Question: Show that the mechanism reproduces the observed rate law. Do this by obtaining the expression for kexpt in terms of the quantities in the mechanism. Be sure to keep the concentration of water, H20, in your analysis.

Keq = _____________________________

It is probably not super evident, but notice that the INSTRUCTIONS ask for kexpt, the little blank spot states that “Keq” is the outcome, and BOTH FRIGGIN rate constants are GIVEN IN THE PROBLEM.

Moreover, the ANSWER HE WANTED was kexp = k*Keq*[H2o]

(Notice anything wrong? Maybe that the answer CONTAINS THE OUTCOME GIVEN IN THE PROBLEM?!?!?

In the middle of the exam, I asked the TA what the heck he wanted. The TA said, “I have no idea. We don’t know. Just answer it for the first sentence and ignore the rest.”

Now, this turns out to be the problem I did best on, but it’s only because it is the only problem they waived the partial credit rule for. At the same time, I spent a good chunk of my life on this problem trying to figure out what on Earth he was talking about.

So, today:

Me: I did very poorly on that exam. Most of it was due to stupid mistakes. [commentary: please note that I am owning my own laziness/stupidity/pride/etc. I am not asking for very much in this conversation.]

Him: Well make sure you understand everything.

Me: Yes, that’s my plan. One thing, the next time you have a typo in your exam, could you maybe make an announcement?

Him, getting flushed: It doesn’t matter. It was Very Clear from the test.

Me: No it wasn’t.

Him: Yes it was! [Getting really pissed.] Look. How could you POSSIBLY think that this could be asking for ANYthing OTHER than kexpt?!?!

Me: I don’t know, maybe because it SAYS Keq and BOTH rate constants are present in the problem?

Him: No, you are just making excuses. [Shakes head. Pissed.] It was VERY clear. VERY clear. YOU had the problem.

Me: All I am asking about is just making an announcement. I wasted a lot of time on this.

Him: That’s YOUR problem.

No, it’s not, mister. Perhaps as an undergrad, I would have just shut up and respected him as an authority on this subject. Authority he may be, but if he’s going to expect perfection in his answers, he needs to have perfection (or at least admit to mistakes) in his question writing.

Am I right or wrong to be so ticked?

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