|Table of Contents for Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics|
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Re-minding is a tedious process. Starting with a virtual blank slate for a mind, it takes two years to learn to walk, another five or ten to condition the animal body for effective communication, and another twenty or sixty or even eighty years to assemble the requisite thoughts, notions, values, skills, observations and visions to form a complete human being. And just when you have everything in its place, your animal host gets itself trampled by a herd of water buffalo or killed in battle or it simply wears out and the whole process has to start over again with a fresh animal host.
Students at Hampden-Sydney College are required to keep a notebook documenting their achievements as caveman chemists. The notebook serves the purpose of preparing them for the work, organizing it, and documenting it. If they ever desire to repeat a project in the future, the notebook should provide a sufficient level of detail for them to do so. If a project does not turn out, the notebook helps me to help them to figure out what went wrong. It also serves as a souvenir for the children and grandchildren.
Caveman chemists are encouraged to follow the Hampden-Sydney format:
The inside front cover has a table of contents listing all of the potential projects and the page numbers at which they appear in the notebook. When you are ready for a project to be graded, initial its entry in this table of contents.
You should use only ink in the notebook so that information is not easily lost. Mistakes receive special attention in a notebook of this kind. Your impulse may be to obliterate a mistake, but you may decide later that what you thought was a mistake was correct after all. If you have obliterated your mistake, or torn it out of your notebook, you have no way to recover it. For this reason, simply draw a single line through a mistake. This marks it as a mistake, but allows it to be recovered later if necessary.
Number each right-hand page in its upper right-hand corner. Whenever you begin work on a page, write the date next to the page number.
There is potential confusion between scratch calculations and data actually observed in the laboratory. To avoid such confusion, always record experimental observations on a right-hand page. Reserve left-hand pages for scratch work, estimates, and theoretical predictions.
Begin each project on a new right-hand page. Give each project a title and organize it into the following sections:
Purpose: Write a paragraph describing the purpose or importance of the project.
Materials: Make a bulleted list of all the materials needed to complete the project.
Procedure: Translate the instructions for each project into a bulleted list which you can check off, item by item, as you work on the project. Some cavemen have suggested that I provide them with such a list, but doing it yourself increases the chances that information will actually pass through the brain on its way from the eye to the hand. The left-hand page facing the Procedure may contain calculations to estimate the amounts of materials needed. Record the results of these calculations along with the rest of your plans. If you are working in a class, you may have been quizzed on the material given in the sections labeled "Research and Development." If so, tape the successful quiz to the left-hand page opposite the Procedure.
Safety: A brief summary of the hazardous properties of the materials and equipment to be used, including first-aid for accidental ingestion or exposure to eyes, skin or lungs.
Observations: A brief summary of the deviations from the planned Procedure. The actual amounts of materials, as distinct from the estimated amounts, should be recorded here.
Results: A brief description of the material or item produced. Record any relevant properties such as weight, color, and structural integrity.
Conclusions: A paragraph summarizing what you have learned from the project. Were you successful? How do you know? What might you do differently if you were to repeat the project? How does this project relate to others you have done or may plan to do?
The inside back cover has a list of completed projects initialed by the professor.