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Lines from the Chemistry Poet

A sample from the book Atomic Romances, Molecular Dances: Chemistry Poetry by Mala L. Radhakrishnan, PhD ‘07

The Foiling Point of Water
By Mala Radhakrishnan, PhD ‘07

Two liquids remained in their neighborly houses,

Their molecules randomly changing their spouses,

The left beaker filled up with pure H20;

In the house on the right did some methanol flow.

Ol’ Wally lived life on the left side with pride,

A water who’d roll past his friends with a stride.

But as part of a liquid he’d look to the sky,

Because deep in his heart, he wanted to fly.

His soul mate who lived in the beaker at right,

Mark Methanol also thought often of flight.

“To fly? Oh, yes, ‘twould be all the rage,”

Would say this CH3OH.

Then one day, they noticed a change from the norm.

The beakers’ inhabitants felt rather warm.

They started to speed up with motions frenetic,

The heat yielding energy, mostly kinetic.

And Wally screamed out with his “H’s” agape,

“We’re all speeding up, and I might now escape!

If there’s enough heat added into this town,

The forces between us will not hold me down!

‘Til then, I’m afraid I am stuck in this beaker.

It’s too bad the forces between us aren’t weaker.

To fly as a gas I must wait for so long,

‘Cause our hydrogen bonds are so notably strong.”

And Mark, who was thinking the very same thing,

Was hoping that freedom this new heat would bring.

But he, still grounded with motion too slow,

By intermolecular forces, was low.

Now just when the duo could no longer wait,

The dial was increased on their giant hot plate.

“How great! Perhaps we can now become free.

In degrees, it points right to sixty-five ‘C’!”

The molecules speedily raced all around,

And some of Mark’s friends lifted right off the ground,

Flying off in the air was this fast-moving faction,

Defeating their intermolecular attractions.

Still more of them left with excitement and cheer—

The vapor pressure: one atmosphere!

And Mark took his flight on that beautiful day

As the methanol rapidly boiled away.

But Wally looked on with an envious glare,

Still stuck in his beaker—it just wasn’t fair.

While methanol floated, enjoying its luck,

At sixty-five Celsius, Wally was stuck.

So how come the methanol boils at this point,

But water can’t seem to break out from this joint?

Well, water’s got two “H’s” bonded to “O,”

While methanol has only one, as you know.

So water can hydrogen bond like no other;

The waters so strongly attract one another.

The forces so huge in this beaker of water,

To boil you would need to make everything hotter.

So Wally’s dream was thus shattered, deferred,

But then a most beautiful whisper he heard.

“Wally? My name is Wendy,” she said.

“Flying you can’t, but bonding instead?”

And together they flowed on as best as they could,

Just hydrogen bonding as waters should.

And though he did never lift off in a flight,

Once he found love, ‘twas really all right!

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