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Chemistry 104

From Caveman to Chemist

Meets GV period in Gilmer 220

Suppose one minute were spent recounting the events of the past year. What would you include in a one minute summary of 1995? 1945? 1865? A lot can be told in a minute. If we were to allow one minute for each year, all of recorded history could be recounted in a mere three days (of continuous talking)! Here, then, are the Cliff Notes for human civilization: one year = 1 minute. The present moment is 11:59:59 PM of December 31. January began 525600 years ago...
January500000BCHomo Erectus has fire and stone tools.
November60000BCFlowers used in Neanderthal funeral at Shanidar cave in Iraq.
December40000BCHomo Sapiens has fire and stone tools.

Chemistry 104, "From Caveman to Chemist" is a course exploring landmark technologies on the road to modern industrial civilization. We will begin by learning to make fire and stone tools and progress up through plastics and semiconductors. Your grade in the course will be determined by the number of technologies which you master. Although this is not a lab course, it is very much a course about doing things. You will not only read about these landmark technologies, you will be expected to make things like paper and metals and batteries from scratch. By the time you have completed the course, you will have an intimate knowledge of most of the top 25 chemicals used in modern industry.


The unit of work for this course is the project. Most projects consist of a written quiz and a product. To get credit for a project you must have a perfect quiz and your product must meet the specifications outlined in each project description. No credit is given for a quiz without its associated product or for a product without its associated quiz except as described below. Your projects will be documented in your notebook.

Some of the projects (those marked with a Q) are passed by Quiz alone. These projects deal with brain tools rather than physical products.

Other projects (those marked with a P) require you to read the designated book and write a 4-6 page Paper on what you have read.

Still other projects (those marked with a T) may be done as a Tribal effort. That is, a group of you will band together and work on the project as a group. Each of you must pass the quiz individually, but the product will be produced by the group.

Finally, two projects (marked with a B) are passed by exhibiting certain admirable Behaviors as described below.

Many of these projects can be completed in your own time and in a place of your choosing. Others, however, are most easily accomplished using tools such as beakers and hotplates which are available to you in the chemistry department only during V period (2:30-4:00, Mondays). You are not allowed in the labs at any other time, so don't ask.

The best time to take quizzes and turn in projects is during the last half hour G period. The second best time is during V period. Otherwise, you can take quizzes and turn in projects 8:30-5:00 M-F as long as it is convenient for me. While all of these projects are pass/fail, you may attempt any of them as many times as you wish until you pass the project.

There is one final consideration in passing projects which will help to preserve my sanity toward the end of the semester. You may only attempt to pass one project per day (8:30-5:00 M-F). If you attempt to pass a project and fail it, you are finished for the day. If you pass a project, you are finished for the day. In either case, you cannot attempt to pass another project that same day. This rewards people who start passing projects early in the semester and prevents my being indundated with hundreds of projects :on the last day of class. The following projects may be completed for credit this semester:
From Caveman to Chemist (P) Iron John (T) Women's Work (P) Traces of the Past(P)
Unit Factors (Q) Stoichiometry (Q)
Metathesis (Q) Redox (Q) Gunpowder Acids
Stone Metals Batteries Electrochem Electromagnetism
Twine Dye Weaving Paper (T)
Fire (T) Pottery Potash Lye Soap
Halloween (B) Lime Glass Photography
Mead Alcohol
Attendance (B)


Your grade for this course will be determined entirely by the number of projects completed according to the following table:
D6 Projects
D+7 Projects
C-8 Projects
C9 Projects
C+10 Projects
B-11 Projects
B12 Projects
B+13 Projects
A-14 Projects
A15 Projects

Bonus if you read this page by Thursday, September 7, 2000.

This site was awarded The Alchemist's WebPick on 21 August 1998 as an outstanding Chemistry/Science or humorous place to visit. Here's what they said:

From Caveman to Chemist - not much evidence of evolution here you might think! But this website is a course in exploring landmark technologies on the road to a modern industrial civilisation. It begins with the concepts of making fire and stone tools and progresses up through plastics and semiconductors. While this is a 'physical' course requiring attendance at lectures, the online notes, questions and answers, and experimental details can easily be used elsewhere. Almost thirty projects ranging from metathesis to stoichiometry, from potash to electromagnetism. Each section is complete with introduction, information and questions. This would prove to be a superb learning resource for any chemistry class.

All material under this page is copyright 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by Kevin M. Dunn.