or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Today: A cleaning tip and a most interesting etymology. What could be better?

Hydrogen peroxide is awesome. If you Google it, you will find all sorts of unsupported testimonials along the lines of "I drink it every day and it cured my piles!" I don't know about that, but I do know that it's a top-notch disinfectant. We go through a couple of pints a month, at least: it's really cheap ($0.99 for a half-litre bottle).

Put it full-strength in a spray bottle. Keep it in the bathroom. Three or four times a week, just spray it with abandon in the tub enclosure, not forgetting the shower curtain. Wherever it hits bacteria, mildew, and other organic matter, it foams up! You can hear it hissing and bubbling: you can all but hear the screams of the microorganisms.* That's oxygen being released: 3% hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen, so it's just as safe as can be. You don't even need to rinse it; just walk away and let it dry. You still have to scrub the porcelain and tile every now and then--hydrogen peroxide won't get rid of soap scum--but it keeps your grout clean, de-gunks your tap, un-mildews your shower curtain, and just makes your life a whole lot easier and less icky.

We also use it in the kitchen to disinfect countertops and cutting boards. You don't want to get it on fabric--it's a mild bleach--but everywhere else, let it fly. In the kitchen, we wipe it up but don't bother to rinse, since, you know, water plus oxygen. I spray it into the dishwasher, too. I'm not some clean-obsessive (as I like to say, you wouldn't want to eat off my floors, but you won't find any dirty dishes on them, either), but it's nice to know that something 1) cheap and 2) easy to use is also 3) making my little corner of the universe cleaner and better.

Since the chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, it's tempting to think that the "per-" means "one oxygen atom per atom of hydrogen". That's what I figured, but I was wrong. (Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't: The formula for chlorine peroxide is Cl2O2, but that of barium peroxide is BaO2. The constant is that a peroxide always has two oxygen molecules.)

Have you ever wondered why a thoroughfare is called a thoroughfare? After all, it's a road which passes through something, so it logically ought to be called a throughfare. As it turns out, "through" and "thorough" are, etymologically, pretty much the same word--just think of "thorough" as meaning "through and through". "Per-" in English serves to mean "through" or, as a simple intensifier, "thorough", as in "perambulate", "to walk through", or "perorate", "to speak at length".

So: "per-" means "through", "through" is the source of "thorough", and a peroxide is called that because its oxygen atoms are thoroughly stuffed into the molecule--you can't get any more of them in there. The same is true of other chemical compounds beginning with "per-"; in, say, potassium permanganate, the manganese molecules are, as the chemists would say, at their highest valence, which is to say that they have the largest possible number of chemical bonds. Or at least that's what it used to mean; now all we know about peroxides and permanganates is that they have a higher valence than other, similar compounds.

It took me far too long to research and write this. (Chemistry never was my strong suit, but I'm stubborn.)

* In my family, we used to pour hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes when I was a kid. It turns out that the stuff isn't an especially potent antibacterial in that setting: the foaming action is created by the reaction of the peroxide with a cellular enzyme called catalase, so it's mostly for show. Still, the oxygen kills some bacteria, and the foam helps to clean the wound, so it does do some good. On the other hand, it may promote scar formation and lengthen healing time, so maybe it's best not to use it after all. And so another childhood medicine-cabinet standby, along with mercurochrome and iodine, sails into the sunset.

As a household cleaner, though: dynamite.

Addendum, 12:56 a.m.:

Not ten minutes after posting this I was reading a website called Fundies Say The Darndest Things!, which has a large collection of strange, inane, and demented things that fundamentalists say in supporting their beliefs or denouncing those of others. One of them, I swear, was this ludicrous piece of writing:

Ever seen blue water come out of a spring? What makes it blue is the bonding of a extra oxygen molecule that makes H2O into H2O2. And for this extra bond, there also has to be extra free oxygen. How do you get an extra molecule of oxygen to bond with water, if there were no extra free oxygen molecules available?

And because there is no underground source for free oxygen to bond with water, the water had to have the bonding process take place on the surface of the earth before it went into the earth. So how much of this extra oxygenated water is there? There are springs all around the world that expel billions of gallons of H2O2 water every day. So how much free oxygen does it take to oxygenate one billion gallons of water? Times that times how many is expelled in one day, then how many years each spring is considered to have flowed. And you have so much free oxygen that needs to be accounted for, that a no free oxygen early earth is impossible.

1) What is the natural process for making H2O2?
2) Where did the free oxygen come from to achieve this?
3) How did the H2O2 end up locked under the earth's crust?

The creation model explains this:
When God created the earth, the water created was H2O2. The extra barometric pressure caused by the canopy held the H2O2 bonded in our oceans, rivers, streams, etc....

Even the writings of Josephus agrees there was a crystalline canopy.

The flood:
The fall of the canopy released the extra barometric pressure (2 times what we have now) that held the extra oxygen molecule in the water. Since it only took 2 atmospheres to hold the bond together. And the pressure in water is one atmosphere every 33 feet you go down. The only part of the flood that gave off the extra oxygen molecule, was the first 33 feet. So the water that was deeper than 33 feet did not give off that extra oxygen.

So when the flood waters went back into the ground. The deepest waters, which still had the extra oxygen, went into the ground to be locked under the earth's crust. And because the flood was world wide. This water went into the ground all over the world. And this explains why springs from all over the world, expel extra oxygenated water.

The pic below is an example of what blue water from a spring looks like. As the water flows away from the spring, it releases the extra oxygen molecule because there is not enough atmospheric pressure to hold it in the water, like there was before the flood.

Well, as we know, H2O2 isn't "water with an extra oxygen molecule": it's hydrogen peroxide. It's true that it's bluer than water, but only a little; it's a very pale blue, at least in high concentrations. It doesn't behave like water, either: it's extremely fragile, and readily dissociates into, as I noted, water and oxygen; sunlight will do the trick quite nicely. (The formula is 2 H2O2 -> H2O + O2.) But it's strongly oxidizing: it will bleach or otherwise oxidize anything it touches, and is a more potent oxidizer than even chlorine. What's more, it's volatile; it's used as the oxidizing component of bipropellant rockets, and easily explodes under the right conditions.**

And this dimwit, by way of supporting his creation theology, thinks that all water was originally hydrogen peroxide, whether he knows it or not, and that springs the world over are currently expelling billions of gallons of pure hydrogen peroxide. Where do these people get their tiny little ideas?

** I hope I have all this chemistry right. It really isn't my strong suit. I'm sure if I screwed something up, someone will notice and tell me.


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