About

The Chronicle Flask

Photo 25-07-2013 19 51 38 My name is Dr Kat Day and I have a PhD in chemistry and over a decade’s experience as a chemistry teacher. I started this blog back in 2013 because I felt that chemistry was sadly often overlooked by the media in favour of its sidekicks, physics and biology. A shame really, since without chemistry there would be no medicine, no plastics, no brightly-coloured pigments and no fireworks (oooh). As we (should) all know, chemistry is by far the most important science – explaining as it does the behaviour and properties of all the stuff you’re looking at, touching, smelling and possibly even tasting right now. Yes, right now. Seriously. Just think about that for a minute…

Over the last few years this blog has taken a bit of a sceptical turn. I’ve taken on several areas of dodgy science, including apricot kernels, so-called ‘alkaline’ diets and CD/MMS. If you’ve seen something you think I’d be interested in, have a look at the Contact page.

The Chronicle Flask was named in honour of all the students who have, in the past, misspelled ‘conical flask‘ in their chemistry coursework. There were many.

Other stuff…

chemistry-website-50-transparent_1000pxIn 2015 The Chronicle Flask won the 2015 ABSW Science Blog award supported by Good Thinking. Full awards lists here, and a bit more information here. In 2016 Feedspot listed The Chronicle Flask as one of the Top 50 Chemistry Websites & Blogs on the web.

I’ve also written for Sense About Science as part of their Ask for Evidence campaign, been a guest contributor for Things We Don’t Know, written articles for WhatCulture Science, been published in Private Eye, written a chapter for an upcoming book about the science of superheroes (due out in 2017, hopefully!) and written and contributed to several articles for Nature Chemistry.

Speaking of which, it was me who set up the “name element 117 octarine in honour of Terry Pratchett” petition, which got over 50,000 signatures. Sadly, the element has since been officially named tennessine. But element 118 was named oganesson, with the symbol Og, in honour Yuri Oganessian. (Did you say Ogg and son?)

Article list:

You can also follow The Chronicle Flask on Facebook and Twitter, and if you’d rather read fiction than all this proper science stuff, check out my companion site, The Fiction Phial.

“Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it.”
— Robert M. Sapolsky

“Go on, prove me wrong. Destroy the fabric of the universe. See if I care.” — Terry Pratchett

Member Button linking to the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) - an association of science writers, journalists, broadcasters and science-based communications professionals - many of whom are available for freelance work


A comment about comments…

As anyone who’s ever written anything on the internet which has been read by more than three people knows, there sometimes comes a point when the comments go a bit batcrap crazy. This has happened on a few of my posts, and comments have been subsequently closed. All comments on this site are moderated. If you post comments on other pages regarding closed topics, your comment will be deleted.

big_pharma_shill_t_shirt

I didn’t even get the t-shirt.

If you call me a shill (or anything less polite), your comment will be deleted. In fact, anything offensive will be deleted. Comments promoting products or services will also be deleted, and if they’re promoting quack health products (or suggesting that cancer can be cured with the contents of a kitchen cupboard) they’ll be deleted double-quick with extra angry muttering. In short, don’t waste your time writing this kind of stuff, because it will not see the light of day.

I’m not paid by ‘Big Pharma’ to write what I write. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I did once work for a pharmaceutical company. I worked for Eli Lilly as a quality control chemist from 1991-1993. My annual starting salary was, from memory, about £5000. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, even ‘in those days’.

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69 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: More Info on Hydrofluoric Acid | Chemtips

  2. Looking for Diabolic Acid :-/ (curiosity)… I found your blog! Really beautiful to read, lot of interesting information and really good for people like me that need to know a little more from everything. Keep the good articles coming! 🙂

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  3. Agreed about chemistry being overlooked, but incredibly important. Chemicals make rules and rules make behaviour – and what we don’t know about chemistry, particularly that produced by living organisms – far outweighs what we do know. It’s by far the most provocative field of study.
    Great blog! I hope I can lob some questions your way in the near future. 🙂

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  4. I like what you write, but by saying you are a chemistry teacher…just how good a chemist are you? I googled you and nothing came up…. I want to believe/know that what you write is fact/science…truth… thanks

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  5. Thank you so much for your article! I used to crave lemonade when my stomach problems were at their worst and it made me vomit. Not sure why but I also had undiagnosed acid reflux, food allergies and digestion problems, so it may have been my bodies’ way of removing food i couldn’t digest. I have been therefore very confused about all the info online suggesting that lemons are alkalizing. I started to wonder if I was lacking stomach acid instead. Thanks for clearing this up for me!

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  6. Dear Kat
    I read your entertaining explanation about why lemons won’t magically neutralize acid in my body with relief because I couldn’t understand how adding acid to acid could!
    However, I have been following a diet (The Real Meal Revolution -Tim Noakes) that is causing my joints to ache (I’m guessing it’s acidic – lot’s of meat and oils, and I drink lots of Coke Zero). I’m looking for foods that will neutralize and so ‘cure’ my aching joints! Do you have any suggestions, please?
    :-)Sharon

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  7. I just discovered your post on “alkaline lemons”and love it. Now perhaps you can help me. I live in the US Southwest. The climate is arid and our soils have a very high pH which inhibits the growth of many plants. Plant nurseries and the horticulture industry suggest adding sulphuric acid in the form of iron sulfate to the soil to “change the pH” of the soil. Based upon your knowledge of chemistry and realizing garden soil is an open environment, i.e., it is not enclosed by a container, can you tell me what affect the iron sulfate has on a soil with pH of 8.5 for example. Thank you.

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  8. Kat, I want to amend my previous post. The nurseries recomend sulfur to Change the ph. They recommend the iron sulfate and also gypsum (CaSO4). Some places use elemental sulphur. So my question is really how does the sulfur change the pH. If you decide to take on this question, thanks.

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    • I’m not sure how elemental sufur changes pH. Sulfur doesn’t react with water, in fact it’s hydrophobic (doesn’t dissolve in water). Sulfur oxides react with water to produce acidic solutions, but to produce sulfur oxides you have to burn the sulfur. Possibly soil bacteria can break it down, at which point you might get sulfur oxides – so perhaps that’s the mechanism. The Fe2+ ions in iron sulfate and the Ca2+ ions in gypsum will act as lewis acids, so that explains why they’re included. Iron sulfate is not the same as sulfuric acid, though. They are very different substances. As to how much it will change the pH, it’s impossible to say because I have no idea what you’re actually adding or how much, or as you say what your local environment is like (how acidic your rain water is, for example). You’ll just have to follow the instructions on whatever you buy.

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    • I closed comments on that thread because I was repeatedly refuting this argument, and I’m not going to start again here as that defeats the object. I’m afraid I don’t consider vitalitylink.com, or indeed ANY website which includes a disclaimer along the lines of “This website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, prescribing any medication or other treatment, or discontinuing any medication or treatment recommended by your healthcare provider” a reputable source. Clearly this is not information from a scientist or a medical professional. Please re-read my original post; there are a number of relevant links included in it. If you are actually interested in the science, you might also want to read the Buffers for Bluffers post.

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    • I have never claimed to know more than a medically-qualified doctor about treating cancer. I urge anyone with a cancer diagnosis, or even just a suspicion of cancer, to speak to a medically-qualified doctor before they do anything else, and that includes reading pretty much anything on the internet.
      I make no apologies for cautioning against the dangerous advice of certain individuals out there who have no medical qualifications, or indeed scientific qualifications (purely for the record, I have a BSc and a PhD in chemistry), and yet claim to have ‘cures’ for cancer. These people are potentially dangerous and everyone should treat what they say with extreme caution.

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  9. You have a PHD in what kind of chemistry, specifically? Organic? And what kinds of research or processes did you work with on a daily basis? Did these involve studies of mammalian, primate or human metabolism and pathologies?

    I’ll have to chime in here on the lemon acid or alkaline debate. Primarily because you have dug in your heels and are taking a bit of a cavalier approach to something that most people believe differently than you.

    I’m sure you know that lemons contain high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and sodium. These minerals are all agents for alkalizing effects when ingested. Unless you can cite specific studies disproving the general belief that ingesting lemons (or lemons) helps to lean the human body/blood chemistry towards alkaline, you having nothing much beyond hand waving with sheepskin.

    I will cite an August 2008 “Urological Research” study on the effects of ingestion of lime juice on kidney stones:

    “Citraturic, alkalinizing and antioxidative effects of limeade-based regimen in nephrolithiasis patients”

    By: Piyaratana Tosukhowong, Chatchai Yachantha, Thosaphol Sasivongsbhakdi, Supoj Ratchanon, Suchada Chaisawasdi, Chanchai Boonla, Kriang Tungsanga

    Urological Research 2008, 36 (3): 149-55

    Potassium citrate has long been used as a prophylactic remedy for nephrolithiasis recurrence. Lemonade consumption is also suggested as an option. We compared the efficacy of consumption of solution containing manufactured lime powder with that of potassium citrate, on the improvement of metabolic risk factors, oxidative stress and renal tubular damage in nephrolithiasis patients. Patients with kidney stone were enrolled and randomly assigned to three treatment programs for 3 month period consisting of consumption of solution containing lime powder (Group 1, n=13), potassium citrate (Group 2, n=11) and lactose as placebo regimen (Group 3, n=7). Lime powder and potassium citrate contained equal amounts of potassium (21 mEq) and citrate (63 mEq). After treatment, there was an increase in urinary pH, potassium and citrate in Group 1 and 2. Increased plasma potassium and red blood cell glutathione (R-GSH) and decreased urinary malondialdehyde were found in Group 1, but not observed in Group 2. R-GSH was decreased in Group 2. Urinary N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase activity and fractional excretion of magnesium, as renal tubular damage indicators, were decreased only in Group 1. In Group 3, all measured parameters were unaltered except for an increased urinary chloride. In conclusion, consumption of our in-house lime powder exerted citraturic and alkalinizing actions as efficient as consumption of potassium citrate. In addition, it provided an antioxidative effect and was able to attenuate renal tubular damage. These pharmacological properties may be clinically useful to diminish the stone-forming potential in kidney stone patients and hence for preventing recurrent calculi.

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    • Thank you for that link. Have you read the note at the bottom of the original Amazing Alkaline Lemons post? My original post was not about urine. The note at the bottom clarifies this and cites various sources that discuss kidney stones etc. It makes it clear, I hope, that urine pH CAN be affected by the consumption of certain substances.

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  10. You are awesome. Just stumbled across your blog entry regarding blood ph and its ability(or inability) to be changed by food intake. Absolute gold. Interesting subject; very well worded entry and the best part, the comments section! 🙂 you are savage. I love it!!

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  11. Hello Kat, I also stumbled upon your blog after accidentally hearing about alkali water made from lemons.. Hmm, now I haven’t done any ‘voluntary’ chemistry since ‘O’ level, and even I know that fruit with Citrus in the title is likely to be acidic. I think they made a very basic mistake 😉

    I have been reading backwards through your posts, and I think I have learned/understood more in one evening than I ever did in class. Also, I have hurt myself laughing!

    Absolutely Superb!

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  12. Hello Kat, I really enjoy this blog, just came across it accidentally searching about apricot pits.
    I love science and 2nd favorite subject is chemistry (sorry, Physics is my first love 🙂 ), Also my daughter is planning on getting PHd in chemistry, proud of her, she is just starting undergrad.

    I did have a question about apricot seeds, but I’m not interested in cancer cures, and not sure if B17 is even a real vitamin.
    My approach is simply from a food that tastes good standpoint: I grew up eating apricot seeds because we had fruit orchard and had lots of them left over, and love the taste. My mum always said to split them and roast them in the oven so we don’t get cyanide poisoning.
    Does soaking in water, then cooking them, reduce the amount that can be turned into HCN?

    Thanks, I understand why you closed comments, hope this is okay to ask this type of question.

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    • Hm, hard to say for certain. Amygdalin (the compound which, during digestion, ultimately breaks down to form poisonous hydrogen cyanide) is soluble in hot water, therefore boiling apricot kernels would probably reduce the amygdalin content. It’s difficult to say how much difference soaking in cold water would make. I found this paper on grinding, soaking and cooking apricot seeds and the authors say that “great reductions were obtained” but “none of the products obtained were considered safe for human consumption”. So I think, personally, I still wouldn’t risk it.

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  13. Thank you so very much for the time and effort you put into this blog. Found it while trying to debunk all that Alkaline Diet and Hexagonal Water Clusters stuff to someone I know personally. Well, that failed, but I’ll keep reading your blog nonetheless, for my own sake.

    Once again, thank you SO much.

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  14. Fascinating blog, sorry I didn’t find it sooner.

    Btw, if you like fireworks, there may be someone at the University of Manchester’s Department of Chemistry who has a list of the late Dr. John Salthouse’s “Big Bang” touring lecture series, which explored all kinds of fascinating explosions, mainly in organic chemistry. The experiments are mostly safe, he only got severely burned a few times.

    Not much I can do about conspiracy theories. Experience seems to show that the liquor stores are the main victors. I truly wish you well on that and offer all the support I can.

    The bad science pieces are wonderful. There’s so much out there and so much of it is out there. Going to recommend your blog to a few people in or around chemistry and its myriad sub-disciplines.

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  15. Enjoying reading the blog. Quite amusing,especially the determined insistence of some commentators. I, too, am a chemistry teacher and came across the alkaline lemon story, just today (as ever like the cow’s tail, always behind) and felt I had to scratch the itch of incredulity with a flick of the tail.
    Dare I recommend some dietary lemon as a soothing unguent to life’s tribulations?
    It’s catalytic powers are activated by about a 30% solution of gin and tonic.

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    • Haha thank you! I always wince a little when I see there’s a comment on the About page, as too often it’s: “I saw you closed comments on apricot kernels/lemons/MMS/something else and I just wanted to say that I think you’re an idiot!” 😉 Just to point out though, it’s lime in gin and tonic. Always lime. Occasionally cucumber. Never lemon 😉

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  16. Hey! came across your lemon and water post and it obviously makes much more sense than any other website i’ve read so far. However, I have been recommended by a doc to have lemon water in the morn to help kill acidity. I am wondering whether this is a strict no or just that adding some slight lemon to water wont make a big woop anyways. (Maybe throwing in some honey?) Thanks!

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    • When you say ‘a doc’, what do you mean? A qualified GP? A qualified dietician? Or something else; a ‘nutritionist’ perhaps (anyone can call themselves a nutritionist). I’m not going to argue with someone with proper qualifications, but this doesn’t sound like the advice of a genuine medical practitioner. Still, either way, drinking some water with lemon in probably isn’t going to hurt you, unless you suffer from acid reflux or something similar. So if you like it, there’s probably no harm in it.

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  17. Love your blog! I’m a med student in the U.S. and a lover of science. Sometimes I get pretty frustrated with all of the misconceptions out there about science (and clearly very deep-seated opinions about aforementioned misconceptions, as seen in your comment threads.) Good god. I love how you address this issues and continue on despite the crazy comments. It’s hard to stay sane when parents are keeping their kids from being vaccinated and people are rubbing their feet in dirt to “exchange ions” … And that is not to say I haven’t done and thought some crazy things in the past. I try to envision people on a journey towards better understanding (like myself.) Your blog is a bit of hope in that regard.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment 🙂 Yes, there’s a lot of nonsense out there, but what can we do except to try and spread a bit more accuracy around? Good luck with your medical degree!

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  18. Hi, I just read https://thechronicleflask.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/a-horrifying-story-autism-miracle-mineral-solution-and-the-cd-protocol/, and just wanted to mention something. You say you’ve “seen someone mention 15 drops in 700 mls”. The link is broken, but that is nonsense. 1000 mls is 1 liter, which is not 20 drops. Google says 20 drops is 1 ml, which makes more sense to me. I think somewhere micros and millis got mixed up. As the rest of your post seems to depend on this, I thought you would want to know…

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    • I think you’ve misunderstood. I had seen someone mention adding 15 drops of ‘activated’ MMS solution TO 700 mls of water. The intention is to dilute the solution, but it’s not enough to render it safe/harmless.

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  19. This blog is amazing! I’ve been doing my GCSE Chemistry course work, and this website has really helped with my research. Keep it up! 😀

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  20. Keep up the good work. It feels so good to finally a voice of reason after sifting so much bullshit over the internet.

    P.S. Loved your article on Lemon and alkaline water fad.

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  21. Keep up the good work, Kat. Love your blog! Would you like to comment on the oft quoted “drinking dairy products produces mucus in the body” then “buy our whey protein supplement”? Hello?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Of course chemistry being overlook by the media.. engineering not really easy to be digest by media people.. in fact we engineering people always being overlook by media and everywhere..

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  23. Pingback: Name element 117 Octarine, in honour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – Clacks Header

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