Chemicals and Bard did not mix

29th October 2004 at 01:00
You succeeded in perpetuating the ancient British tradition of overstating a literary education at the expense of one based on the natural sciences (TES, October 8).

In the feature extolling the virtues of sixth-form colleges you correctly quoted from Act 1 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet "O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" The second exclamation mark is not in my collected works. Such is poetic licentiousness.

The equation for the reaction of magnesium with sulphuric acid was thankfully correct. However, never in my 40 years of studying and teaching chemistry have I met C2H6 (ethane, a gas) floating in a test tube containing CHCl3 (chloroform, a liquid, and a scheduled poison).

I can understand the bit about the torches but I need some illumination on the test tube!

Dr Barrie Crowther

12 Kirton Way

Cramlington, Northumberland

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