Ode to Boredom

Drip, Drip, Drip, Drip the distillation goes

A steady stream of AC current flows
Through tightly coiled nichrome heating wire.
Resistive heating makes the oil bath hot
Which sends the still pot charge into a boil.
Condensing liquid forms a reflux line,
Which marches ever upward through the still
Until at last it's made it to the top.

There in the still head it begins to heat
The bulb of the thermometer placed there,
Whose rising mercury will indicate
The reflux liquid's boiling temperature.
Cold water flowing through a condenser
Then cools the vapors to a liquid state.

The drops of cooling liquid start to run
Down through the sloping pathway where they merge
To form an ever swelling pendant drop.
And when the drop exceeds a certain size,
Determined by the shape of the drip tip
Its surface tension holds it there no more.
The drop then plunges down into the pig,
For so the chemists call that piece of glass
Which holds three waiting flasks in which in turn
The falling droplets can at last collect.

Between each falling droplet and the next
A long ten seconds' waiting must elapse.
One thousand drops do not suffice to fill
The largest of the round receiving flasks.
So hour on hour the distillation time
Begins to mount into odd hours of night.

At last the final flask has reached its fill.
The still pot has been nearly boiled dry.
The still is broken down into its parts,
And each is cleaned and gently put away.
The precious distillate is safely stored,
For use on yet another long lab day.

Drip, Drip, Drip, Drip the distillation goes.

Note: As you can probably tell, this poem was started late one night as I worked on a particularly boring distillation. It's hard to include that many technical words in a poem and still have the scansion come even close to working.

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Ode to Bordom / Roger Moore / raj@alumnae.caltech.edu / June 1997