Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Dear Readers,
It's been a busy week! I've been working on my captions (how many bad puns do you think I can get into one exhibition?), and even got our conservator in Leeds to clean up some wonderful Burmantofts pots, without needing too much of a reason. The dragon one is gorgeous. Somehow, I've even persuaded the Temple Newsam curator to lend me a magnificent Chinese jade sculpture - had to be careful not to let on what I was up to, though. I'm getting worried that some of them might be on to me, though. It's the vanishing for weeks on end that's making them suspicious, I reckon. Must work faster, just in case!
Well, what became of the sheep, I hear you ask? I must confess that the vets are not optimistic the poor thing will survive the winter. It appears to have been cruelly treated by callous owners more used to the lucrative sheep showing circuit; worse still, they must have been entering it into the "poodle-sheep" category. Sadly, it wouldn't even have won - I fear that the hairdresser had been at some of my concoctions, and the result is... well, disappointing. Dr. Sock, I hasten to add, is entirely blameless in this case. She told me so, so I suppose I'd better believe her.
Moving swiftly on, I promised an update on the green gloop, and that at least is living up to its billing! Indeed, it's turning more gloopy by the minute, and a delightful brown sludge has appeared at the bottom of the cup. There are definite flakes of copper in it, but beyond that I'm baffled. For a few hours, some more mirabilite crystals appeared on the string, but they took a quick look around and decided that they needed to be somewhere else... I really am intrigued by what is going to happen next!

Soup, anyone?

The string itself is going a bit strange. Normally, string hangs down vertically, like the one in the copper sulphate +boric acid + what used to be aluminium (more of that in a mo) mixture. The one on the right has been in the green gloop, and has opted for a different strategy. It seems to be turning into a copper wire, and I fear it may have plans to plug itself into the mains before taking over the world. Honestly, it was muttering to itself the other day. Or perhaps that was just me.

Ah yes, the copper. Remember that bit of aluminium I was dunking at the beginning? I was getting worried by the buildup of hydrogen in the kitchen, so I transferred it over to the boring old copper sulphate + borax experiment. Much to my relief, it became much more relaxed, but the strange brown colouring still carried on growing. Of course, as some of you have no doubt worked out, the brown stuff is metallic copper. Yep, pure copper metal. I could use it to make a kettle, if I was mad enough. But I'd need quite a bit more. Presumably the dissolved aluminium ions are now swimming around in their nice blue sea...
Copper metal that replaced the aluminium foil - really rather neat!
Since you asked so nicely, I'll let you know what's going on in the pther beakers too. Suagr's in one - but it's boring at the moment - nothing going on at all. The salt is much better - nice little crystals growing happily, but they're probably the easiest of the lot. It would be nice to get some big ones, though. The others are just plain copper sulphate (doing very nicely indeed, thank you!), alum (something is finally starting to happen... but very slowly) and borax (lots of stuff, but it's really not thrilling, even when you zoom in really close. I'm sure I'll get some good crystals one day, though.
Boring old copper sulphate. It is blue, though.
Salt. Nice, eh?
Oh yes, and the mirabilite - it's been drying out well, and is now rather lurid green crust. This should, with any luck, be thenardite - and therefore fluorescent! We'll know soon enough, I promise...


That'll do for now - lots to do still, and there's something else I want to tell you about soon as well!

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