Chlorophyll Extraction

I tried another experiment last night. I had heard somewhere that if you boil green leaves, you can extract the chlorophyll from them when can then be excited by exposure to light, making the solution ‘glow’ as electrons move around. So I dutifully went out, gathered several leaves and put them in a beaker, which I heated over my Bunsen burner.

Note to self: Get new Bunsen Burner. After heating it for about 20 minutes and it still hadn’t boiled, I decided a new tactic was necessary.

Note to self: Buy more Denatured Alcohol.

I poured some of the liquid into a test tube, and added some of the leaves. Now the water started boiling pretty quickly. The water wasn’t getting any greener, though. After observing it boil for a while, I decided it was as good as it was going to get, and cut the flame. Then I removed the leaves, and exposed the final solution to a light source.

I was underwhelmed, to say the least.

There are several possibilities I have thought of as to what went wrong:

  1. Boiling leaves is not an efficient method of chlorophyll extraction. Can be fixed by discovering a more efficient method.
  2. I didn’t allow the leaves to boil long enough and need to be more patient.
  3. My light source (a flashlight) was either not powerful enough, or did not give out light in the right part of the electro-magnetic spectrum.
  4. My original hypothesis, that extracted chlorophyll will glow when exposed to a light source, is wrong.
  5. Yet to be discovered.

A cursory search on google and I discovered that my original hypothesis appears to be correct, but my methods are lacking. At least I know I’m on the right track.

I’m purposely avoiding looking at how other people have done this in the past. I want to work it out on my own. Who knows what I might figure out along the way?

First, I’m going to try to find a better method of chlorophyll extraction. Alcohol might be a better choice than water, or perhaps an acid or base. I’ll also try boiling leaves in water for a longer period of time.

Second, I’ll find different light sources, perhaps a UV light source, like a black light, and an IR light source (a remote control perhaps?).

I think I’ll also try to locate some thicker leaves than the ones I’m using. Perhaps elm’s just aren’t a good source.

If I’m only changing one variable at a time, I’ll be busy for a while!


It’s easy to get bogged down in the drudgery of day-to-day life. When you do the same thing day in and day out, it’s hard to stay focused on where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. I’ve been feeling some of that lately, as my regret for my first degree sets in and anxiety for my new direction begins to emerge. The semester is really starting to roll along, and we’re so busy where I work, that I have little time to think about going back to school, and no time to study.

So the video from Randy Pausch that has been circulating has hit at just about the perfect time. I haven’t had time to finish watching it yet, but this has been great. I had held off watching, believing that I wouldn’t really like it, but I couldn’t have been wronger. This is without a doubt, one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen. The trick now is to translate that inspiration until real work.

The problem that most of us find ourselves in is that we get inspired about something, but then do nothing about it. Perhaps ‘inspiration’ doesn’t really describe it well enough; we need to add the modifier ‘feel-good.’ We feel good about someone else accomplishments and wish we could do the same, but then we keep drudging along, doing the same stuff until the next ‘inspirational’ thing comes along. I know I’ve fallen into this trap many times, and have seen others fall into it as well. I don’t know the cure, other than ‘get off your butt and do it.’ You have to make sacrifices to get what you want, and it’s not going to be easy. As Pausch puts it:

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.”

I like that. I’ve been hitting several brick wall as I start pursuing Neuroscience studies with nothing more than a B.A. in Music. But Progress is being made, and I can show that if this is really what I want, then it will happen.

In other news, I received my Chemistry Set from the H.M.S. Beagle on Saturday, and have had lots of fun with that so far. Especially the Alkali metals (sodium and potassium), as twice the amount was in the kit than was advertised. I’m also on the lookout for other experiments to tackle, though I need to work on some of my lab skills first. I’ve never tried bending glass before, and it’s probably time to learn. I think I’ll try distilling water before synthesizing different gases, just so I can get used to how everything works together.

It’ll be interesting tomorrow, as people from the apartment complex will be entering my apartment to change out the furnace filters. Will anything get said? Will I have a notice waiting for me that I should get rid of the equipment? I hope not…

Brass Band Concert

Last night, I went back to my old stomping ground and attended a concert by the Fountain City Brass Band. It was a very good decision to make. This band is crazy good, and listening to them live is auditory bliss. They played the program they performed in their tour of the other side of the pond, which they completed last June. They are the highest placing American Brass Band ever in the British Brass Band Championships. After hearing them, I can only imagine what the best over there might be like.

The highlight of the evening for me was a performance of Sparke’s “Music of the Spheres.” It’s a great piece, but must be a real chop buster. The last minute and a half, I just had to laugh. The technical virtuosity required borders on the absurd. Sparke said about this piece that he feels like it presses brass bands about as far as possible, and it’s easy to see why. This piece is a must hear at some point.

Looking at the ‘verse

Cailin has written a great description of what it’s like to look up (and around) at the awesome beauty of the Universe we live in:

These are the moments that fill me with the greatest pleasure and wonder, my appreciation for my own existence swells within me and I feel my eyes glaze with tears of joy and sorrow.

I once read a comment by someone made when viewing a beautiful sunset.  They said, ‘How can anyone look at something so beautiful and think there is no god?’  I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking, ‘Why would I want to pollute something so wonderful with something so ugly?’

Via The Friendly Atheist.

Cool Town and Great Store

On Saturday I ventured out of my apartment to a place in Kansas City I’ve not been before: Parkville. I’ve been near it, but never in it. I’ve been missing out. This is a charming little town, right on the missouri River and smack dab in the middle of the KC Metro area, but strangely isolated. The town only has about 5,000 people in it, so it’s small, but it’s home to Park University, which I wish I had known about before. Of course, as a private institution, it would have been out of my price range, but still, it looks like such a nice place.

Saturday was a nice day, and there were people milling about, I really got the whole small town feeling. But I wasn’t there to just check the town out; I was a man on a mission. About a week ago, I heard about this store, called the H.M.S. Beagle. I had posted to a local freethought group about available local amatuer science clubs, and someone mentioned this store. If only I had known about it before… This store isn’t like those dinky ’science’ store like the Discover Channel store. Those stores sell little more than ’science toys.’ This is the real deal. And it’s a nice looking store as well.

They have glassware, Science and Technical books (new, used, and rare). A ton of telescopes. Geological tools. Slides. Chemistry Sets. Kids science clubs. Adult science clubs. The people who work there all have backgrounds in science (either already have a degree, or a student working towards a degree). I talked to the owner, and he informed me that they can order anything they don’t already have, including… dissection specimans! Dissections have always given me the willies in the past, but now I’m actually looking forward to doing one. That’s a ways off in the distance, though. There’s probably a bunch of legalities I need to find out about, too.

They also supply chemicals, which would have been wonderful to know while I was making my movie over the summer. Well, a nice person supplied me with some Sodium anyway. Thanks again, nice person!

I don’t yet have the resources to start working on my lab, but next month, I ought to. It’s probably a good thing, because I need to have some idea of some specific things I want to do first. Right now, some bacterial cultures are on the list, but I won’t get a microscope until Christmas time, so I should probably hold off on that. There was a neat little book at the store called ‘Grandads Wonderful Book of Chemistry,’ that may offer some pointers. The biology book I’m working on has been great so far, but I’ve not gotten too in depth yet. I want to finish Gödel, Escher, Bach first. (BTW, if you haven’t read GEB, then I highly recommend it.)