Tue, 22 May 2001

Dear Mr Wonderful,

Okay, so whenever I talk about titration, or even just acidity vs. alkalinity with people, unless they're studied chemists they assume (even if they've learned otherwise in their earlier education) that higher pH means more acidity.

What is it that's so counterintuitive about the concept of more acid being a lower pH value, and more basic being a higher pH value? Isn't it also somewhat arbitrary, like the U.S. standard measurement system -- just change it and all will make more sense?


Captain Hydroxide


Dear Hydrox Cookie,

Ummm, I got about as far as the "tit" in "titration", then you lost me.

It's been a long coupla weeks.

No! I'm kidding! Of course we're familiar with chemistry here at the Labs. We've got beakers and everything.

Pipettes, even.

Anyway, the principle at work here is simply that people don't very often think about anything at all. They have vague notions and either come up with specious arguments when called upon to defend those prejudices, or they don't care very much and change their minds. That's normal people, understand. Not people who read this column. People who read this column have concrete, well-thought out reasons for believing their birds are making love to them.

So the general line of "reasoning" is: acids are cool because you see them melting through stuff, cool things are better than not-cool things, better is bigger, therefore acids must have a "bigger" pH value. People are dumb, so what? At least they look good in the movies.

How often does titration come up in conversation, anyway? This isn't your cocktail party banter, is it? Like, for flirting? Let me make a suggestion: a little less science, a little more poetry. That's good advice anytime.