Sunday, March 5, 2017

Three states of matter that matter—part two

As promised in last week's column, today we will discuss the scientific property of gases. (O.K., I think we lost the grown-ups with that last sentence. They have moved on to the Wordy Gurdy, so now we can make fart jokes.)

A gas is a type of matter which does not conform to a defined shape, much like your local Congressional district. Examples of a gas:
  • freon
  • radon
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
There are two major types of gases found in nature: political and harmless.
  1. Political. The first kind is found in elected officials (hereafter referred to as "gasbags"). This kind of gas tends to accumulate in the ambitious and morally flexible. It can be very dangerous in high concentrations, but can also be rendered harmless every 4-6 years. A harder type to get rid of is known as "lobbyist leaks." These are created when an attempted swamp-draining is bungled.

  2. Harmless. Gases which are harmless fall into many subcategories:
  • Steam. This gas is produced when your rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" bounces off the shower tiles at such a volume nature weeps.
  • Helium. Very rare, and only exists when a clown and a balloon love each other very much.
  • Ozone. Much like a calzone, if a calzone were airborne and better protection against the sun's ultraviolet rays.
  • Propane. This is great for cooking on a grill and also for thumbing your nose at all your stupid anti-pane friends.
  • Krypton. This is a noble gas and has an atomic number of 36, but fudges a little by putting 32 on its resume. It is also totally tasteless. I bet you already figured that out.
  • Neon is the fifth most abundant element in the universe, but very rare on Earth, so what we humans do, for its own protection, is we stick it in signs advertising beer.
  • Argon. This is derived from a Greek word meaning "lazy," because it undergoes almost no chemical reactions. I feel a certain kinship with argon on weekends.
  • Xenon. This gas is used in arc lamps and, amazingly, as a general anesthetic. It also, let's face it, has the coolest name. Turn-ons include: long walks on the beach. Turn-offs: people who still only tip 10%.
Do not even get me started about mixed gases, which have been blended together to benefit humans. (I'm looking at you, tungsten hexafluoride!) Next week's topic: Solids, the only type of matter safe to sit on.


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