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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Oxidation and the Eleven Plus

Some of us sometimes feel short of breath when the going gets tough. In some cases this is possibly the body trying to fill our lungs with air so that we can carry on breathing. We also use the words: “burn out’ – and this is the dreaded fear that all systems will shut down. As your child walks towards the examination hall you may feel inclined to call out: “Deep breaths, dear. Deep breaths!”

Your eleven plus child, being naturally precocious, may slow his or her stride and turn to you. “Mum, breathing is like burning. We know that burning uses oxygen – well so does breathing. I know my examination is close – but I would like to put you straight. A burning candle produces heat – because of oxidation. The oxygen we breathe oxidises my breakfast. It is this reaction that produces the energy I will need in the examination.

The other children are moving towards the entrance so I must cut this next bit short. When you made me eat those extra carbohydrates at breakfast this morning I had extra carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These were, as you know, oxidised to form carbon dioxide and water. I also breathed out the unreactive gases and the oxygen that I did not need.

I will need to cut this short now. The examination is about to start. Some other children are filing in through the door. But when you tell me to breathe deeply I may be taking on too much oxygen and so may hyperventilate. I don’t have time for this.

Last thing, Mum. Drive home carefully. I am going to be all right. I want to go to grammar so that I can go to a science orientated school. I love science more than mathematics. Please mum, just leave me now.”

(There is a mumble from the car.)

“Yes Mum, I will remember. Bye Mum.”

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