Friday, 6 August 2010

Nigredo & Albedo

This is all a bit haphazard... I'm jumping all over the place and not concentrating in any one place at the moment. But this is essential theorising before I've got the various things I need to actually start on the operation.

In my initial plans, I had thought of getting my potassium from ashes... my favourite pub has a wood-burning fire in the winter and I'm sure if someone wanted to take their ashes away, for whatever demented purpose, they'd be very pleased. But I've read recently that leaves have a much higher potassium content than trunks and branches so I've been pondering a more "leafy" source also bearing in mind my insistence that I use the most lowly substances that I can obtain.

I have a bit of an obsession that "organic" household waste shouldn't go to the landfill, that it should be composted which would be no problem if I had a garden... which I don't. Now, to add to my complications on this front, I drink a lot of tea and how to "ecologically" dispose of the old tea bags is quite a hassle.

Hang on a minute... tea... leaves... LEAVES! There we go, all I have to do is give my left-over tea leaves a vigorous heating and there's my source of potassium rich ash.

When it comes to procedures and general scientific theory, I'm much more of a modern amateur chemist than a more traditional alchemist... and all of that stuff with Albedo, Nigredo, Citrinitas and Rubedo don't really have that much place in my practice. But this new procedure that I'm adding in instead of just scrounging some ash is straight out of the manuscripts as far as Nigredo and Albedo are concerned.

See Steve Kalec's Salt Volatilization Experiment for an example of this more traditional alchemical work... for me... it's back to the chemistry textbooks.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Base Metals into Gold

I was just looking around on Nurd Rage for some tips and I found a quick trick for turning base metals into gold... and just couldn't resist sticking it up here

A little recipie book

Nurd Rage - Making Potassium Permanganate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70AfSqP5YK8

Wikipedia: Historically KOH was made by boiling a solution of potassium carbonate (potash) with calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), leading to a metathesis reaction which caused calcium carbonate to precipitate, leaving potassium hydroxide in solution: Ca(OH)2 + K2CO3 → CaCO3 + 2 KOH
Filtering off the precipitated calcium carbonate and boiling down the solution gives potassium hydroxide (calcinated or caustic potash). This method used potash extracted from wood ashes using slaked lime. It was the most important method of producing potassium hydroxide until the late 19th century.

How to make potassium carbonate: http://fryingcolors.com/k2co3.html

How to make potassium nitrate: http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/lecontesalt/leconte.html
http://fryingcolors.com/saltpeter.html

Lime and Lye (caveman chemistry): http://www.cavemanchemistry.com/oldcave/projects/lime/

Chemistry of Potash: http://www.cavemanchemistry.com/oldcave/projects/potash/

Manganese dioxide from batteries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knc1lSupAwQ

A little pot of decidedly impure manganese dioxide...but it came from the rubbish dump!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Eno is God

If my previous posts made you think I was bonkers, let's see where we can go with this one.

Sodium Bicarbonate, The Philosophers' Stone and The Divinity of Composers.

In the old alchemical manuscripts, we are always reminded that the first matter is something lowly and "base" - this is a simple analogue to the unredeemed human soul. We are also reminded to "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem" which has led many alchemists over the years to seek the first matter from the interior of their bodies (as above, so below - man is a microcosm of earth, the macrocosm) and, indeed, one of my various collection of first matters for this operation will be a bottle of my own pee - concentrated by distillation.

But I'm digressing too far from the point. I have an operation planned out where I start from the lowliest of ingredients except in one case. I just can't find a method whereby I can obtain sodium bicarbonate from the lowly sources that I have constricted myself to. I was listening to an old episode of "In Our Time" the other day where Melvin Bragg and chums were discussing alchemy and they were saying that the philosophers' stone was an exalted ingredient brought into play at a crucial point at the end the operation. Which got me thinking about how I need sodium bicarbonate right at the end of my operation and how, at least with my tongue in my cheek, could be considered as if not the philosophers' stone certainly my one.

This got me thinking some more (which is the point of information and ideas - to make you think more) and this is the rough path that my thoughts took me on.

The stone is a super-magical ingredient that, when normal operations will not produce the required result, catalyses that matter into whatever exalted state you wish it to be in. The stone is able to redeem all by the sheer action of it's presence. In the Christian alchemy of medieval Europe, the stone is clearly an analogue of Christ and, for the less gnostically inclined, Christ is one part of a tripartite entity that they call "God".

Let's leave the divine nature of the stone to one side for a second and let's go back to my difficulties with sodium bicarbonate. Now there's plenty of it around. We use it in baking and it's an indigestion remedy. In fact it is the major ingredient of Beecham's ever popular "Eno".

Now that makes me think of something:


So if sodium bicarbonate more or less equals ENO
And... if the philosophers' stone more or less equals GOD
And... if the philosophers' stone is echoed in my peculiar post-scientific take on alchemy as sodium bicarbonate then the long asked question has finally been answered:
http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/enofaq1.html#God

Yup... after a few lines of NaHCO3 - even this starts to make sense.