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On Mr. Giwers Chemistry

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From: Richard J. Green
Subject: Re: Where did all the ashes go?
Date: 14 Jun 1996 11:30:31 -0700

Jon Richfield wrote:

Matt, As I said yesterday, I am new here, so forgive my asking, what on earth is all this about???

"I am simplifying nothing. The chemist claimed the ash would be CaO2. He ever reiterated that when I suggested he might have said CaO3. We are not talking fresh bones here. We are talking bones that have been reduced to some degree of ash depending upon the story you wish to use."

Chemist? CHEMIST??? You are kidding us? Calcium peroxide in bone ash from bones reduced to ash? CaO3??? Do you have some handy? I have never seen nor heard of a calcium ozonide or whatever this stuff would be, but I assure you that neither compound would last long at high temperatures in a reducing environment, such as a charring bone! And as for burning the stuff... You ARE kidding us surely???

If you can affirm that some of these components aren't fertilizers, please give your sources or your explainations.

I affirm we are not talking about fresh bones from the cremation process. Just what is it that you are talking about?

And why do you think that such ash would not be a fertiliser? OK, OK, it would be a good idea to let it cool down a bit first, but most soils are poor in phosphates and bone ash has been used as fertiliser for yonks. (Hmmm, actually I admit that maybe it has not been used lately, because it is cheaper to use phosphate rock and bone meal is too valuable as an animal feed, but it certainly used to be used and in a poor, acidic soil it was great stuff. What would you expect? Why should it not be? Do you imagine that PO4-3 loses its nutritive value just because it has been filtered through a poet or a housewife before being released by cremation? There may be better sources and kinder ways of obtaining the stuff, but that does not change the chemistry and I thought this was the chem forum.

"The more you folks allow him to get away with his game playing the more I recite what his game is."

Please don't do us any favours. Learn a bit of chem first. It is far better at keeping you from making a fool of yourself than amy amount of recitation or shouting "yer muvver's another!"

Chemical fact. Trust me. I'm not a doctor.



Mr. Giwer's confusion is due to the fact that he has no clue about redox chemistry. I explained to him that the calcium was in its +2 oxidation state. Mr. Giwer apparently thought that must mean that calcium has 3 oxygens. When I corrected him, he thought I must be saying that it has two oxygens.

Mr. Giwer, for your edification:

The oxidation state refers to the formal charge carried by an atom in a compound. Calcium metal has an oxidation number of 0: it has no formal charge. In almost every naturally occurring compound conceivable calcium is in its +2 oxidation state: it has a formal charge of +2.

Thus Ca3(PO4)2 can be thought of as three Ca++ ions and two PO4--- ions for a toatl charge of 3(+2) + 2(-3) = 0.

Calcium oxide is CaO and NOT CaO2 or CaO3. Oxygen almost always has a formal charge of -2. Thus Ca(+2)O(-2) is neutral.

There exists a superoxide anion O2--; so CaO2 is in some sense conceivable, but I'd be very surprised if you found it anywhere in nature. CaO3 is a joke.

The only claim I have made about bone is that calcium is in its +2 oxidation state, i.e. it has a formal charge of +2. Dr. Bilik posted some information about the composition of bone that, of course, confirmed this. Mr. Van Alstine posted information about bone ash that also confirms this.

The only thing that this proves is that Matt Giwer does not have any familiarity with basic chemistry.

Richard J. Green                                
Dept. of Chemistry

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