Frequently Asked Questions
Over the years, I've received a lot of questions from people about this site (and about other stuff in general). The following are all questions that I get in my email on a fairly regular basis (believe it or not), and my usual answers:
Question: Will you answer this homework question for me? [homework question follows]
Answer: No. Check out the tutorial pages for information on how you can figure it out yourself.
Question: I have a general question about a chemical topic. Will you answer it?
Answer: Yes, as long as it's not a homework question. You can email me your chemistry questions at email@example.com. And yes, I can tell if your general question is really a homework question in disguise!
Question: Is this website currently being updated and maintained?
Answer: Yes. However, because it's a big site, it may not seem as if it changes much from year to year.
Question: Why did you make this website?
Answer: No particular reason. Seriously.
Question: Will you actually answer my email?
Answer: It depends. If your email is interesting, then yes. If your question is covered somewhere on the website, or if I'm really really busy, or if you are asking me a homework question, then no.
Question: Are you currently teaching? Where?
Answer: I'm currently teaching part time while spending the other half of my business day working on chemistry resources and taking care of my son. Currently I work for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax County, VA.
What's the deal with the punk interviews?
Answer: Punk rock is awesome, and you guys should really listen to more of it. Some bands you may want to check out are Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Descendents, the Nobodys, Flipper, Fear, the Dead Kennedys, Steel Pole Bath Tub, NOFX, X, Guttermouth, and Boris the Sprinkler. There are a million other good punk bands out there - check them out.
Question: Did you really write a bunch of books?
Answer: Yes. I wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chemistry" (2003), "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Chemistry" (2005), and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organic Chemistry" (2008). I've also written a lot of books for chemistry teachers and did a lot of work on the Holt 2010 Chemistry textbook (before it got cancelled due to the economy). Most recently, I did a complete rewrite for CIG Chemistry, so check that out at your local library.
Question: Did you make a lot of money on the books?
Answer: I figured out that if I count it as being paid on an hourly basis, I've made $2.50 an hour writing my books - far less than minimum wage. There's not a lot of money in writing books, unless you're Stephen King or something. It is cool, though, to see your book in a bookstore.
Question: My teacher sucks. Will you email him/her and tell him/her how to do a better job?
Answer: No. If you?re upset, you should talk to your teacher yourself. Clearly, I have no way of telling whether he/she is a lousy teacher and it wouldn't be my place to say anything to them anyway.
Question: I live in the DC area and I need tutoring. Will you do it?
However, it has been my experience that people who need tutors usually
need to either speak to their teachers or to study more. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but
if you haven't tried either of these options, you may want to consider it
before paying somebody big bucks to tutor you.
Who sponsors this website?
Answer: Nobody - I pay for it out of my own pocket.
Question: I found a mistake on your site. Can I mail the correct answer to the address above?
Answer: Yes, but I'm pretty slow to update. It will probably take a really, really long time. I?m pretty busy.
Question: I found something offensive on your site and am outraged. Change it immediately or I'll complain to [somebody I've never heard of].
Answer: Nothing on this site is in the slightest way offensive to the intended audience (i.e. there's no sex, drugs, foul language, sexism, homophobia, violence, etc) and I have no intention to change anything based on the very occasional complaint. I'm sorry if you're offended - perhaps you can find another chemistry site that you won't find so scary and intimidating.
Question: What do you think of [some political candidate, moral issue, religion, hotbed social issue]?
Answer: Nope. Not going there. This is a chemistry website, not a soapbox for me to spout off about my personal beliefs.
Question: My class is working on a project and we need chemical expertise. Can we interview you or ask you to be involved?
Answer: Sure. Hit me with an email.
Question: What's that picture of you on the front page of the site?
Answer: That picture was taken of me on June 30, 1995. The thing in front of me is a fried egg sandwich that a Waffle House waitress was putting in front of me. I used that picture of me for the webpage because 1) It isn't good enough for anybody to actually identify me in the real world, and 2) Because when I first made this website in 1998 I didn't have any other digital picture of me - that was well before the age of digital cameras.
Question: I'm a former dictator who has a great deal of money in a trust fund and I want to establish a business relationship with you to our mutual benefit. Will you send me several thousand dollars? If you do, I'll send you ten million dollars in six months.
Answer: Send me the ten million dollars now, and I'll send you several thousand in six months.
Question: Since you're a chemist, will you tell me how to make drugs and/or explosives?
Answer: No, but I'll tell the DEA and/or ATF about your new interest.
Question: I'm a researcher working on [something really complicated]. Will you tell me how to do [something really complicated]?
Answer: No, since I know absolutely nothing about it and don't want to give you bad information.
Question: Where can I buy [some chemical]? I want to make [something weird].
Answer: First of all, I'm not telling you where to get any chemicals. Secondly, please don't do chemistry on your own - it's not safe.
Question: I have a physics and/or biology question. Will you help me?
Answer: No, since I know practically nothing about either subject. I studied chemistry and I have very little interest in physics and biology. It's not that they're bad subjects - they're just not subjects I find all that interesting.
Question: I hate you and I hate your website.
Answer: I hate you and your website too.
Question: Is this site in any way related to any websites with similar names?
Answer: Nope. If a website has a similar name, it's not because I have anything to do with it.