Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Periodic Lent - Potassium

For Lent of 2010, I hope to consider twenty of the chemical elements, posting every other day a brief consideration of that element and its place in the spirituality of Lent, the Passion, and the Gospels.

Today being Ash Wednesday, let us consider Potassium, the reactive silvery metal which is one of the alkali metals. Why? Let us see...
Potash, or potassium carbonate, had been produced by leaching wood ashes and was well known, being commonly used for soap making. The preparation of potassium carbonate or "potash" by leaching and concentrating wood ashes was the subject of the first United States patent, issued to Samuel Hopkins. ... Beginning in the early years of colonization of the American continent large areas of woods were burned to secure the ashes, which contained potassium carbonate. By leaching with water, the potassium carbonate was removed, and concentrated to the lye solution by boiling. Potassium carbonate was an important export from the United States and Canada beginning in 1635 and continuing through 1865.
[The Encyclopedia of the Chemical Elements 552]
It therefore comes as no surprise to hear the Psalm recited today which prays:
Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. [Ps 50:4]
Potassium hydroxide is a strongly corrosive substance; it can erode flesh - handle with care.

Potassium is an important element in life; along with Nitrogen and Phosporus it is one of the three "dimensions" of fertilizers. Along with its very similar brother Sodium it is used to accomplish the signalling of nerves - today as we begin Lent, let us praise our Lord for giving us this splendid element, let us pray to be ennervated to cleanse ourselves, even as with lye, from all evil, and that we may be nourished as plants are fertilized with potassium: to live and to grow, and to bear much fruit.


At 03 May, 2010 01:41, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have only just stumbled across your blog.I hope you manage to work your way through the whole of the periocic table.It is very interesting.


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