Author: Jake Kim | Category: Science | Date: 06-16-2020
Exactly one year ago, I took an Elementary Chemistry course at Skyline College. Twice a week, my friends and I along with other students were required to show up to a lab and conduct an experiment with given instructions.
During one particular experiment, we were asked to use a dropper-like device to slowly drop a fluid in small amounts to another fluid. If a perfect amount of the dropper fluid was added to the other fluid, the mixture would change from a dull, clear color to a beautiful hot pink color. After each experiment, regardless of its success, we were required to calculate the percent error of our experiment using the concentration of the dropper fluid in the mixture.
This was arguably the most challenging experiment in the entire course. My friends and I, who largely underestimated the difficulty of the task, quickly understood through a few trials that we would have to sacrifice a portion of our lunchtime to finish the experiment with adequate results. After our first attempt, we measured our percent error and our hearts dropped. By the end of the class, we would have to get a whopping 3000% error to a >1% error.
The error was simple: we added too much dropper fluid. And we all knew that and were extremely frustrated, as we would see the mixture turn into a nice, hot pink for just a moment until it turned back into a dull, clear fluid. And this wasn’t a serious error either. It was merely a large error. But at the moment, after getting near-misses after near-misses, our mistakes began to seem like serious mistakes. One that would cost us the time that we took to fill up our stomachs and cool our heads from tedious experiments.
The causes of this repetitive error were simple, too. We simply lacked experience for this extreme-precision requiring experiment. The directions that were given to us were extremely straightforward, but were too intricate for us to carry out. On top of that, we were given cheap equipment that made it all the more challenging for us to conduct the experiment with pinpoint accuracy. All of these factors not only got in the way of our experiment, but also slowly got to our motivation to adequately finish the experiment.
After over an hour of frustrating experiments, we walked over to the counter to clean our equipment to try again once more. Before we got our hands moving again, we stopped to discuss what exactly was preventing us from completing our task. We immediately concluded that it was our lack of experience that prevented us from finishing the experiment precisely and swiftly. We initiated our lab procedure once more, with only one thing that we changed. If we were limited in experience, we would simply have to take more time to make up for the lack of precision. And that was the attempt that the fluid remained hot pink. We couldn’t believe our eyes. That was when we realized that mistakes are inevitable, but there are always extra steps to take to ensure precision.