Category Archives: Study Tools

Resources for students studying VCE and other high-school curricula

I revamped this classic for the VCE Chemistry study design. Download it now: We Lied to You (2019 edition)

we lied to you cover 3d

This book is a collection of lies we taught to our Year 12 Chemistry students in their graduation year.

The lies include well-meaning simplifications of the truth, mistakes in the textbook, and, in a few extreme cases, blatant falsehoods.

This book isn’t a criticism of the VCE Chemistry course at all. In fact, I wrote this book to demonstrate the overwhelming complexity of Chemistry and the consequential need to make appropriate omissions and generalisations during our teaching as we tailor our lessons to the appropriate year level of students.

Rules taught as true usually work 90% of the time in this subject. Chemistry has rules, exceptions, exceptions to exceptions and so on. You’ll peel pack these layers of rules and exceptions like an onion until you reach the core, where you’ll find physics and specialist maths.

Click here to download We Lied to You (2019 edition).


I asked a robot to write about 26 topical issues. Here’s what it wrote.

NOTE: This entire post was written by GPT-2, an artificial intelligence writing robot. The opinions in this post are not necessarily my own.

I asked GPT-2 to write about 26 topical issues, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. The bold text was the initial prompt that I fed into the robot… and the rest was written by the robot itself.


Autism is on the rise because we’re not paying attention to all the signs of a potentially deadly brain disease. We’re not using our senses of sight and hearing as they are intended. We’re not teaching children about what causes autism and what we can do to prevent it. We’re not talking to our families about the needs of other people. We’re not helping kids learn how to protect themselves when they’re in trouble.


Brexit must be resolved by the British people, not by Brussels. The UK must stay in the EU, and the EU must remain a union of free, democratic nations. If we leave we must have the courage to make our own choice. No government can change the will of the people of this country and therefore the will of the people must prevail in the referendum. I am very pleased that, as a result of the discussions I have had this morning with a group of people, some of whom I will mention to you later, there is agreement that a vote on whether to leave the European Union must be held on 23 June. The people of this country will have the final say and if they vote to leave then the government must be prepared to negotiate a new relationship


Cryptocurrencies should not be regulated. They are, in my opinion, a fad that will eventually be seen as a scam,” he said. “The regulators should leave us alone.”

He further added: “A lot of people are putting their money in cryptocurrencies, but I do not see any value.”

In the future, he sees blockchain technology becoming more widespread, as it becomes more accessible to the general public.

“I believe in the future you will see a lot of people using blockchain. It’s a new technology, and people are now starting to understand its implications,” he concluded.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain start-ups.


Dyslexia can be mitigated by vernacular-based learning, as it is by English or other foreign languages, but this is not as effective as language training, which can significantly improve the cognitive processing of dyslexic children. Moreover, many dyslexic children in developing countries remain illiterate.

It is also important to consider the individual circumstances of a child. While an overachieving, hard-working individual with a good education and the support of a supportive family is unlikely to become dyslexic, a low-achieving individual is almost certain to become one. The same is true of a single parent with few skills, a single parent with low socioeconomic status, a child with a disability, a young person who is socially isolated, a student who does not get adequate attention, or an alcoholic.


Earth Day must evolve into a celebration of our nation’s history and legacy of environmental progress,” the official website for the event states.

The group also plans to focus on what’s wrong with modern-day industrialism, which includes the “carbon footprint” and the “energy-sucking” nature of “industrial agriculture.” The group plans to highlight the fact that many products and services — such as food — are created in “unabated” industrial operations.

But the day also will include a little bit of light relief: “Plants and animals will be the center of attention — from birds to fish to bees — and will be presented as examples of the incredible and enduring benefits of our food system and environment.”


Financial literacy should be mandatory for all school children. In order to achieve this goal, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) has proposed a national curriculum with the focus on history and social sciences. This is expected to be approved in the second half of 2016. However, according to research by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the government’s initiative is not being well implemented.

According to the survey, almost 90% of the respondents in the age group of 25 to 64 years and 77% of those 65 and over felt that knowledge about history and social sciences in schools is not enough to be considered the minimum standard.

According to the ICHR, an estimated one in five adults do not have a basic understanding of the social and economic conditions prevailing in the past, and this is likely to worsen with time, which is why the government’s education policy should be implemented.


Greta Thunberg’s most recent climate speech focussed on iced water storage – “I know the people of California have no option but to move to ice.” – while in August, in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the climate activist and author described the situation as “an international emergency.”

“There are so many other ways to put people in harm’s way,” Thunberg said in that speech. “How about putting people in harm’s way by moving them into frozen deserts and turning them into deserts in their own home? That’s not an international emergency, it’s just a tragedy.”

As reported by the LA Times in August, Thunberg’s book is based upon the experiences of a California water-scarce community. The Los Angeles Times writes:

“Thunberg is using the book as a way to make people understand just how badly water is running short in California’s driest state and how desperate the situation is for the people trying to survive”.


Hong Kong’s civil unrest continued to escalate on Wednesday, with an estimated 80,000-100,000 people gathering in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park and surrounding areas to demand that Beijing allow direct elections to decide the city’s leadership in 2017.

In the afternoon, a protester was shot dead by police near Mong Kok, in the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered to call for universal suffrage and the government’s resignation.

The death of Lau Ping, 25, was the fifth in a series of police shootings since Monday, with at least four people wounded.

It was unclear who had fired the shot but a police spokesman said that the man was believed to have suffered “non-life threatening” injuries. The police officer involved was taken to hospital.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters marched to the government headquarters in Hong Kong’s Central district to call for Hong Kong’s leader, CY Leung, to step down.


The International Space Station should be iced and filled with air before it is launched into space to avoid the potential problem of a leak in the station’s cooling system during launch. This problem was experienced with a previous space station mission in 1996.

In order to avoid any problems, engineers are testing the possibility of using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, both highly flammable.

They are also testing the possibility of using ammonia, which is safer.

“In the final stages, as the station’s size is growing to a record of six tonnes, its internal volume will be reduced, meaning that the need for liquid oxygen will decrease and that for hydrogen the need will increase,” a senior engineer told Russian news agencies.

In the past the crew of the Mir space station, which has been orbiting the Earth since 1990, used a supply of water for cooling.


Japanese subway trains have a habit of not letting women on at all on their carriages, but rather using one of two doors. This can happen at any train station in Tokyo, even on the underground and on the Yamanote Line and Hikari Line.

On the subway, women have to show their passport, credit card, or phone number to be let on. They are even given a badge with a red cross and white triangle on it that they have to show to the conductor.

However, a group of women recently got the chance to ride on the trains during a special event. They were let on on at a number of subway stations all around Tokyo.

The group of women used this chance to ask the conductor if they could go to the restroom or get a cup of coffee, because they needed to change their clothes or get a cup of water. They were then given an automatic train fare.


The Ku Klux Klan must be completely dismantled and its members prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Klansmen have been photographed at the rallies by reporters and photographed by the news media, but they have also been seen at protests and gatherings by themselves. At Saturday’s protests, police said Klan members were seen making Nazi salutes.

The Klansmen have also shown up at protests organized by the Oath Keepers, a group of former U.S. military and law enforcement officials. At a rally in New Orleans, the group stood outside a Louisiana Statehouse surrounded by a police cordon.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has appeared at several of the rallies and said he was there because he believes in the right to bear arms and is not racist. The rallies come as the Ku Klux Klan’s white supremacist reputation has been fading for a long time.


Leadership comes from a place of love, not hate. It is from a place of acceptance, not condemnation.”

We’re going to be watching what happens in this country very closely, and the question is, will we live up to that standard and will we show that the country really is great again?

I’m going to bring our country together, and we’re going to make America great again, I will tell you that.


Mentos and Diet Coke for $2.20 (up from $1.49 last year), $2.50 (up from $1.19) and $2.75 (up from $1.34).

In a statement about the price hike, Starbucks said it is “making the changes to align with the rising cost of the typical Canadian household and to align with the changing consumer habits.”

The move comes as the coffee giant struggles to make up ground in Canada. It has been trying to cut its costs to stay competitive against rivals like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts, while maintaining its high-quality product standards.

Last month, Starbucks announced it would close 11 stores, including six in Toronto, after it announced plans to lay off 730 employees in an effort to cut costs.

The chain is also facing pressure from investors over its decision to acquire Blue Bottle Coffee, a San Francisco-based chain, for $1.25 billion.


Net neutrality should protect freedom of expression, as the First Amendment protects the right to speak, write, and publish in the public domain,” he said. “And it also ensures that the Internet remains an open network for innovation, competition, and free expression.”

But Wheeler said the FCC is also going to make a big push on the issue. “This proceeding is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of good policy,” he said.

“This proceeding is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of good policy.”

The FCC is taking up the net neutrality rules in part because Internet providers have been getting so big that they were able to gain too much power to shape how people use the web, and because the agency had no way of enforcing net neutrality rules without them. The new FCC chair is going to try to get the law passed through a combination of the Title II reclassification and a “fast lane” regulation.


Over-stressing about climate change should be considered a mental health issue that needs to be tackled. The problem here is that this can only be done with the help of scientists who understand the issue and are willing to work alongside us. This will have to include a broad spectrum of scientists, including those involved in the development of new technologies, including nanotechnology, which is the area of focus of Dr. Richard Happer, who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Happer is a professor at Princeton University. He is also the President Emeritus of the National Academy of Sciences.

The problem here is that we are not addressing the root of the problem. The problem is that we are focusing on one aspect of our planet’s atmosphere, instead of the bigger picture.

As I wrote on Facebook:

“A number of years ago I attended a conference, where a leading climate scientist talked about the possibility that man-made carbon emissions could cause an ice age (an age of prolonged darkness), according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.”

A global warming theory holds that when the Earth’s surface warms up, water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into ice, which can then flow away from the poles to raise global temperatures. This ice, in turn, warms the water that is already on Earth.

“We know the ice sheet on Greenland is losing ice mass, but the reason why we haven’t observed changes in the Greenland ice sheet in the past is a question of how much ice mass is actually being lost,” said the study’s first author, Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Pennsylvania State University in State College.

“The more we know about what the ice sheet is actually losing, the more confident we can be that we don’t have a problem here.”


Pentagon officials made a statement on Wednesday that the United States is looking at “options to improve communication with the Ukrainian government to prevent this loss of life and ensure that it does not happen again.” U.S. Army Capt. Gregory Hicks added that the U.S. is “troubled by the loss of life in Ukraine and condemns all violence. But we will not be distracted from our focus on protecting our own citizens and our allies.” Hicks also said the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports that some have sought to exploit this tragedy for propaganda purposes. Such activity undermines confidence in the work of the Ukrainian government and its people and undermines efforts to engage constructively with the Russian government to de-escalate tensions in the region.” It’s unclear at the moment whether the Russians are making the same accusations, but the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry statement was posted just after the Ukrainian government statement on the incident is very telling.


Queen Elizabeth II has made a ground-breaking statement about the importance of gender diversity at the highest levels of the armed forces. Her statement came in the form of a tweet and was quickly tweeted by a female servicewoman. Her tweet said “Women make amazing soldiers. It is time we had more”.

The Queen also retweeted a comment from female soldier who said that “there should be more of you and less of them”, the BBC reports.

She has not yet commented on the tweet, but she has now been congratulated on her message by fellow royals and MPs.

The Royal Family were also quick to comment. The Queen’s husband the Duke of Edinburgh tweeted “thank you for the message”. Prince Philip said: “We all need to welcome diversity.”

The Royal Household was also quick to praise female servicemen and servicewomen.

The Royal Navy tweeted: “We welcome the fact that a female Royal Navy ship officer has been appointed to her first command.”


Raccoons living in trees are generally quite cautious of people and they have a strong instinct to avoid them. However, some people have the ability to read a raccoon’s mind and predict where they are going to go next . To the raccoon, people look the same as a tree. If you are in a location that you are comfortable with, you are safer from a raccoon than in a location that you are afraid of. Don’t believe me? Consider this story from a woman who lives in the mountains of Wisconsin. A raccoon got up one evening and decided to leave the area where she was staying. She made an unsuccessful search of the trees surrounding her home and eventually found the raccoon near her car. The raccoon tried to get into the car, but the woman grabbed a pair of scissors and held it to the raccoon’s face. The raccoon left with no problem and the woman went back to her car.


Sesquiterpenes in essential oils is used for skin-conditioning. Its action, similar to that of aspirin, is to lessen the pain of inflammation. Many plants have been found to have antiseptic properties. This plant, Salvia divinorum, is often used in traditional medicines to treat gout and rheumatism. It is also used to treat asthma and arthritis.

Salvia lavandulifolia is known to stimulate the immune system and is commonly used in traditional medicine to prevent colds and influenza. It also possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties. Salvia officinalis is also an effective anti-inflammatory. Aromatic plants, such as Salvia officinalis, contain many components that have a therapeutic effect, including aldehydes, aromatic acids, and terpenes. This plant also has many beneficial properties, especially in treating respiratory conditions, such as allergies.


Transgender people in the military should not face the same discrimination as gay men and lesbians. However, transgender people have been discriminated against throughout U.S. history, from the 19th century onward, with transgender people often excluded from the right to vote, held in inferior military service, denied the use of women’s bathrooms, and denied access to health care and housing. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which banned pay discrimination based on gender, did not specifically include transgender individuals, who were still subject to exclusion from all forms of civilian employment.

Transgender people in the military need the same protections and opportunities as everyone else, as outlined in the 2014 policy and in Defense Department Instruction 1320.18. The Department of Defense has determined that transgender people are able to meet the physical, mental, and moral standards of military service. However, given the unique characteristics of transgender individuals and the limited information about their medical and surgical needs, the Department is not in a position to provide additional medical treatment to people undergoing gender realignment.


The United Nations sustainable development goals were not created in a vacuum and they must be based on a genuine international consensus.

The United Nations has worked hard to make the Sustainable Development Goals the first major global development agenda since World War II, but its efforts have come under attack from those who believe that only market economies and free market policies should be used to achieve the goal.

This is a serious error. A sustainable development goal needs to be built on the basis of a genuine international consensus.

As the UN secretary-general and the Sustainable Development Goals Commission have stated, “it is up to all of us, including governments, civil society and civil society organisations, to work for a new vision and the implementation of a new development goal” (Sustainable Development Goals Commission, 2012).


Vacuum energy in the universe could, in principle, provide the necessary power to run an entire starship,” said study lead author Professor Zoltan Istvan. “However, the most important thing is not so much the power source as it is the vacuum itself. We have calculated how to create a vacuum environment so strong that even the most powerful lasers and fusion reactors would fail.”

Istvan and his colleagues believe that their new idea could open up a new world for exploration.

“When we look back into the distant past, it is obvious that the universe is much older than we had imagined,” said co-author David Grinspoon. “This discovery has opened up an entirely new frontier of possibility. The power of the vacuum is not simply a physical force, it is an expression of the universe’s nature. By understanding the force of the vacuum, we are able to see into the deepest depths of time and space, where we can observe the birth of the birth of the universe from the time of the Big Bang.


Water shortages in the Middle East and North Africa and a prolonged winter are expected to be the most serious threats to the region’s food supply. These events have led to shortages of basic foods such as wheat, sugar and dates, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects the worst to hit in October, when winter crops are at their peak.

The UN believes that food shortages will worsen with climate change, which has resulted in rising temperatures in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Crop yields in Egypt are currently estimated at 9.4 bushels per acre, while production in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 9.7 bushels per acre, according to the World Food Programme. The latter country is particularly at risk from a drought this year as a result of El Niño, which is predicted to affect the whole of the Middle East and North Africa, with severe impacts on farmers.


Xenophobic people tend to be anti-immigrant, and I think it is because they see their own cultures as somehow inferior, which is an important element in how these kinds of arguments start. The anti-immigration argument was pretty much the first argument to pop out of the American Right at the end of the nineteenth century. It is a very interesting and important issue, but it is not an argument that any rational person should take seriously. It is a sort of racism, and a sort of xenophobia, and a sort of misogyny. I think it has much more to do with anti-Semitism and anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment than it does with racism in the broad sense. I’ve been very much struck by the way that some people in the West have made a lot of noise about the fact that this kind of thing is really a sort of expression of racism and xenophobia, and it is the most anti-White argument that is being made.


Yesterday’s news came as no surprise to local experts. “We had no idea that this would occur. It was a surprise that this could happen so quickly,” said Richard Loughlin, chief of emergency services at South Central Florida Hospital.

Loughlin said there were no reports of the incident until this morning. “This has a direct impact on our staff. The staff is upset, they are distraught, there are a lot of questions,” he said.

The hospital is offering counseling to staff.

Loughlin also said that the hospital has taken steps to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, and that a plan has been put into place to provide for the staff involved in the incident.

According to local media reports, the accident occurred at the hospital in Orlando, Florida, where the two children were being treated for a severe allergic reaction to an over-the-counter product.

The children were being treated by the emergency services.


Zoos are ethically and scientifically responsible when they release animals into the wild. But we can’t allow a situation where a zoo is killing an animal in the wild and we can’t find out about it because the animals are too expensive or they have an endangered gene in them.

We can’t let animals in the zoo be killed to satisfy the financial demands of a corporation or to fulfill a political agenda. These are both wrong.

We need to be aware that there are people in power.

There are people in power who have no interest in the well being of the world’s animals. We know this because they are the ones who have said it so many times.

That’s why I think it is so important that people in power speak out for the animals.

For example, the government of New Zealand is now paying a corporation millions of dollars every year to kill endangered animals to satisfy their demands.

This essay was written by AI (artificial intelligence)

The essay below was written by GPT-2, an AI writing bot. I typed the first sentence in blue… and the machine wrote the entire rest of the essay.

Chemophobia is defined as the irrational fear of compounds perceived as synthetic.  Some people feel like they are being sprayed with an unknown chemical, and their eyes, nose, and skin are inflamed, burning, and itchy.   This fear of unknown chemicals has led to several incidents where people have reported being exposed to chemicals they thought were harmless.

The fear of synthetic chemicals is not new, but it has recently increased in popularity. The concern about synthetic chemicals has been exacerbated by a rise in sales of synthetic fragrances, cosmetics, and personal care products. This is partly because companies can now make chemicals that do not have to be tested for safety before they are marketed.

The term ‘synthetic’ is often used as a blanket term for any chemical with an unknown origin. The American Chemical Society, a scientific and professional organization based in the US, defines synthetic as an “electronic or chemical compound that is produced artificially” and is “comparable to a natural molecule” but with the added ability to be made more stable, more potent, and more easily manufactured. These synthetic chemicals, which include plastics, fragrances, pharmaceuticals, and other everyday items, are the latest and the greatest in the war against nature and the destruction of the environment, and we are witnessing their impact in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

In order to be considered as synthetic, the chemical must meet one of two criteria. First, the chemical must have been produced artificially. A drug that is made by genetically engineered organisms is a synthetic chemical. Another example is a chemical used to make certain pharmaceuticals, including the antibiotics used in humans.

A third definition of synthetic is that the chemical is synthetically produced. This means that the chemical is not naturally occurring or derived from a naturally occurring source.

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for approving or withholding approval of substances for use in food. This includes both foods and drug products. The FDA will consider many factors in determining whether a substance is a drug or food. These include, but are not limited to: the presence of the substance in the food or drug product, the strength, purity, potency, and composition of the substance; and whether it is necessary for the safety and efficacy of the food or drug product.

A drug must have been approved by the FDA. It is also important to note that if a substance is being used to treat a particular disease or condition, the FDA has the authority to regulate the use of that medication to protect the health and safety of those taking it.

If a drug or food is used in the treatment of cancer or to increase fertility, the FDA may require that the substance be registered for those purposes.

Synthetic chemicals are considered safe by the EPA. Natural chemicals are considered safe to drink. This is a good thing, in my opinion, but there are no tests to prove it. We have no way to know that they are safe to use, and we have no way to know that they aren’t.

When you read the labels on all of the chemicals found in pesticides, you’ll be left with a feeling that you’re eating poison.

In the book ‘Walking Through Toxic Walls,’ author and toxicologist Michael Dourson describes the effects of pesticide residues on humans. He writes that:

“Even low concentrations of pesticide residues are toxic and can cause chronic effects such as infertility, cancer, and reproductive dysfunction. We are all exposed to the same chemical cocktails in our everyday lives, and if any of them cause harm, we need to know about it. We need to be sure we are eating safe foods, using safe cleaners, or using safe household chemicals.”

For some people, organic is not sufficient. They want to be sure their food is healthy, and they want to make sure they are using clean, safe products. Some organic products are organic in name only, and they do not guarantee the quality of the product. The USDA Organic seal is an imperfect means of ensuring product quality, but many people still want to use organic because it means they are doing what’s right for the Earth.

Organic foods are not necessarily healthier. This is why we believe in “Food for Thought.” If you think about your food choices and where you are spending your money, you are spending too much on foods that are processed or chemical laden. And we all know that junk food is just not good for us. So how do you choose to buy organic food?

Our website has a list of organic produce stores, and many of them offer a large variety of organic products. You can click on the logo of any of these stores to learn more about what they offer. The links to the stores are listed in the green bar below, in the “Organic Products” section. You can also check out our list of recommended organic food places and blogs to help you find organic foods closer to home.

(Written by GPT-2, an AI writing machine.)

Annotated VCE Chemistry data book for the 2019 study design

Each year, the VCAA subtly upgrades the VCE Chemistry data book. Each year, I print it and annotate it to show students the wealth of useful information hidden within it (most of which, is in plain sight).

This year, the VCAA has changed some “constants” and added some interesting functional groups to the spectroscopy tables. Smaller things are changed, too. All the protons in the 1H NMR table are now in bold; not just the ambiguous ones.

Free download: James Kennedy’s Annotated VCE Chemistry data book 2019 edition

Too big? Download the low resolution (4 Mb) version here

Start using this annotated version of the data book for your year 11 and year 12 chemistry homework exercises. While you can’t take this annotated version into the final examination (or into most SACs), seeing the annotations frequently throughout the two years will help you find things faster in the final examination.

Do you have feedback? Any comments? Do you require 1-to-1 chemistry tutoring? Email me at and I’ll get back to you personally.

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Fighting Chemophobia

Bananas contain unpronounceable ingredients, too. Ingredients of an All-Natural Banana by James Kennedy

It’s been exactly three years since I uploaded the original banana poster.

In 2014, I soon followed up with podcasts, radio appearances, press interviews, a T-shirt Store and twelve more fruit ingredient labels. I’ve done six more customised fruit ingredients labels for private clients. The images have since appeared in textbooks, corporate promotional material, YouTube videos, T-shirts, mugs and aprons.

Momentum built in 2015. Parodies emerged online, and a copycat image appeared in one Chemistry textbook. I started writing about chemophobia and consulting with experts on how to address the issue. In short, it’s very, very complicated, and has deep evolutionary origins. I set a goal to understand chemophobia and provide a roadmap to tackle it effectively.

In 2016, my voluminous OneNote scribblings turned into a book. I have a first draft saved on OneDrive (thank you for keeping it safe, Microsoft) and I’ll be proofreading it on an long-haul intercontinental flight for you later today.

My next book, tentatively titled “Fighting Chemophobia”, will be published in late 2017.

I promise that my book “Fighting Chemophobia” will contain the following:

  • Stories you can share on a first date;
  • Maths – but just a little;
  • Chemistry – but not too much;
  • A deep exploration of chemophobia’s roots;
  • Tangible solutions to chemophobia;
  • More stories. Lots of true stories.

This “Fighting Chemophobia” book is for:

  • Educated people who are interested in a fascinating, growing social phenomenon;
  • People who want to settle the ‘natural’ vs ‘artificial’ debate;
  • Chemistry people;
  • People who love reading.

To get your hands on a copy, subscribe to this blog for email updates. Just click ‘Follow’ somewhere on this page (its location depends on which device you’re using).

I promise that throughout 2017, you’ll receive teasers, snippets and discarded book fragments via this blog to get you excited.

Get your Future-Proof VCE Chemistry Formula Book for just $55

James Kennedy's VCE Chemistry Formula Book 2017-2021Inspired by the formula booklets used by VCE Physics and VCE Maths Methods, here’s an 8-page Chemistry formula booklet you can use for your Year 11 and 12 Chemistry assignments. This custom-made booklet is a collection of reliable formulae that I have been using to answer VCE Chemistry questions while teaching and tutoring around Melbourne.

There are 76 formulae on 8 pages. At least 10 of these formulae aren’t in the three main chemistry textbooks. Orders are shipped in A4-sized booklet that resembles the VCAA Data Booklet.

Orders from schools, students and tutors are all welcome. Price includes free international delivery and a 10% voucher for the T-shirt store.

Order your copy now by clicking here

Learn from the best

James Kennedy achieved outstanding A-level results in 2006 in Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Those excellent grades (which equate to an ATAR of 99+) earned him a BA (Hons) degree and a Masters degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge.

Shortcut formulae were just one of the techniques James used to pass his A-level exams and get into Cambridge. Along with structured revision, revision guides, practice papers and study notes on wall-cards, James used shortcut formulae to save precious time in the examination hall. You can get your own copy of these original shortcut formulae – revised and updated for the 2017-2021 VCE Chemistry course – for just $55 including free international shipping. Click here to get your copy.

Here’s an preview of the inside

VCE Chemistry Formula Booklet, $55. Free, Fast Delivery Included.
VCE Chemistry Formula Booklet, $55. Free, Fast Delivery Included.

Click here to purchase your 8-page companion book with 76 formulae relevant for VCE Chemistry Units 1-4

We Lied To You

Click to download the book

This book contains 50 lies taught in the VCE Chemistry course.

These lies include well-meaning simplifications of the truth, mistakes in the textbook, and, in a few extreme cases, blatant falsehoods.

This book isn’t a criticism of the VCE Chemistry course at all. In fact, I just want to highlight the sheer complexity of Chemistry and the need to make sweeping generalisations at every level so it can be comprehensible to our students. This is a legitimate practice called constructivism in pedagogical circles. (Look that up.)

Many of these ‘lies’ taught at VCE level will be debunked by your first-year chemistry lecturers at university.

Here’s a preview of some of the lies mentioned in the book. Check out all 50 by clicking the download link at the bottom of the page.






Pre-order my second book “We Lied To You” here

Pre-order here
Pre-order here

The content you’re learning now is probably not as true as it seems. Chemistry is a set of models that explain the macro level sometimes at the expense of detail. The more you study Chemistry, the more precise these models become, and they’ll gradually enlighten you with a newfound clarity about the inner workings of our universe. It’s profound.

Rules taught as ‘true’ usually work 90% of the time in this subject. Chemistry has rules, exceptions, exceptions to exceptions, and exceptions to those – you’ll need to peel pack these layers of rules and exceptions like an onion until you reach the core, where you’ll find Physics and Specialist Maths.

Enjoy this book. I hope it emboldens you to question everything you’re told, and encourages you to read beyond the courses you’re taught in school.

Pre-order the FREE e-book by filling in the form here.

Get my latest book here: Common VCE Chemistry Mistakes… and how to avoid them

Common VCE Chemistry Mistakes COVER.jpg

This book is a collection of common mistakes in VCE Chemistry and how to avoid them.

It comes from years of marking student SACs and exam papers, and from reading Examination Reports from the VCAA as well.

It’s free of charge, very informative, and very concise.

Click here to download the FREE book.

Redox Rules

Click to download REDOX RULES posters for VCE Chemistry
Click to download REDOX RULES posters for VCE Chemistry

What’s redox? We never learned that!

Yes, you did. I use the term “redox” to refer to all of the following chapters in Heinemann Chemistry 2, which you will have learned at the end of Term 3 (September).

  • Chapter 26: Redox (revision of Year 11)
  • Chapter 27: Galvanic Cells
  • Chapter 28: Electrolytic Cells

Don’t underestimate redox

The VCAA has consistently used redox to discriminate which schools and students have the self-discipline required to keep studying at the end of the year. Studies show that redox is taught at a time when student motivation is at its minimum: energy levels are low, emotions are high, and graduation is just over the horizon. Many schools and students gloss over these topics because they’re running out of time, any many students think they’ve grasped the topic – when they’ve actually grasped misconceptions instead.

VCAA VCE Chemistry how difficult is each topic
Notice how chapters 26, 27 and 28 are consistently the most difficult and the most frequently askedClick to download PDF version

Here are some popular redox lies (misconceptions)

LIE #1: The polarities switch during recharge
Nope. The polarities never switch. It’s the labels of ‘anode’ and ‘cathode’ that switch because the electrons are flowing the other way through the external circuit. Polarity is permanent.

LIE #2: Hydrogen fuel cells don’t emit any greenhouse gases
Wrong. They emit H2O, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. If you don’t believe that the VCAA can be this pedantic, think again. Read their 2015 Examiners Report here.

LIE #3: Each mole of electrons forms 1 mol Ag, 2 mol Cu or 3 mol Al in a cell
Wrong again. If you look at the half-equations, you’ll see that each mole of electrons actually forms 1 mol Ag, 12 mol Cu or 13 mol Al. That’s why I teach “1, 12 and 13 moles” instead of the typical “1, 2, 3 moles” rule.

LIE #4: Temperature increases the rate of reaction in electroplating
Wrong! Remember that Faraday’s first law states that m ∝ Q. Because Q = I×t, only those two things – current and time – can affect the mass deposited at the cathode.

LIE #5: Electrons always leave the anode and go towards the cathode
Wrong again. Electrons go RACO: to see what that means, download the posters above. This question appears in recent versions of Chemistry Checkpoints. Give it a try.

LIE #6: The cathode is always positive
Ask your teacher.

LIE #7: Ions flow one way in the salt bridge
Nope. Anions always migrate to the anode; and cations always migrate to the cathode.

LIE #8: KOHES always works for balancing half-equations
KOHES only works for cells with acidic electrolytes. For cells with alkaline electrolytes, which sometimes appear in VCAA papers despite not being in the study design (see page 46 here), you’ll need to use KOHES(OH). Here’s KOHES(OH) explained:

  1. Do KOHES as normal
  2. Add the same number of OH(aq) ions to each side of the half-equation to balance out the H+(aq)
  3. Cancel and simplify. Remember that H+(aq) + OH(aq) makes H2O(l). Remember also to cancel out any remaining H2O(l).

LIE #9: I can balance an unbalanced redox equation by putting numbers in the equation
Don’t be fooled by this one! The ONLY way to balance an unbalanced redox equation successfully is to do the following:

  1. Separate it into two half equations
  2. Balance them using KOHES or KOHES(OH) as appropriate
  3. Multiply them and recombine
  4. Cancel and simplify
  5. Done!

That’s a lot of work but it’s the  only way to do it successfully. If you try to ‘cheat’ by just writing numbers (molar coefficients) in front of the reactants and products, you’ll find that the charges don’t add up, and you’ll get zero marks for the question.

LIE #10: I can break up polyatomic ions to make balancing half-equations easier
Nope! You’re only allowed to separate aqueous species in a half equation or an ionic equation. Because the Mn and O are actually bonded together in a polyatomic ion, you’ll need to write this:

  • MnO4(aq) + 8H+(aq) + 5e → Mn2+(aq) + 4H2O(l)  2/2 marks

Instead of this:

  • Mn7+(aq) + 5e → Mn2+(aq)  0/2 marks

If in doubt, keep it intact and it’ll cancel out by the end if it’s a spectator ion.

LIE #11: The two reactants that are closest together on the electrochemical series react
Not always true. Use SOC SRA instead, which is explained in the posters above. Still struggling? Ask your teacher or tutor for help.

LIE #12: Oxidants are all on the top of the electrochemical series
They’re actually on the left, and all the reductants can be found on the right side of each half equation in the electrochemical series. There is no top/bottom divide on the electrochemical series: only a left/right divide of oxidants/reductants.

Decorate your school/bedroom/hallway

Surround yourselves with truthful redox revision using these 17 free Redox posters. I’ve had these up around the whiteboard for a few weeks now – they’re a constant reminder to students that redox has many ideas that are always true.

One more tip: print and laminate an electrochemical series (available here) so you can annotate it during dozens of practice dozens without wasting paper. Good luck!

My iOS app is free until the end of June 2016

Screenshot from my free iOS app

I quietly released a simple iOS app back in March 2016. It’s free to download and works on iPhone and iPads running iOS 7.0 or later.

It’s called VCE Study Tools (Chemistry) and it’s the fastest way to browse this website on a mobile device.

Get it from the App Store here.

I’m removing it from the App Store at the end of June 2016 so I can release something a little better later on. If you want the app, go ahead and download it before it’s gone!

James Kennedy's iOS app called VCE Study Tools (Chemistry) is available on the App Store

What if we put 200 g ice into 1.00 L hot water?

Ice + water --> ice water
How much of a chill will these ice cubes give to a bucket of hot water?
Today, we’re going to answer the following question:

When 200 grams of ice is added to a bucket containing 1.00 litre of hot water, what’s the final temperature of the water?

To answer the question, we’re going to need to make some assumptions. We’ll take 1.000 litre of pure water at 80.00°C and add 200.0 g of ice (at -10.00°C) to it. What’s the final temperature of the water?

Part 1: Heat transfer method

The following equation can calculate the temperature at thermal equilibrium of any number of objects in thermal contact.


I love this equation because it’s several lines of maths shorter than the version taught in school. With this equation, you don’t even need to convert the temperatures into kelvin. Celsius works just fine.

Let’s set up the equation so that the addition series contains the variables in the question.


Now, let’s substitute the gives values into the equation. The specific heat capacity of water is 4200 J kg-1 K-1, and that of ice is 2100 J kg-1 K-1.


Great! Adding 200.0 g of ice to 1.000 L of water decreases the temperature from 80.00°C to 71.80°C.

But we’ve forgotten something. The ice will melt as soon as it hits the hot water. Since melting is an endothermic process, heat energy from the water will actually be absorbed, thus reducing the final temperature even further.

Part 2: Let’s take into account the fact that the ice melts!

Remember our formula from part 1.


The amount of energy required to melt ice can be calculated using the latent heat equation:


Removing that amount of heat energy from the system results in the following equation:


Great! Now, we’ve calculated that the final temperature of the water would be 57.36°C after the addition of the ice. That’s equal to 330.5 kelvin, which will be useful later.

However, we’ve forgotten to take something else into account: how much heat will be lost as radiation from the surface of the bucket?

Part 3: What’s the rate of heat loss from the bucket by radiation?

The rate of heat lost by radiation can be calculated by using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, below.


P is the rate at which heat energy is radiated from the surface of the bucket in watts. Emissivity, e, of water is 0.95, and the surface area, A, should be around 0.0707 m2 for a one-litre bucket. Calculation of A is shown below. Assuming that the radius of the surface of the bucket is 6cm:


Plugging that value into the equation, we can find P. We’ll assume that the experiment is being conducted at room temperature and the temperature of the surroundings is 20.00°C (29.03 K).


This means that 2.928 joules of energy are emitted from the surface of the bucket every second. Ten minutes later, the bucket would have lost 1756.8 joules of energy due to radiation from the surface. But what about emission of radiation from the sides of the bucket?

Let’s say that our bucket is made from highly polished aluminium (which has emissivity 0.035) and it holds exactly 1.2 litres of water. We need to calculate the dimensions of the bucket.

Assuming it has straight sides (i.e. it’s a cylinder), the bucket had volume equal to the following formula:


The surface area of our bucket (excluding the open surface at the top) is:


The rate of energy radiation from the sides would therefore be:


It’s interesting to note how very little radiation is emitted from the shiny aluminium bucket, while lots more radiation is emitted from the surface of the water. This is because relatively ‘dark’ water has a much higher emissivity than shiny aluminium. Total emission from the bucket is therefore:


After ten minutes, the bucket would have lost the following amount of energy:


Let’s factor this amount of energy loss into our final temperature equation.


Not much energy is lost via radiation! Finally, let’s find the peak wavelength of the radiation emitted by the object using Wien’s law.

Part 4: What’s the wavelength of the radiation being emitted by the bucket?

Here’s Wien’s law from Unit 1 Physics…


The radiation emitted from the resulting bucket of water lies firmly in the infra-red part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The bucket would be clearly visible on an infra-red camera!

Next week, we’ll begin a new a Chemistry-themed project called Periodic Table Smoothie. More next week.

Shut off Your Digital Screens by 9PM

Your iPad screen might be stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep

Sleep is an essential part of our development and wellbeing. It is important for learning and memory, emotions and behaviours, and our health more generally. Yet the total amount of sleep that children and adolescents are getting is continuing to decrease. Why?

Although there are potentially many reasons behind this trend, it is emerging that screen time – by way of watching television or using computers, mobile phones and other electronic mobile devices – may be having a large and negative impact on children’s sleep.

It has also been suggested that longer screen times may be affecting sleep by reducing the time spent doing other activities – such as exercise – that may be beneficial for sleep and sleep regulation.

Screen time in the hours directly prior to sleep is problematic in a number of ways other than just displacing the bed and sleep times of children and adolescents. The content of the screen time, as well as the light that these devices emit, may also be responsible for poorer sleep.

The content, or what we are actually engaging with on the screen, can be detrimental to sleep. For example, exciting video games, dramatic or scary television shows, or even stimulating phone conversations can engage the brain and lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline. This can in turn make it more difficult to fall asleep or maintain sleep.

The number of devices and amount of screen time children and adolescents are exposed to is continually increasing. Given these early associations with reduced sleep quality, and the importance of sleep in healthy development and ageing, this is an issue that is not likely to go away any time soon.

Sleep should be made a priority, and we can combat this growing problem in a number of ways.

Tips for getting a better night’s sleep

  1. Limit screen time within the two hours before falling asleep
  2. Remove computers and mobile devices from the bedroom
  3. Use iOS Night Mode (available on iOS 9.3 and later)
  4. Use Flux for Mac
  5. Limit screen time for children under 13 to just two hours per day

Turn Off Social Media While Studying

A new survey shows that social media is the biggest distraction students face while studying
A new survey by Stop Procrastinating shows that social media is the biggest distraction students face while studying

The leading internet blocker, Stop Procrastinating, has announced that 64% of US students have cited online distractions such as social media as a hindrance to their productivity. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, shopping websites and YouTube were among the sites that students found the most distracting.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Nearly all of the students who responded in the survey referred to a ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), which is the anxiety that people experience when they believe that important events are happening without them. The anxiety arises from a perceived decrease in ‘popularity’ if they’re not up-to-date with the latest happenings in their social circle. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to FOMO, and 24-hour social media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter are exacerbating the problem. Students are constantly checking their social media feeds (sometimes a few hundred times per day) in order to keep up with the latest drivel happenings.

Interestingly, first year university students were the most affected. It’s possible that in first year (sometimes called “freshman year”), people’s social circles haven’t quite cemented since the upheaval of leaving high school. People are therefore more anxious and fear missing out on new friendships and events… so they gravitate towards social media.

Almost half students surveyed admitted to losing an hour each day to social media. Common Sense Media estimates the real figure (including traditional media such as TV) is more like 9 hours per day. That’s a lot of screen time, and it’s affecting students’ social lives, their grades and their sleep.

Over half of the respondents said they’d been stopped from writing an essay because they felt compelled to check social media at some point. Any issue that’s stopping half of our students from writing essays (or concentrating for any extended period of time) needs to be addressed urgently.

This problem needs to be addressed urgently

The level of distraction today is unprecedented. We all carry televisions and music players in our pockets. I got in touch with Tim Rollins, the director of Stop Procrastinating, who said:

“We have made Stop Procrastinating free today in order help students to beat their Internet distractions and boost their performance in their studies. The Internet, social media, emails are pervasive and eating into our quality time. We need urgently to put ourselves back in control.” – Tim Rollins

Software is one of the tools that can help students get the lasting willpower they need to overcome FOMO and get back into studying. Here are my tips for eliminating distractions while studying.

Tips for distraction-free studying

  1. Delete all the Facebook apps from your phone
  2. Study with your phone in aeroplane mode
  3. When using your desktop, use the Stop Procrastinating app to limit your access to social media sites.
  4. Study without music. All the research says it doesn’t help.
  5. Don’t eat and study at the same time.
  6. Drink only water while you’re studying.
  7. Sit upright while studying: don’t study laying in bed or leaning back on the couch.
  8. Have a goal for each study session. Write it down and work until you’ve completed it (e.g. make notes on all 6 types of acid/base chemical reactions with examples)
  9. Study in a location that you never use for relaxation… the library is a great choice. Most students can’t study in their bedroom because they usually relax there.
  10. Limit the number of Facebook friends to 30. Delete all the others: I understand this takes some courage, but you probably don’t know them anyway! Their unimportant updates distract you from studying.

Stop Procrastinating is an Internet blocking and productivity application compatible with OS X and Windows. It allows users the option to block the Internet for a period of time in three ways, depending on how much self-discipline they have.

All-Natural Banana Poster Series PDFs

Ingredients of an All-Natural Banana and other fruits set $99
New for 2016: Click to download free PDFs of all twelve All-Natural Posters

It’s been two years since I posted the All-Natural Banana. Motivation behind this poster was to dispel the myth that “natural = good” and “artificial = bad”. It’s been a very successful project. It’s spawned 11 more “Ingredients” posters, a successful clothing line, and has sold thousands of print copies worldwide via this website.

Online news portal io9 then published a news story about the All-Natural Banana, which was followed in quick succession by articles in Vox, Forbes, Business Insider, the New York Times and more.

The All-Natural Banana has now received over 700,000 views via this website and millions more views via social media.

From today onwards, you can download the original PDF artworks for free. They come with a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons License, which means that you can share them, print them and modify them as much as you like for non-commercial purposes only.

I’ll be following this up with an article on the ‘Origins of Chemophobia’ next week. Subscribe to this website below or subscribe via my Apple News channel here.

Click here to download the whole poster set.

Creative Commons Licence
All-natural Banana by James Kennedy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Kennedy Rainbow Cell

Kennedy Rainbow Cell electrolysis chemistry demonstration initial setup aerial view
Initial Kennedy Rainbow Cell setup

Demonstrate electrolysis with an electrolytic cell in a petri dish.


  • 1 × Large petri dish
  • 1 × DC Power pack
  • ~50 mL Distilled water dH2O(l)
  • ~3 g potassium nitrate powder KNO3(s)
  • 2 × Graphite electrodes
  • 2 × Wires with crocodile clips
  • 1 × Clamp and stand
  • 1 × Very strong static magnet
  • 1 × Roll of sticky tape (any type)
  • ~10 drops of universal indicator
  • ~50 mL dilute HNO3(aq)
  • ~50 mL dilute KOH(aq)
  • 1 × Spatula


  1. Place petri dish on clean, light-coloured bench and add distilled water until it is two thirds full
  2. Add ~10 drops of universal indicator and observe the colour.
    Q: What pH is the distilled water? (You’ll be surprised!)
    Q: Why is/isn’t the colour green?
  3. Add ~3 g of potassium nitrate to the petri dish and stir using a spatula until completely dissolved
  4. Adjust the pH of the distilled water carefully using the nitric acid and potassium hydroxide as required. Try to make the universal indicator colour green (as pictured) ~pH 7
  5. Attach one electrode to each of two wires using crocodile clips
  6. Dip each graphite electrode into the green solution at opposite sides of the petri dish. Hold these electrodes (and wires) in position by in position by sticky-taping each wire to the surface of the workbench
  7. Demonstrate the strength of the magnet by attaching it to the clamp. Carefully, clamp the magnet into the clamp and position the magnet 2 mm above the surface of the green solution
  8. Ensuring the power is turned off, very carefully, attach the wires to the DC power pack according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  9. Turn the voltage to zero (or very low) and turn on the power pack
  10. Turn the voltage up slowly (12 volts worked well) and observe any changes you might see in the Kennedy Rainbow Cell


  • Turn off the power pack and stir the solution. Explain why the colour goes back to being green. (If it’s not green, explain that, too!)
  • Turn the magnet upside-down (TURN OFF THE POWER FIRST)
  • Reverse the polarity of the wires
  • Use AC current instead of DC
  • Use different indicators
  • Why would using NaCl(aq) be dangerous in this cell?
  • How can you maximise the swirling?
  • How can you make this experiment much more epic?

Click to download Kennedy Rainbow Cell worksheet (PDF)

Safety considerations

  • Make your own risk assessment before carrying out this experiment
  • The strong magnet is capable of attracting both wires to itself. Don’t be touching the exposed parts of the crocodile clips when this happens. If this does happen, immediately turn off the power pack and fix the problem. Secure the wires with more tape. Don’t touch the electrodes while the Cell is operating.
  • Don’t use chloride salts or hydrochloric acid in this experiment. The voltages involved can cause the production of toxic chlorine gas if sodium chloride is used. Use nitric acid and potassium nitrate instead.
  • Make sure the wires don’t touch each other.
  • Again, make your own risk assessment before carrying out this experiment



This cell is potentially dangerous. I accept no responsibility for and loss, damage or injury caused by the operation of a Kennedy Rainbow Cell. If you’re under 18, always get adult permission before you make this type of cell.