Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spontaneous chemical reactions

"I wanted them to understand that success isn't a destination.  Its not something you pursue like a racetrack greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit.  Success is something you assemble from components you discover in your soul and your imagination." - Mr. Bill Strickland

In chemistry, spontaneity of reaction can be defined by the relative value of the Gibbs Free Energy, given by the entropy of the reaction multiplied by the change in temperature subtracted from the enthalpy of reaction.  With a free energy less than zero, the reaction is considered spontaneous, that is, a process that occurs to completion without the input of energy.  A ball rolling down a hill, or ice melting at room temperature are both considered spontaneous processes.  I like to think of youth as a spontaneous reaction.

The picture on the right shows magnesium metal burned in the presence of oxygen.  Even though this requires the input of heat, after it is lit, it will burn brightly until all the magnesium is used up, and is still considered spontaneous.

In my time working with youth, I have found that you can share with them anything you wish.  Whether you help them with their math homework, or you are passing the football with them.  Detailed instruction on steps to solve a math problem are great.  Practicing catching and throwing everyday is great.  Until you get that child to understand that they have it inside them to be whatever they want, to do whatever they want, neither of you will accomplish your goals.  Spontaneous reactions proceed after a barrier has been overcome.  Whether that barrier is the input of heat, or self-consciousness, or lack of food, or lack of support, or anxiety or whatever it may be, we need to find a way to overcome it.
I love that how Strickland describes the success in all of us.  Its there in everyone. We just need to assemble it from what we already have; we just need to overcome that energy barrier to get the ball rolling down the hill or get the metal burning.  After that, our reaction will proceed to completion, all the while shining brightly.

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