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Wilderness Chemistry

  1. May 19, 2007 #1
    Yesterday, I found Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine text, which is aimed towards producing effective medical professionals when in the outdoors-- past the confines of the hospital or university lab. So, whether the doc is in the forest, or in the middle of the corporate jungle, ideally some action could be taken to improve the well-being of the sickly, diseased, or injured.

    Are there any books on wilderness chemistry? Not only would it be important to be able to check what elements make up potential food, but to show friends neat little tricks by quickly picking up dirt and a nearby miscellaneous object to ignite it, or show other cool phenomena, as well as the importance of understanding how to use the materials from the ground, such as ores, when we are not necessarily near our favorite sources of chemical information.

    What would you include in a book on wilderness chemistry? What tools would be important to construct? Could anybody synthesize some pest repellant? Lots of ideas here ... guess it would be a step closer to answering what an 'ultimate chemist' should know.

    - Bryan
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2007 #2


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    The wilderness medicine application implies that one does not have access to modern medicine and has an immediate need. Likewise wilderness chemistry implies that one lacks the modern trappings of the chemist (glassware, equipment, reagents, etc...) and has an immediate need for some chemical... an unlikely requirement. It is interesting from the standpoint of the historical development of chemistry or understanding the source of common materials. A good place to start would be to examine what one takes when venturing out into the wilderness and determine if any local source of material could substitute. Here are some ideas:

    1) Burning hardwood to obtain potassium/sodium alkali (many uses)
    2) Firing clay to obtain ceramics
    3) Fermenting fruit extracts to produce alcohol
    4) Isolating natural dyes from plant, insect and animal sources.
    5) Use of plant resins for waterproofing and adhesives
    6) Tanning chemicals for making leather
    7) Plant fibers for papermaking and textiles
    8) Lemongrass to isolate citronella oil for pest repellant.
    9) Burning limestone to make quicklime or slaked lime. Many uses such as a cement for stone walls or the purification of drinking water or the isolation of plant fibers.
    10) Charcoal making for smelting ores and for treating poisoning.
    11) Natural sources of nitrate
    12) Soapmaking using alkali and grease or by isolation of natural saponins from soapberry plant

    This is a start, hope it helps.
  4. Jul 10, 2009 #3
    I am also interested in this for a book I am writing. I am looking for some ideas of things that one might find in a field or meadow that could be used to distract someone...something that a scientist might be able to know...think McGyver only not....any ideas?
  5. Jul 13, 2009 #4


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    I find these highly distracting.

    There oughta be a law....
  6. Jul 13, 2009 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    www.cavemanchemistry.com comes to mind...
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