I hated chemistry in high school and college. It was boring, hard to understand and didn’t seem to have any real-life application for a Communications major.

During tests, I would dutifully write down material I had memorized with no real grasp of the question or my answer. It was sort of like when a band from another country performs in English. Often, you can tell the musicians have no idea what they’re singing about, even though the words sound OK.

And, while this is embarrassing to admit, my relationship with chemistry remained unchanged long after starting work at Pool & Spa News. I memorized the connection between pH and alkalinity, yet I’ve had no real understanding of why that connection exists.

Our Technical Editor, Ben Thomas, is just the opposite. He has an amazing natural understanding of science and, more importantly, takes profound pleasure in writing about it.

Awhile back, Ben proposed an article on the Langelier Saturation Index, and I said, “Sure,” with that familiar, glazed-over feeling that comes to me every time chemistry is mentioned.

When I opened Ben’s article to start editing, my heart sank. The piece was more than double the length that we could fit in the magazine, and every page was covered with scary-looking chemical equations.

I began to read the article, trying to decide if it was better to delete entire sections or just shorten it sentence by sentence. By the time I was done, I had decided to postpone another piece scheduled for this issue in order to publish “ Saturation Calculation ” in its entirety. 

I have never seen SI explained in this way, and not only did I understand it fully, but I also found it interesting. The way Ben chose to structure the article is especially effective. Rather than discuss the equation in generalities, he delves into every factor (pH, temperature, alkalinity and so on) and examines each of their roles in balanced water. He also touches on the debates around acceptable vs. ideal ranges, and the difference between emphasizing overall SI balance rather than the range of individual factors.

This gloriously long, in-depth look at SI is an extremely useful tool for the pool and spa industry, and I have no doubt it will be referenced for many years to come.