The Limiting Reagent

Posted by on June 10, 2014 in life in klaskyville | 2 comments

Years ago, when I took high school chemistry, I learned about the “limiting reagent” — the ingredient in a chemical reaction that is first used up, thereby making the continuing reaction impossible.  It’s a simple idea, really, nothing to write home about.  But I love the concept, and I use the phrase all the time.


This morning, I bought milk at a not-usual-for-me grocery store, because milk was the limiting reagent in our refrigerator — it was the commonly-used item we were most in danger of running out of, and the one I would most likely need to interrupt my writing to go buy.

I think of a lot of my life in terms of restricted elements — time, for example, and money and time and creativity and time and energy and time and…  Well, you get the idea.  For the most part, I run out of time to do all the things I want to do, well before I run out of the other requirements.  Maybe that’s what made fall in love with the idea of the limiting reagent.

Do you view the world this way?  Have you ever, in everyday conversational speech, said, “I’ll run by the grocery store to pick up some milk, because it’s our limiting reagent”?  Or am I the only crazy one?  (Don’t answer that.  Really.)


  1. Funny!! I think everyone does this sort of thing in one way or another… I know I have a strong science background for a writer-type, and tend to use math symbols for editing notes. “Not ||” for “not parallel structure”, or ∴ for “therefore”, so I’ll have a note for clarification saying, … ∴???. instead of “and therefore WHAT? Why does this matter?”

    • We could read each other’s notes! (I also use ! to mean not – from the years I spent programming.) My science-based idiosyncrasies kept people from borrowing my notes all through law school, even though I was able to transcribe lectures virtually word for word. (Then, I learned not to write down everything – just the important stuff 🙂 )