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Posts Tagged "Chemistry"

Anecdotes from the Archive

Happy 100th Birthday to the Crossword

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On this day a hundred years ago, a journalist named Arthur Wynne published what is widely regarded as the first modern crossword puzzle. It appeared in the New York World, where it was called a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” By the 1930s most newspapers in America featured the games as well. Scientific American put a toe in [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Scent of a Woman

At seventeen I discovered the perfume that would become my signature scent. It’s a warm, rich, inviting fragrance[i] that reminds me (and hopefully others) of a rose garden in full bloom. Despite this fullness, it’s light enough to wear all day and it’s been in the background of many of my life experiences. It announces [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Science in Action Winner for 2013: Elif Bilgin

Elif Bilgin, winner of the 2013 Science in Action award, a $50,000 prize sponsored by Scientific American as part of the Google Science Fair.

“Genius,” Thomas Edison famously said, “is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” He would have found a kindred spirit in Elif Bilgin, 16, of Istanbul, Turkey, winner of the 2013 $50,000 Science in Action award, part of the third annual Google Science Fair. The award honors a project that can make a practical difference [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Hanging Out with Nobel Prize Winner Sir Harold Kroto

What is it like to win a Nobel Prize? Should you worry about picking something “important” to work on as a scientist? How can art help in trying to understand how the universe works? And what is the real key to success? You can find out by watching today’s Google Science Fair Hangout with Sir [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

The Banana That Gave Its All for Science [Video]

Magicians need to resort to trick props to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But we pulled DNA out of a banana with nothing more than a few household ingredients during a Scientific American Google Hangout on December 20. (See Scientific American Goes Bananas on December 20. No artifice or foolery was involved: just [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Meet the Science in Action Finalists

Who will win the first $50,000 Science in Action prize, sponsored by Scientific American? This award, offered as part of the 2012 Google Science Fair, will recognize a student project that addresses a social, environmental, ethical, health or welfare issue to make a practical difference to the lives of a group or community, and that [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

2012 Google Science Fair Begins: What’s Your Question?

“As any adult knows, there’s one thing that any kid can do better than any grown up: ask questions. In fact, many studies have actually shown how kids are born scientists. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby first accidentally knock something off her high chair and onto the floor. She’ll look at it [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Defends Marie Curie—and Women Scientists—in 1911

One of the pleasures of editing a magazine like Scientific American, with its 166-year history as the country’s longest continuously published magazine, is getting a “you are there” view of science as it was whenever I take a spin through our digital archives. The other day, while reading some 100-year-old prose, I was reminded of [...]

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Culturing Science

DMS(P): the amazing story of a pervasive indicator molecule in the marine food web

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In honor of Chemistry Day here on the Scientific American blog network, I’ve dug out partially rewritten a post on ecological chemistry from the Culturing Science archives. Enjoy! Dimethylsulfide.  Does that word mean anything to you?  “Why yes,” you organic chemistry nerds may say, “It clearly is a molecule of sulfur with two methyl groups attached.”  [...]

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Doing Good Science

In the wake of the Harran plea deal, are universities embracing lab safety?

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Earlier this month, prosecutors in Los Angeles reached a plea agreement with UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran in the criminal case against him in connection with the 2008 lab accident that resulted in the death of 23-year-old staff research assistant Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji. Harran, who was facing more than 4 years of jail time if [...]

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Doing Good Science

Scary subject matter.

Death

This being Hallowe’en, I felt like I should serve you something scary. But what? Verily, we’ve talked about some scary things here: Dangers to life and limb in academic chemistry labs, and the suggestion that lab safety is too expensive. My unsavory habit of sending gastropods in my garden to a soapy end Implicit biases [...]

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Doing Good Science

Teaching chemistry while female: when my very existence was a problem.

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Not quite 20 years ago, I was between graduate programs. I had earned my Ph.D in chemistry and filed my applications to seven Ph.D. programs in philosophy. (There were some surreal moments on the way to this, including retaking the GRE two weekends after defending my chemistry dissertation — because, apparently, the GRE is a [...]

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Doing Good Science

“There comes a time when you have to run out of patience.”

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In this post, I’m sharing an excellent short film called “A Chemical Imbalance,” which includes a number of brief interviews with chemists (most of them women, most at the University of Edinburgh) about the current situation for women in chemistry (and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, more generally) in the UK. Here’s the [...]

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Doing Good Science

When we target chemophobia, are we punching down?

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Over at Pharyngula, Chris Clarke challenges those in the chemical know on their use of “dihydrogen monoxide” jokes. He writes: Doing what I do for a living, I often find myself reading things on Facebook, Twitter, or those increasingly archaic sites called “blogs” in which the writer expresses concern about industrial effluent in our air, [...]

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Doing Good Science

Are safe working conditions too expensive for knowledge-builders?

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Last week’s deadly collapse of an eight-story garment factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh has prompted discussions about whether poor countries can afford safe working conditions for workers who make goods that consumers in countries like the U.S. prefer to buy for bargain prices. Maybe the risk of being crushed to death (or burned to death, [...]

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Doing Good Science

When #chemophobia isn’t irrational: listening to the public’s real worries.

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This week, the Grand CENtral blog features a guest post by Andrew Bissette defending the public’s anxiety about chemicals. In lots of places (including here), this anxiety is labeled “chemophobia”; Bissette spells it “chemphobia”, but he’s talking about the same thing. Bissette argues that the response those of us with chemistry backgrounds often take to [...]

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Doing Good Science

Can we combat chemophobia … with home-baked bread?

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This post was inspired by the session at the upcoming ScienceOnline 2013 entitled Chemophobia & Chemistry in The Modern World, to be moderated by Dr. Rubidium and Carmen Drahl For some reason, a lot of people seem to have an unreasonable fear of chemistry. I’m not just talking about fear of chemistry instruction, but full-on [...]

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Doing Good Science

Book review: Cooking for Geeks.

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter O’Reilly Media, 2010 We have entered the time of year during which finding The Perfect Gift for family members and friends can become something of an obsession. Therefore, in coming days, I’ll be sharing some recommendations. If you have family members and [...]

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Doing Good Science

On the apparent horrors of requiring high school students to take chemistry.

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There’s a guest post on the Washington Post “Answer Sheet” blog by David Bernstein entitled “Why are you forcing my son to take chemistry?” in which the author argues against his 15-year-old son’s school’s requirement that all its students take a year of chemistry. Derek Lowe provides a concise summary of the gist: My son [...]

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Food Matters

Pumpkin, hold the spice

Image courtesy of Pam Ronald / UC-Davis

Feel that chill in the air? Must be Fall, and with the change in seasons comes the latest food craze: pumpkin spice. Now, I’m hardly the first person to notice this. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Salon have all recently weighed in on the growing flavor mania.* Alas, most pieces set [...]

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Food Matters

Breaking Food Down

Original Image U. Huddersfield.

What is food? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry says “Something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies.” How beautiful. That statement captures much of the emotion and feeling surrounding food, yet it’s only part of the full definition. So where does food begin? As with most big questions, it depends who you ask. Let’s start down the reductive [...]

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Guest Blog

The Frustrations of Being Scientifically Literate

Life's dirty little secret. (Credit: Debaird via Flickr)

Editors note: Craig Fay will be appearing live at the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival in New York City May 14-18. Here’s a theory for you: ignorance is bliss. If that’s true then being scientifically literate has got to be one of the most miserable and frustrating things possible. And when you think about it that [...]

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Guest Blog

A View to a Kill in the Morning: Carbon Dioxide

In 1940, inspired by a tragic accident, a New York pathologist came up with the scenario for a perfect murder. His idea was based on the deaths of five longshoremen, their bodies found in the cargo hold of a steamer docked on the East River. The boat had been carrying cherries from Michigan. The men [...]

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Guest Blog

Drugs from the Crucible of Nature

The skinned knee is a hallmark of childhood summers. After the tears are kissed away, a time-honored ritual follows: a few squirts of a pain killing spray, a good slather of antibiotic ointment, an adhesive bandage, and then back to the neighborhood for more rites of passage. The venerable tools of this healing ceremony may [...]

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Guest Blog

What’s In A Name? For Chemists, Their Field’s Soul

By 1992, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved, and the entire world’s political, economic, and military alliances were in the throes of transformation. But you could forgive officials at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) if they didn’t notice much of a difference. At the time, they were still embroiled in a [...]

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Guest Blog

Cooking up some chemistry inside a cell

Think back to your last chemistry class. (This might have been some time ago.) For most of you, you were likely 16 or 17 years old. When I was 16 or 17, I was thinking about some girl, or football, or a party, or … some girl. I certainly wasn’t focused on chemistry. And, chances [...]

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Guest Blog

All that glisters is not gold: Quality of Public Domain Chemistry Databases

Shakespeare wrote "All that glisters is not gold" and how right he was. Whether it’s the before and after shots of models who have lost an incredible 10 pounds in just two days on a particular pill, or the couch potato who showed a six pack of abs in just 2 weeks after drinking some [...]

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Guest Blog

Chemistry: The Human Science

A tiny molecule harvested from a soil bacterium on Easter Island that evolved billions of years ago for no obvious purposes should have nothing to do with human beings. Yet it turns out miraculously to have potent immunosuppressive properties that allow doctors to successfully perform a liver transplant in a young girl. Figure 1: A [...]

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Guest Blog

Dear chemists

Happy International Year of Chemistry. We hope things go well with your effort to increase public appreciation of chemistry and increase the interest of young people in chemistry and generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. Fat chance that’s going to get us to relax, though. Sure we know that chemistry has produced some [...]

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Lab Rat

Speeding up reactions: biological vs. chemical catalysts

The process of catalysis. X and Y are reactants (input) while Z is the final product. C is the catalyst.

Most chemical reactions go pretty slowly at room temperature. This is good news most of the time, otherwise random parts of the environment would be exploding at regular intervals, but bad news for industrial processes which need reactions to occur. In order to speed them up, catalysts are used. A catalyst is any substance that [...]

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Lab Rat

Happy New Year – the blog retrospective

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Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to try for a child with my husband. As I’m currently typing while trying to entertain a three month old baby I think I can safely claim that as one of the most successful New Year’s Resolutions I’ve ever made. I’ve been blogging at Scientific American for well [...]

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Lab Rat

What makes things acid: The pH scale

The pH scale, with a list of substances at each pH. Image credit below.

I remember learning about acids and bases (or acids and alkalis) fairly early on at school. Acids were sharp vinegary substances like lemon juice, while alkalis were soapy substances, like limewater or caustic soda. We also learnt about the pH scale which measures the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The pH scale goes from 1-14, [...]

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Lab Rat

Shine on you crazy diamond: why humans are carbon-based lifeforms

As well as being the main element in organic matter, carbon also has several less organic forms, including graphite and diamond (shown above). Image credit below.

Previous posts in the Chemistry series: Hydrogen-bonds, van der Waals forces, metallic bonding, ionic bonds Everything on earth is made up of combinations of different elements – all of which can be found on the periodic table. Considering that the periodic table contains 118 elements it seems a pity that organic life tends to feature [...]

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Lab Rat

Metallic bonding

A stylised diagram of metallic bonding, from wikimedia commons, credit link below.

Having covered some weak intramolecular forces in my posts on hydrogen bonds and van der Waals forces, I ventured into the world of the strong forces last month with ionic bonds. This month I’ll be looking at metallic bonding, the forces that hold together the atoms of all pure metals. There are a lot of metals [...]

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Lab Rat

Holding elements together: Ionic bonds

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A while ago, I wrote a couple of posts describing some intra-molecular forces, forces that hold atoms and molecules together. I enjoyed writing them, and people come back to read them quite frequently, so I thought I’d continue and write about a couple more. The previous posts covered van der Waals forces and hydrogen bonds (and dipoles!) [...]

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Lab Rat

Holding molecules together – van der Waals forces

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A while back, I did a post for Chemistry week about hydrogen bonds. In it, I mentioned why I find intramolecular forces so fascinating; they are interactions on such a tiny scale that hold together everything from small molecules like water to massive molecules like the enzymes and multi-enzyme complexes that I study. The hydrogen-bond [...]

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Lab Rat

Hydrogen bonds: why life needs water

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Water is everywhere on our planet. In the air, in our bodies, in our food and in our breath. Without it life as we know it would not be possible. Water is vital for the survival of all living things, yet as a molecule it has some pretty odd behaviour. Water molecules stick to each [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Favorite nuclear flavors

Light or heavy? The nuclear choice

On the heels of #SciAmChem day I thought I’d pull a post from the Life, Unbounded archives that could use a little airing and has a chemical slant. It’s all about the isotopic favoritism that organisms, or at least some of them, display. I’ve not heard more about the particular, and surprising, heavy isotope preference [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The molecules that made the universe

Imagine a molecule...

“We are starstuff”, it’s a well-used phrase in popular astronomy (yes, we are. The nuclei of most heavy atoms in your body were forged long before our solar system existed, a million kilometers down inside the cores of long-since-gone massive stars). “We contain matter as old as the universe” (absolutely. Pretty much all the hydrogen [...]

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The Network Central

Chemistry Day at Scientific American Blog Network

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This year is the International Year of Chemistry. This week, many chemists are gathered in Puerto Rico for the World Chemistry Congress. And here, at the Scientific American Blog Network, today is the Chemistry Day. Many of our bloggers, as well as six people invited to our Guest Blog, have posted something related to chemistry [...]

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Observations

3 Ingredients Make Good July 4th Fireworks [Video]

How different types of chemicals combine for a holiday blast.

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Observations

Don’t Go in the Water: The Chemistry of Pee in the Pool [Video]

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Pee in a swimming pool could start an unpleasant chemical reaction with chlorine

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Observations

A New Chemical Recipe Raises Prospect of Inexpensive Fuel

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Lab-made molecule can transform components of natural gas

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Observations

Human Antibodies Given Sharklike Armor to Fight Disease

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Human therapeutic antibodies often break down. Now chemists have grafted on more rugged features, taken from sharks

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Observations

Reaction in Action: Before and After Pictures at the Atomic Level

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Imagine watching a chemical reaction in real time: atoms breaking bonds with their neighbors and forming new arrangements as heat or pressure changes. That’s what scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley came close to achieving in these images. Using an atomic-force microscope the researchers captured before and after images [...]

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Observations

Supernova Dust Fell to Earth in Antarctic Meteorites

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Two primitive meteorites collected in Antarctica appear to contain grains of silica—the stuff of quartz and sand—forged in an ancient supernova that predates the birth of the solar system. In fact, some researchers believe that it was just such a stellar explosion that triggered the formation of the solar system from a cloud of dust [...]

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Observations

A Dash of Color Creates Camouflage for Spineless Robots

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Late last year, Harvard University chemists and materials scientists introduced a robot whose rubbery appendages fly—or, more accurately, crawl—in the face of conventional automatons. These invertebrate-inspired albino bots relied on elastic polymers and pneumatic pumps to imitate the movements of worms, squid and starfish. Now these squishy quadrupeds can be pumped with a variety of [...]

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Observations

Researchers Engineer Rewriteable Digital Data Storage in the DNA of Living Bacteria

DNA

Engineers have invented a way to store a single rewriteable bit of data within the chromosome of a living cell—a kind of cellular switch that offers precise control over how and when genes are expressed. For three years, Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and Drew Endy of Stanford University tinkered with the switch in Escherichia coli [...]

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Observations

What’s in a Femtosecond of Laser Light? A Map of Electron Energy

Illuminate a piece of metal, such as copper or silver, and the electrons get excited. These excitable particles in turn alter the electromagnetic fields that give rise to many of the properties technologists exploit, such as copper’s excellent performance as a conductor of electricity. Efforts to observe electrons have become easier in recent years, thanks [...]

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Observations

Physics in the Mix: Bartending Gets Scientific

Molecular gastronomy—the use of scientific techniques to create exotic cuisine—is becoming a household term. But what about molecular mixology? An article in the December Physics World (free registration required) explores how bartenders are using scientific equipment and techniques to create new cocktails, and how many long-established tricks in the mixologists’ book are firmly rooted in [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Chemical Romance: The Loves of Dmitri Mendeleev, Part 1

Dmitri Mendeleev by Nathaniel Gold

The scientist who systematized all the known elements in the universe was about to throw everything away for love. In April, 1881 Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev was internationally renowned for his creation of the periodic table that revealed the simple, yet elegant structure underlying all matter, but he was prepared to kill himself unless the woman [...]

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PsiVid

Advert Informs that Dmitri Mendeleev Knew the Science of Perfect Vodka

Dmitri Mendeleev (Wikipedia)

I just viewed an advertisement released last month from Russian Standard Vodka that claims its product is ‘The Convergence of Science and Nature’. In just over three minutes, it tells us the story of Mendeleev and a few other tidbits of science fact to convince us this is so, along with impressive visuals. This cinematographically [...]

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PsiVid

The Royal Institute’s Christmas Lectures Online Now

I’ve never had the pleasure of being in the UK at the time that the Royal Institute of Great Britain have aired their very famous Christmas Lectures, but I hear often from followers and friends in the UK on social media how many of them have been positively impacted by these lectures. The history of [...]

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PsiVid

Casting Call for Host of “Mystery of Matter”

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Are you a chemist or love chemistry? Are you as engaging on camera as Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye? Do you appreciate the human side of science discovery? Are you madly in love with intelligently done programming such as appears on PBS? I’ve seen many casting calls and am certain that what [...]

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PsiVid

Pariscience: The International Science Film Festival

Pariscience Film Festival

Paris is often called the city of love and lights. And if you love science, Pariscience: The International Science Film Festival could really have you loving Paris even more! Since 2005, The Association Science and Television (AST) has organized the International Science Film Festival, PARISCIENCE, every year in October. It hosts 8,500 viewers for an [...]

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PsiVid

Have a Coke, and….Some Chemistry!

Coke, a favorite “empty calorie” drink normally feeds those adipocytes at our waistline. I say, let’s put it to better use  to feed our neurons instead with a refreshing splash of science! I missed posting for Chemistry Day here on SciAm (August 2, 2011), but I don’t feel too sad as I often feature chemistry [...]

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Symbiartic

Pinch of Pigment: Cobalt Blue

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Cobalt Blue is a fascinating colour with a much longer history than many pigments in use today. It’s also the only goblin hiding in the Periodic Table. Cobalt, is symbol Co on the periodic table with an atomic weight of 27. While in it’s natural, raw state it’s a somewhat burnished silver colour, it is [...]

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Symbiartic

Your Kitchen Is a Chem Lab and This Is Your Textbook

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Maybe you cook, maybe not, but I bet you eat from time to time. If you’re reading articles on Scientific American, I also bet you are at least partially interested in science, and whether you eat gazpacho or goulash, KFC or cronuts, you have to concede this point: cooking is essentially applied chemistry. The beauty [...]

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Symbiartic

Unchanging Art Supplies

Find the stone age pigment!

Technology in art supplies moves fast, and there are tons of amazing ways to enable new creative explorations appearing all the time. Wacom Inkling Pen. Lytro Light-Field Cameras. Terraskin paper made from stone. Innovations, especially digital ones, leave a swath of devastatingly outdated art materials in their wake. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies curated [...]

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Symbiartic

What Does a Scientific Glass Blower Make?

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I came across so many interesting images last week researching my scientific glass blowing post that I thought I’d share a few more here. This is a blog about imagery after all, right? You’ll forgive my lack of song and dance, then? Michael Souza This is one of Michael Souza’s aluminosilicate creations. You’ll recall aluminosilicate [...]

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Symbiartic

The Chemistry of Oil Painting

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What chemical properties give oil paintings their luminous glow and deep darkness? Why do they crack? What kind of oil is used? Is it safe to use the oil painting medium on a fresh dandelion salad? As an oil painter for the past 17 years who used to manage at a fine art supply store [...]

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Talking back

The Straight Dope: A Q&A with the Prof behind the Good Science in Breaking Bad

Since 1983, Donna J. Nelson has taught some 10,000 students as a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. Her research extends to characterizing carbon nanotubes and examining carbon–carbon double bonds every which way and even promoting chemistry education as a means to increase the number of chemists and chemical engineers in the [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Google Doodle Honors Chemist Dr. Percy Julian

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April 11, 2014 would have been Dr. Julian Percy’s 115th Birthday and it was a beautiful site to behold – seeing today’s Google Doodle honoring the man and his science. “Dr. Julian’s story is a fascinating one and I encourage you to read over the ACS and Wikipedia entries. As you might imagine, he faced [...]

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The Urban Scientist

It’s National Chemistry Week: 2012 Theme is Nanotechnology

Happy National Chemistry Week! From October 21-27, 2012 Chemists, Chemical Engineers, Chemical Professionals and enthusiasts are celebrating how wonderful Chemistry is! And it is.  But I have to admit, I’m such a biologist – a whole organism, big animal and plant type – that anything I can’t see with my eyes or a hand lens [...]

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