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Archive → October, 2009

Friday Safety Bytes

I spent some time this morning updating my list of lab safety incidents so far this year. Although the list is undoubtedly not comprehensive, it would appear that September and October were not good months for lab safety. I’d be curious to know if there’s always a spike in the fall as new students arrive on campuses.

The ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety has added presentations from the NorthEast Regional Meetings, held in Hartford, Conn., this month to its technical archives. Included are presentations on:

  • Chemical Safety Levels as part of risk assessment by Ralph Stuart of the University of Vermont,
  • Transferring Air-Sensitive Reagents by Mark Potyen of Sigma Aldrich,
  • When the Chemistry Department and EHS Journey Down the Same Road Together by N. Gail Hall of Boston College, and
  • Update on Prudent Practices in the Laboratory by Peter Reinhardt of Yale University.

DCHAS also has presentations up from the ACS National Meeting in August.

Last but not least, a terrific video from the University of California, Berkeley, team the Sounds of Science, this time  on lab safety. One complaint is that the song lyrics say “Goggles are a must,” but the singer dons glasses. Safety experts say go for the goggles.

Priestley House's Grand Re-Opening

Fans of chemistry and powdered wigs can now rejoice, for thanks to some dedicated volunteers, the Priestley House is open once again, and they’re celebrating in style (18th-century style, that is) on November 1st.

You’ll recall that last summer, a budget crisis in the state of Pennsylvania shuttered the historic house, which was the country residence of philosopher/scientist/oxygen co-discoverer Joseph Priestley. Members of the Friends of Joseph Priestley House Museum group inked an agreement with the state so that the house could open for visitors once more.

To celebrate (the house has actually been open since Oct. 3), the Friends group is running a grand re-opening ceremony on Sunday, November 1, at the Northumberland, PA residence. Expect period costumes, guided tours of the house, and most importantly, whiz-bang chemistry demonstrations courtesy of Ronald Blatchley, who’ll once again step into the role of Priestley himself. Watch some footage from a local PA news station that stopped by the house earlier this month.


Fun With Pumpkins

As an early treat, the chemists at Periodic Table of Videos use their chemistry tricks to destroy pumpkins in their special Halloween video:

Day Of The Mole

Happy Mole Day, dear readers!

Last year we gave you some ideas of how to celebrate with food. This year I’d like to point you in the direction of Adventures in Ethics and Science’s Friday Sprog Blogging about Mole Day, particularly for the artwork at the end.

Bringing Chemistry To Ballou High

Ballou Senior High School is only about six miles from the ACS headquarters building in Washington, D.C., but the school feels like it’s a world away. Located in one of the highest crime areas in the District, students at Ballou must go through metal detectors every morning to enter the school.

Yesterday, ACS staff traveled by charter bus to Ballou to do hands-on activities with the students there as part of National Chemistry Week. The stations included activities such as making slime using Borax and Elmer’s glue.

I’ll admit, I wondered whether these activities were too elementary for high school students. John Solano, a chemistry and biotechnology teacher and science department chair at Ballou, told me that for many of these students, this was the only exposure to hands-on chemistry they’ve had because the school lacks the funding to purchase lab equipment and other supplies.

I couldn’t help but think of the high school students on the other, more affluent side of town, who are doing advanced chemistry experiments in labs that rival those at colleges and universities.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

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Elemental Musings

National Chemistry Week is off to a swinging start, and this year’s theme of “Chemistry – It’s Elemental!” has made me a bit nostalgic. A few years back C&EN celebrated it’s 80th anniversary with a special issue full of essays on the elements. The 89 essays were written by both C&EN staff and outside contributors. So as we celebrate the elements this week, peruse at least a few of these gems and enjoy the varied voices, historical photos, and interesting tidbits you’ll find along the way.

Perambulating In An Elemental Garden

Strollers stop and smell the elemental flowers

Artist Rebecca Kamen explains her installation of elemental flowers.

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Whoopi Goldberg + Science Trivia = ?

Happy National Chemistry Week, everybody. While you were gearing up to get your Boy Scout chemistry merit badge, Whoopi Goldberg has brought a new science trivia show, Head Games, to TV. Don’t get too excited, though. She’s the producer, not the host. I think I’d be more likely to watch if she went head to head with contestants in the final round, Win-Ben-Stein’s-Money style.

Here’s a link to a clip of the show with element trivia. And here’s an interview with Whoopi. If nothing else, watch for the fainting goats.