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Archive → November, 2009

Team Chemistry

When searching for chemistry news through Google, I often come across sports stories talking about team chemistry either as a whole or between particular players. So I was surprised yesterday to find a case where a sports writing cliche actually wasn’t cliche at all. The folks over at Bust a Bucket, a Portland Trail Blazers fan site, have created the Periodic Table of Blazers and even came up with compounds based on said table. For example, instead of water being H2O, we get Dx2Po, the combination of former basketball greats Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. Your are welcome to submit compounds of your own, and if you happen to be a Blazers fan or know one, they even have t-shirts available.

Inherently Safer

As reported in last week’s issue of C&EN (page 6), the House of Representatives has passed legislation that “would significantly expand the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to regulate security practices at thousands of facilities nationwide that produce, use, or store chemicals.”

The American Chemical Society worked to ensure that the Chemical & Water Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868) was structured in a way that advanced innovation and safety. In taking this position, ACS parted company to some extent with chemical industry trade associations like the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, which represents primarily small- and medium-sized batch chemical manufacturers. SOCMA and other trade groups oppose H.R. 2868 because, among other provisions, it gives DHS the authority to require implementation of inherently safer technologies (IST) to reduce the potential consequences of a terrorist attack.

IST mandated by a federal agency is anathema to the chemical industry. The industry argues that it already incorporates the principles of IST into its design of processes and plants and that it is in a much better position to balance risks and improve safety than is a government official. The industry fears that some chemicals essential to certain processes will be banned because they are perceived as highly toxic and dangerous. It also argues that an IST mandate will result in negative, unintended consequences, such as product shortages.

In the lead-up to the House vote on the bill, a number of compromises were struck. Only companies in the so-called Tier 1 and Tier 2 risk categories—the riskiest of four tiers—are covered by the IST mandate. The bill instructs DHS to establish separate standards and procedures for academic labs, a provision supported by ACS.

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The Chemistry of Thanksgiving Dinner

Safety First: Chief Redox (left) and Princess Avogadro are ready to do some kitchen chemistry. Lauren Wolf/C&EN

In this week’s Newscripts, I wrote about Diane M. Bunce, a professor at Catholic University of America (CUA), in Washington, D.C., and her quest to make chemistry accessible to the public, as well as her students. She gave a public lecture (with accompanying demonstrations) about the chemistry of Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday evening at CUA.

Approximately 100 attendees—mostly students—came out to watch Bunce and her teaching assistants, Maribeth “Princess Avogadro” Armenio and Evan “Chief Redox” Bordt, demonstrate some key concepts of kitchen chemistry. A contingent from ACS, including this reporter, also attended, learning about how pop-up turkey timers work, why muffins rise without yeast, and which antacids work best to tame that post-Thanksgiving-dinner indigestion. Continue reading →

Share Your Hot Flash Anecdotes

When a hot flash flares, what’s a woman to do?

She can cool herself with a fan or open a freezer door and stick her head in. She can peel off as much clothing as she can decently get away with. She can chance hormonal therapy, though her friends might give her a hard time about it. Or she can test out a folk remedy from the Internet.

With all the options out there, what’s the most creative solution you’ve come up with? What happens to you when a hot flash strikes? And what’s your most embarrassing hot flash tale?

We hope you’ll share your story with us.

In the meantime, check out my article about research into the causes of and treatments for this dreaded symptom of menopause.

The Wonderscope Challenge

Around here we love a good science video contest, and apparently the folks at NPR do, too. They’ve just launched The Wonderscope Challenge. They give a topic, a length, and a deadline, and contestants upload their videos via the Wonderscope site. The first assignment is Time, which is maybe not such a great topic for our crowd to tackle, but if submissions are anything like the ones for NanoTube, there should be some pretty entertaining ones to view. Doesn’t look like any prize money is involved, but the top 3 videos will be highlighted on npr.org. NPR includes a great promo video on their Wonderscope site, but you’ll have to go to the site or NPR’s YouTube channel to check it out as it doesn’t seem to be embeddable.

Instead, I’ll leave you with a reprise of “The Nano Song,” for inspiration:

The Nano Song from nanomonster on Vimeo.

Best Party Favor Ever

Party favors are best when they are edible, I’ve always thought. So I was disappointed when I sat down to dinner at Bill Lipscomb’s 90th birthday party last night to find a tiny, not-chocolate-coated book next to my plate.

Then I took a closer look.

The favor was a tiny flip book, put together by Bill’s wife Jean and Marc Abrahams of IgNobel fame, intended as a tutorial on tying The Colonel’s* signature neckwear.

The flip book had a limited print run, I hear. But here’s the video from which it came, in case you want to give it a go yourself.

*The Colonel is so nicknamed, as many of you know, because he is a member of the Honorary order of Kentucky Colonels — putting him in the company of the likes of Elvis, Tiger Woods, and Derek Barton.

Preparing For The Future

This guest editorial is by Sunil Kumar, president and CEO of International Specialty Products and vice chair of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) America International Group.

The global economy is fueled by the chemical industry: Talented chemists and chemical engineers across the globe are responsible for producing the materials on which society depends every day. The chemical industry provides nearly 1 million direct jobs to the nation and is one of the U.S.’s top three exporting industries.

The continued health of our industry requires the infusion of young, motivated, educated scientists and engineers. Few students get to experience the chemical industry as part of their education. Understandably, students are far more familiar with the halls of academia than they are with the industrial lab or chemical plant.

SCI America is offering an opportunity for highly qualified undergraduate chemistry and chemical engineering majors to fill this gap. In collaboration with the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), SCI is proud to sponsor the SCI Scholars program, a new opportunity for undergraduate chemistry and chemical engineering majors to gain valuable experience in an industrial setting. Approximately 20 undergraduates will be selected for internships next summer. This innovative program will better position these students to make informed decisions about their career options by providing them with real-world experience.

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Excuse Me, There’s Nano In Your App

Andrew Maynard over at 2020 Science highlights a nifty new nano app today. findNano allows users to browse or search through the nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory to find the nano in their lives for free from their iPhone or iPod Touch. And now for the nifty part: if you notice something’s missing from the inventory that should be there, you can take a picture and email it to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies for consideration.

With the explosion of all sorts of new apps since our video walkthrough of Molecules 1.0, what science apps do you have on your phones, dear readers?