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This Week on GlobCasino: Caravaggio’s death, #NOS2013, and so much more

Tweet of the week:

To the network:

Artful Science: Figuring out what killed crazy Caravaggio

Newscripts: John D. Roberts: The Seattle Veteran at NOS and In Print: Chemistry Tattoos and Amusing News Aliquots

Terra Sig: Country of Discovery Periodic Table of the Elements

The Safety Zone: National Academy of Sciences lab safety culture committee meeting in Berkeley this week and New lab safety video on personal protective equipment and Next hearing for Patrick Harran in #SheriSangji case set for August

The Watch Glass: Heavy-wall pressure vessels and corned-beef scent and Fluorine chemistry (1962) and Stress in graduate school and Ten Years After Chernobyl

This Week on GlobCasino: @SolarImpulse, lots of #chemsafety and more

Tweet of the week:

To the network:

Cleantech Chemistry: Solar Impulse: Moving solar energy from poetry to practicality and Biobased Chemicals: Some growing pains and Optimists at the BIO Show

Newscripts: In Print: Chemist Gets High On A Unicycle and Amusing News Aliquots and Unlocking Life’s Code … With a Museum Exhibit and In Print: Prince Harry Turns into a Doll and Other Misleading Headlines

The Chemical Notebook: Shale And The Safety Challenge Ahead

The Safety Zone: Fatal incidents at Louisiana’s CF Industries and Williams Cos. plants and Proposed ACS undergrad guidelines increase safety requirements

The Watchglass: Computers (1965) and chemical pesticides and bioterrorism and glazed insulating doors and rare earths in 1965


Solar Impulse: Moving solar energy from poetry to practicality

Solar Impulse is spending the week in Washington, DC, and the C&EN headquarters is slightly abuzz with geeky giddiness. So, living a mere 15 minutes from the solar plane’s temporary home in a hangar at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center next to Dulles International Airport, I couldn’t resist the invitation to a Solvay-sponsored event with the pilots and crew on Tuesday evening. Melody twisted my arm kindly invited me to write about my visit for the Cleantech crowd.

Solar Impulse in DC

Solar Impulse in its temporary home at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia Credit: Rachel Pepling

I had to walk past the ginormous Discovery space shuttle, which is spending retirement at the Udvar-Hazy Center, then dodge raindrops to get to the the temporary hangar housing Solar Impulse just outside of the museum. The rainy weather and mugginess of the hangar didn’t exactly create the setting you’d expect for admiring a plane that runs on energy from the sun. But I digress. Compared to the robust space shuttle, the solar plane looks like an oversized toy glider. As Alex Scott pointed out in his article on the chemistry behind Solar Impulse, the plane has a wingspan about the same as a 747′s but weighs about the same as a small sedan. There is no other way to describe the cockpit than as tiny. It’s basically a chair with a bubble over it. And, of course, there are lots and lots of solar panels.

Before the pilots’ presentation, I was in a group chatting with a member of Solar Impulse’s communications team. When asked about the plane’s assembly at Moffett Airfield near San Francisco, she explained that it took the team basically three days to put the plane together and equated the process to assembling furniture from IKEA. No nails, just glue. Hopefully, no leftover parts. It is, apparently, that amazingly simple.

Bertrand Piccard was the first of the two pilots to speak. His psychiatry background came through as he talked about changing your altitude in order to fight against the winds while in a balloon. My mind was starting to drift away a bit when he brought me back with this line: “This is all very poetic, but useless. Let’s make it practical.” He then showed a picture taken at the end of his around-the-world-in-a-balloon mission in 1999. “Many people think this is the last picture of a balloon trip,” he said. “In fact, it is the first picture of Solar Impulse.” Piccard then shared that it was the amount of fuel spent on the trip and that there was only 40 kilos left at the end that ignited the Solar Impulse project.

André Borschberg spoke more about how the plane actually works. While listening to him, I came to realize that Solar Impulse epitomizes the theme of the fall national meeting in Indy: Chemistry in Motion. Without chemistry (again, read Alex’s excellent article), this plane would have never taken flight.

Hearing Piccard and Borschberg speak and looking up-close at the plane was all very cool, but I’m left with the feeling of “What next?” Borcshberg pointed out that they had considered making the plane large enough to accommodate two people, but safety became an issue. So to me, at this point, Solar Impulse is really just a proof of concept. Under certain conditions, one can indeed travel long distances at both night and day using only solar power. But I go back to Piccard’s statement earlier and wonder how do we move from poetic to practical? Certainly, the materials created for this plane will find new uses elsewhere and to make our current vehicles greener, but we’re still pretty far away from using only solar to get us in motion. Or is Solar Impulse’s role as a solar energy, nay, innovation ambassador enough for now?

This Week on GlobCasino: Gribbles, #3Dprinting, and more

Tweet of the Week:

To the network:

Cleantech Chemistry: The Gut(microbe)less Gribble – Biofuel Hero? and IEA Looks To Fossil Fuel Industry to Control Climate Change

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots and Hey, ACS, Where’s My Comic Book?

The Chemical Notebook: Why Doesn’t Radio Shack Sell 3D Printers?

The Watch Glass: Nitrogen Fixation and Systems Biology’s Clinical Future and Environmental Issues of 1976 and Crime Labs in 1967

This Week on GlobCasino: @FlameChallenge winners, #chemsafety videos and more

In honor of the upcoming season finale of Game of Thrones, I present this Tweet of the Week:

To the network:

Newscripts: Flame Challenge 2: And The Winners Are and Amusing News Aliquots and In Print: Cooking With Cicadas

Terra Sigillata: Daughters and Famous Women Chemists

The Safety Zone: Lab safety video library and Friday #chemsafety roundup

The Watch Glass: Diet and Coronary Heart Disease and “Chemistry for the Many” and Albert Hofmann’s 100th birthday and a heat transfer device, magnets, a 300,000-B.t.u.-per-hour burner & high-pressure/high-temperature presses and Mars

Talking about science online at #sciodc

This Wednesday, May 1, ScienceOnlineDC will be holding its inaugural event.

ScienceOnlineDC is one of several local satellites of ScienceOnline, a nonprofit organization that facilitates conversations, community, and collaborations at the intersection of science and the Web. Our goal is to bring together science journalists, bloggers, federal and private research scientists, policymakers, and other science enthusiasts in the DC metro area for dynamic discussions about how science is carried out and communicated online. My co-organizers are Geoffrey Hunt of the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow Jamie Vernon, and Hannah Waters of the Smithsonian Institution.

Our first event will focus on federal agencies’ social media policies – how does government transparency influence the social media activities of scientists and communications staff? Here’s the panelist lineup:

Jamie Vernon, moderator

Gretchen Goldman, analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists (check out her post about Wednesday’s event)

Megan McVey, communications coordinator, United States Global Change Research Program

Sarah Dewitt, communications officer, NASA, Office of the Chief Scientist

John Ohab, public affairs specialist, Naval Research Laboratory

One of the hallmarks of ScienceOnline events is the unconference format. Sure, we’ve rounded up some experts to put in the front of the room, but most of the conversation will be driven by the attendees, both in person and online. Even if you can’t be there in person, chime in via the livestream and twitter (#sciodc). Should be a great discussion.

Of course, you may be wondering why I’m pitching this event to an audience of chemists, most of whom are not in the DC area. I’ll tell you why. Because it’s important for chemists to be involved in these conversations. Because many of you are already having such conversations on twitter and each other’s blogs. And some of those conversations include pondering who could be the chemist version of Neil deGrasse Tyson. But chemistry doesn’t need one

 deGrasse Tyson; it needs several. So, let’s move those discussions out of the chemistry inner circle and into Science, writ large. Chemistry is the central science, after all.

And you can start by attending any gathering with other people in your community who are interested in how science is communicated. As I said earlier, ScienceOnlineDC is only one of several satellites. Others with regular events include Seattle, Vancouver, and the Bay Area. There are SpotOn events in London and New York. Attend a local #SciTweetUp or Science Cafe. Or participate in the livestreams and twitter conversations that often accompany these events.

And if you are in DC on Wednesday, c’mon by. We’d love to have you.

UPDATE, 5/6: Doh! How could I leave out ScienceOnlineBeantown???

This Week on GlobCasino: Cinnamon #Chemophobia, #SheriSangji update and more

TWO tweets of the week to make up for none on Monday:

To the network:

Cleantech Chemistry: Solar Boom in Japan, with Battery to Match

Grand CENtral: Guest Re-post: “In defense of chemphobia” by Andrew Bissette

Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots and In Print: ACS Member Finds Success On ‘Jeopardy!’ And Millipedes Light Up and 19th-Century Medicine In New Orleans

Terra Sigillata: The Cinnamon Challenge: On Being Charged with #Chemophobia

The Safety Zone: Preliminary hearing for Patrick Harran in #SheriSangji case: Motion to dismiss or reduce the charges and CSB releases interim report on Chevron refinery fire

The Watch Glass: Celebrating DNA’s 60th and 21st birthdays, the state of marine drug research in 1972, long-term health effects of chemical tests on Army soldiers (1983), and Earth Day back in 1970

Last week on GlobCasino: #ChemMovieCarnival, #ChemSafety, and #ChemEd

Doh! Apologies for not sending the weekly roundup out on its usual Friday afternoon. Adding insult to injury, there’s no tweet of the week. I’ll try to get a double-helping for you on Friday.

To the network:

Just Another Electron Pusher: #ChemMovieCarnival – The Absent-Minded Professor

Newscripts: Chemistry of the Bar: Amaretto 101 and #ChemMovieCarnival: Dramatic Acid-Base Chemistry in Fight Club and Amusing News Aliquots and In Print: Mosh Pit Simulator

Terra Sigillata: Why Chemistry Should Care About Humanities Higher Education

The Safety Zone: Friday chemical safety round up and Stony Brook chemistry incorporates lab safety into Research Day celebration and Ripped from the pages: DHS lagging on chemical security, CSB has offshore jurisdiction, and hydrofluoric acid concerns

The Watch Glass: Talking about global warming in 1989, chemical forensics trace threat agents, pheromone lures control beetles, a book review of “African American Women Chemists,” and plutonium weighing helped open the atomic age