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Category → Chemistry is Everywhere

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s … a Chemical Executive

The Shard: Stands between charity donors and disadvantaged youth. Credit: Courtesy of Phenomenex

Some fund-raisers take the form of a bake sale or a chili cook-off. Such philanthropic endeavors, however, are child’s play to Phenomenex Chief Executive Officer Fasha Mahjoor, who last week took charitable spectacles to dizzying new heights by rappelling down Europe’s tallest building.

The separations technology firm CEO rappelled down from the 87th floor of the Shard in London on Sept. 3 in an effort to raise money for the Outward Bound Trust, which champions outdoor programs that teach underprivileged youth valuable life lessons.

“I’m speechless!” Mahjoor exclaimed just hours after his death-defying act. “I can’t explain what a thrill it was to stand at the pinnacle of the Shard and look down over a thousand feet of vertical glass to the miniature world below with nothing but a harness, a rope, and faith to help me defy gravity.”

Obviously, it’s impressive anytime someone falls down a skyscraper and doesn’t die, but there are still a lot of other things to be impressed about with this story. For starters, Mahjoor was joined in his descent by 19 other philanthropists including the Duke of York, Prince Andrew (who was perhaps inspired to traverse the Shard after watching his mom, Queen Elizabeth II, engage in a similarly extreme activity when she jumped out of a helicopter at this year’s Olympics). In addition, Mahjoor is a complete novice at rappelling. “When Fasha accepted the challenge, he had never worn a harness before in his life,” Phenomenex spokeswoman Kari Carlson Kelly told Newscripts before her boss made his descent. “Minus a short practice run, he is a total rookie!” Continue reading →

Looking Back On Philadelphia (#ACSPhilly)

The American Chemical Society meeting in Philly is now fading into our long-term memories. Chemists accomplished a lot in the City of Brotherly Love: They shared ideas, reported their chemical discoveries, and made new connections. Be sure to check out Monday’s issue of C&EN for stories from the meeting as well as photo highlights. In the meantime, here’s a look back on our time in Philly, told in pictures.

And as we say goodbye to Philly, we look toward next spring’s gathering in New Orleans. The beleaguered region and its residents once again have a cleanup ahead of them, after facing Hurricane Isaac. Our hearts go out to everyone there who is dealing with the consequences of this natural disaster–it reminds us just how fragile life can be.

Nerdy Nuptials

Inspired by a post from Paul over at ChemBark, a while back the Newscripts gang wondered if any readers had found love in the lab and then used their chemical know-how to infuse their nuptials with a little nerdiness. As always, dear readers, you did not disappoint.

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Gimme That Old Time Poisonin'

shutterstock_35269411It’s not often that an article about chemistry reaches the “most popular” articles list on Slate. Perhaps the last one was a much-talked-about Slate article about the UCLA/Sheri Sangji case.

Unlike the Sangji article, this story from Friday was about something I’d never heard of before- during Prohibition, the U.S. government ordered the adulteration of industrial alcohol in order to thwart bootleggers and stop people from drinking. As author Deborah Blum explains, that didn’t go so well. Poisoned holiday revelers died by the dozens in the nation’s hospitals. And outraged public health officials and anti-Prohibition legislators had harsh words for the government’s ethically dubious chemistry dabblings.

Since most liquor syndicates were simply taking denatured industrial alcohol, which has additives put in to make it undrinkable, and distilling it to remove said additives, the feds decided to make that distillation a bit more complicated.
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Blame It On The Brain(s) Behind The ACIEs Puns

So. My breaking point came a few weeks ago when I read one of ACIE’s genius abstract caption titles, “Just another Mannich Monday.” After laughing out loud, I proceeded to hum the cheesy tune by the Bangles, loudly, from C&EN’s rooftop Berlin office, for three days. From here until perpetuity, the lyrics “I can’t be late because I guess I just won’t get paid” will remind me of Mannich-derived, stereoselective, one-pot syntheses of “spirocycles, 1-aminoindanes, and 5,6-fused azabicycles that have a quaternary carbon center.”

Yeah yeah. I know I’m not the first to grin, groan, or comment about the puns, pop references, and general goofiness ACIE puts into its online abstracts. Many a blogger (Derek Lowe, Excimer, “Phil,” and Chiral Jones ) have also, um, “admired” ACIE’s ability to bring Shakespeare (“Double, double, no toil and trouble”), Star Trek (“Beam me up,” twice), the X-files (“The truth is out there“), and the disembodied voice from the London Underground (“Mind the gap”) into the world of chemistry. The journal has even gotten pretty risqué of late with “Metal ménage à trois” and “Balls galore!”

But Mannich Monday followed soon on the heels of the caption “The Write Stuff,” which permitted the New Kids On The Block hit–(oh yes, here’s the video)–to breach my consciousness for the first time in 20 years—a particularly traumatic reminder of the boy band phenomenon.

So much so, that I had to meet the evil mastermind behind it all.
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Snoverkill Safety

Safety goggles protect the eyes from more than stray chemicals: this hardy worker protects his eyes from the driving wind and snow of today’s Snowpocalypse III, Snoverkill, GroceryStore Thunderdome, Snoverload, whatever you want to call it.

Although ACS offices have been closed all week, C&EN is still operating, and we do need to eat. Venturing into the tempest, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Maureen Rouhi, Associate Editor Linda Wang, and I went to pick up lunch for the seven of us who stayed in hotels in town or braved the commute to get to headquarters and produce the magazine on schedule. On our way back with the victuals, we encountered this fellow shoveling the sidewalk in front of the hotel/restaurant.

C&EN Enjoys Snoverkill

C&EN Enjoys Snoverkill

Most people in DC seem to have taken a light-hearted outlook to the past couple Snowpocalypses, unlike the first one in December, when a cop pulled a gun at a snowball fight. This fellow chuckled and was very happy to have his picture taken with Linda. As quoted from a fellow C&ENer who saw this photo, “Linda looks like she’s about to happily bonk the equally happy grinning dude! Reminds me of Japanese TV!”

Elements Abound In D.C.

After reading Beth’s elemental town-name Newscripts last week, I spent a bit of time looking through Nicholas C. Thomas’ article trying to find the closest elmental town to Washington, D.C. Of the ones listed, Barium Springs, N.C., is the closest, at just under 400 miles away. (Although Alloy, W.Va., is a bit closer, it’s not an elemental name, so I’m not counting it.)

I thought this area should have tons of elementally named towns, what with all the science that goes on here. Maybe we can convince some towns to change their names for the International Year of Chemistry 2011? I’m thinking “Radon, District of Columbia” has a nice ring to it (especially as we’re ringing out Radon Action Month). Or maybe “Lead,” to go with all the contamination we have in our soil and water.

Anyhow, not finding any towns in the area currently named after elements, I was surprised to stumble upon some graffiti on the trash can across the street from my apartment building.

Chemistry Graffiti

Chemistry Graffiti

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Periodic Tables Galore

As I was scrolling through boing boing today, I came across a familiar face – the Periodic Table of the Elephants elephant, which hangs out here at the ACS building in Washington. Now, we’ve chronicled various periodic tables from beeriodic table t-shirts to a video periodic table to baked goods ones, but Mark Leach has taken the chronicling to a whole new level with the Internet Database of Periodic Tables. Take a gander at his extensive collection of periodic tables, great and small (including said elephant).

(Hat tip to

Maggie Koerth-Baker at boing boing)

Photo credit: C&EN