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Category → periodic tables

Musically Gifted & Geeky

Each year around the holidays, we here at Newscripts post a
list of potential gifts for all the science geeks out there. We cull our picks
from the Internetz as well as from fans who write in.

But one gift just came across the Newscripts desk that we
thought merited an early mention because we’d never considered scientifically
decorated musical instruments before.

Behold, the Atom Ukelele! This custom-made string instrument
is available on Etsy from artist celentanowoodworks. More important, the
website says: “If you can dream it, let’s
build it. The possibilities are endless when it comes to instrument building.
Why shouldn’t your instrument be as personal as the music you play?” Crown
ether ukelele, anyone?

And because everyone loves Tom Lehrer’s song, “The
Elements,” here’s a version sung by a 3 year old named Rose. Cute overload in a
good way, or cute overload in a bad way? It’s not for us to say. But we do know
that if this little virtuoso learned to play the Atom Ukelele, she’d be an
unstoppable force.

Periodic Table of QR Codes

I confess: I do not have a smartphone. My smartphonephobia occasionally makes me feel like an oddball, like when I’m waiting for a train or trying to text someone on my dumbphone, but lately I’ve begun to feel like I’m missing out on something.

The elemental videophiles at England’s University of Nottingham have just confirmed my fears. Smartphone users have access to a whole world of videos, thanks to little black and white boxes called QR codes. And the Nottingham chemists have now created an entire periodic table of  them. Check it out:

The Elements Go J-Pop

As we’ve said before, the Newscripts gang will use just about any excuse to post Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements.” Now, Theo Gray has given us a new one. To accompany the new Japanese edition of his “Elements” iPad app, Gray created a Japanese language version of Lehrer’s elemental tune.

As Gray told BoingBoing:

“I have a cousin, Thomas Howard Lichtenstein, who has lived in Osaka for the past 20 years making a living as a lounge singer at night and composer during the day. This turned out to be a remarkably useful fact when I decided that, based on the huge success of The Elements for iPad in Japan, I really wanted to record a translation into Japanese of Tom Lehrer’s elements song. (The entire rest of the ebook had been translated into Japanese: The only things left in English were the song and the spoken element names.)

“I asked my cousin if he could make it sound like a nauseatingly cute Japanese pop song. My exact words were ‘make me think of cats with big eyes.’ Which I think he has clearly achieved.

“I had planned to locate and hire some kind of B-list J-Pop idol to sing it, but he suggested his daughters give it a try, and they did a fantastic job. So the singers are in fact my twin 13-year-old, half-Japanese first cousins once removed. So there you have it, my contribution to increasing the world’s supply of WTF, one song at a time.”

Not only do we love this version’s perfectly odd popiness, but the Newscripts gang reckons Gray’s relatives could easily snag the roles of the tiny twin singing princesses should someone decide to remake Mothra vs. Godzilla


Instant Elements

The Newscripts gang will use pretty much any excuse to post “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer. This one features Google’s new instant search feature. Enjoy!

(Hat tip to David Bradley over at SciScoop)

A Toast To Tony

Chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff of the University of Nottingham and his colleagues came up with a brilliant idea a couple of years ago to prepare a series of videos about the elements of the periodic table. If you haven’t checked out the Periodic Table of Videos, you should because they provide a lot of great information delivered in a fun and exciting way. Even if you are a seasoned chemist, you will still learn stuff.

There are only so many elements, though, so Poliakoff and friends expanded the video series to include seasonal chemical videos such as ones about the Chinese New Year and Christmas, as well as videos describing the chemistry behind viagra, the Shroud of Turin, and the Nobel Prizes, among other miscellaneous items. The team also has created a set of videos called The Sixty Symbols that provide an explanation of “the letters and squiggles” used by physicists and astronomers in their scientific writings.

One of the latest videos produced by the Nottingham crew is different–it’s an online tribute. Poliakoff takes time out to eulogize Tony Judt, an acclaimed British historian and Poliakoff’s close lifelong friend who recently died. The video is less about chemistry and more about the joy of living and the joy of discovery, which are intangible elements you won’t find on the periodic table.

Slate And The Periodic Table

Image from Slate

Alert readers who visit or “like” C&EN’s Facebook page may have noticed an item posted a few weeks ago that pointed out Slate’s periodic table blog. This month, contributor Sam Kean has been writing some entertaining posts on the elements in conjunction with the release of his book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World From the Periodic Table of the Elements

.  In his introductory post, Kean says he’ll write about only 25 or so of the elements. Including today’s post (featuring cobalt), he’s written 17. So even though July is nearly over, that just means you have enough entries to occupy you while you wait for the next one. Happy reading!

A Comic-Book Fanboy’s Take on the Periodic Table

Earlier this week, a colleague sent me this comic-book take on the periodic table. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and yawn a little bit. After all, we here at C&EN have seen every manner of periodic table categorizing vegetables, fruits, beer, wine, and even text messages.

Credit: Chris Sims

However, this table doesn’t just put a superhero in each element slot; it seems a little different and worth noting for its sheer entertainment value. “The Elements of A Super-Hero,” as it is called, represents comic-book characters by categorizing their origins (for example, they are a scientist or mutant), physical powers (they can control the weather, have X-ray vision, or my favorite, their arms fall off), and mental abilities (they can perform telepathy). Each of these items has its own element slot. Thus, “Scientist” is Sc—element 8—and “X-ray Vision” is Vx—element 19.

So, as the table’s creator points out, Wolverine of the X-men can be represented as XWxHSn (X for mutant, Wx for claws, H for healing, and Sn for super-senses).

I thought this was worth pointing out because A) I, too, love superheroes, wanting desperately to be Wonder Woman when I was little, and B) the “Comments” that this table has received are both amazing and amusing.

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A Chemistry-Themed Book Launch

Credit: Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman

Credit: Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman

Credit: Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman

Credit: Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman

During the book launching party for Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman children’s book, “The Reinvention of Edison Thomas,” Houtman provided guests with cupcakes in the form of a periodic table.  But she took the nerdiness a few steps further than simply labeling cupcakes with elements. The sweets were flavored according to their chemical group; noble gases were lemon, lanthanides were chocolate mint, halogens were chocolate peanut butter, etc.

Houtman also made sure guests earned those extra calories, and required them to learn a little something about their element before chowing down.  For more information on Houtman’s book, visit her website.