Good Times in Philly
Aug25

Good Times in Philly

I always have mixed emotions leaving a national meeting. On the one hand, I had an absolute blast. I met interesting people, learned new things, and experienced a different city. But it’s also good to be home. Here are some of my favorite moments from the past week: This movie requires Flash Player 9 Music: “Miranda” by Stephen Duros. See you in Salt Lake...

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Blogger In The Press Room
Aug22

Blogger In The Press Room

For several years now both seasoned science writers trying their hand at new media and graduate students turned citizen journalists have been bringing their take on ACS meetings to the blogosphere. But until now, only bloggers working for a media outlet had been enjoying the perks of the press room. That all changed this week, when Mitch Andre Garcia, the tech savvy UC Berkeley grad student behind Chemical Forums and Chemistry Blog, was granted access to the journalists’ inner sanctuary. Mitch says his new media credentials haven’t changed the way he navigates the meeting, although he does appreciate the press room’s free coffee and Internet access. Charmayne Marsh of the ACS Communications Office says that the society is keen to get news from the ACS meeting to the public and that blogs are increasingly becoming a venue for science journalism. Bloggers who’d like to get credentials to the press room in Salt Lake City will be able to apply via the National Meeting Press Center, which goes online before the meeting. Just having some real estate in cyberspace won’t automatically get you a press badge, though. Charmayne says that before giving Mitch the stamp of approval, she had a look at the type of posts he writes and had a few e-mail exchanges with him. She says she found him to be extremely...

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Synthesizing A Sound
Aug21

Synthesizing A Sound

This time around, I came prepared for the joint Organic and Medicinal Divisions’ poster session/concert. In New Orleans, Organic Division Program Chair Scott Sieburth added the local sound (and local beer) to the poster session’s program. The result was a lively concert that had chemists sticking around the convention center much longer into the night than they might otherwise have planned. I had high expectations in Philadelphia (Sieburth is a professor at Temple University, which makes him a local), and I wasn’t disappointed. The musical selection was Boris Garcia, a band (not a solo performer) with bluegrass, jazz, rock, folk, Celtic, soul, and blues influences. They’re favorites at the World Cafe Live!, a popular Philly concert venue/restaurant/bar. Visit the band’s website to learn how Boris Garcia came together, acquiring members with widely varying styles along the way. I chatted with Gene Smith (vocals, harmonica, recorder, guitar) and Bud Burroughs (mandolin, bouzouki, button accordion, Hammond organ). Bud tells me he’s taken multiple college level chemistry courses. I told them my philosophy about this sort of event–I believe that some of the best collaborations start with a beer and some music. Gene agrees. “Maybe this concert can inspire a whole new generation of chemists,” he says. “We certainly need more chemists than we do folk musicians.” Were you at the poster session? Did you stay for the concert? What did you...

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Desirable Philly Addresses?
Aug21

Desirable Philly Addresses?

Spotted on a morning stroll. (Photo by Carmen Drahl/C&EN) Thanks to Beth Halford for pointing this one out. (Photo by Carmen...

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Olympic Dreaming From Philadelphia
Aug20

Olympic Dreaming From Philadelphia

Filed by Susan Ainsworth & Linda Wang This week, the ACS national meeting in Philadelphia is coinciding with the final week of the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing. So, it’s not surprising that the latest Olympic news has been a popular topic of conversation during the meeting’s breaks and social events. Associate Editor Linda Wang and I wandered the Expo Center on Tuesday, asking unsuspecting visitors to talk about their favorite Olympic events. We also asked them to tell us how they stay active and to identify the Olympic event they would choose to enter if given that chance. Marek Pazick, who is doing postgraduate research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, says he would choose to compete in one of the canoe slalom or covered kayak events. He says his aspirations are not rooted in any kind of paddling skill, but rather in the fact that athletes from his native Slovakia have garnered numerous medals in these sports—a source of pride for him. In the real world, Pazicky says he stays fit by boxing in local fight clubs in Scotland. While in Philadelphia, he has taken time to buy new Everlast boxing gloves for about $30, which is roughly half of the price he would pay in Scotland. Boxing gloves from Rocky’s hometown should be a fitting souvenir from this ACS meeting. If he could participate in the Olympic games, Al Padwa, professor of chemistry at Emory University, said he would enter any of the 200- to 1,000-meter track events. A serious runner for 50 years, the 70-year-old professor says that back problems have forced him to look to other forms of daily exercise, including biking or working out on an elliptical machine. Even more impressive is his commitment to high-altitude trekking. Most recently, he ventured into Western China in May and June. He sees a clear parallel between climbing at high altitudes and being a prolific research chemist. “Doing research and climbing at high altitudes both require a lot of strength and the perseverance to tackle many obstacles that get in the way,” says Padwa, who has about 700 publications to his credit. Jean Charles Digena, an ACS Project SEED student from East Orange High School in New Jersey, says she most enjoys watching the Olympic gymnastics competition. However, she admits that she has never competed in sports. Up to now, her life has been “all about the books,” she says. She sees a connection between Olympic excellence and success in chemistry, which she will study this fall at Essex County College. In both cases, she says, “you have to be serious about your...

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Gin And Juice With Harold McGee
Aug20

Gin And Juice With Harold McGee

I decided to pass up the lure of free beer at Monday night’s SciMix poster session and instead headed for the rarefied air of the 57th floor of Philly’s One Liberty Place. That’s where the ACS Communications Office feted author and curious cook Harold McGee (that’s him on the right), who won this year’s Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. Cocktails-wise, I clearly made the right decision. David Arnold (left), director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, was preparing drinks for the crowd of chemists and science writers. McGee described Arnold as “the expert on bubbles and pleasure” and the potables he and his assistant Mindy Nguyen served up certainly didn’t disappoint. Arnold wanted to demonstrate how the degree of carbonation affects the flavor of sparkling wines, so he served champagne that had been stripped of its carbon dioxide in a vacuum machine alongside champagne that had been recarbonated to 30 psi and 40 psi. Arnold noted that although a number of sparkling wine makers typically aim for 40 psi, that’s too much carbonation. California sparklers, he said, are notoriously overcarbonated. If you’ve got a bottle, Arnold suggests letting it go a little flat before drinking to dramatically improve the flavor. Arnold also served up water that had been gassed with nitrous oxide, which gave it a smoother, sweeter, creamier taste. A blend of 70% carbon dioxide and 30% nitrous oxide makes the tastiest sparkling water, according to the chef. When I asked Arnold if he had any plans to commercialize this special blend, he said that he’d certainly be interested. Arnold and Nguyen finished off the event with a sparkly gin and juice cocktail. The drink is made by mixing grapefruit juice with gelatin, freezing it, and then straining the liquid through cheesecloth. This clarification process removes the pith and bitterness from the juice leaving behind delicious grapefruit flavor. The juice is then mixed with gin and carbonated to create a deceptively potent potable. At the moment, there’s no bar that serves Arnold’s custom cocktails, but Nguyen suggested cocktail connoisseurs check out New York City’s Tailor restaurant, which serves up its own variety of interesting drinks. I suspect Arnold might be inclined to swap aperitifs for equipment. He gave a talk yesterday in which he discussed how he uses a modified rotovap to extract the flavor of habaneros from the wickedly spicy pepper’s heat. He currently employs a modified 1980s-era model that he bought on eBay, but if you’ve got something newer, the chef would be happy to take it off your hands. Perhaps he’ll even mix up a special...

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