Country of Discovery Periodic Table of the Elements
Jun24

Country of Discovery Periodic Table of the Elements

Admit it. You have a Periodic Table of the Elements shower curtain. Don’t you? Dmitri Mendeleev (and Julius Lothar Meyer, 1870) might have never predicted that his 1869 scientific tool would give rise not only to consumer products for the chemistry enthusiast but also a graphic visual adopted for all manner of non-scientific purposes: The Periodic Table of Beer Styles The Periodic Table of Drupal Modules The Periodic Table of Typefaces The Periodic Table of Islam …and, for balance, The Periodic Table of Atheists and Antitheists (yes, please add your own favorites in the comments below) Well, my morning coffee Twitter feed brought me a new version that’s 1) about actual chemistry and 2) useful for educational purposes. A story in this week’s Smithsonian.com Smart News displays the periodic table of the country of element discovery as constructed by Glaswegian chemistry PhD student, science communicator and dancer, Jaime B Gallagher (Twitter @JamieBGall). I’m reminded that the stories behind each element not only tell us history, but also how early chemists differentiated between the elements. While Gallagher tries to give credit to multiple countries for some of the discoveries, debate will undoubtedly ensue. This is is good thing. It’ll get folks talking about chemistry. Lithium, for example, was discovered by Swedish chemist Johan Arfwedson who liberated it from petalite ore, discovered by Brazilian Jose Bonifacio de Andrade de Silva while visiting the Swedish countryside. Swede Jans Jacob Berzelius named it lithos (for stone – think lithotrypsy). But it wasn’t isolated until the independent work of Sir Humphrey Davy in England and William Brande in Sweden. So while Gallagher is probably right to fully credit Sweden for lithium, one could make an argument that the UK flag should partially be at position 3. The story might also get us talking about modern uses of the elements. For example, a large deposit of lithium has just been discovered in Wyoming, a find that’s likely to put the States in a better spot as international demand for lithium grows rapidly. And while chest-thumping U.S. citizens might want to boast international superiority, we’re only tied for third (or fourth…with France!) for the discovery of 17 elements. The UK is tops with 23 followed by Sweden and Germany with 19 each. Have fun looking at this table and consider using it in your science and public education efforts. There’s something here for everyone. And before my graphic designer relatives chime in, yes, Jaime should have enlisted the help of a professional illustrator for color and typeface choices. But, hey, he’s already done the content legwork.  ...

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Watch Twitter on Saturday for #Chemophobia
Feb01

Watch Twitter on Saturday for #Chemophobia

This week, the Research Triangle area is hosting ScienceOnline2013, an international science communications unconference that draws Pulitzer Prize-winning science writers, big media, graduate students, new media, science teachers, old media – pretty much anyone who’s involved in communicating science to diverse audiences via digital media. The gathering began as the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference in 2007 (and probably before that) and has grown to be a highly-competitive ticket for 450 attendees. So popular are the conversations there that “watch parties” are being held in cities worldwide – London, Paris, Adelaide, Denver, Dublin, Belgrade, and others. But the conversation can also be easily accessed via Twitter by following the hashtag #scio13. I’d love to draw the C&EN and CENtral Science crowd to a superb session that will be held Saturday, 2 February, with our own Dr. Carmen Drahl and chemistry professor/former ACS intern Dr. Rubidium on chemophobia: the public aversion to anything that carries the label of “chemical.” Here’s the description from the unconference wiki for tomorrow’s 10:30 am EST session: Description: In today’s advertising and pop culture, words like “chemical”, “synthetic” and “artificial” are synonyms for harmful, toxic and carcinogenic, while words like “natural” and “organic” imply a product is wholesome and good for the environment. This widespread misconception colors public perceptions of chemistry and its role in the modern world. Chemophobia may not be as direct a threat to our future as, say, climate change denialism or the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but it clouds public understanding of real and very important issues we face (e.g., how to boost agricultural productivity) and plays into the hands of quacks and cranks. How can bloggers and the media effectively combat chemophobia? How much chemistry does the public need to know to be well-informed and make good decisions, and what’s the most effective avenue for disseminating that kind of information? Proposed session hashtag: #chemophobia Over the past year, several folks in the blogosphere and chemistry education realm have been providing folks like Carmen, DrR, and author Deborah Blum with examples of chemicals being portrayed as “bad.” Yet, each of us are a glorious bag of chemicals (thankfully). Where does the negative perception arise and how can we in chemistry-related fields better communicate with the public? Carmen and DrRubidium have asked us to follow the #chemophobia hashtag on Saturday 10:30-11:30 am EST. Here’s a world clock so you can plan when to follow the discussion on Twitter....

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Lefkowitz IndyWeek Outtakes
Jan10

Lefkowitz IndyWeek Outtakes

I was fortunate to be able to tell the story of Duke University biochemist and cardiologist Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz in the 9 January 2013 issue of the Research Triangle’s award-winning alt-weekly, INDY Week. Even with editor Lisa Sorg graciously offering 3,000+ words for the story on one of the 2012 Nobel laureates in chemistry, some terrific bits of my interviews with Bob and major players in his story didn’t make it into the final version. Over the next few days, I’ll post some of these gems. This page will index the running list of those posts. The Nobel’s Great, But Take a Look at This! – Lefkowitz reveals where Duke men’s basketball sits in his list of priorities...

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Helping Schools Hit By Sandy
Nov05

Helping Schools Hit By Sandy

Terra Sig’s Post-Sandy Science Drive During the month of October, I had usually participated in a science blog drive to raise funds for public school teachers through a superb, New York-based charitable organization called DonorsChoose.com. For those not familiar, the non-profit was the brainstorm of Charles Best was a Bronx high school history teacher who, like many others, spent a considerable amount of his personal funds on resources and supplies for his students. Best came up with an idea for an online giving site where teachers could match specific projects to parents and other external donors — “where anyone with $5 can become a philanthropist.” The entire story is here but DonorsChoose has been a remarkable success. Many science bloggers became involved with DonorsChoose as far back as 2006 due to the efforts of physical chemist, philosopher, and science ethicist Dr. Janet Stemwedel. While we were at ScienceBlogs.com, Janet corralled the entire network and then other blogging networks into a month-long challenge where we asked our readers to spare a few doubloons for projects we thought would appeal to our audience. Most of us focused on promoting science projects, of course. But I became acutely aware of the poverty of school systems barely 50 miles from where I live (one city had 34% of the population living below the US poverty line, currently defined as an annual income of less that $23,050 for a family of four). Some teachers simply needed pencils and paper for their students. Seriously. How can you get to science education if your school district lacks the funds to purchase basic supplies? You can simply rely on parents who are struggling to merely feed their families. So, I listed many of these efforts together with some of the more creative science projects. Well, Terra Sig readers blew me away the very first month. Although the blog ranked in the bottom 75th percentile of readership, we ranked #1 in dollars given per 1,000 unique visits. Yes, we have quality readers — generous and good-looking. I got tied up with other things this October and didn’t have a dedicated giving page. But various science blogging factions are once again part of a friendly competition called, well, Science Bloggers for Students. While originally intended to finish last week, Janet and other science bloggers like Gerty-Z are extending their drives to focus specifically on supporting projects at schools hit hard by last week’s tremendous storm. Even better is that DonorsChoose is extending their 100% match — yes, your donation has twice the impact! Just enter SCIENCE when prompted for the gift/match code. These blogs at CENtral Science get a...

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Elion-Hitchings Building Tour: A Storify
Oct22

Elion-Hitchings Building Tour: A Storify

As discussed in my post last week, I had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the old Burroughs-Wellcome US headquarters building in Research Triangle Park, NC. Designed in 1969 by architect Paul Rudolph, the building was completed in 1972. The building became known as the Elion-Hitchings Building after BW scientists Trudy Elion and George Hitchings shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicinewith Sir James Black.The building was acquired by Glaxo when they merged with Wellcome in 1995 (Glaxo had built its US headquarters in RTP in 1983, just north of the BW property.). Now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company began liquidating buildings and consumer products over the last two years. When they announced their intent to sell the Elion-Hitchings Building in April, 2011, I suggested that someone purchase it to fashion into hipster condominiums. My hopes were dashed when United Therapeutics purchased it and two other buildings for $17.5 million in late June of this year. United Therapeutics has a 55-acre lot adjacent to the GSK property where they’ve constructed a new headquarters building of their own. What follows is a Storify compilation of my tweets from Saturday with photos that I sent out. I’ll post other photos later. Triangle folks: You can still come to tour the Elion-Hitchings Bldg in RTP today 9:00 – 12:40 for $15 at door http://bit.ly/T5YrxE David Kroll Sat, Oct 20 2012 05:15:07 ReplyRetweetFavorite Just arrived at former GSK-held Elion-Hitchings Bldg, now owned by United Therapeutics. http://pic.twitter.com/qOiH8kf7 David Kroll Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:34:40 ReplyRetweetFavorite @davidkroll It looks like the building is held up by giant lab jacks Matthew Hartings Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:11:50 ReplyRetweetFavorite You can’t erase the GSK. Logo outline on frosted glass. #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/RiJPqN3a David Kroll Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:46:47 ReplyRetweetFavorite I wonder if GSK was still paying these 1996-97 wages? #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/okKeIVAU David Kroll Sat, Oct 20 2012 06:52:55 ReplyRetweetFavorite This was the view for the executive secretarial pool. RTP requires that 40% of lots remain wooded #elionhitchings http://pic.twitter.com/YGGT75i4 David Kroll Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:12:27 ReplyRetweetFavorite @davidkroll Very cool! Didn’t know that stat! Stephanie Beck Sat, Oct 20 2012 07:36:12 ReplyRetweetFavorite Since Stephanie is a news producer for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, I thought I should do some fact-checking and find the source for this factoid once I got home. Turns out that I was wrong — I underestimated the wooded requirement.According to RTP’s Land Management plan, the built-up area of each lot is limited to 30%, leaving much more of the pine forest than I had originally cited. The #elionhitchings patio where Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood appeared in “Brainstorm”; Burroughs-Wellcome then http://pic.twitter.com/AO67RfIK David Kroll Sat,...

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Burroughs-Wellcome Elion-Hitchings Building Open for Public Tours October 20th Only
Oct18

Burroughs-Wellcome Elion-Hitchings Building Open for Public Tours October 20th Only

I’m not an architect but I absolutely love quirky and creative buildings. During the eight years I lived in the foothills outside of Denver, I passed the clamshell-shaped home featured in Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, “Sleeper” – yes, the home with the Orgasmatron (a prop made from a cylindrical door like those used for research darkrooms). For you youngsters who may not know what I’m talking about, here’s a two-minute movie clip that’s probably safe for work. Well, from that era is another futuristic building designed by Paul Rudolph and completed in 1971 — then known as the Burroughs-Wellcome Headquarters Building in Research Triangle Park. The building has survived mergers and acquisitions as BW became Glaxo Wellcome and then GlaxoSmithKline and was recently sold to United Therapeutics. Like the “Sleeper” house in Colorado, the structure was featured cinematically in the 1983 movie “Brainstorm” with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood. Now known as the Elion-Hitchings Building in honor of BW’s 1988 Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine*, the building will be open to the public this weekend for the first time in decades, with thanks to the new owners. Since United Therapeutics is currently renovating the interior, the building will be empty but visitors will be welcome to take photographs. The event is sponsored by Triangle Modernist Houses and, at the time of this post, tickets ($9.95 each) are still available for all times this Saturday morning, October 20. For more background on the building and details on purchasing tickets: go to this page for Triangle Modernist Houses. I hope to see you on Saturday! *The 1988 Nobel to Trudy Elion, George Hitchings, and Sir James Black is one that very easily could have been justified as a chemistry Nobel. UPDATE 19 October, 7:30 pm EDT: I have three extra tickets for the 12:15 pm tour. I’ll give them away (yes, FREE – $9.95 face value) either as a pair and a single, or all three, to the first one or two people to leave a comment below that answers a question I posted on Twitter. Be sure to put your real email address so I can send you my receipt and instructions to pick up your tickets. The tickets have been given away – thank you for...

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