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Can You Compete With A Chemistry Olympian?

A lot of the world may be gearing up for the Summer Olympics in London. But this week in Maryland (just a relatively hop, skip, and jump away from C&EN headquarters) high school students from 72 nations are competing in the extremely challenging International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). The students have been preparing for months for the event by studying a book of preparatory problems. See how challenging the questions are for yourself. Each day this week, we’ll post a new question from that book. Let us know how you do!

If you want to see even more questions, check out the pop quiz in our July 16th cover package about IChO.

Monday’s question (left) and answer (right):



Tuesday’s question and answer:


Wednesday’s question and answer:


Thursday’s question and answer:


Friday’s question and answer:


Good luck!

A Sneak Peek Of C&EN’s Next Issue

Because who doesn’t enjoy a rousing round of Where’s Beaker on an April 1st that falls on a post-national meeting Friday?

Cocktails, Dinner, and Chemistry

Posted on behalf of senior correspondent Marc Reisch.

Leading in to the U.S. kickoff of the International Year of Chemistry last night, about 175 chemical industry movers and shakers gathered at the Philadelphia headquarters of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF). At his remarks just before dinner, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris got it right when he noted that lauding the benefits of chemistry to an audience including leaders in science and industry was like preaching to the converted.

And what an audience it was. Among the industry leaders present were Pierre Brondeau, CEO of FMC, Stephanie Burns, chairman of Dow Corning, and Craig Rogerson, chairman of Chemtura. Others at the dinner to welcome in the year of chemistry included Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, and Nancy Jackson, president of ACS. Even the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael A. Nutter, made an appearance and professed his enthusiasm for chemistry, though he confessed that the effort to memorize the periodic table of elements in college pretty much ended his pre-med career path.

Earlier in the evening, guests were able to enjoy cocktails and meander about the spacious CHF building and its many science exhibits. They could also choose from among several lectures. One, by Washington Post columnist Jason Wilson, was a talk on the history of the once banned alcoholic beverage absinthe. Johns Hopkins University professor Lawrence Principe, discussed 16th and 17th century European books intended to make alchemy a respectable pursuit.

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Reel Science Reviews Tron: Legacy

This review is by guest contributor Jovana J. Grbić, Ph.D., the creative director of ScriptPhD.com, which covers science in entertainment and media, and who tweets as @ScriptPhD.

poster It has been 28 years since the release of the groundbreaking science-fiction adventure “Tron,” the story of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), a video-game programmer who gets sucked into the virtual grid of the very game he created, only to disappear forever. Flash-forward to a 27-year-old Sam Flynn (Hedlund): reckless, bored, apathetic, but a regular chip off the old techie block—a geeky rebel without a cause.

Encom, the developer of the Tron video game, has now become a software hegemony—think Atari meets Apple—and has strayed far from Kevin’s principle that software should be open to all. After sabotaging the company’s grand operating software launch, Sam is visited by his father’s old partner, Alan Bradley (Boxleitner), who has never given up on Kevin.

Alan tells Sam that he’s received a mysterious page from Kevin and begs him to go to the old arcade that he frequented as a kid. There, Sam discovers his dad’s secret underground office and the portal that transports him to the digital grid of Tron, far different now from the utopia his father envisioned.

Sam is first grouped with other deficient “programs” for inspection, outfitted with a sleek gamer’s costume and disc (half memory-storage device, half weapon), and thrust into a world of brutal gladiator games where the only goal is survival and the rules change with each treacherous level. His father’s avatar, known as Clu, is no longer the brave warrior and digital replica of Kevin. He is a brutal overlord who committed virtual genocide, hacked the program, and has ultimate plans to teleport to Earth to be with humankind.

Sam is rescued from the grid by Quorra (Wilde), an advanced program not initially designed to go off the grid, as well as a self-evolved isometric being or “iso,” which is an entirely new life form—the last surviving one. When reunited with Sam, Kevin recounts getting trapped in the grid after a violent overthrow by Clu and his partner, Tron. In addition to bringing about genocide against the isos, closing the portal to the outside world, they stole Kevin’s original disc for their nefarious purposes. With the help of Quorra and Sam, Kevin has only eight hours to overthrow Clu’s digital army before the portal closes again … forever.

“Tron: Legacy” largely has the feel of a two-hour interactive video game, aided both by the color-coded costumes and a catchy, techno-pop soundtrack by Daft Punk. Sci-fi fans, geeks, and gamers will be able to feast on astounding visual mastery, life-size video games played out before their eyes, and science-fiction/fantasy existentialism staple questions such as Who are we? What is humanity? What are the limits of technology and what we create?.

With self-aware robots being developed, digital teleportation a looming advancement, and Internet growth set to double every five years, the concepts explored in the movie are a thoughtful commentary on our own age of digital reliance and scientific future. Without upstaging the original, “Tron: Legacy” manages a sleek, stylish, fun sequel utterly germane to the times we live in.

2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Behold, for the 2010 CENtral Science Holiday Gift Guide for the chemist in your life has arrived. Granted, we’re a touch late for Chanukah this year (unless you’re a last-minute shopper), but take advantage of that 8-day grace period, folks. We’ve got some good stuff here. And feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments or check out last year’s gift guide.

Pics Of The Week

It’s been a while since we highlighted some of the gorgeous pics from our photo contest. So this Thanksgiving week, we’re offering up our honorable mentions for a visual feast.

In the Natural Polymers & Photonics Laboratory at Drexel University, researchers convert polysaccharides into nanofibers and thin films for use water purification and other applications. In Marjorie S. Austero's experiment, adding excess cross-linker to chitosan yielded the fine-fibered material seen in the colored SEM image.

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Photo Finish

First of all, a huge “Thank you!” to all who entered C&EN’s inaugural photo contest. We launched the photo contest on Flickr with the goal of creating a pool of chemistry images that anyone could benefit from (hence the Creative Commons requirement). I was excited when we had 50 entries. Then we had over 100. The final tally–235.  I’m absolutely thrilled by the enthusiastic response we received in the number and variety of submissions. So many of you truly have an appreciation for the art in your work. I hope people continue to contribute to the pool and submit entries to our future contests.

And now, without further ado, the envelope, please…

First place, and the winner of $250, is Jennifer Atchison’s SEM image of silicon nanocones:

Second Place ($150 prize): Robert D’Ordine’s water vortex:

And Third Place ($50 prize): Ryan O’Donnell’s colorful birefringence pattern:

Read more about these images and check out the honorable mentions on C&EN Online. All will be appearing in the November 1 issue of C&EN.

Photo Contest Plea

We’re getting super close to announcing the winners of the inaugural C&EN Photo Contest. Granted, we were supposed to be publishing the winning photos in this week’s issue (10/18), but we’ve had a wee bit of trouble notifying some of the finalists. Publication has been pushed back to the November 1st issue, but we’ll announce the winners online as soon as we can (hopefully this week). If you entered the contest, please check your Flickrmail TODAY to see if your photo was selected. If you don’t reply, we’ll have to give your slot to someone else. And that would just be a shame.

If you didn’t enter the contest, visit our Flickr group to see the entries. (Slight Flickr glitch: you’ll need to join the group in order to view all of the more than 230 submissions.)

Gearing Up For Nobel Week

Nobel Week will soon be upon us. Whilst you wait, here’s a round up of predictions:


Thomson Reuters

In the Pipeline

The Curious Wavefunction

Everyday Scientist

NNNS Chemistry Blog

The Simpsons

And some other interesting items to keep you entertained:

Contests, Quizzes, and ROFLs

We’ve been woefully quiet here on Newscripts of late, so here’s a roundup of items of interest to help disturb the inertia:

First of all, chemistry shutterbugs will want to get their submissions in for C&EN’s inaugural photo contest pronto. Entries are due by September 30 (that’s a mere two weeks away, folks). Cash prizes are to be had–first place collects a cool $250, second gets $150, and third, $50–and winning photos and other favorites will be printed in the magazine’s October 18th issue (hey, National Chemistry Week!).

We’re collecting submissions on the C&EN Flickr group because 1) it’s super easy, and 2) the idea behind this contest and future ones is to create a pool of chemistry images for all the world to see. Participants are even encouraged (see, it’s in the rules) to submit their photos under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License so that we’re not the only ones who get to benefit from such a fine collection.

Video contest buffs may prefer to enter the newest NanoTube video contest, “What is Nano? Part II.” Submissions are due by November 5 and the grand prize lands $500. Perhaps there’ll be a sequel to the original “What is Nano?” contest winner, the catchy “The Nano Song”:

Speaking of prizes, Nobel Week will soon be upon us. Why not test your Nobels knowledge with a quiz from the recently resurrected ChemBark: Can you name all of the Nobel laureates in chemistry?

And now for something completely different and irreverent, be sure to check out the TOC ROFL tumblr page, a collection of, um, noteworthy images appearing on the table of contents of various journals. You’ll laugh, you’ll groan, perhaps you’ll even cry. But you will return to see more.