Category → Chemical History
By 1992, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved, and the entire world’s political, economic, and military alliances were in the throes of transformation. But you could forgive officials at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) if they didn’t notice much of a difference.
At the time, they were still embroiled in a very Cold War-era standoff. At issue was one of the biggest prizes in the field of chemistry– naming rights for new elements in the periodic table. In the 1960s, American and Russian laboratories both laid claim to the discoveries of elements 104 and 105. And IUPAC had to play the role of arbiter. It took until 1997 to sort out the squabble, and along the way, several other new elements got dragged into the controversy, which some nuclear chemists dubbed the Transfermium Wars.
In the end, the Americans got their way on element 104, which was officially named Rutherfordium, in honor of British chemist and physicist Ernest Rutherford. Element 105, Dubnium, is named for the Russian town of Dubna. Belying the decades-long conflict, IUPAC explained its decision in rather understated terms:
Alan Alda, the actor and author, has added another credential to his CV: science playwright. Tonight his first play, “Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie,” is being read as part of the opening night festivities of the World Science Festival at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. The play focuses on the eight years of Curie’s life between winning her Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and her Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. Actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Liev Schreiber, David Morse, Bill Camp, Allison Janney, and Mireille Enos are among those lending their talents to this evening’s reading.
“I’ve worked hard to make the science in Radiance as accurate as possible, and I’m always grateful when a scientist can help me make it even clearer,” says Alda in a Q&A over at DOE’s Energy Blog. “But I try not to have a single line of science (or anything else) in the play that isn’t dramatic, moving the story forward by having a character actively trying to achieve his or her objective.”
If any Newscripts readers are planning to check out tonight’s event, we’d love to hear what you think. The tickets, which start at $250, were out of the Newscripts gang’s budget.
Happy Chinese New Year! Or Gong Xi Fa Chai (if, like me, you speak Mandarin), or Gong Hey Fat Choy (if you speak Cantonese).
People who are born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to be mild and generous, gracious and dignified. They are noted for their compassion and strong sense of sympathy. They are also alert and persevering, making for good work and life companions.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit arrives every 12 years: 1831, 1843, 1855, 1867, 1879, 1891, 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 199, and, of course, 2011.
Chemistry Nobel Laureates who were born in the Year of the Rabbit include:
Ada E. Yonath (b. 1939)
Yonath shared the 2009 Chemistry Nobel with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz for their studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.
Alan G. MacDiarmid (1927–2007)
MacDiarmid shared the 2000 prize with Alan Heeger for their discovery and development of conductive polymers.
Sir Harold W. Kroto (b. 1939)
Kroto shared the 1996 prize with Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes. Continue reading →
Watching Heck’s lecture, I felt transported to an earlier time- the tone of the talk, the setup of the slides, all made me think about how different things must’ve been pre-Powerpoint, pre-ChemDraw.
10:40- On seeing a picture of a young Heck on a slide: “I don’t know where this picture came from..”
11:05- On Hercules Chemical Company, in the acknowledgements: “It’s no longer in existence, but I had nothing to do with that.”
“As it happens, there are an estimated 100,000 murderers in this country who got away with it in the past 30 years,” said Michael Capuzzo when quoting world-renowned forensic psychologist Richard Walter. “And they’re walking around free.”
Capuzzo, author of the new book “The Murder Room,” was speaking at ACS’s Division of Chemical Information (CINF) luncheon on Tuesday at the national meeting. The book, released on Aug. 10, follows the Vidocq Society, an exclusive crime-solving organization that meets on the third Thursday of each month in Philadelphia.
Walter and the other modern-day sleuths who belong to Vidocq are “like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” Capuzzo said. “Most of them come from the U.S.” but also Interpol, Scotland Yard, and other agencies, he added. They are forensic chemists, polygraph experts, and ex-FBI agents. And they solve cold-case homicides over lunch.
“They have four courses and a headless corpse for dessert,” Capuzzo joked. Police officers or detectives present cases to them, and the detectives offer suggestions. Sometimes, they will even form a small investigative group of their own to pursue the case further. And it’s not unheard of for them to discuss cannibalism and other disagreeable subjects during their sessions.
“They’re just so authentic,” Capuzzo said. “They’re great detectives. They care deeply.” And they use words and phrases such as “chap,” “gobsmacked,” and “my dear boy.” “They’re not these tough guys on CSI going around with the latest technology,” Capuzzo said.
Before July bids us adieu, I thought it might be fun to list some of the notable events this month in chemical history (after the jump). This list is by no means comprehensive. For more historical tidbits, visit Dr. Leopold May’s Chemistry Calendar and ACS’s This Week in Chemical History (there are lots of other sites, too, that I’ll mention in a posting next month.)
Remember Shimmer? The combination floor wax/dessert topping dreamed up by Saturday Night Live and made real by NYU chemistry professor Kent Kirshenbaum and pastry chef Will Goldfarb? Well, it turns out that the ancient Chinese may have had their own wacky combination of home maintenance item/dessert staple–sticky rice.
A new paper in Accounts of Chemical Research reports that glutinous or sticky rice is a key component of the mortar in Nanjing’s 600-year-old city wall. Researchers led by Bingjian Zhang of China’s Zhejiang University detected the presence of amylopectin–a carbohydrate found in the rice–in chemical and instrumental analyses of the wall’s mortar. They believe that Chinese masons working as far back as 1,500 years ago combined slaked lime with sticky rice soup to make the mortar and the argue that the same brew is best for repairing ancient structures. They even test different lime-sticky rice soup recipes to see which is best.
Sadly, there’s no mention of sweet mango in the mix.
Johan Gadolin was born on this date in 1760. And why care about Johan Gadolin, you ask? In 1794,the Finnish chemist discovered yttrium, the first known rare earth element.
(Hat tip to Dr. Leopold May at The Catholic University of America)