Category → Chemical History
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)