Hey, ACS, Where’s My Comic Book?
Jun11

Hey, ACS, Where’s My Comic Book?

If you read this blog with any regularity (I know there’s at least one of you out there, two tops), you’ll remember a post I wrote awhile back bemoaning the lack of chemistry coloring books. I had just come across a supercool version about biology—filled with stem cells and neurons and viruses, oh my!—and was wondering what a chemistry version (perhaps produced by the American Chemical Society) might look like. Well, that coloring book still hasn’t materialized, and now I’m even more miffed: The physicists have comic books. And notice that I didn’t say “a” comic book. They have many of them. I spotted a few of these at the American Physical Society (APS) national meeting, held in Baltimore, back in March. One called “Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair” caught my eye, as well as a S-E-R-I-E-S of books about the original laser superhero Spectra (you know how it goes: She discovers her powers after a class on lasers and winds up being able to cut through metal and play CDs … just your typical teenage drama). These educational aids for middle school classrooms are distributed by APS. But I wouldn’t even say they’re just for middleschoolers. I read all the way through the story of Telsa: It brings to life the epic battle between himself and Thomas Edison over alternating current (AC) and direct current. I guess I never realized that the “War of the Currents” ended when Tesla successfully used AC to light the infamous World’s Fair in Chicago (where the Ferris Wheel also made its debut). Via the comic, I also discovered that Tesla had a fondness (perhaps a little too much fondness) for pigeons. So even I learned something! But it wasn’t until I received a press release about Stephen Hawking’s new comic book that I was pushed over the edge to write this post and point out this educational trend. “Stephen Hawking: Riddles of Time & Space” is produced by Washington-based Bluewater Productions. It chronicles the cosmologist’s life, including how he discovered that he had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his dispute with scientist Fred Hoyle over the Big Bang Theory. You can get your print copy of it here for $4.33. Folks making comic books about physics is by no means a bad trend. But I’m once again left wondering, “Where’s the chemistry equivalent?” We may not have Stephen Hawking or Nikola Tesla to brag about, but surely we’ve got someone who’s got an interesting story to relate to the general public? Organic chemist R.B. Woodward, in all his Mad-Men-esque glory? One of the many bearded chemists of yore?...

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In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem
Mar25

In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.  This week’s print Newscripts comes from Alex Scott, C&EN senior editor for Europe, who writes about the smells in his neck of the woods in “The French Stench, The English Pong, The Cheesy Norwegians.” He covers the sources of a sulfurous rotten-egg smell in coastal France, an unpleasant “pong” on a British beach, and noxious goat-cheese fumes in a Norwegian tunnel. “Chemistry is happening all around us,”  Scott says. “The stories this week show just how this can happen and how even the smell of benign chemicals in the environment can stop us in our tracks. You can even make money from some smells such as was the case with the discovery of ambergris.” (A Brit found some ambergris, the intestinal slurry of a sperm whale valued for perfume-making, on a beach). As for what he couldn’t fit into print, Scott says he wished he could’ve gone into more detail about just how rotten-egg-smelling mercaptan was accidently released from a Lubrizol plant in France. But hey, he’d love to tell the blogosphere more: “Rather than being produced as a final product, the mercaptan was generated incidentally during the production of an additive for a lubricant. The additive wasn’t cooled quickly enough in a reactor, and this led to a release of mercaptan. Normally this is avoided. Lubrizol’s problem was then that its air-scrubbing equipment was unable to reduce the mercaptan to the extremely low levels at which humans can detect it, hence the release.” Stay sniffin’, Alex....

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Harlem Shake ft. Tryptophan

Not to be confused with the real Harlem Shake dance moves of the 1980s, a Harlem Shake video meme quickly went viral last month. The gist: An individual starts to dance to electronic music producer Baauer’s song “Harlem Shake” for roughly 15 seconds before the beat pops and the video jump-cuts to a huge crowd of costumed companions who join in on the erratic dancing. The meme began in Australia, but quickly became popular across the globe, with the University of Georgia men’s swim team, some Norwegian army troops, and even a distressed clothes dryer posting their own Harlem Shake videos. And now, thanks to Pierre Morieux (@ChemDrawWizard), chemists have gotten in on the fun. His YouTube channel features a couple of ChemDraw video tutorials, followed by this bigger...

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Celebrating Pi: Don’t Try This at Home

Do you remember what you did on Pi Day last Thursday (3/14)? American Chemical Society (ACS) student affiliates from Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, took the opportunity to “pi” their professors (literally) and made a short video about it: And on a related note, if you think reading the digits in pi will take forever, check out this video of a man pronouncing the longest word in the world, which happens to be the chemical name of titin, the largest known protein. (Warning: you’ll need three and a half hours to get through this video, but as a reward, you get to watch this man’s beard...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Nov16

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford, Lauren Wolf, and Sophia Cai. Did you know there’s something called The Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis? Did you also know that it published a paper showing that transparent windows on envelopes don’t encourage people to respond to mail surveys more frequently? Sigh. [Improbable Research] Chemists get called out for naughty names. [Geeks Are Sexy] African students come up with a urine-powered generator. Yes, there are many jokes to be made here, but post-Sandy, they seem too soon. [The Register] Whey—it’s come a long way since Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet. [NPR] Use this tidbit to strike up conversation at your next party: Of all the people who ever lived, only 6.5% of them are alive now. Chicks will flock to you. [Huff Post] Stanford scientist says human intelligence peaked 2,000 years ago, and we’re all on a downhill slide from there. And on to the good news: There’s now a show on TV called “LOLwork.” [iO9] Alternative careers for PhDs in Malaysia. [Improbable...

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