Amusing News Aliquots
Dec08

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news. Welcome to the periodic table, livermorium and flerovium. You both sound delicious. [Christian Science Monitor] Mundane objects owned by chemistry superstars – Royal Society’s archives include Dmitri Mendeleev’s business cards and Ernest Rutherford’s potato masher. [Guardian] The Grinch appears to be at work as “Once Upon A Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri” is cancelled this year. [Wisconsin State Journal] Peppermint mochas we can get with. Peppermint dance clubs? Not so much. [Discoblog] What to do when you’ve got a stockpile of explosives and no one to hurl them at? Why not use them to tenderize meat? [Guardian] Just 23 days left of the International Year of Chemistry. Check out these posters before the International Year of Something Else is upon us. [NY Times]...

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Chemists Get Down At #ACSAnaheim

‘Twas just before Sci-Mix, and all through Hall B, plenty of creatures were stirring, some of them dressed like a mouse called Minnie. Alright, alright … I need to work on my poetry skills. But you get the idea. Just before Sci-Mix kicked off tonight in Anaheim, chemists gathered in Hall B of the convention center to do the Chemistry Dance (Note that they did this BEFORE having beer at the poster session). Celebrating the International Year of Chemistry, chemists young and old congregated, practiced, and then performed a dance set to music by 2010 Chemistry Olympiad medalists Richard Li and Utsarga Sikder. The pair hopes video of the dance goes viral, showing people everywhere that chemists know how to boogie. I’m doing my part by posting some preliminary video of the performance here. My skillz with the flip cam aren’t that great, so I’ll update this post with video produced by the wizards at ACS’s Office of Public Affairs sometime tomorrow. If you watch all five minutes of the video, you’ll notice among the 100 or so dancers some familiar faces (ACS Board members, including Chair Bonnie Charpentier), some participants dressed in sparkly outfits, one person with some mouse ears (this is Anaheim, after all), and someone starting their child on an early path to science geekery. In addition, most participants had chemical elements pinned to their shirts; the line dance was set up to approximate a periodic table. Here’s just a sampling of the lyrics, so you all can sing along at home (I defy you not to get the chorus stuck in your head): “International year of chemistry– two thousand eleven We’re representing science — 24/7 We’ve got antimatter, fuel cells and a ton of Nobel Prizes Sustainable energy solves the problem as it arises” “Move to the left, now move to the right We’ll be doing the chemistry dance all through the night Now clap your hands, everybody let’s go We’ll be rocking it out to the chemistry show” Peace out. UPDATE: As promised, here is the official video of the Chemistry Dance from the Office of Public Affairs. Makes my humble video pale in...

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Merkel Launches IYC In Berlin
Feb09

Merkel Launches IYC In Berlin

Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron skipped the opening ceremonies for the International Year of Chemistry in Philly, Paris and London, but props go to Germany’s head of state, Angela Merkel–formerly a theoretical physicist/chemist herself–for showing up at the IYC shindig here in Berlin today. She said some things we’ve heard before, such as how chemists could help solve energy problems (with, say, nanotechnology) and how they already had (by developing energy efficient materials for improved housing insulation, for example). She also talked about Marie Curie as a role model, the promise of young scientists and the irony of the public’s not entirely positive perception of chemicals given that we’re all composed of them. But instead of rushing in and out, Merkel stayed around long enough to award three teams of very cute elementary students awards for a competition called Formula One. Effectively, the teams had to build a chemical battery and then race a home-made car for 20 meters. And again, instead of shaking everybody’s hand and moving along, she grabbed the moderator’s mic and started interviewing the kids about their projects. Pretty classy. Organizers chose the lovely Radialsystem as their IYC launching site. The red-brick water pumping station nestles the Spree River right at the border of the former East and West Berlin. It was renovated in 2006 into a space for the arts and renamed Radialsystem. There’s lots of dance and theater to be seen here, but the last time I stopped by was to listen to some guy’s brain (alpha) waves as he sat on stage with headphones, himself listening to a sequence of conversations which ranged from boring bureaucratic negotiations to presumably more interesting bedroom dialogues. This is also where Merkel spoke at the 2009 Falling Walls conference, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, where scientists gathered to discuss the “walls” that needed to fall in science to improve the world. After Merkel’s speech and the Formula One awards, there was another “let’s show off cute kids doing science to the audience” episode, which involved a bunch of eight-year-olds extracting dye from red cabbage–a doubly Deutsch activity given the country’s obsession with cooked red cabbage and their early dominance of synthetic dye chemistry. Apparently, getting a ticket to the opening was something of a challenge (although riff-raff journalists were welcome in the press section), and not unsurprisingly, a healthy dose of the German academic and industrial chemistry community were in the audience or on stage. It was actually all sometimes a bit surreal because the 350-strong audience was mostly middle-aged men in suits watching cute kids on stage while a Wellness Center musak soundtrack provided inspiration. Well, as they say here, Es lebe der Unterschied (Vive...

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