Chemists Can Break It Down
Oct24

Chemists Can Break It Down

After losing out to physicists last year, chemists have stepped it up to win the 2012 Dance Your Ph.D. contest, organized by Science magazine. More specifically, Peter Liddicoat, a materials scientist at the University of Sydney, in Australia, won with his dance rendition of the chemical nanostructure of aerospace aluminum alloys. "The dance describes the classic engineering problem of combining lightness and strength and how it could be solved using atom scale microscopy to produce a super-alloy," explains Liddicoat, who played "The Scientist" in the circus-style silent movie. Dancers embodying lightness and strength transform into a super-alloy--a lightweight aluminum alloy with the strength of heavy steel, whose crystal lattice structure is represented in a group dance number. "We've had an amazing response," Liddicoat says. "My favorite part of the movie is where I pull out the baby-sized microscope to study a juggling ball--that, and spinning the rainbow umbrella." See for yourself: To create the winning performance, Liddicoat enlisted the talents of his lab colleagues: choreographing, juggling, clowning, and, of course, dancing. Because it was such a team effort, Liddicoat says he felt uncomfortable receiving the $1,000 prize money. So he and the team decided to put it toward their newly launched Biomedical Atom Microscope project. This crowd-funding "experiment"--much like sites devoted to raising money to build a Tesla Science Center or an e-paper watch--was inspired by the science-funding problems that exist around the world. "Crowd funding has just started hitting million-dollar projects, and in a few years, it will be as common knowledge as Youtube and Facebook," Liddicoat predicts. "High-impact science is yet to really try it out, so my project is itself an experiment!"   Check out our Newscripts about crowd funding for the Tesla Science Center here....

Read More
Science-y Contests: Put On Your Dancing Shoes & Take A Lucky Guess
Sep18

Science-y Contests: Put On Your Dancing Shoes & Take A Lucky Guess

Two contests are afoot that chemists—particularly grad students—shouldn’t miss. Why? Well, there’s the eternal glory that comes with being victorious. But there’s also some cash and an iPad in it for the winners. And let’s face it, grad students can use all the free cash and prizes they can get. Contest 1: Dance Your Ph.D. Newscripts publicized this competition, sponsored by AAAS, earlier this year. The deadline is fast approaching. If you want to enter, you need to translate your Ph.D. project into a dance by October 1. There are four categories into which twinkle-toed grad students can place their submissions: chemistry, physics, biology, and social sciences. The top entry in each category gets $500. But that’s not all! The overall winner gets another $500 as well as travel and accomodation to attend TEDxBrussels, in Belgium, on Nov. 12. There, the danciest dancer—the Gene Kelly of Ph.D.s, if you will--will be crowned for all to see. The Newscripts gang would like to see chemists once again take the top prize, proving without a doubt that the central science is where it’s at, so get your submissions in soon! Contest 2: 70 Millionth Substance Contest According to the counter here, Chemical Abstracts Service--the division of the American Chemical Society that finds, collects, and organizes chemical information--has now entered more than 68,447,000 substances in its registry. To celebrate the day when the organization will add its 70 millionth chemical substance to the database, CAS is holding a little guessing competition. The division thinks the organic or inorganic entity in question will be registered either at the end of this year or early next year. Your job is to predict the date and time the lucky substance gets added. Prizes vary depending on when you submit your answer, but you could potentially win an iPad, Nook, or Kindle Fire. If the precise date and time isn’t guessed correctly, CAS goes into “The Price Is Right” mode and gives the award to the guess closest to the date and time the substance was added without going over. Take a look at the rules for entry here. And study them closely, Daniel-san. You MUST put your guess into the contest form by Nov. 16 or by the time the counter reaches 69.8 million substances—whichever comes first. CAS’s registry hit 50 million back on Sept. 7, 2009. You can read about that milestone here.   Do us proud, Newscripters. And if you win, do let us know (we’ll only take a little bit of the...

Read More
“Dirty Pictures” Giveaway
Aug20

“Dirty Pictures” Giveaway

I'm not sure what type of spam the title of this post is going to attract, but I thought it might also catch the eyes of folks who might otherwise skip over offerings from the Newscripts gang (who are not, by the way, the subject of the titular pictures). You might not be aware of it, but one little online corner of C&EN, known as Reel Science, is devoted to spurring discussion of how science is presented in film. Reel Science reviews new movies coming out in theaters and also recommends science-y films out on DVD. Jovana Grbić, a contributing editor for Reel Science, recently filed a recommendation for the documentary "Dirty Pictures" about psychedelics maker and garage chemist Alexander Shulgin. She suggested that we give away the screener copy she watched to review the film. So we came up with a little contest to decide who gets the screener. Reel Science has gotten woefully behind on Recommendations. You can see from the list here that there was a two-year gap between our last recommendation and "Dirty Pictures." So here's the contest: Suggest a film for us to recommend in the comments. Science doesn't have to be its main focus, but the flick should have some relevance to science or scientists; it can even be sci-fi. Also, the movie should be something we haven't already reviewed or recommended, and we should be able to get the film via Netflix or some other easy-to-access (and inexpensive) source. I'll select a winner by the end of the week and write up a recommendation of the person's suggested film (not by the end of the week, but sometime soon). We have only one screener, but we may still recommend other films from the suggestions, so you'd win our thanks, which is good too, right? UPDATE: Thanks to the folks who wrote in. I loved all of your suggestions, but we've only got one DVD, and that goes to Chemjobber. I can't believe we haven't already recommended "Lorenzo's Oil." I look forward to watching it and writing it...

Read More
That’s A Wrap For The 44th International Chemistry Olympiad
Aug06

That’s A Wrap For The 44th International Chemistry Olympiad

The 44th International Chemistry Olympiad concluded a week ago today, and it was truly an amazing experience! The team from South Korea won four golds, the most of any country during this year's competition. The U.S. team earned a gold and three silver medals. For more highlights, see C&EN's news article in this week's issue. Congratulations to everyone who earned medals, but like ACS president-elect Marinda Li Wu said to the students during the closing ceremony: "No matter whether you bring home a medal or not, you will all carry back some precious memories that should last a lifetime. Furthermore, you made some personal connections and bonds this week that will become part of your own valuable network. Maintaining and continuing to build that network can help you succeed no matter what your ultimate career and profession." With that said, let's take a look back and see how much fun the students had during their stay in the nation's...

Read More
Competition and Camaraderie at #IChO2012
Jul26

Competition and Camaraderie at #IChO2012

Today, students competing in the International Chemistry Olympiad are taking a five-hour theoretical exam, which counts toward 60% of their total score. Check out Newscripts' blog post from July 24 for some sample questions and see whether you can compete with a chemistry olympian. While the students are hard at work, let's take a look at some of the camaraderie they've enjoyed over the past few days: Students held up their country flags at the Opening Ceremony on Sunday. Credit: Peter Cutts Photography Even a bus ride can be entertaining! Credit: Peter Cutts Photography A group of students pose in front of an exhibit at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Credit: Peter Cutts Photography During a trip to Annapolis, Md., on Monday, a guide tells students about Maryland's blue crabs. Credit: Peter Cutts Photography After touring NASA's Space Flight Center, students were treated to a boat cruise in Annapolis. Credit: Peter Cutts Photography Slovenian students express their joy after completing the five-hour lab practical on Tuesday. Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri demonstrates the properties of moving air to students during a presentation on Tuesday evening. Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN U.S. participant Jason Ge and his teammates react to one of Shakhashiri's demonstrations. Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN On Wednesday, after touring the monuments around Washington, D.C., students gathered in front of the Capitol Building for a group photo. Credit: Peter Cutts Photography Check out the Catalyzer, the daily newsletter of the International Chemistry Olympiad, for more photos and interesting tidbits from the...

Read More
Flame Challenge Winner Announced
Jun04

Flame Challenge Winner Announced

Today’s post is by Emily Bones, an assistant production editor and Newscripts contributor here at C&EN. In March, actor and science advocate Alan Alda, along with the Center for Communicating Science (CCS), a division of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, challenged the world to answer a seemingly simple question: “What is a flame?” Submissions, which were varied from prose writing to video to illustration, were due April 2. A total of 822 entries were received. It took two months for an expert panel of scientists and 11-year-olds from around the world to thoroughly review entries and select the best one. And the winner, announced before the “Cool Jobs” session at the World Science Festival in New York City on Saturday, is Ben Ames, a Missouri native working on his Ph.D. in quantum optics at the University of Innsbruck, in Austria. His entry is an animated video that defines flame-related terms and then brings all the concepts together in the form of a song. Ames grew up in a musical household but has been inspired by Thomas Edison since childhood, which led him to major in physics in college at the University of Utah. Watch his winning video here: Participants had one month to formulate a response to Alda’s question. A panel of 11 scientists made up of SUNY Stony Brook scientists and three members of the American Chemical Society narrowed the field down to 535 acceptable explanations. These entries were then sent to more than 130 schools around the world where about 6,100 11-year-olds narrowed the entries down to the best six. The finalists’ entries were posted on flamechallenge.org. Two are written explanations, one is a graphic, and three are videos. Eleven-year-olds from around the world voted on the final six via e-mail to determine the winning entry. Ames was recognized at a session for kids, says Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, the workshop coordinator at CCS. “This challenge isn’t just a contest for kids, though. It’s a contest for scientists to communicate clearly.” On Friday, an event highlighting lessons learned from the Flame Challenge took place at the World Science Festival. Alda shared with audience members some intriguing and surprising experiences from the Flame Challenge, including how metaphors are useful tools when communicating science and why it’s so important to define terms so your audience can truly understand the topic on hand. Because the Flame Challenge was such a success, CCS is going to issue another challenge next year with a question from a child aged 10 to 12. This year’s question has been on Alda’s mind since he was 11, but he’s opening the platform to the...

Read More