Instant Elements
Sep16

Instant Elements

The Newscripts gang will use pretty much any excuse to post "The Elements" by Tom Lehrer. This one features Google's new instant search feature. Enjoy! (Hat tip to David Bradley over at...

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A Toast To Tony
Aug16

A Toast To Tony

Chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff of the University of Nottingham and his colleagues came up with a brilliant idea a couple of years ago to prepare a series of videos about the elements of the periodic table. If you haven't checked out the Periodic Table of Videos, you should because they provide a lot of great information delivered in a fun and exciting way. Even if you are a seasoned chemist, you will still learn stuff. There are only so many elements, though, so Poliakoff and friends expanded the video series to include seasonal chemical videos such as ones about the Chinese New Year and Christmas, as well as videos describing the chemistry behind viagra, the Shroud of Turin, and the Nobel Prizes, among other miscellaneous items. The team also has created a set of videos called The Sixty Symbols that provide an explanation of "the letters and squiggles" used by physicists and astronomers in their scientific writings. One of the latest videos produced by the Nottingham crew is different--it's an online tribute. Poliakoff takes time out to eulogize Tony Judt, an acclaimed British historian and Poliakoff's close lifelong friend who recently died. The video is less about chemistry and more about the joy of living and the joy of discovery, which are intangible elements you won't find on the periodic...

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Slate And The Periodic Table
Jul27

Slate And The Periodic Table

Alert readers who visit or "like" C&EN's Facebook page may have noticed an item posted a few weeks ago that pointed out Slate's periodic table blog. This month, contributor Sam Kean has been writing some entertaining posts on the elements in conjunction with the release of his book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World From the Periodic Table of the Elements.  In his introductory post, Kean says he'll write about only 25 or so of the elements. Including today's post (featuring cobalt), he's written 17. So even though July is nearly over, that just means you have enough entries to occupy you while you wait for the next one. Happy...

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A Comic-Book Fanboy’s Take on the Periodic Table
May20

A Comic-Book Fanboy’s Take on the Periodic Table

Earlier this week, a colleague sent me this comic-book take on the periodic table. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and yawn a little bit. After all, we here at C&EN have seen every manner of periodic table categorizing vegetables, fruits, beer, wine, and even text messages. However, this table doesn’t just put a superhero in each element slot; it seems a little different and worth noting for its sheer entertainment value. “The Elements of A Super-Hero,” as it is called, represents comic-book characters by categorizing their origins (for example, they are a scientist or mutant), physical powers (they can control the weather, have X-ray vision, or my favorite, their arms fall off), and mental abilities (they can perform telepathy). Each of these items has its own element slot. Thus, “Scientist” is Sc—element 8—and “X-ray Vision” is Vx—element 19. So, as the table’s creator points out, Wolverine of the X-men can be represented as XWxHSn (X for mutant, Wx for claws, H for healing, and Sn for super-senses). I thought this was worth pointing out because A) I, too, love superheroes, wanting desperately to be Wonder Woman when I was little, and B) the “Comments” that this table has received are both amazing and amusing. One commenter says that his “inner science nerd” is telling him he’d have liked the table to be a bit more organized like a real periodic table, with similar abilities stacked in vertical rows. For instance, he says, “Vx—X-Ray Vision—and Vh—Heat Vision—should be stacked and not sitting next to one another.” Duh. Currently, the only divisions that appear are that physical powers reside in the spots where metals normally go, mental powers sit in the metalloid area, and origin stories are found in the nonmetal region of the table. Another commenter says that he’s waiting patiently for an addendum with the actinides and lanthanides. “Maybe personality elements (dark & gritty, goofball, robotic, etc.),” he says, could be one series, and “alternate realities (evil version, gender-switched version, animal version)” could be the other. Still other fanboys (and girls) are begging the creator for a poster-sized version that they can display on their walls with pride. Some are trying to puzzle out what certain element symbols are derived from (for example, Rr—element 49, which stands for “stretching”—MUST come from the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards). Finally, some commenters are expressing their disappointment that certain abilities are missing. For example, one reader misses the “ability to control density (Anissa Pierce)” and the “ability to do weirdo shit with people’s souls (Secret, Raven),” and so on. So, take a look and see what you think is missing...

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A Chemistry-Themed Book Launch
Apr27

A Chemistry-Themed Book Launch

During the book launching party for Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman children's book, "The Reinvention of Edison Thomas," Houtman provided guests with cupcakes in the form of a periodic table.  But she took the nerdiness a few steps further than simply labeling cupcakes with elements. The sweets were flavored according to their chemical group; noble gases were lemon, lanthanides were chocolate mint, halogens were chocolate peanut butter, etc. Houtman also made sure guests earned those extra calories, and required them to learn a little something about their element before chowing down.  For more information on Houtman's book, visit her...

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Why The iPad Rocks For Chemistry
Apr02

Why The iPad Rocks For Chemistry

Apple and Theodore Gray are at it again. In the past, both have made us rethink how we view technology and the elements, respectively. But now, the two have joined forces. Tomorrow, Apple releases it's much-anticipated iPad. Tomorrow, Gray releases an iPad version of his book The Elements. This movie requires Flash Player 9 Early adopters of the iPad absolutely must download Gray's book. The page previews alone are stunning and almost enough incentive to go stand in line at an Apple store Saturday morning. It is that amazing. Xeni Jardin at boingboing has a great review of both the iPad and Gray's latest creation. But briefly, you can not only spin the crisp images of the samples with your fingertips, but you can also view them in stereo 3D. You can rotate multiple objects at the same time. Reading about gold? Tap on the WolframAlpha button to get the current market price. According to Gray, "The Elements is the closest thing youʼre going to find to a magic book: if Harry Potter checked out a book about the periodic table from the Hogwarts library, this would be it." He tells C&EN that "this is the best, most fun, most magical piece of software/book that I've ever been involved with.  I can't wait to see how people like it when they can finally get their hands on it Saturday morning.  Based on the comments I have gotten from the hardcover edition, I think it's going to get a lot of people excited about a topic they don't normally find exciting." "This is so much more than what it's possible to do on paper," he adds. And that's why the iPad will rock for chemistry. Imagine what the future of chemistry textbooks holds. Everything The Elements can do is impressive given it's incredibly short development time. Like any new release, there are a few cosmetic tweaks coming in the near future (for example, the ability to change font size or view pages in portrait rather than landscape orientation).  "But," Gray says, "people should not get the idea that the current version is in any way incomplete: We concentrated on creating a polished, complete experience, a pure vision if you will.  Now we can go back and dot a few i's and cross a few t's." The iPad version of The Elements is available at the Apple Apps Store for...

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