This Week on CENtral Science: Papal Chemistry, Neuroscience of Magic, Pi Day, and more
Mar15

This Week on CENtral Science: Papal Chemistry, Neuroscience of Magic, Pi Day, and more

Tweet of the Week: Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, came late to the priesthood after studying chemistry. My question is: What turned him off to chemistry?— Gary Garchar (@ggarchar) March 14, 2013 I've had a blast as CENtral Science overlord. Like other despots before me, I have a hard time letting go of power. So now that Rachel's back, we'll be switching off on these roundup posts each month. To the network: Fine Line: Waldorf Time Again Grand CENtral: Top 10 Shoutouts to Pope Francis and Chemistry – Storify Just Another Electron Pusher: A Troubling Shift in Tradition Newscripts: Alakazam! The Neuroscience of Magic and Amusing News Aliquots and There & Back Again: A Cyclotron’s Tale Terra Sigillata: How Would You Explain pH to First-Graders? and Are Popes and Chemistry Immiscible? The Safety Zone: UK thallium and arsenic poisoning case neither accident nor suicide attempt and Explosives case continued for former UC Davis chemist David Snyder and Friday chemical safety round up *not up as of 4:20PM Eastern, but this link will work when it posts. The Watch Glass: “Inert” Xenon Reacts with Fluorine and Nanotubes' Electronic Properties and Bohemian retorts and Calculate pi with frozen hot dogs and Albert Ghiorso: Element...

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There & Back Again: A Cyclotron’s Tale
Mar15

There & Back Again: A Cyclotron’s Tale

This post was written by Andrea Widener, an associate editor for C&EN's government and policy group. When Ernest O. Lawrence lent a cyclotron to the London Science Museum in 1938, he thought it would be back in eight months. But it took 75 years for the 11-inch cyclotron, one of the first built by the future Nobel Prize winner, to return to the hills of Berkeley, Calif., where it was originally created. The cyclotron survived a war, a bureaucratic tussle, and a security challenge before it was finally returned to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the research institution founded by the cyclotron’s inventor. When it arrived last month, the 11-inch cyclotron was an instant celebrity, drawing crowds as though Lawrence himself had walked in for a photo op. “They were coming down the hallway in a stream,” says Pamela Patterson, who serves as an unofficial historian and manager of the lab’s website. “Everyone was there. The director had his iPhone up taking pictures. It was cute.” At the time Lawrence loaned the cyclotron to the science museum, he was still a young, ambitious researcher trying to convince others that the device was a major breakthrough. An invitation to display it in such a prestigious spot was likely an important step, Patterson explains. But when the cyclotron was supposed to be returned in 1939, Lawrence received a letter from the museum saying officials had moved the cyclotron to a rural district for safe keeping because they feared London would be bombed during World War II. Lawrence thanked the museum’s director for protecting the cyclotron. “We all hope the war will not last long and that soon the world will return to sanity again,” he replied. Instead World War II went on for seven more years, Patterson explains. “The cyclotron was just forgotten,” she says.But not everyone had forgotten. Patterson started her quest for the device’s return 18 years ago, when the president’s office at the University of California, which operates LBNL for the Department of Energy (DOE), asked her to take up the challenge. At first, the London Science Museum wanted to keep the cyclotron, in part because officials there couldn’t decide to whom they should return it, DOE or the university. Apparently, no one could find it on an inventory list.Patterson thought she was home-free, though, once the museum finally agreed to return the prized device in 2010. Museum officials packed the cyclotron up in its original shipping box, complete with PanAm and TransWorld Airline stickers, reflecting the last time it had been shipped. Soon after, she got the call that the cyclotron was a security threat and that...

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