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Enrico UvaRSS Feed of this column.

I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have taught chemistry in the U.S. but mostly in Canada... Read More »

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It was one of those School Hall of Fame moments that I could not have staged any better. 
We have an unusual Wednesday schedule where students start later, and each class is shortened by 15 minutes. But if a test or lab lands on last period that day, I encourage kids to stay after the bell.  Last week, one of my seniors, Naomi, who plays on the school basketball team, was one of several who chose to stay longer to double check her chemistry test. Suddenly, one of her teammates barged into our classroom in full uniform and sternly said, "We have a game. You gotta come."

Before my student reacted, I knew exactly what was going to happen. With her winsome smile, she moved her head from side to side. 
Birch bark, which is found in many parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe and China, is a great way to start a campfire. Rich in terpenoids, the paper-thin material ignites easily. The heat it releases provides enough activation energy to set small twigs ablaze, which of course should be placed in a tee-pee arrangement, so as to let in more oxygen. All of this should take place in a pit surrounded by stones, not to let wind take heat away from the young fire and not to burn the forest down.
recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report on corruption in China took an unfair turn when they stated that corruption runs so deep that "even schoolchildren understand it." They described how students were constantly witnessing parents offering lavish gifts to teachers.
Thanks to a couple of Breaking Bad episodes from seasons 1 and 4, it's possible that more people know about enantiomers than ever before. If you're not a fan of the show or if you have forgotten a bit of organic chemistry, enantiomers are molecules that are non-superimposable mirror images of one another. As Walter mentions before losing his chemistry-teaching job, enantiomers are like a left and right hand. Try to wear a left glove on your right hand, and it does not fit. This is relevant to chemistry because although enantiomers share the same properties in a non-chiral environment, only one molecular version will bind to something like a neural or nasal receptor.
There’s irony in having small bits of floatable plastic debris in the Pacific, even if the trash, although worrisome,  doesn’t look like anything most of the public imagines.   Millions of years ago, many of the hydrogen and carbon atoms within these man-made polymers were part of marine life. Death, deposition and pressure simplified the organic molecules of the dead. Then a species that indirectly evolved from these oceanic ancestors accidentally stumbled upon a crude liquid. Eventually they learned to use not only its energy content but its building blocks.
Overextended, uncivil in spirit and costly, elections in both the United States and Canada are ironically becoming insulting to both democracy and thought.

The 2011 Canadian election cost about $300-million - up from $198-million in 2000. Per capita, that amounts to about $9. This year's American elections will cost an estimated 5.8 billion dollars or $18 per capita. And while Canadians have been flabbergasted by 50% election-cost inflation over a little more than a decade, the rate of increase south of the border has been a whopping 80%.