Chemistry

While writing my series on the Science Play and Research Kit, I hoped to survey chemistry sets that are already on the market. I was able to get a reviewer’s sample of the Chem C3000 and you can take a look at my review of the Thames and Kosmos set here.

If you buy extra virgin olive oil, caveat emptor. Olive oil has been an avenue for corruption for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years. Some extra virgin olive oil in studies was found to not only not be extra virgin, it wasn't even olive oil.

'Premium' chocolate has the same issue. Anyone can put Premium on a label and the only way to really know was to buy it and taste it - and if you bought it, you compounded the problem.


Platinum is used in catalytic converters to transform toxic fumes from a car's engine into more benign gases, to produce high octane gasoline, plastics and synthetic rubbers, and to fight the spread of cancerous tumors. But it's not cheap, which you know if you have ever shopped for an engagement ring knows. 

In a new study, researchers from Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering used computational methods to identify dozens of platinum-group alloys that were previously unknown to science but could prove beneficial in a wide range of applications. If one of the compounds identified in the new study is comparable in performance but easier on the wallet, it would be a boon to many industries worldwide as well as the environment. 


Though table salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), is one of the best-known and most studied chemical compounds known, it still has a few mysteries.

Under ambient conditions, it crystallizes in a cubic unit cell and is very stable with one sodium atom (Na) and one chlorine atom (Cl). According to the octet rule, all chemical elements strive to fill their outermost shell with eight electrons, which is the most stable configuration, found in noble gases. Sodium has one extra electron and chlorine is missing one, so sodium donates one electron to chlorine, leaving both atoms with an outer shell containing eight electrons and forming a strong ionic bond.  


Vodka can make people do strange things - especially if they also have a phone. But it can also do cool things, like demonstrating how to message people using chemical signals when conventional wireless would fail.

Researchers in the UK have successfully text messaged 'O Canada' using evaporated vodka. 

The chemical signal, using the alcohol found in vodka in this case, was sent four metres across the lab with the aid of a tabletop fan. It was then demodulated by a receiver which measured the rate of change in concentration of the alcohol molecules, picking up whether the concentration was increasing or decreasing.


You can perform simple qualitative analysis to detect certain metals in various substances using borax bead, and flame tests. The inoculating loop for these tests is very easy to make. You can use 20 gauge to 26 gauge Nichrome or platinum wire depending on what is easiest for you to find. To make the loop use a 20cm length of wire and something cylindrical to wrap the wire around such as a small brad or finishing nail. I used an ink cartridge from a disposable ball point pen.


Note: the wire in this photo is oversized to make it easier to see in the photograph.

Wrap the wire around the cylinder to form a loop:

Kudos to Thames and Kosmos for getting their chemistry sets on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. They have these three introductory sets in the store: the “Dangerous Book for Boys Classic Chemistry Science Kit,” “The Chem C500,” and “The Chem c1000.” Sadly, the chemistry set has to compete with the Xbox One and the Play Station 4 so, if there’s any money left over for after Christmas sales you’ll at least have the opportunity to browse the three sets in the store—pick up the box, feel its weight, read the back of the box for the contents and information about the experiments that can be done with these kits. You’ll have time to use your Google-fu to look up reviews for the kits.

Life grew as a result of natural processes that used Earth's raw materials.

Models of life's origins almost always look to minerals for such essential tasks as the synthesis of life's molecular building blocks or the supply of metabolic energy, but this assumes that the mineral species found on Earth today are much the same as they were during Earth's first 550 million years — the Hadean Eon — when life emerged.

A new analysis of Hadean mineralogy
published in American Journal of Science


Edward Snowden: patriot or traitor? Whatever your opinion of Mr. Snowden, he did give us pause to reflect on our Fourth Amendment rights “of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” When contemplating the problem, one must first answer why the Fourth Amendment was considered so important that it needed to be added to the Bill of Rights.
While driving to my doctor's office to get some persistent Toxicodendron diversilobum (that's poison oak) looked at, I listened to NPR. Just as you would expect of me, my radio stations will all have buttons for NPR, country music, whatever station carries Rush Limbaugh, and a variety of others. On NPR I was intrigued because the guest chef was preparing a meal for alternative Thanksgiving lifestyles, that being vegan and gluten-free.