September 2012



In my blog post the other day about element 113, I mentioned that the process of going from a successful experiment to a successful claim of discovery is tortuous. It relies on researchers convincing a joint panel of experts representing the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (Iupac) and their physics counterpart, Iupap, that their evidence fulfils all the criteria for discovery of a new element.

A joint working party from Iupac and Iupap is currently considering claims relating to elements 113, 115, 117 and higher. Both the Japanese team from RIKEN and a Russian team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna submitted claims relating to element 113 in May this year for the working party to consider. Kosuke Morita, the leader of the Japanese team has confirmed that they have asked the panel to take this latest paper into consideration along with their earlier results, but it will be down to the panel to decide. (more…)

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Japanese researchers have staked their claim to discovering element 113, based on results of massive ion bombardment experiments published today.

The team, led by Kosuke Morita at the RIKEN Nishina Centre for Accelerator-based Science in Wako, is hoping that its experiments will lead to the first naming of a new element by Japanese researchers. (more…)

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It helps cap guns go with a bang and lights the candles on your birthday cake – what’s not to like? Lots of fun chemistry with potassium chlorate in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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Exploding colonoscopies, dead salmon and a shrinking Eiffel tower – yes, it’s the Ig Nobel awards! (more…)

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We’re not using our sunscreen properly, according to researchers in Denmark. Bibi Petersen and colleagues at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen observed 20 sun seekers on a week’s holiday in Hurghada, Egypt, to monitor how often, and when, they applied their sunscreen. ‘Our results led us to suspect that the protective effect of sunscreen use against DNA damage, and thereby skin cancer, is minimal the way sunscreen is used under real sun holiday conditions,’ said the researchers. It’s all to do with the time the sunscreen is applied and how thickly it’s applied. (more…)

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One of the newest drugs in the fight against malaria has its modern origins in the Vietnam war – but its true origins are thousands of years ago. Find out about artemisinin in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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Oh dear.

On Twitter this morning, various people have alerted us to a rather shocking  TV chemistry blunder. James May, of Top Gear fame, has a series on the BBC called Things you need to know, and last night’s show was about chemistry.

Within the first two minutes of the programme, it became obvious that the people doing the graphics had basically zero chemical knowledge (which is not a problem in itself), and hadn’t even bothered to have one of the chemists they obviously interviewed as part of the show to cast an eye over them (which turns out to be a much bigger problem). As May starts to try and explain what a chemical reaction is, using baking soda and vinegar as an example, this graphic pops up on the screen. (more…)

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In these straightened economic times it seems like researchers are under ever greater pressure to show that their work can be turned into a money-spinning business. There’s more and more focus on ‘impact’, ‘innovation’ and getting a good return on investment for taxpayers’ hard earned cash. The Golden Goose awards have been launched as the antithesis of this need to make the business case for scientific curiosity – they celebrate the power of blue skies research to change society in ways that can’t yet be imagined. (more…)

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Jam or marmalade? Whichever you prefer on your toast in the morning, it’s the pectin that’s stopping it dripping off the slice! Find out about this networker par excellence in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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Glassblower using newspaper paddle

A Dartington glassblower uses a newspaper paddle to shape a piece of blown glass

A letter in the Financial Times about a month ago piqued my interest. It stated that the characteristic salmon pink pages of the FT play a unique role in producing hand-made crystal glass at Dartington crystal. Since I was about to go on holiday to Devon, and had planned a trip to the Dartington factory anyway, I decided to do a bit of investigating myself.

In the FT letter, the correspondent says that the  reason for using the pink pages of the FT is so that no trace elements are transferred to the crystal ‘when the protective newsprint is peeled away’, as they might be with other, bleached, newspaper.

This sounded a little implausible to the chemist in me. If the newspaper was only being used for protection, surely any interaction with the crystal glass would be confined to the ink, or any contaminants left from the paper processing, rubbing off on the surface? The possibility of significant chemical reaction between the glass and the newsprint at room temperature seemed remote at best. (more…)

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