October 2012



From Pauling to perms, this week’s compound is behind much of what keeps us looking good. So buff those nails, tone that skin and curl that hair – it’s all about keratin in this week’s Chemistry in its element

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My mugshot, for those who want to put a face to the name

In response to SeeArrOh’s ChemCoach carnival call, here is an insight into my small part as a cog in the inner workings of Chemistry World towers.

Your current job
I am one of two staff Science Correspondents for Chemistry World magazine. I am responsible for writing news and feature articles covering the whole range of chemistry research, industry, policy etc. I also edit two of our regular columns – Classic kit from the excellent Andrea Sella, and Totally synthetic, written by Paul Docherty (who some of you may know was once my lab- and flat-mate. It’s great when you can keep in touch with friends through your daily work.)

What you do in a standard “work day”
Like Carmen and a lot of others have mentioned, the nature of my role is very fluid. I can be writing and researching articles on anything from Rydberg atoms to Nobel prizes from one day to the next. That means I get to meet and speak to all sorts of interesting people, from the top researchers and industrialists around the world, to politicians and policymakers.

My usual day is spent hunting for news stories in journals and other sources (I read way more journals now than I ever did as a student), before our daily news meeting where we decide what we’re going to cover from what’s been found that day. Then I’ll be writing, researching or editing my latest pieces.

(more…)

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With potential uses from solar cells, transparent speakers, tranisistors and more, it’s no wonder graphene is called a wonder-material. Find out all about it in this week’s Chemistry in its element

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…of a recent paper from the RSC’s Analyst, followed by the tagline ‘tuppence-based SERS for the detection of illicit materials’. (more…)

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It’s not often that a compound finds a use as a drug AND in fireworks and ceramic glazes – to say nothing of featuring in popular soft drinks! Get your dose of lithium carbonate in this week’s Chemistry in its element

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Almost exactly 15 years since the Thrust supersonic car broke the sound barrier and the land speed record, last week the team behind Bloodhound SSC tested the rocket system that they hope will break that record. (more…)

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This B vitamin compound is particularly important for pregnant women, but how was that importance discovered – and what has Marmite got to do with it? Find out all about folic acid in this week’s Chemistry in its element

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Speculation over who will win this year’s chemistry Nobel prize has been feverish. Is it the turn of the biologists again (an old complaint that the lack of a biology Nobel prize means those feckless biologists have to filch our prize!) à la the 2009 prize for the structure of the ribosome? Or will it be awarded for more traditional chemistry like the 2010 prize for cross-couplings? Or it could even be another one like last year’s prize for quasicrystals that came completely out of left field and surprised a lot of people. We don’t know! But, if you want to see the predictions people have been making and even the odds for them then check our blog post. Otherwise sit back, relax and we’ll soon know who’s taken the most prestigious gong in the sciences and then the nice people on the Nobel prize committee will explain why it’s important and what it all means.

Patrick Walter

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With the Ig Nobels behind us, CW Towers now waits with bated breath for the chemistry Nobel. The prize for medicine and physiology has already been handed to John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their work on understanding what makes a stem cell different to a mature, adult cell and how an adult cell can be transformed into a stem cell. This work could help produce a limitless supply of stem cells for therapeutic purposes without some of the ethical concerns that have dogged this promising medical technology. Supplies of stem cells are currently mostly derived from human embryos. (more…)

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Probably best enjoyed without liquid nitrogen

Reports are coming out that an 18 year old woman has had her stomach removed after drinking a ‘nitro’ cocktail given a smoky effect using liquid nitrogen. It seems that outside of labs liquid nitrogen is proving quite the star turn… from making ice cream in Camden, to being used in cocktails around the country.

These cocktails seem to come in two types, either a small amount of liquid N2 is used to cool the drink without dilution and with added smoky effect, or much more N2 is used to whisk up a frozen cocktail, more N2 is then poured over for, again, that smoky effect. Basically, everyone wants a cocktail that looks like it comes from the set of an Addams family movie. (more…)

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