Neil Withers


This week’s compound is so bitter (a thousand times more so than quinine) that it’s used to stop people drinking alcohol. Discover denatonium benzoate - the bitterest compound in the world – in this week’s Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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I bet many of you have used this ingredient of bath salts in your undergraduate chemistry labs. Discover magnesium sulfate in this week’s Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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Vancomycin – the drug of last resort for treating resistant bacteria – was isolated from soil taken from the Borneo jungle. Find out more in this week’s Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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Be careful with that drink! Brian Clegg looks at the chemistry behind chloral hydrate – the knockout drops in a ‘Mickey Finn’ – in this week’s Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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Oh no! It’s nitrogen dioxide (ONO). Find out about the chemistry behind this rocket oxidant and urban pollutant in this week’s Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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From the vibrant yellow in van Gogh’s paintings to providing the cadmium for batteries, this semiconductor’s looking bright. Find out about cadmium sulfide in this week’s  Chemistry in its element  podcast.

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Like the Fonz, this week’s  Chemistry in its element compound is cool – but how does menthol create that cooling sensation? Find out in the podcast.

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These compounds are helping your eyes and brain read these words right now! Find out how opsins, the molecules of sight, work in this week’s Chemistry in its element.

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You might have noticed in today’s news that three Silicon Valley squillionaires have funded a new megabucks prize for life sciences, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The 11 initial winners get a cool $3 million (three MILLION dollars) straight from the chequebooks of Mark Zuckerberg (Mr Facebook), Sergey Brin (Mr Google) and Yuri Milner (the other one). Actually, do they still have chequebooks in Silicon Valley? Probably not.

The winners also get the job honour of selecting the winners of future awards – unlike some other awards you might be familiar with, it will be possible for more than three people to win the prize in any one year. (more…)

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A favourite compound for the geochemists in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast – Uk37 alkenones, which help them understand what the oceans used to be like millions of years ago.

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