Phil Robinson


The saltpetre men of the 17th century could be described as the first biochemists. But they could also be described as a ‘rowdy and undesirable’ lot, hated and feared for the disruption and distress they caused in their search for their precious namesake. Lars Ohrstrom tells the story of potassium nitrate in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

 

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In the June podcast, we’re cooking with science – we’ve got sun-baked solar cells, flambeed pharmaceuticals and a silicon spread, all washed down with some champagne science and a well-stirred Suzuki. Mmm… get it while it’s hot

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At its height, it was as an all-purpose cleaner, refrigerant and even fire extinguisher but we have since learned (the hard way) that it is dangerously toxic. Brian Clegg charts the downfall of carbon tetrachloride in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

 

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How often have you visited Chemistry World and wished that you too were a glamorous science journalist, putting science in the spotlight, mopping its sweaty brow with the flannel of inquisition and then wringing out the musky essence for eager consumption by a thirsty public? Perhaps you’ve dreamed of seeing your name in print as the author of a story in Chemistry World? Maybe you think writing is for the (alien) dinosaurs and you’d like to show off your multimedia skills? Well, now’s your chance. This summer, we’re launching the first Chemistry World science communication competition.

All you have to do is write an 800 word article on a topic related to the chemical sciences or produce an audio or video clip no more than five minutes in length. You can even enter both if you like. The shortlisted entries will be judged by a panel of esteemed scientists and science communicators.

The competition is open now and will close at the end of August.

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to an evening reception at The Chemistry Centre, Burlington House, London where the winners will be announced. Winning entries will be featured in Chemistry World in print and/or online, and there’s also some hard cash on offer.

To find out more and submit an entry go to www.rsc.org/CWcompetition

Philip Robinson

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In the second world war, this little molecule was essential to the German nuclear energy programme, and a prime target for Allied assualts. Peter Wothers tells the story of heavy water, the molecular star of the Heroes of Telemark, in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

 

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 It’s a stalwart of the undergraduate lab and can still be found introducing kids to the joys of science in even today’s modest chemistry sets. But potassium permanganate is good for much more than pretty colours and redox titrations… in fact, it could well save your life. Brian Clegg praises our purple pal in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

 

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Once prized by parfumiers for its musk-laden glands, the musk deer was heavily hunted. But today it can rest easy, thanks to canny chemists and their odorous alternatives to muscone. Josh Howgego is on the scent in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

 

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It could have all but eradicated malaria, but instead it became infamously synonymous with environmental damage. Silent Spring’s pesticide protagonist, DDT, is the subject of this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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They may not be a household name but their ubiquity in household products means every home must have one. Josh Howgego considers the captivating chemistry of cyclodextrins in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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In the May podcast, we’ve got a nose for explosives, a taste for green bacon, an eye for LCDs and a lust for artificial life. Plus we get under the skin of smart tattoos. All you need to do is lend us your ears.

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