Christmas



Guest post by Heather Cassell

As we get deeper into December, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, holiday season festivities, and researchers are thinking about having some time away from the lab. But for some December can lead to a blue Christmas; the approach of the holidays can fill certain groups of lab denizens, especially students, with fear. Students have to contend with coursework deadlines approaching rapidly – and there are the January exams to consider – so they’re rarely heard to say ‘thank God it’s Christmas.’ This also means it’s not the most wonderful time of the year for those who have to mark the coursework too.

And so, the start of December ‘tis the season for careful lab work planning; you must make the most of the time you have left in the lab before you leave, otherwise you’ll risk abandoning an experiment or driving home for Christmas with work on your mind. Worse still, poor planning means you may have to come in at awkward times over the holidays, or even miss the opportunity to be rockin’ around the Christmas tree, enjoying the mistletoe and wine at the lab Christmas party!

When it comes to Christmas decorations offices are fairly easy to decorate. There are very few restrictions on what you can put up (it’s more down to taste, or in some cases lack of taste), so you can deck the halls with pretty much whatever you like. But health and safety rules in the lab mean that many decorations are not suitable for use, as they constitute a fire hazard. This means the offices tend to get all of the silver bells, the holly and the ivy, but the labs can seem so very bare in comparison, the non-scientists might ask even each other ‘do they know it’s Christmas?’ (more…)

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The Chemistry World office is bedecked in tinsel, ready to celebrate the festive period. And as a thank you for celebrating with us, we’re going to send a Chemistry World mug to each of our favourite festive chemistrees!

On a recent trip to the chemistry department at the University of York, I spotted a different interpretation of the traditional Christmas decorations…

So we tweeted about it…

(more…)

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Drum roll please! It’s the twelfth (and final) day of our topical Christmas quiz. On with the show!

In September, we learnt what the minimum number of water molecules needed to form an ice crystal was… How many was it?

Which amino acid reputedly found in high concentrations in turkey is supposedly what makes you feel like having a nap after your Christmas dinner?

(more…)

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On the eleventh day of Christmas, Chemistry World brought to you, the penultimate day of the quiz. And straight in with the first question.

In January, we found out that the caffeine levels in espresso coffees purchased from many coffee shops are well above the recommended daily allowance for pregnant women set by the Food Standards Agency in the UK. What’s is this recommended daily allowance for pregnant women?

Which explosive compound would you find in small amounts in your Christmas cracker?  (more…)

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The leaping lads clearly have a surfeit of Christmas spirits!

And on the tenth day of Christmas we pushed on with the topical news quiz. Today’s questions to stretch your synapses to breaking point are:

Which research group made history in April by using a 3D printer to create their own personalised reaction vessels that actually influenced the course of the chemical reaction? 

This year chemist Pete Wothers is giving the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture, but who gave the first RI Christmas Lecture? For those who listen to the podcast. (more…)

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The aforementioned ladies

And on the ninth day of Christmas… my lawyers advised me against making sexist jokes pertaining to the dancing ladies in question. Today’s questions to stretch your memory and your chemical knowledge are:

Why was Chemistry World‘s mild-mannered Phillip Broadwith shouting at queen-of-jam-tarts-and-kindly-old-lady Mary Berry, who presents the programme The Great British Bake-off?

What was Nasa associate administrator John Grunsfeld referring to in August when he said: ‘The seven minutes of terror has turned into the seven minutes of triumph’?

And finally, the answers to yesterday’s quiz. It was the ozone layer that had grown slightly in size. Warmer temperatures have been blamed for the slight increase and the hole is not predicted to return to its 1980s state until 2065. An amazing 5 (five!) litres of carbon dioxide escape from every bottle of champagne. Have a look at our Christmassy feature, Raising a glass to champagne, to learn more. We’ll see you tomorrow at the same chem-time, at the same chem-place.

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Today’s topical Christmas chemistry quiz is brought to you by the number eight – in this case the number of women employing an outmoded and romanticised vision of the collection of a dairy product.

On with the show.

What was discovered to have grown slightly this year to 8.2 million square miles in size?

If you’re celebrating Christmas or New Year with champagne, how much carbon dioxide is released from a standard 750ml bottle?  (more…)

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And we’re off again. Day 7 sees your daily delivery of chemistry trivia.

Why do chemists have reason to fear Bartosz Grzybowski’s ‘Chematica’?

RSC president Lesley Yellowlees said in May that the UK would take almost 50 years to catch up with the US in terms of what? The statistic two out of 44 was also central to this discussion. (more…)

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And on the sixth day of Christmas my true love brought to me, six geese a-laying topical chemistry questions. 

Right, I hope you’ve rested your brain over the weekends and you’re ready for more. Off we go.

Chemists had some stern words for Auntie Beeb (the BBC) and James May of Top Gear fame in September. Why?

In August, Nasa’s rover Curiosity landed on the red planet and started making measurements with many different instruments. What type of instruments can be found in ChemCam?

 

(more…)

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And the fifth day of Christmas is already upon us… well by the reckoning of Chemistry World‘s Christmas quiz anyway. If you want to check out yesterday’s quiz questions then you can find them here.

On with the quiz and today’s questions.

A Southampton University chemistry lab was shut after a PhD student had to be treated for poisoning. Which two elements were they poisoned with?

Multiple papers came out this year casting more and more doubt on the claim that the bacterium GFAJ-1 can take up arsenic and incorporate it into its DNA backbone. What does GFAJ-1 stand for?  

(more…)

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