In this month’s podcast, Chris catches up with Robert Mulvaney in the British Antarctic Survey’s cold store to look at some ice cores that hold information on temperature and atmospheric composition over thousands of years; and David Baker explains how to design a brand new enzyme to do any chemical reaction you like.

Plus Mike, Patrick and Phillip discuss chemical caterpillars, sensors on wetsuits, how round electrons are and the possible causes of the great Price Revolution in 16th century Spain.

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Brian Clegg explores our mixed-up love-hate relationship with this ubiquitous fuel in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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I finished my time in Anaheim with a session on education, but instead of how to teach students we learnt how students were the ones sharing knowlege. (more…)

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Human activity has skewed the balance in the earth’s nitrogen cycle. But how did the modern nitrogen cycle evolve? A recent review published in Science tries to answer that question and make suggestions about the future.

How did the nitrogen cycle of the earth start?

Most of the nitrogen in our atmosphere came from  the mantle (which still has a large amount of nitrogen stored in it, see image) in the chemically reduced ammonium (NH4+) form. The earliest organisms had nitrogen delivered to them from the earth’s core. Ultraviolet oxidation of ammonium salts to nitrogen gas helped increase the concentration of nitrogen in the atmosphere.


Nitrogen Contribution

(C) Science


(more…)

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time-is-running-out1

Leaked documents, walk-outs, gate-crashes…there’s been high drama at the Copenhagen climate summit, but has there actually been any progress towards saving the planet?

Increasingly concerned voices would suggest not, or at least not enough. World leaders will be landing in Denmark later this week for the crunch talks towards the end of the summit (that is, if they can get in. Word is that logistical screw-ups have left hundreds of delegates – including ministers – stranded in the snow outside waiting for hours before being admitted). (more…)

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global-warming

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (or just ‘Copenhagen’, as it’s affectionately come to be known) officially kicked off today.

192 nations and over 100 heads of states and government from around the world will be in attendance during the two-week summit, the events of which will be covered by 5,000 journalists. So it shouldn’t be too hard to keep abreast of what’s going on. (more…)

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global-warming-freezing

One week until the conflab in Copenhagen, and China and the US have finally put some numbers on the table, but fresh reports of friction from developing nations could put a dampener on the news.

They might not be quite the numbers some were hoping for, but it’s a start. Last week President Obama pledged that the US will cut its emissions ‘in the range of’ 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 (that’s about 3 per cent below 1990 levels) and 83 per cent by 2050. (more…)

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hot-earth

Good news this week as the US has stood up and said it might just manage to put forward an emission reduction target in time for the Copenhagen climate conference after all.

The announcement, apparently made by an unnamed White House official, came following promising reports that over 60 presidents and prime ministers will now be attending the conference in person, boosting hopes that an agreement will be made. (more…)

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I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by – Douglas Adams

In one month it will all be over. The conference to crack climate change, the summit to save the world, the last chance saloon for planetary well being.

Except we, er, probably won’t actually manage all that.

(more…)

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euro-globe

When it comes to ways to deal with our ever-warming planet, it all eventually boils down to cold, hard cash.

Whether it’s ploughing funds into R&D for new technologies or the potential financial impact on developing economies, lurking behind the melting ice caps, heat waves, floods and droughts are £££ (or whatever currency you covet). (more…)

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