Two buddies in search of platinum on the highway in the middle of the night

This video is a buddy film, or sorts: it shows CodyDon Reeder and his buddy sweeping dust from the side of a highway in the middle of the night, then working to chemically retrieve (from that dust) platinum bits — presumably shed from the catalytic converters of passing automobiles: (Thanks to Scott Langill for bringing this to our […]

Socialites in chemistry

Do socialites have a place in chemistry? Yes: “Synthesis and characterization of two new silica socialites containing ethanolamine or ethylenediamine as guest species,” Carola M. Braunbarth, Peter Behrens, Jürgen Felsche, Gianpietro van de Goor, Gerhard Wildermuth, and Günter Engelhardt, Zeolites, 16, no. 2 (1996): 207-217. BONUS: Braunbarth’s patent application (US 2006/0034975 A1) for coated chewing […]

Predictably smelly breathing [podcast 74]

Heavy breathing (that’s smelly) in movie theaters, in response to what’s in the movie, is the subject of this week’s Improbable Research podcast. SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free. This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by Harvard chemist Daniel Rosenberg — tells about: Predictably smelly breathing in movie theaters— “Cinema audiences reproducibly vary the chemical composition […]

Chemical Sensors Attractively at One’s Fingertips

Chemists, some of them, do pay attention to their fingernails. A team at the University of California, La Jolla (an institution that seems to exist on April 1, when it apparently migrates from San Diego), has paid special attention. Details are in their study: “A Wearable Fingernail Chemical Sensing Platform: pH Sensing at Your Fingertips,” Jayoung […]

Colin Raston tells of Un-boiling an Egg, and the Ig Nobel Prize

Colin Raston tells how he and colleagues found a way to partially un-boil an egg, and of how this led to an Ig Nobel Prize, in this Flinders University video: The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William […]

Candied orange agony: “I continue to control the hell out of the variables”

Ann Finkbeiner writes about the tricky chemistry and physics of candied orange peel made according to the recipe of a Hungarian physicist’s grandmother. Here’s a passage from the middle of the lament: …The recipe no longer works. I continue to control the hell out of the variables. I use the same amount of orange peel, […]

Gilbert and Sullivan (and Cambridge, Condensed-Matter Physics, and The Elements)

Tom Lehrer once proclaimed, as part of the song “Clementine,” that songs from Gilbert and Sullivan (especially when it comes to a “rousing finale”) were “full of words and music and signifying nothing.” Of course, Gilbert and Sullivan often provide a great foundation to write a parody, as Tom Lehrer himself demonstrated in “The Elements” (and […]

For gummy bear chem/physics enthusiasts

Gummy bears figure prominently in two recent studies: “Drying Gummy Bears Reduce Anti-Matter Lifetime,” Christoph Hugenschmidt und Hubert Ceeh. (Thanks to Jan Kuriplach for bringing this to our attention.) The authors are at Technische Universität München, Germany. They write: “The exotic atom consisting of an electron and its antiparticle, the positron, is a bound state called positronium. Such positronium atoms […]