2019: International Year of the Periodic Table

Periodic table of the elements

From the inside covers of elementary science textbooks to the walls of chemistry labs all around the world, the periodic table is one of the most pivotal and enduring tools of modern science. To honor the 150th anniversary of its discovery, the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO have declared 2019 to be the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

As with all scientific progress, Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table was the result of decades—centuries, even—of research performed by scientists all over the world. Aristotle first theorized the existence of basic building blocks of matter over 2,500 years ago, which later were believed to be earth, air, fire and water. Alchemist Hennig Brand is credited with discovering phosphorus in the late 17th century, sparking chemists to begin pursuing these basic atomic elements.

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Seeing Science: Discovering What is Hidden in Plain Sight

Recently, I stumbled upon a few new discoveries that I would have guessed had already been figured out. These discoveries were surprising to me because they fell into the category of “obviously someone else knows this,” even though I didn’t—you know, the stuff you would just do a quick Google search to find out about.

29980708-August-10-blog-Darcia-FINAL-WEBAnyway, it made me reflect on the world we live in, filled with endless information. At times, it seems as if we know it all (at least all the obvious stuff), which can stifle discovery by limiting the sources from which we seek new information. It can appear futile to embark upon research in established fields. But sometimes discoveries occur when you look in familiar places from a new vantage point.

Today’s blog illustrates how seeing science in new ways can lead to this type of unexpected discovery.

Sometimes  seeing science is about how you are looking. 

The first discovery that got my attention was in an article that described the use of drones and Google Earth by archaeologists to discover a monument made of stone hidden below the sand at a World Heritage Site in Petra, Jordan. This is one of the most visited and well-studied archaeological sites in the world. Yet, a huge structure had remained undiscovered despite continual investigation of the site.

I imagine it would be like finding a new room in the house you’ve lived in your entire life. Applying new technology to see science in different ways expands the reach of archaeological discovery. This approach could open the door for remarkable discoveries in other scientific fields. Continue reading

Fun with Chemistry for Valentine’s Day

Image credit: Morguefile

Looking for last-minute gift ideas? Wondering what chemistry has to do with Valentine’s Day? The chemists of the American Chemical Society (ACS) have curated a web page called Valentine’s Day Chemistry that offers gift ideas (for example, make a crystal heart using pipe cleaners, borax and hot water), explains the chemistry behind chocolate and flowers, shows a video that equates chemical bonding to people interacting at a party and more. The links and videos offer something for everyone, whether you want to have fun with friends and family of all ages or just want to learn something new about chemistry.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Poisoners and Scientists

If you eat enough silver, you will turn blue, but it probably won’t kill you.

In the 1920s, you could buy energy drinks and cosmetics containing radium. Because of its beneficial effects on tumors, it was believed to be healthy.

Arsenic was once known as “the inheritance powder”, because it was so commonly used to eliminate relatives who stayed alive too long.

In the 1930s the poison thallium was used in depilatory creams, because of its excellent ability to make hair fall out, but also because of its ability to lend a beautiful pale luster to the skin.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts and stories you can find in “The Poisoner’s Handbook”, by Deborah Blum Continue reading

Paying it Forward: A Promega Employee’s Experience With the American Chemical Society

bharatACSIf you are a scientist you know the American Chemical Society (ACS) for their high quality journals (all 39 of them) and for their annual meetings and conferences. But did you know the ACS also focuses on community education and outreach? The ACS mission is “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” According to their website, ACS has 189 local chapters at colleges and universities around the country. Bharat Mankani (in the white coat in the photo) tells us about his work with the ACS chapter at Texas A&M.

1. How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do? Continue reading

Getting Our Hands Into Some Good Ol’ Home Science

static_detection-simple_electroscopeFor many, this time of year brings with it the opportunity to enjoy a bit of holiday fun with kids. In fact just recently I had the chance to spend a day doing several home science activities with my four- and seven-year old boys. All were simple to set up using commonly found household items in a way that was both instructive and rewarding. Continue reading