In the 1960s, when Scientific American copy editor Michael J. Battaglia was 15, he had a chemical romance with the periodic table. In fact, Battaglia was so fascinated by the basic substances of our universe that he tried to collect 'em all (at least the 104 elements that science knew about at the time.) From Scientific American:
As I read about and ogled my first dozen elements, I thought they were neat, but sort of blah. I wanted them to do tricks. And here I was thrilled to find my first flammable metal—the alkaline earth metal, magnesium (12) in my chemistry set. I sacrificed half my sample to my father's blowtorch and gasped at its brilliant white flame through his welding goggles. But, like any addict, this just whet my appetite. I needed more elements of danger, so to speak….
Imagine my elation when I hauled home from a dumpster in front of a store that had gone out of business a neon (10) sign, which I hoped to wire up, and a vacuum tube with a tungsten filament (74), from an old radio.
As for other gases, hydrogen (1) and oxygen (8) seemed likely targets. Along with nitrogen (7), they surround us, but not in pure form. Ah, the miracle of chemistry—and lead–acid car batteries…
Ironically, a radioactive isotope, radium 226 (atomic number, 88) was available in the house. It was just a matter of getting hold of my father's trusty World War II–era radium-dial alarm clock, opening the face and removing a couple of the marker dots. I figured out that he might not notice blank spots over the numbers 3 and 5, because in the P.M. he'd be at work, and in the dark A.M. hours when it would be glowing, he would be asleep. So off came the markers. Yes! I had for my very own, a pair of luminescent, alpha particle–spitting pets. I had gone nuclear!
"I Was a Teenage Element Hoarder" (Scientific American)
Watch the skies! The peak of the Perseid meteor shower takes place overnight tonight! The bright quarter Moon will limit the number of shooting stars you'll see but you can still expect around 15-20 per hour depending on where you're at. The meteors are debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up in Earth's atmosphere at speeds […]
"The U.S. has reached a landmark of sorts in its so far not very successful battle with the virus that causes Covid-19 — most Americans now know someone who has been infected," writes Justin Fox at Bloomberg, about coronavirus social data from Navigator Research, shown above.
Researchers successfully revived ancient microbes, some more than 100 million years old, that were buried in the seafloor. During an expedition to the South Pacific Gyre, the scientists from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and their colleagues drilled into the ocean sediment almost 6,000 meters below the surface. "Our main question […]
After a successful round of funding on Kickstarter, Fluster: The Social Card Game is now ready to help turn a party or game night into the engaging, surprising, and enlightening social affair you always hoped it would be. A deck of 100 cards, Fluster is chock full of unusual, funny, and thought-provoking questions inspired to […]
Physics may have been that class you sleepwalked your way through in high school. But while it might have just slipped under your radar throughout your academic career, you probably shouldn't have given it such shallow attention. Sure, we could focus on the immediate pluses of a career as a physicist, like the more than […]
If you're out of work…well, first, you have our sympathies. Right now, about 31 million Americans are drawing some form of unemployment benefits, which makes competition for virtually any job savagely fierce. But since nobody wants to wallow in the miseries of unemployment, the only legitimate course left open is to scrap like crazy to […]