Writing for The New York Times, Randall Monroe (creator of the xkcd comic) looks into the world's worst smell. It turns out that there is no universal agreement, but a strong contender for the title is something called U.S. Government Standard Bathroom Malodor, "a substance that was designed to mimic the scent of military field latrines, in order to test cleaning products."
Another contender was accidentally cooked up one day by Derek Lowe, an industrial chemist:
Dr. Lowe said that the worst thing he’d ever smelled in his career as a chemist arose when he inadvertently combined dimethyl sulfide (think farts) with some silicon he was putting through a reaction called a Peterson olefination. Neither odor would smell great on its own, but combined they produced something transcendently foul. “It smelled like what you’d imagine the exhaust of a U.F.O. to smell like,” he said. “It was spectacularly weird and horrible.”
By Cornischong at lb.wikipedia - Own workTransferred from lb.wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest
This is so amazing. Watch what happens when a blacksmithing anvil is lowered into a large vat of pure liquid mercury.
Update: One of our readers posted the link to the original video in the comments. I have replaced the animated GIF. Thanks, Crispy75.
[H/t Alberto Gaitán via Bryce Lynch]
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A favorite kitchen chemistry (and physics) experiment of kids (and adults), Ooblek is the weird result of mixing cornstarch with water. Now, MIT engineers have developed a mathematical model that can predict and simulate how the non-Newtonian fluid switches between liquid and solid depending on the pressure applied to it. From MIT News:
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Aside from predicting what the stuff might do in the hands of toddlers, the new model can be useful in predicting how oobleck and other solutions of ultrafine particles might behave for military and industrial applications. Could an oobleck-like substance fill highway potholes and temporarily harden as a car drives over it? Or perhaps the slurry could pad the lining of bulletproof vests, morphing briefly into an added shield against sudden impacts. With the team’s new oobleck model, designers and engineers can start to explore such possibilities.
“It’s a simple material to make — you go to the grocery store, buy cornstarch, then turn on your faucet,” says Ken Kamrin, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “But it turns out the rules that govern how this material flows are very nuanced...”
Kamrin’s primary work focuses on characterizing the flow of granular material such as sand. Over the years, he’s developed a mathematical model that accurately predicts the flow of dry grains under a number of different conditions and environments. When (grad student Aaron) Baumgarten joined the group, the researchers started work on a model to describe how saturated wet sand moves. It was around this time that Kamrin and Baumgarten saw a scientific talk on oobleck.
From left: Akira Yoshino, Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham and Dr. John Goodenough (Charles Dharapak / Yoshiaki Sakamoto / Kyodo News / Binghamton University)
The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists whose work developing lithium-ion batteries made mobile phones, iPads, laptops, and electric cars possible.
The three recipients are U.S. engineer John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham of the U.K., and Akira Yoshino of Japan. They will share the 9 million Swedish kronor ($906,000) prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Read the rest
This Candy Chemistry set is a great way to learn about candy with your kid, in the kitchen. Do not, however, leave your kid alone with this Candy Chemistry set.
Learn all about candy, and temperature control, in your own kitchen. This kit comes with almost everything you'll need to make quite a few delicious treats, all posed as science experiments. This is what makes cooking fun, for me and I hope it'll inspire other kids to learn to cook!
Leaving a 12-year-old alone with this can create a huge mess in the kitchen, and should the child be so daring, burnt sugar all over the place.
Candy Chemistry by Thames & Kosmos via Amazon Read the rest
We wish it were true but, alas, there is no chemical that turns pool water blue if someone pees in it. At Mel Magazine, Mike Rampton investigates:
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“Most pools are 20,000 gallons (91,000 liters) or more, so to make a few ounces of urine show up as a bright color would take some serious chemistry,” says bzsteele, a former pool supplies store employee, who recalls new pool owners asking about the dye. “There are cheap tests that could detect urine, but things like sweat, detergent and lotions would also be likely to spike them, so you’d be thrown off by all kinds of false positives. And once the reaction had happened, I’m not sure how you would undo it and get the pool back to stable.”
There’s also the fact that disinfection byproducts, or DBPs — created when the chlorine in pools reacts with the endless streams of pee released into them — are far more harmful than chlorine or urine would be on their own. Haloacetic acid, trihalomethane and chlorite can all be created by chlorine and organic matter (sweat as well as pee) reacting together, and can lead to respiratory issues, eye complaints, “lifeguard lung” and asthma. Adding more volatile chemicals, then, is unlikely to improve matters. And although pool disinfection techniques that require less chlorine (such as UV light, saltwater and hydroxyl-based systems) are increasingly being taken up by pool owners concerned about DBPs, a color-changing substance to stop people peeing in the pool is still nowhere in sight.
"Pure metallic mercury is far less dangerous than most people think," says Cody, before pouring some in his mouth. "I'm not gonna swallow it," he says. "I might swallow some. It's not really that big of a deal. It's gonna come out as shiny as it went in." Read the rest
MIT researchers who developed light-emitting plants are now exploring how the glowing greenery could be integrated into future building designs. In their proof-of-concept demonstration, the scientist packaged luciferase, the enzyme that enables fireflies to glow, into nanoparticles that were then suspended in solution. The plants were immersed in the solution and, through high pressure, the nanoparticles entered tiny pores in the plants' leaves. The plants maintained their glow for several hours and they've since increased the duration. Now, project lead Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering, is collaborating with MIT architecture professor Sheila Kennedy on possible future applications of the green technology. From MIT News:
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“If we treat the development of the plant as we would just another light bulb, that’s the wrong way to go,” Strano (says)....
The team is evaluating a new component to the nanobiotic plants that they call light capacitor particles. The capacitor, in the form of infused nanoparticles in the plant, stores spikes in light generation and “bleeds them out over time,” Strano explains. “Normally the light created in the biochemical reaction can be bright but fades quickly over time. Capacitive particles extend the duration of the generated plant light from hours to potentially days and weeks...."
As the nanobionic plant technology has advanced, the team is also envisioning how people might interact with the plants as part of everyday life. The architectural possibilities of their light-emitting plant will be on display within a new installation, “Plant Properties, a Future Urban Development,” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York opening May 10.
Tatsunori Iwamura, 61, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Japan's Matsuyama University, was busted for teaching his students how to make MDMA (aka Molly/Ecstasy) and 5F-QUPIC, a cannabinoid agonist. At some point, Iwamura had a license to manufacture illegal drugs for academic purposes but it had expired. From The Guardian:
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Local drug enforcement authorities believe 11 students produced the drug (MDMA) under Iwamura’s instruction. Four students, along with an assistant professor, have also been referred to prosecutors, Kyodo said.
The university said it would discipline Iwamura and the assistant professor once the investigation had ended.
“We sincerely apologise for causing serious concern to students and their parents,” said Tatsuya Mizogami, the university’s president, according to Kyodo.
How do you know for sure if your carefully-recreated 18th-century paint would
fool pass muster as art dealers a legitimate recreation long enough to get away with it? of the authentic originals? Tom Scott visits the Forbes Pigment Collection.
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The Forbes Pigment Collection at the Harvard Art Museums is a collection of pigments, binders, and other art materials for researchers to use as standards: so they can tell originals from restorations from forgeries. It's not open to the public, because it's a working research library -- and because some of the pigments in there are rare, historic, or really shouldn't be handled by anyone untrained.
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:
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Oil and water don't normally mix, unless you emulsify it with something, like soap, egg yolk, or mustard. But there is a way to mix oil and water without using an emulsifier, and in this video, the Action Lab Man shows how to do it. The secret is to remove the dissolved air from water by using a vacuum chamber. This means you can use degassed water alone to remove grease from clothes. Read the rest
Before I watched this video and you had asked me if dubnium was a real element or not, I would have had to guess. Read the rest
Artist and designer Rus Khasanov (previously) has created a bright and highly-detailed montage of colors colliding. What really sets this apart is the beautiful music by Dmitry Evgrafov. Read the rest
The Miniglobelet series by Beauty of Science shows all the wondrous math and physics occuring at the micrscopic level as crystals form, chemicals combine, and new forms take shape. Read the rest
Kids are going crazy making slime with borax and what-not after watching YouTube, but these household chemicals can have seriously powerful reactions that need to be done cautiously. Read the rest
YouTuber DaveHax had some gallium lying around, so he wanted to see the chemical reaction when it was applied to an aluminum tennis racket. Read the rest