An interesting day at the 239th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in San Francisco: The most popular booth at the expo, Open Access publishers, and Going meatless NOT the way to save the planet.
Aside from talks and meetings, the huge vendor exposition also takes place through Wednesday in Moscone South’s large Halls B&C.
As you can see, hundreds of vendors and many more hundreds of attendees showed up. An interesting and, after a quick headcount and comparison, the most popular booth at the Expo was Rod Griffin’s Australian Boulder Opal…jewelry display:
It just goes to show…even chemists can’t resist shiny things.
Also showing up were a few Open Access journals, such as Chemistry Central. These are free, online, peer-reviewed publications. A while back I wrote a pro vs. con on open-access journals here. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. Some “selling” points of Chemistry Central are:
free online access
authors retain copyright to their work
On the science side, an interesting report presented at the meeting concluded that decreasing the consumption of meat and dairy products won’t have a major effect in combating global warming. Unfortunately the misconception that the world “going meatless” will significantly reduce greenhouse gas production is becoming more popular. Initiatives like “Meatless Monday“, while we can respect their goal...
I remember buying my first O-chem books back when I was attending DVC (Diablo Valley College), a not-so-little community college here in the Bay Area. At first I checked the bookstore and lost my lunch when I saw the price of the new books. The text was $215, the lab manual was another $70, and the solutions manual was $100. Unfortunately, a new edition had been released that year, so even though the professor said that we could use older editions, many of the problem sets wouldn’t match up, so we’d have to get the problems from our classmates. In the end, the cheapest and most convenient route was to go online and buy the international editions. Even after extending the method to all my other classes, I still paid almost $500 for books that semester. Now I attended DVC before California went belly-up, so my classes were still a great bargain at $18 a unit. Since I usually took ~19 units, my total tuition cost was around $350 a semester. The cost of the books were actually greater than my cost of tuition. The sad thing is, this wasn’t an unusual case. Luckily this wasn’t too much of a hardship for me; I had a job on campus and money saved up. However, I knew a lot of students for whom the beginning of the semester meant not eating lunch in order to save up gas money.
Now students have probably been complaining about textbooks since time immemorial. Aristotle probably complained that his scribe made spelling mistakes in his copy of The Republic. Most...
Not much today. I saw this earlier and remembered having one of these moments back in G-chem that made me want to break the stupid buret. Actually, that happened on the last day of the semester, during checkout, after I washed it and was walking to the stockroom to return it. I forgot how long the damn thing was, and as I was walked out of the lab the door closed on it, cleaving it in two.
Antimatter detected using a track etch detector.
In a very surprising series of measurements made by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, gamma events matching the signature of energetic positron decay were found just before, during, and after a pair of lightning storms.
For those not familiar, the Fermi telescope allows astronomers to study black holes, pulsars, the subatomic particles emitted by them, and very, very high energy particles far beyond what we are currently capable of producing on earth. Also, positrons are anti-electrons, a form of antimatter. They are also known as the emitted particle from Beta “+” decay, where a proton is hit by the magic wand force, and turned into a neutron, positron, and neutrino.
Now antimatter has never been seen in lightning storms before, although I do wonder how hard they looked. I mean, watch even just a normal patch of sky for long enough (although I really mean loooooonnnggg), and you’ll see lower energy gamma flashes from annihilation of positrons emitted from Oxygen-15, Nitrogen-13, Carbon-11, and maybe a couple of others. However, what the Fermi scope saw is interesting because the energetic decays imply that the electric field associated with the storm switched directions for some reason. See, normally they see gamma rays from decelerating electrons moving toward the detector, (Bremsstrahlung Radiation) however this time they saw radiation from the positrons. Now since positrons have the opposite charge of an...
Ever since the budget crisis began here in California, Mitch and I have debated how we would fix the problem if we were in positions of power. While we had some pretty great, and pretty terrible ideas, we soon stopped wondering what we would do in hypothetical situations and began to wonder how we could actually make a difference. Well, we decided to begin stepping into the world of politics; hoping to influence policy decisions that affect scientists and chemists for a start.
Enter ACR 88, a bill introduced by assembly members Torlakson (D-Martinez) and Furutani (D-Carson) in California.
The bill creates the California Task Force on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (Task Force) to promote the improvement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across the state. The task force would generate discussion on policy that would improve the teaching of those subject areas for California’s K-12 students. It has no fiscal impact (the task force members are not paid).
You see, currently a full third of the 4th graders and a fifth of the 8th graders in the nation can’t preform basic computational math, and US high school seniors recently tested below the international average (out of 21 countries) in math and science.
Out of this poor group, take the fact that California ranked 46th (against other states) in math proficiency and 42nd in science proficiency on recent 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress...
So I know that the classic subscription vs. open access journal debate has been going on for a long time, but every now and then something pops up to bring it to the front of my brain. This time, it is a tongue in cheek segment on PhD comics called:
Nature vs. Science pt. 1
Nature vs. Science pt. 2
Nature vs. Science pt. 3
Nature vs. Science vs. Open Access
I remember a year back, at ACS New Orleans, sitting in a chem. ed. session and hearing a couple editors from nature talk about the move away from print journals, and the increasing popularity of open access journals.
Admittedly, in the beginning I was all for open access journals. I greatly disliked the fact that journals, and the editors running them, are get to decide what science is “best” when they are likely not doing any research of their own. It seemed (and to a small extent, still does) an awfully ridiculous concept: we do original research, give it to journals for free, and they bundle a lot of it together and sell it back to us. I mean, I think certain people went to jail not too long ago for running schemes of that style.
But now I have started to think otherwise. I don’t think open-access journals will be the answer (at least not in their current state) simply because we are…lazy. Bare with me for a bit, and I will explain.
You see, I think that open access journals would ruin the prestige hierarchy of journals and they would all devolve into something like arxiv, which regularly get crackpot...
Most chemists will agree, a chemical spill on the floor is one of the most annoying things to have to deal with in a lab. With LBL policy, you have to adhere to the SWIMS protocol: Stop work, Warn others, Isolate the area, Monitor yourself, Stay in the area. Not to mention using the correct spill kit, dealing with all the paperwork of the spill and the opening of the spill kit, explaining to the safety people what happened and why (hopefully) it wasn’t your fault, etc.
Aside from making sure your people are competent and well trained, not much is often done to prevent spills. Engineering controls such as secondary containment, fume hoods, capped reagent bottles, etc. work well when people remember and plan to use them. All too often, we see good chemists forgo extra safety steps for speed or just plain old laziness. Sometimes, people get badly hurt not because they were bad chemists or bad scientists, but because they really needed to catch the 6:40 train that day.
What we need are more safety devices that prevent the accident caused by a failure of the preventative safety measures from being very dangerous. For example, take these safety-coated reagent bottles from VWR. They have some plastic coating (PVC I think) outside of the glass to prevent spills even if the glass shatters. Sure some solvents would eat through the coating, but it would still buy you time to contain the spill, or evacuate the room if necessary.
Recently, with LBL’s current safety kick, our lab...
For as long as artificial sweeteners have been used, there has been a varying level of controversy over the safety of their use; both for humans and the environment in general. Saccharin and Aspartame have been plagued by health concerns raised by researchers for decades. Most studies have shown that only in very high concentrations are they dangerous, however few long term (>10 years) studies have been completed, so lower dose, chronic exposure has yet to be rigorously investigated. Currently, most diet sodas use aspartame and saccharin, including my favorite, Coke Zero. Another very popular sugar substitute, sucralose has begun to steal the spotlight away from aspartame in recent years, taking over popular drinks like Crystal Light, Tim Horton’s and Starbucks coffee.
The chlorinated sugar substitute called sucralose (commercially marketed as Splenda (TM)) was first synthesized in 1976, as part of a collaboration between Queen Elizabeth College in London and the Tate and Lyle Chemical Company. It is manufactured by the selective chlorination of sucrose, in which three of the hydroxyl groups are replaced with chlorine atoms. Supposedly the graduate student, Shashikant Phadnis, working on the synthesis misunderstood his professor’s request to test the chemical as a request to taste the chemical. Just goes to show, sometimes to make a lucrative discovery, a chemist must take the ultimate test!
Whatever happened, it has been found that Sucralose is approximately...
Most of you probably read the last issue of C&EN with the spiffy carrot loving cover story (good for me because I love carrots, but have never tried those ugly-looking BetaSweets). Inside, however, there was an extremely interesting little article in the “Science and Technology Concentrates” about light-driven pulleys turning a plastic motor.
Now photo mobile polymer materials have been around for quite a while, at least from my perspective seeing as how I wasn’t even in highschool when the big Nature paper came out. Some might remember the Nature 1999 Sep 9;401(6749):152-5 Koumura et al. paper titled “Light-Driven monodirectional molecular rotor”. Although back then, the rotation was monodirectional around a C-C double bond in a chiral, helical alkene. It was activated by UV light or a change in temperature and the motor was based on light-induced cis-trans isomerizations that caused 180 degree rotations followed by thermally controlled helicity inversions, which basically nullified half a rotation. Four isomerizations resulted in 1 complete cycle.
Well this was pretty darn cool but we’ve come a long way since then. As expected, and as Koumura said, structurally modified chiral alkenes played the central role in the development of these molecular motors that were beginning to interest the MEMS people (MEMS stands for Micro-Electromechanical Systems…I am pretty sure).
In J Am Chem Soc. 2003 Dec 10;125(49):15076-86, ter Wiel...
So I know that this doesn’t qualify as a chemistry post, but it’s still pretty darn cool.
Earlier today, Mitch scored some free pre-screening tickets for a movie called Wanted with Angelina Jolie in it. There was some white guy in it too, as the main character, but I didn’t really know or care who he was. In fact, I had no idea what the movie was about until we went and saw it. When Mitch told me that Angelina Jolie was in it, I accepted the invitation.
So he got the tickets through Techcrunch, a blog that focuses on reviewing new tech. products (mostly internet products) and companies. It was a first come first serve sort of contest and Mitch happened to log onto their website just it was posted. He got two tickets, and we drove out to the Metreon theater San Francisco.
We get there and get in line, and find out that there are about 250-300 ppl coming to see this prescreening. Many people got their tickets through techcrunch, allowing us that always sweet line cut since they had a separate ticket check system. The Myspace ppl, on the other hand, were stuck in line, cursing us as we went past. I think I forgot to mention that the event was cosponsored by techcrunch and Myspace.
Seeing a movie in a prescreening is pretty darn cool. It was kinda like going to see a movie at the opening show. The whole crowd gets into it and sort of participates in the movie. Apparently there is a sort of “movie prescreen” subculture as evidenced...
Hey there, from New Orleans! ACS 2008 kicked off today with the early morning registration rush that is required for every ACS meeting. This one, however, was awesomely bad, as the organizers, displaying true ig-nobel prize worthy genius, nearly caused an uprising from the mob of chemists waiting for their ID-cards.
So here’s what happened. Around 8 in the morning, chemists of all sorts spilled into the registration hall at the convention center in the French quarter of New Orleans. To register for the conference, each person had to first enter their information into the onsite computers, pay a fee, and then go collect the printed out ID cards. The first part of this procedure went fine, and it took only minutes for myself, Mitch, and Noel to pay the registration fee and get in line for the ID card. However, the wait for picking up the admission badge is where everything went haywire.
Instead of intelligently placing the printers next to the ID card readers so that new registrees could grab their papers and assemble their own ID’s, the organizers decided to have 3 printing stations where the ACS hosts would carefully complete the complicated task of folding the papers in half, inserting them into a plastic holder, and lacing an ACS lanyard through the tag.
One particularly loud lady, the “supervisor” – we were told so by other employees who refused to accept responsibility of the brewing crisis- especially endeared herself to the crowd. After...
So after the Physics Nobel Prize Post, I felt it would be necessary to point these out as well. For those of you who don’t know what the IG Nobel Prizes are…well, I think you’ll figure it out.
Oh, one last thing. These are all awarded by The Annals of Improbable Research, which is an institution like (heh, sort-of) The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences which awards the Chemistry and Physics Nobels, or the The Norwegian Nobel Institute which awards the Peace Nobel.
Here we go:
Brian Witcombe of Gloucester, UK, and Dan Meyer of Antioch, Tennessee, USA, for their penetrating medical report “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects.”
REFERENCE: “Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects,” Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer, British Medical Journal, December 23, 2006, vol. 333, pp. 1285-7.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer
L. Mahadevan of Harvard University, USA, and Enrique Cerda Villablanca of Universidad de Santiago de Chile, for studying how sheets become wrinkled.
REFERENCES:”Wrinkling of an Elastic Sheet Under Tension,” E. Cerda, K. Ravi-Chandar, L. Mahadevan, Nature, vol. 419, October 10, 2002, pp. 579-80.
“Geometry and Physics of Wrinkling,” E. Cerda and L. Mahadevan, Physical Review Letters, fol. 90, no. 7, February 21, 2003, pp. 074302/1-4.
“Elements of Draping,” E. Cerda, L. Mahadevan and J. Passini, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 101, no. 7,...