The famous moonwalking Red-capped manakin (Pipra mentalis)

This was featured over at Improbable Research. The general gist is that the male Red-capped manakin will do a very impressive moonwalk to attract the females. Unfortunately, for the biologist, she didn’t make it to David Bradley’s top 10. Here is a screen cap of the bird. And here is a link to the video: bird moonwalk.


By September 27, 2006 0 comments science news

Flammable Bubbles: The old methane in soapy water demonstration

YouTube has a new video floating around featuring one of the coolest Chemistry demos, Flammable Bubbles.

This is one of my favorite experiments to perform. Actually, I’ve forced all my students in my synthetic labs to allow me to do this to them in order to pass my lab section. The actual setup for this experiments is quite straight forward. Add aquinox to a large beaker, add water until its 1/2 to 3/4 full. Get a hose and attach it to the natural gas spigot in the lab. Bubble gas through the soapy water until you have a lot of bubbles.Now before everyone goes and tries this, please follow the below safety tips. The video above violates every single safety consideration I could think of.

  • Make sure appropriate eye protection is warn by everyone
  • Make sure to do this experiment in a lab with a high ceiling or you might literally put the roof on fire.
  • I’ve done this demo over a hundred times and it can sometimes burn a bit past your comfort level. One way to deal with this is to dip everybody’s hands in water before you apply the soapy bubbles to them. Wet hands will also have the added bonus of preventing bubbles from popping before you bring a flame near it.
  • Turn off the gas line while having an open flame
  • Make sure everyone has their hair pulled back
  • If anyone has any wrist bands(See video above) make sure you have your students remove them
  • Have your students extend their hands as far away from their body as possible.
  • Some students get scared during this demo and as the flame develops will automatically try to retract their hands to their body. Make sure you tell them repeatedly and often to every single one of them that it is very important that they not move.

Have fun with the Flammable Bubbles demo just be more careful and safe than those in the video. Thanks Borek for bringing this video to my attention.


By September 24, 2006 2 comments Uncategorized

Radon is killing at a rate of 21,100 Americans a year

I was a bit surprised at the number myself. The figure is reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Chemical Education, by Charles H. Atwood in the article Radon in Homes: Recent Developments. What was also interesting is that there is no safe amount of radon exposure. Meaning, once some radon decays in your lungs you will be at greater risk of lung cancer. We kind of like to think, “Hey, some chemicals are toxic sure, but a little exposure can’t really hurt us?” Well, Radon is not one of those chemicals. Since, terrorists killed 3000 Americans in a single day, you would think the hazards associated with Radon would get more publicity since it kills more Americans annually. But hell, if smoking which kills 160,000 Americans annually falls between the cracks surely radon would too. Attached is a figure taken from the above mentioned paper detailing the areas of the country with the highest risk of Radon.


By September 20, 2006 0 comments science news

Death of Tenderbutton: Celebrity and Liability

Tenderbutton will be shutting down shortly if you haven’t heard. Official notice is here: The two arguments given, although he says there are others, are the rapid audience growth of the blog and general liability concerns. I can see how being instantly recognized by everyone at the ACS conference could both be a good thing and a bad thing, but I never felt celebrity is an overwhelming drawback from doing what you like to do.

I think part of the fall of tenderbutton is due to it only being Dylan writing for it. If it wasn’t for the wonderful staff and forum members answering questions, I may of closed up shop too because I would of been swamped with the sole obligation of trying to answer everyone. It’s a huge obligation to constantly try to make new content. Maybe if tenderbutton introduced guest bloggers it would reduce the overall workload. Dylan has already set the bar for blogging content and anyone he got to guest blog would be forced to live up to that reputation. As Greg put it privately, “Even if 1/3 of the blog entries were Dylan’s it would still be a great site to visit.”

Artists sometimes do not know how their work will be perceived, and once popularized they can’t easily snipe from afar. There are a final few blog entries for tenderbutton, but I seriously doubt this is the last time the chemical community will be reading Dylan’s rants.


Other opinions
In the Pipeline:
Interfacial Science:

By September 18, 2006 0 comments Uncategorized