Post Tagged with: "chemistry"

The Great Adamantium Heist – A chemistry themed escape room



For the last couple of years I’ve put together home escape rooms to entertain the kids over the festive period.

This year’s effort has a chemistry feel, and so I thought I’d share it in case anyone wants some inspiration for their own home-escape room. You might need to adapt things a bit depending on what you have to hand (mine includes a 3D printer!)

The Scenario:

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have succeeded in creating Unbibium, element 122! And it’s smack in the middle of the Island of Stability! Scientists are amazed by the fact it has a staggeringly long half-life of 524 thousand years. The team have even managed to make a few grams of the new element. Enough for them to test its physical properties. It looks like the Ubb has an incredible tensile strength. In fact it is so strong the press have taken to calling it adamantium

It turns out there are people who would like to get their hands on this new super metal. And that’s where you come in. You and your team have a reputation for being able to break into anywhere and steal anything. You’ve been approached via your dark-web chat room, to acquire the sample of adamantium. The unknown buyer will pay you £10 million for the sample that’s locked away in the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

You quickly accept the job and hatch a plan.

The lab is world famous and lots of people want to see where new elements are made. So they regularly hold tours of their facilities. Your plan is to join one of the tours and then slip away and hide in the janitors cupboard in one of the labs. Then once all the scientists have gone home you’ll creep out, find the adamantium and make your escape. You know that the security guards come by about every 63 minutes, so if you time things right you’ll have just over an hour to get the job done. It probably won’t take that long, after all science labs aren’t known for their top-notch security!

The Set Up

I used the following to set up my escape room:

  • A padlocked box.

  • A combination lockbox (code set to 1716). Hidden in a draw.
  • A partial URL for a file on dropbox or similar e.g  https://universityofhull.box.com/v/MORSE, hidden in the combination lockbox. The URL will not work in this form. It needs to be completed by replacing  ‘Morse’ with the deciphered morse code found in the picture of Lise Mietner.
  • Computer – password protected with the ‘DEFGF
  • Postcards, on a notice board

  • One postcard contains a description of a holiday in Sweden and particularly Ytterby.

 

  • A 3D printer and and 3D files of the key for the padlock (you can find a printable lock and key at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2564541). If you don’t have access to a 3D printer, then just use a combination lock for the padlocked case and replace the STL file for the key with the combination for the lock.
  • Some bismuth to represent Ubb, placed inside the padlocked box.
  • A lab coat 
  • A selection of popular science books, including Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon and Simon Singh’s The Code Book
  • A USB stick – hidden in a draw.
  • Pencils, paper for note taking. 
  • Smart speaker streaming music.

I used printed copies of:

  • Ubb and a radioactive symbol to stick to the padlocked box
  • A selection of  element infographics from Andy Brunning’s Compound Chem (mainly for decoration and red herrings)
  • The periodic table of element name origins
  • A picture of Lisa Meitner, hidden within the picture (just under her name) is some Morse code. Once deciphered this gives the final part of the URL. 

 

    • Sheet music for Tom Lehrer’s Element Song. Screwed up and left in the waste bin. If none of the players can read music you may need to include a musical note crib sheet
    • A ‘signed’ picture of David Guetta (singer of Titanium) and a ticket from a David Guetta concert.

 

  • Morse code crib sheet hidden in The Code Book.
  • Definitions of isotope symbols stuck to the wall e.g.

Element - Key Stage Wiki

Clues 1-3,

Together the first 3 clues provide the number for the combination locked box. All three clues are on a handwritten note placed in a lab coat pocket. 

Combination = AxBxC

Z of my favourite song = A 

Z of lightest element named after Sonia’s 1937 holiday = B

Z of ‘Seek p15 within literature on vanishing cutlery’ = C

Each of these clues refer to the atomic number of an element.

‘My favourite song’ = Titanium (Z = 22) by David Guette. The players should get this from the signed picture and ticket to the Guette concert. If they aren’t familiar with his music they can use the smart speaker to play through his songs.

‘Lightest element named after Sonia’s 1937 holiday’ refers to one of the postcards. And along with the periodic table of element name origins should give them Yttrium (Z= 39)

‘Seek p15 of the literature on vanishing cutlery’ should take the players to page 15 of ‘The Disappearing spoon’. When the note is placed over page 15 the hole in the note reveals ‘helium’ (z=2).

Once they have all the numbers they can work out that 22 x 39 x 2 = 1716, which provides the combination of the lockbox.

Clue 4

Within the combination lock box is a scrap of paper with https://universityofhull.box.com/v/MORSE typed on it, and for an extra clue  ‘Meitner’ is written on the back.

The URL will not work until the ‘MORSE’ section is replaced with the deciphered morse code hidden in the picture of Lise Meitner. 

The Morse code crib sheet is hidden in The Code Book. Together these allow the players to complete the URL with ‘Meitnerium109’.

Clue 5

To access the URL the players obviously need a computer.  The password to the computer is on a sticky note on the back of the monitor. It reads ‘Password: Rust notes from Mr Riddle and a german teacher’s song’.  Mr Riddle refers to Tom Riddle (Harry Potter fans should get this) and  ‘teacher’ in German is ‘Lehrer’. 

Clue 6

 In the waste paper bin is a copy of sheet music of Tom Lehrer’s element song. The player’s should get iron and oxygen from the reference to rust, and then reading the notes from the sheet music to get ‘DEFGF’, which will unlock the computer.

Once the players open the computer and go to  https://universityofhull.box.com/v/meitnerium109 they will be able to download the files to 3D print the key to the lock. A USB stick can be used to transfer the data to the printer (As an alternative, hide the combination to a second lock at a URL).

Then players simply print the key, open the padlocked case, retrieve the Ubb and make their escape!

 

By December 29, 2020 0 comments entertainment, fun, Uncategorized

Garlic Challenge, the results show!

Back in October I posed a question: Is there any truth in the old wives tale that rubbing your hands on stainless steel gets rid of garlic smells? Various theories as to how steel may achieve this were posited. But I wanted to know if there was a real effect in the first place. Kitchen chemists everywhere helped answer this by taking part in a stinky citizen science challenge. And the results are, well, interesting.

Garlic

I asked people to conduct a quick experiment whilst prepping dinner. The task was simply to rub the palms of their hands with garlic. Then treat one hand with a wipe from a stainless steel spoon and the other with a wooden spoon. Finally participants asked some other poor soul to take a sniff of their hands and report on whether there was a discernible difference.

Thanks to everyone who took up the garlic challenge (especially the person who did their experimenting whilst cooking Christmas dinner).

And so to the results.

These were collected via surveymonkey, with the question “Which hand smelt more of garlic?” and the answer choices a) The hand rubbed with the wooden spoon, b) The hand rubbed with the stainless steel spoon, c) Couldn’t tell the difference.

44 allium lovers responded. Of those 17 thought the hand treated with the wooden spoon smelt more garlicky, 6 said the stainless steel treated hand was the stinkier. So far, so good. Looks like the stainless steel effect might be real. But here’s the rub, there’s still the other 21 responses, none of whom could tell the difference between the smelly hands.

 

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 10.48.37

 

So we’ve got results that are significantly different from an even distribution between the options (the two-tailed P value equals 0.0163 ,according to a chi squared test) . However, the stainless steel treatment seems to be only about 38% effective, assuming the wooden spoon is a good negative control. But maybe the abrasive, absorbent wooden spoon is also quite good at removing garlic smells? In which case the effectiveness of the stainless steel is an underestimate.

Oh well, sorry people, but it looks like I can’t really offer a definitive answer. In hind sight I think the experimental design could have been better. A before and after spoon treatment sniff test would have been a good idea. And maybe a better negative control was in order.

Looks like another round of experiments  could be in order. Or can anyone offer a better way of analysing the data (I suspect sensitivity vs specificity analysis might be more appropriate)?

By December 31, 2013 5 comments fun

Twitter Brain’s Chemistry Novel (and other book) recommendations

I’ve been looking for an easy to read book (fiction or non-fiction) to send out to chemistry students before they arrive at Uni. The plan is to have all our first years read the same book before they arrive. With any luck it will give them something to chat about and give our first few lectures a point of reference.

So I asked the twitter brain for its chemistry book recommendations, and here’s what it came up with.

  1. @Sci_ents @DrRubidium Anyone say Greg Benford’s Timescape? More physics but includes NMR, time travel, eco-disaster, and academics.
  2. @Sci_ents @DrRubidium I can recommend an author… Peter Watts.. his first series is chock full of science goodness including chemistry
  3. @sci_ents we’re partial to this one: ht.ly/mrHGn Short stories about a deadly assassin who uses a different poison for each kill
  4. @ChemistryWorld @Sci_ents My friend told me to read “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean. I just checked it out from the library!
  5. @Sci_ents I enjoyed ‘The Girls of Atomic City.” It tells the story of the nuclear bomb development from the “blue collar” people working…
  6. @simonbayly @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld It was Mr Levi whom inspired me onto the chemical trail at age 14. Highly recommended reading.
  7. @BytesizeScience @Sci_ents Goethe’s “Elective Affinities” is a Classical example, but highly metaphorical. Downhill from there.
  8. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld Mr Tompkins by George Gamow
  9. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld The Periodic Table by Primo Levi isn’t a novel exactly, but it is one of the best books ever.
  10. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld @Sci_ents not sure if this counts but “cat’s cradle” by Vonnegut has some nice ideas en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice-nine
  11. @Sci_ents Interesting physics and chemistry in Reflex by Dick Francis. Not exactly concepts though, more application.
  12. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld not really a novel but The Periodic Kingdom by P W Atkins is a great read
  13. @Sci_ents The Documents in the Case, Dorothy L. Sayers. Not much chemistry until the clincher which is chemical concept. (DM for spoiler)
  14. @Sci_ents When I was undergrad, one grad inorg cume at WUSTL included question, “Who killed Missy Moonbeam in The Delta Star?”
  15. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld
    Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
  16. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld Susan Gaines’ Carbon Dreams?
  17. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld – Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History, Penny Le Couteur
  18. @Sci_ents Not exactly fitting the criteria but Primo Levi’s Periodic Table comes to mind
  19. @Sci_ents Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primo_Levi some named as best science novel ever
  20. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld or cat’s cradle if gravity’s rainbow is too much of a slogger
  21. @Sci_ents Emm short answer no. Long shot- Dune. Spice as a drug, water harvesting and terraforming. Best I can do ad hoc
  22. @Sci_ents A Whiff of Death (I. Asimov) — murder mystery set in Chemistry department… The Delta Star (J. Wambaugh) — similar plot.
  23. @Sci_ents @ChemistryWorld gravity’s rainbow, imopolex g

 

Did we miss any?

Say it with Molecules

Capsaicin necklace anyone?

Anyone fancy some quality, tasteful geeky  jewellery? I don’t think you could do much better than this. Its accurate, sterling silver and subtly nerdy, which means I might just about be able to get away with buying some for the other half. 

There’s a whole range of your favourite molecules in wearable form, from capsaicin necklaces to nucleotide earrings and serotonin cuff links.

All available from madewithmolecules.com.

Hat tip to @DrBWahab for the link.

By March 25, 2013 2 comments fun