Episode 25: The Chemistry of Time

There are four fundamental qualities: time, length, mass, and temperature. All other units can be derived from them, but these four can’t be broken down any further. This week we focus on time—the measurement that orders our lives. Catalysts are something chemists use to speed up time; in other words, to make chemical reactions work faster. Ruthenium is an element that has recently become an important catalyst in organic chemistry. This week Chemistry in Your Cupboard explores the wonders of the pressure cooker. And finally, producer Eric Mack visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, to check out the world’s most accurate atomic clock (shown on the left). Element of the Week: Ruthenium.

Show Clock

00:00     Opening Credits
00:32     Introduction
01:30     Element of the Week: Ruthenium
03:59     Chemistry in Your Cupboard: Pressure Cooker
06:20     The Atomic Clock
10:37     Quote: William Faulkner
10:51     Closing Credits

Resources and References

Check out the summer issue of Chemical Heritage for more information about green chemistry.
The 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to Robert H. Grubbs, Yves Chauvin, and Richard R. Schrock.
Learn more about pressure cookers and their history.
More information about the NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock.


This show was researched by Audra Wolfe.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music was provided by the Podsafe Music Network. The music for the Element of the Week is “1 o’clock Martini Intro,” by Podcast Troubadour. After Chemistry in Your Cupboard is “The Wonder Clock,” by The Psycho Daisies. The music after the feature and under the quotation is “Tick Tock,” by Podcast Troubadour.

This week’s image is the NIST-F1 clock, which uses a fountain-like movement of cesium atoms to determine the length of the second so accurately that—if it were to run continuously—it would neither lose nor gain one second in 80 million years. Image copyright Geoffrey Wheeler Photography.


Posted In: Society | Technology

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