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CHF staff and scholars provide a behind-the-scenes guide to activities at CHF, with reflections on science education, provocative explorations of chemistry in the wider world, and much more.

This page holds archived blog posts. Visit our Tumblr page to see recent content and to join the conversation.

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Food for Thought

Surprise! When it comes to taste you can thank your brain, not your tongue, according to an article published recently in Science.

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Posted In: History | Technology

Happy Belated Birthday, Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday was born September 22, 1791. He was raised with no formal education beyond primary school and was by all accounts, even well into adulthood, mathematically illiterate. Yet this same Michael Faraday would grow to become one of the greatest and most prolific scientific minds of all time.

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Posted In: History

Get the Lead Out!

At the beginning of the 2007 NASCAR season Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dropped out of a race and finished at the back of a 43-car field. His reason: the team’s engine builders had trouble with a new NASCAR rule mandating that high-octane fuel be lead free. This year Earnhardt is racing in a Chevrolet Impala race car making more than 800 horsepower—with unleaded fuel.

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Posted In: History | Technology

First Person: Donald Noyce

The life of a graduate student in chemistry can be pretty mundane; most time is spent in the laboratory and there are often few opportunities for outside socializing. This was as true sixty years ago as it is today; Donald Noyce recalls this feeling in his CHF oral history – in 1946 he was a graduate student at Columbia University, studying the structure of Aspergillus ustus, a mold metabolite that was thought to kill tuberculosis.

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Posted In: History

A History of Chemistry in Two Words

As fans of CHF no doubt know, alchemy was once the name given to “the science of matter;” only around the latter half of the sixteenth century did the term chemistry begin to appear in Western sources. The theories behind this shift in use, and the source of the root word – chem – nicely encapsulates the history of chemistry itself, and the questions that remain about its origins.

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Posted In: History

Collective Voice: "Rotating and Resolving" Recovered

In 1911 future Nobel Laureate Paul Karrer, then a student at work in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Alfred Werner, took a break from his arduous studies to pen an amusing verse play for a Christmas celebration. These Weihnachtskommers were a chance for students to let their hair down and even poke some gentle fun at their professors.

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Posted In: History

Reconsidering Anti-Science

A recent New York Times editorial characterized the Republican Party as the anti-science party.  In the polarized world of the 21st-century United States, anti-science is an often-used label, but it obscures the actual modern nature of the beliefs of candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, as well as 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee.

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Posted In: History | Policy

Getting Here is Half the Fun

Books carry traces of where they’ve been. The history of the rare books collection’s newest addition, Benedikt Hermann’s Über die allgemeinen Eigenschaften des Kupfers (Leipzig, 1812), is hinted at even on its title page.

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Posted In: History

Today's Magic Bullet

102 years ago today, Paul Ehrlich developed a chemical compound to effectively treat the scourge of his day: syphilis. Ehrlich’s compound, a derivative of arsenic called Salvarsan, was also the first successful chemotherapeutic agent. But the miracle drug, which Ehrlich called his “magic bullet,” was not without its problems.

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Posted In: History | Technology

Human Science

Online science magazine LiveScience interviewed historian of science Naomir Oreskes recently. I appreciated her comment that science is a human process, involving human dynamics.

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Posted In: History