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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.

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All posts in Technology

How Bjork is Mining the Historical Intersection of Science and Music

Science and music have always fascinated me, but for different reasons. I turn to one for its promise of explaining nature and humanity, the other for its emotional and introspective qualities. This is why I was surprised to learn about Icelandic singer and electronic musician Bjork’s latest album, Biophilia. In it, she transforms scientific instruments into just, well, instruments.

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Posted In: History | Technology

Blog Review: Chem Engineering Posts

Concerned with the decline of student interest in chemical engineering, CHF board member Peter Spitz has started a new blog, Chem Engineering Posts, drawing on his experience and extensive knowledge about the chemical engineering industry. There are few blogs devoted to chemical engineering, so Spitz’s is a welcome and accessible addition

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Posted In: Education | Technology

Alternate Realities

The news last month from Europe was that a research team at CERN near the French/Swiss border observed neutrinos arriving at a detector faster than the speed of light. Naturally, the experiment is being repeated, checked, parsed, and thoroughly debated because physicists aren’t really all that anxious to rethink everything held dear for the past century. Personally, I hope it turns out that neutrinos can travel faster than light because, really, what could be more fun than to totally re-imagine the basic nature of the universe?

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Posted In: Technology

First Person: Kathryn Hach-Darrow

"I had a date with Clifford Hach. He came up to the door and had a nice little package all wrapped up for me. I thought, 'It’s a box of candy.' He gave me the package, I opened it up, and there was a book for me to read by Dr. Otto Eisenschiml - Without Fame: The Romance of a Profession. Cliff said, 'I want you to read this because we’re going to build a chemical company.' His ambition was already very clear, even back in those days."

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Posted In: History | Technology

Feeding the World

The world population is rapidly growing and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. By the end of 2011, which the United Nations has designated the International Year of Chemistry, the population is estimated to exceed 7 billion people - and may have already. By 2050 even modest projections place this same figure above 9 billion. Among other issues such unprecedented growth raises is one stark and glaring question: How can the world feed that many people?

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Pure Carbon to the Rescue

Both the iPad and the cell phone are hard, very stiff, and prone to damage if dropped. But suppose they could be made of a flexible material that could be rolled up, squished at will, and stuck anywhere? Sounds impossible based on current technology, but a group of chemists based in Korea and Illinois have an intriguing new possibility—graphene transistors.

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Posted In: Technology

Oil from Pond Scum

Oil powers the modern world, both as a source of fuel and as the supply for many of the fundamental building blocks of organic chemistry. Someday—exactly when is the basis of much debate—we will run out of oil, so naturally one wonders what we will do in that eventuality. One prospect was announced two years ago when the oil giant ExxonMobil teamed up with the ambitious biotech Synthetic Genomics on a project to create biofuels from lowly algae.

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Posted In: Technology

The End of Fluoride?

Think your fluoridated drinking water protects you from Halloween-related cavities? A recent article in The New York Times carried the headline, “Looking to Save Money, More Places Decide to Stop Fluoridating the Water.” It follows last year’s report from the National Center for Health Statistics, which showing an increased occurrence of dental fluorosis, a flecking or mottling of the tooth enamel that occurs when children ingest too much fluoride. Does the combination of increased fluorosis and cash-strapped governments mean the end of fluoridated water?

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Planet Money on the Future of Energy

Planet Money is a great podcast that explores timely stories and issues through a global economic lens. Sound wonky? You might be surprised. You might also be surprised how often economics and chemistry overlap. The show a few weeks ago focused on the economics of energy and featured an interview with author Daniel Yergin about his new book The Quest, which focuses on the engineers and scientists who are searching for energy alternatives.

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Cancer and Memory: A Molecular Connection

There is a large class of proteins called cyclins that regulate normal cell growth and division. Since cancer is a result of aberrant growth it comes as no surprise that cyclin over-expression is associated with many types of cancer. It would also follow that drugs aimed at suppressing hyperactive cyclins would present an intriguing opportunity as new therapeutic agents. Alas, no such drug yet exists for the treatment of human cancer.

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Posted In: Technology