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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.

Collective Voice: Museum Staff Takes Minneapolis

Last week some fellow staff members and I boarded a plane headed to Minneapolis for the American Association of Museums conference. I came back with snapshots to share.

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Posted In: Education

Dead Bacteria

There are a goodly number of medicinal agents that remain useful for treating bacterial infections, even despite the specter of antibiotic resistance. But a recent study reveals that the mechanism by which they kill bad bacteria is more complicated than we ever expected.

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Posted In: History

How to Make History of Science Interesting: Part II

It’s an old case, but not a cold case. Isaac Newton left clues in his own hand. “Two women clothed riding on two lyons each with a heart in her hand....The right hand lyon farts on a company of young lions behind it….” Rather than an example of bad taste, Newton’s farting lion is part of a sophisticated chemical process. Unfortunately, no one has yet unlocked its meaning.

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Posted In: History

Oil Spill Cleanup

Most have heard the phrase “fight fire with fire,” which is generally taken to mean using the same tactics as your attacker. Although perhaps a stretch, attacking oil spills with carbon may be an equivalent concept, or at least one can so infer from a recent paper.

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Posted In: Technology

The Materiality of Music

The emergence of the semiconductor industry has opened up new frontiers in electronic music. The effects of this transition recently became apparent to me while designing The College of New Jersey’s From Etherphone to Microchip, an exhibit that spans the history of electronics from radio to high-definition television, including several milestones from the history of electronic music.

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Posted In: Fellows | History | Technology

How to Make History of Science Interesting: Part I

Chemistry can be a dirty business—just ask Isaac Newton. He begins one of his alchemical recipes with “Take of Urin one Barrel.” He then instructs the person with the newly acquired barrel of urine to let it ferment for three months in the summer. Neighbors back then must have been a less litigious bunch.

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Posted In: History

Intoxicated Creativity

Alcohol limits high cognitive function, as anyone who’s tried to complete a challenging mental task under the influence will attest. But can alcohol also provide the spark of creative genius, as some chronicles of popular culture maintain? A new publication from the University of Illinois at Chicago lends the idea some credibility.

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Posted In: Technology

First Person: Manson Benedict

Sometimes the path to becoming a chemist isn’t straightforward. Though Manson Benedict would later play a pivotal role in the Manhattan Project, serve on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and win the National Medal of Science, the Great Depression made him question his decision to study physical chemistry.

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Posted In: History

A Rare Problem

Rare earth elements are much in the news these days. Chemical and Engineering News, Forbes, and CHF’s own First Friday each offer their take on the subject, albeit with very different audiences in mind. Why the fuss? Modern life depends on the availability of the rare earths.

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Posted In: Policy | Technology

Collective Voice: 50th Anniversary of LCD Research

In September 1962 The Jetsons premiered on ABC, bringing flying cars, robotic housemaids, and flat-panel displays to primetime. The last we now take for granted, but in 1962 the idea of a television thin enough to mount on the wall was as farfetched as a pair of antigravity boots. Few Americans knew that a chemist working for the Radio Corporation of America had—50 years ago today—already taken the first step toward transforming that science-fiction dream into a reality.

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Posted In: History | Technology