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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 History

Office Calisthenics, Anyone?

The calorie, scientifically popularized by an agricultural chemist, was once used as a tool to maximize efficiency among laborers: to “promote the largest production of brick per man.” But as you may be aware, America doesn’t make a lot of bricks anymore. I was reminded of this when I saw a new report linking long-term shifts in the job market with a corresponding rise in obesity rates.

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Posted In: History | Technology

Chow Baby

On this Memorial Day, ceremonies in towns, cities and villages across America honor those who served and who are now serving in the U.S. military. Since I am one of those who served in the past and are now serving again, I want to remember and celebrate Army field rations: remember the 1970s C-rations and celebrate today’s MREs.

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Posted In: History

Dark Matters and the Periodic Table

Late in the 19th century, Dmitri Mendeleev embarked on a most modest journey to create a table of all that was known, and yet to be known, of elemental matters.  Yet scientists today believe that the elements in the periodic table make up only about 5% of all the mass in the entire Universe. That’s less than you give the government in sales tax each time you buy something!

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Posted In: History

First Person: Mary L. Good

The Cold War influenced chemist Mary L. Good’s education and career, providing not only the funding but much of the public rationale for scientific research and training. As the tensions of the 50s and 60s eased, part of her job as a political science advisor was to convince both the government and the public to continue their support.

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Posted In: History | Policy

Unlikely Allies

Science and religion are commonly believed to be in a state of perpetual battle. So why is the Vatican proposing we act to prevent global warming?

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Posted In: History

Collective Voice: The 13th Element

In the collection at CHF, quite a few of our machines have large pieces of aluminum foil attached to them. Some of our photographs show laboratory instruments wrapped in the stuff, and among our artifacts is even a roll of Fisher Scientific brand aluminum foil. Do chemists just love shiny things, or is there something else going on here?  

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Posted In: History

Breakfast Rx

Can food be medicine, or medicine food? It’s not as simple as comparing apples and…syringes. According to Donna Messner, CHF’s current Gordon Cain Fellow in Technology, Policy, and Entrepreneurship, the distinction between what is food and what is medicine began to blur around the turn of the 20th century.

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Posted In: Fellows | History

Mourning with Marie Curie

During the final days of the Philadelphia Science Festival, I got to know Marie Curie. I don’t just mean that I got to know about Marie Curie (though I certainly did), but rather that her appearance—in the form of storyteller Susan Marie Frontczak—left me feeling acquainted with a brilliant and complex woman, not just a celebrated persona.

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Posted In: Education | History

Women in Chemistry 2011: A Recap

A 2006 UNESCO report estimates that only 27% of scientists worldwide are women. While women in chemistry fare slightly better than some in other disciplines, their rate of retention within the industry still causes concern. As part of its ongoing commitment to women in science, last week CHF held a two-day celebration of female chemists. 

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Posted In: Education | History | Policy

Border Crossings

In 1980 physicist Luis Alvarez and his chemist compatriots published a paper arguing that an iridium-rich meteorite smashed into the earth 65 million years ago, causing mass extinctions, and leaving behind its signature in the form of an iridium layer.  Artist Lynn A. MacIntyre turned this piece of science history into art.

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Posted In: Education | History