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We Have Iron For The World’s Largest Periodic Table!


Thanks to the team at the Teacher Enrichment Initiatives (TEI) in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center a San Antonio (UTHSCSA), we have been invited to join in the construction of the world’s largest periodic table!


UTHSCSA’s TEI seeks partnerships between the faculty and staff of UTHSCSA and K-12 teachers in the San Antonio area. They offer a wealth of resources for science teachers, including a multidisciplinary health science curriculum aligned to state and national educational standards, and teacher professional development programs.

We chose the chemical element iron with the symbol Fe from ferrum, with Latin roots meaning to bear or to carry, because its atomic number is 26. As it happens, our high school is named after the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, who had an iron constitution and wrote in a letter to New York legislator Henry Sprague on January 26th, 1900:

Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

Bully! I think that Mr. Roosevelt would be proud!

Big Data’s Other Dangerous Video


Source: Big Data

Big Data is an American electropop music project of Brooklyn-based producer Alan Wilkis and friends. Big Data explores contemporary themes involving humans and their growing dependence on and general distrust of technology, especially the Internet.

Big Data is best known for its single “Dangerous”, from the debut 2013 EP 1.0 and the debut 2015 studio album 2.0. The single features Rochester, New York indie band Joywave, with vocals being performed by the band’s lead singer Daniel Armbruster.

Watching the music video below reminded me of Kansas State University professor Michael Wesch’s video from eight years ago. My previous post mentions Dr. Wesch and his ideas about emergent Web 2.0 technologies. Now, here was a music video that illustrated just how far our use of those technologies has progressed in a timeframe of less than a decade!

While it’s not the most famous version of the “Dangerous” single, the Internet is the subject of the music video below. It is a lyric video created by SCANTRON and Greg Yagolnitzer. It’s vaguely NSFW because of blurry bits.

Adventures In Time And Space 10: Light In Slow Motion

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created an imaging system that allows them to capture light at fast enough speeds to show it traveling in slow motion down the length of a one-liter soda bottle and reflecting back again. The MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, led by Project Director Ramesh Raskar, collaborated with the lab of Moungi Bawendi of the MIT Department of Chemistry, since fast chemical reactions also occur within a similar timescale, that of femtoseconds (one quadrillionth of a second), where atoms within reactant molecules are rearranging themselves to form new product molecules. The team’s system collects visual data at a rate of half a trillion exposures per second.

The new system is called Femto Photography and it consists of illumination bursts from a titanium sapphire laser lasting femtoseconds (1 x 10-15 of a second), image captures from detectors lasting picoseconds (1 x 10-12 of a second), and mathematical reconstruction techniques to put it all together.

The exposure time of each image frame is 2 picoseconds, or two trillionths (2 x 10-12) of a second, and the resultant video shows the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Since it is nearly impossible to capture images at such a fast frame rate, the system uses a stroboscopic method where a laser pulse lasting less than 1 picosecond or one trillionth (1 x 10-12) of a second is used as flash. The returning light is then collected by a camera that records half a trillion frames per second.

However, due to the very short exposure times of 2 picoseconds, millions of repeated measurements need to be collected over several minutes and then rearranged using a reconstruction algorithm to create a video of the event lasting a nanosecond, or one billionth (1 x 10-9) of a second. In a nanosecond, light travels about 30 centimeters or 12 inches, about the length of a one-liter soda bottle. For comparison, the blink of a human eye is about 0.4 second or 400 milliseconds, 400 millionths (400 x 10-3) of a second. Thus, an eye blink is nine orders of magnitude slower than what the imaging system can capture on video.

Beyond educational and artistic purposes, the MIT team hopes to use the new imaging system for research into understanding ultrafast processes, into analyzing industrial faults and material properties, and as a type of medical “ultrasound with light.”

Eminemium (Parody of Choose Yourself)

Tim Blais montage

Tim Blais of A Capella Science Source: YouTube

Eminemium is a parody of Eminem’s Choose Yourself by Tim Blais on his A Capella Science video project. You can watch the video below.

Tim Blais captures the scene of the Manhattan Project on that fateful day, July 16, 1945:

They’ve armed the weapon
Countdown clock is set and
J. Robert Oppenheimer is sweatin’.
Eyes are red and he’s nervous
‘Cause on the surface this is Armageddon.
The shock bomb, but we’re set upon and threatened
And with no sound, the whole Alamogordo ground
Is glowing and cowed under one smoldering cloud.
He’s choked and wowed, everybody’s open-mouthed,
And over the ground the shock front blows, kapow!

Blais is a physics master’s student and musician who resolved the tension between his creative and academic side by allowing these two aspects of himself to work together. His musical creations result from unaltered sounds from his mouth, throat, and vocal cords.

He continues:

Snap back to the alchemy,
Hope before tragedy,
Showed with bold math that we broke the whole atom.
We choked; controlled action with poles of cold cadmium coat
To go capture neutrons and slow fracture
We broke, postponed that and we chose to go fashion
A most radioactive plutonium gadget then
Fat Man and Boy and Enola goes laughin’
As Nagasaki is blown and Hiroshima’s blasted…

The rest of the song is a historical distillation of the Cold War with the admonition “You gotta choose yourself how to use it / The knowledge you hold” because “So here we go, it’s our shot / Feel frail or not / This is the only world and humanity that we got.” Tim Blais manages to take a brilliant work by a brilliant artist and transform it into a clever piece about the social responsibilities of scientific discovery. Brilliant!

If you like him as much as I do, all of Blais’ tracks are available for download at Apple Music.


Love and Chemistry

This ad spot is from the German chemical company BASF (Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik or “Baden Aniline and Soda Factory”).

Love and Chemistry