Props for Conversations…

My upcoming play “Conversations on Victorian Chemistry” features a couple of the instruments that were used to discover elements and their properties. One of those instruments is the spectroscope. Imagine how excited I was to see a papercraft DIY spectrometer in the most recent issue of Make Magazine!

After the play, we’ll be showcasing a few DIY science projects. Audience members will be able to take home the instructions and try out their hand as citizen scientists! Can’t wait? Then head over to PublicLab and check out the project. (And if you’re that interested, you should probably subscribe to Make magazine.)

Gearing up for Conversations…

One of my goals for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table was to put on a play. Yeah, ambitious. I’m now calling it a lecture in costume to keep from stressing out too much. In any case, I am 12 days away from the premier of Conversations on Victorian Chemistry. More to come.

The Victorian era was rich with chemical discoveries, not least of which was the development of the iconic periodic table. In this program, we will hear from Dimitri Mendeleev, the chemist recognized as the father of periodic law, and Marie Curie, who discovered two new elements and devoted her life to the study of radioactivity, a concept wholeheartedly rejected by Mendeleev. Conversations on Victorian Chemistry is presented in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the periodic table.  In addition to chemistry-themed refreshments, we will showcase some 21st-century activities that demonstrate the tools used by these Victorian scientists.

Happy Birthday Ramsay

Today is the 167th anniversary of the birth of William Ramsay, the scientist who is credited with discovering the noble gases. Google recognized the event with a doodle on 10/2/2019

When the noble gases were being discovered (Argon was the first in 1894, helium closely thereafter in 1895), Mendeleev was very doubtful they were elements. These new species did not fit within his periodic table. Additionally, they didn’t do anything like other elements (make oxides and hydrides, for example). It wasn’t until 1898, when neon, xenon and krypton were also discovered that it occurred to scientists that a new row of the periodic table had been discovered.

In 1900, the radioactive radon was discovered (although the ideas of radioactivity were still being fleshed out at that time by Marie Curie). The last noble gas to be discovered was oganesson, which happened in 2006.

200 years of climate science

Did you know that our understanding of the effect carbon dioxide has on atmospheric temperature started 200 years ago? I didn’t, at least not until the NY Times morning briefing made me aware of Eunice Foote’s contributions to the science. I had heard of Eunice Foote before, when I visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls this past summer (a great way to spend a morning/afternoon if you are in the area).

Rather than recap Foote’s contributions to science and the challenges she faced as a woman in science, I’ll send you over to this great summary of her work and trials.

Foote was not allowed to read her paper at the meeting because women “couldn’t participate in science”. How times have changed.

LED spectroscopy

I’m working on a project that will include using LEDs as light sensors, and one of the first tasks is to learn a bit more about the wavelengths of light that are emitted by an array of LEDs. Since I’ve recently created a Mathematica interface to an Ocean Optics spectrometer (on a Raspberry Pi, naturally), the first task was pretty straightforward.

Emission spectra of several LEDs. rgb(b,g,r) are in a common cathode RGB led while the others are varieties from Adafruit.
Continue reading