All abuzz about the Periodic Table

Tomorrow we do our first (and final) dress rehearsal for the play (uhh lecture with costumes) “Conversations on Victorian Chemistry”, which will be held Wednesday at the Morgan-Manning House (in Brockport, for the 2-3 out of state visitors to my website). In addition to the performance, we are showcasing some chemistry demonstrations. Piezoelectricity played a significant role in Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactivity and we have made some piezoelectric crystals out of cream of tartar. After following the suggestions in this Collin’s Lab video, I just went into our stockroom and found some potassium sodium tartrate (aka Rochelle’s salt) to recrystallize.

Left-hand side are some Rochelle salt crystals. Right hand side is the voltage generated by tapping the hard-to-see crystal in my 3D printed vise.

(and if you are wondering what the connection is with the title, the thing that makes your smartphone vibrate is probably one of these.)

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.

t-shirt chemistry

Tomorrow starts the new semester for me, and I finished my course prep (well, tomorrow’s activities anyway) so I figured I would celebrate with a little creativity. Not too long ago, I came across the activity where you can make a t-shirt iron on by drawing on sandpaper. I have sandpaper, some old t-shirts and I splurged on an 8-pack of crayons ($0.67 at Walmart) so I figured I would give it a go.

This year is all about the periodic table, so I wanted a periodic table design. One trend that I particularly like is the number of stable isotopes, which very clearly shows off my favorite element – technetium – because it is the lightest element without any stable isotopes. Technetium’s claim to fame is that it’s the first element to have been synthesized (in 1937) and therefore it is, in my opinion, the element of makers.

My first crayon iron t-shirt!
Continue reading