December 7, 2016

Don't Flush Sodium Down a Toilet

Hopefully this goes without saying, but don't flush sodium down a toilet.

Don't think about it. Don't do it. Don't think about doing it.

Don't think about thinking about doing it.

See, sodium reacts like all alkali metals do with water.

They react to produce hydrogen gas and metal hydroxides. In the process, there's energy released that sometimes...sort of...sparks the hydrogen.

Which makes an explosion.

Destroying the toilet.

It's one thing, of course, if you do that to a toilet mounted on a platform in a parking lot.

Because that's where I keep my toilets.

December 5, 2016

The Transfermium Wars

We live in a time of wonders.

In my lifetime, the periodic table has grown by a dozen elements, all of which are synthetically produced.

In my father's lifetime, we've added twenty elements - all synthetically produced.

That means we've figured out how to take atoms, accelerate them to nearly the speed of light (source) and ram them into other atoms, creating matter that didn't exist until that very moment.

All so we can yell at each other about who did it first...about whose name needs to go on the discovery for the ultimate chemistry prize - having an element named after you. That's the basic story of the Transfermium Wars, the fights for naming primacy for elements 104 through 109.

I would sacrifice nearly everything in my world for the opportunity to put Duschium all over the periodic tables of the world.

I would gut you for that chance.

You think I'm joking?

November 9, 2016

Watch the Diesel effect in ballistic gelatin

I've never heard of, but their video showing the explosion of vaporized ballistics gelatin heated up due to the Diesel effect is pretty awesome.

There's full detail below (taken from their article), but the basics is that a bullet vaporizes some of the gel (made of combustable material). That gas expands then quickly collapses. As the volume of a gas decreases rapidly, the pressure increases. As the pressure increases, the temperature rises drastically...resulting in the above ballistic fart.

Ballistic gel is a broad term referring to a large chunk of dense gel generally used in firearms-related testing to reliably and consistently measure things like bullet deformation, fragmentation, and impact. It’s tough, elastic, and in many ways resembles a gigantic gummi bear. Fans of Mythbusters (or certain DIY railguns) will recognize the stuff. Water-based blocks made with natural gelatin can be easily made at home, but end up with a yellow-brown color and have a limited shelf life due to evaporation. Clear blocks exist that are oil-based and don’t dry out like the water-based ones. It’s one of these that is in the embedded animation [above].

Slow motion video capture is a natural companion to just about anything that you’d need ballistic gel for, and good thing — because the video captured what appears to be a diesel effect! The block is hit with a bullet, and as the bullet rapidly expands and dumps its energy into the gel, a cavity expands rapidly. During this process, some of the (oil-based) material in the cavity has been vaporized. After the expanded bullet exits (to the right of the gif above but easier to see in the video below), the cavity in the block begins to collapse. The resulting pressure increase appears to ignite the vaporized material, which explodes with a flash followed by some exhaust.
How cool is that?

October 16, 2016

Periodic graphics: the compositions of US coins

Thanks, Compound Interest.

And thanks, ACS for working with Andy Brunning (of the aforementioned Compound Interest) to produce this great, visual guide to the metals in US coinage.

That non-pure copper penny can make for some great lab experiments.

Then again, so can the pure copper.

Fluorescence is awesome (here is how it works)

Fluorescence is absolutely awesome.

The science behind it is very cool, absorbing UV light, exciting electrons, and releasing some of that energy as visible light.

Be careful, though, of the statement at 1:38, "this means that the objects are giving back more energy than they receive from the visible light source which explains their gleaming vibrancy under UV."

That statement is correct but sounds impossible at first. The statement says that the energy in the visible light range that they're giving off is more than the energy in the visible light range that they're absorbing. That sounds impossible until you understand that they are absorbing extra energy in the UV range that they're turning into visible light.

Here's a fun way to take advantage of fluorescence.

October 10, 2016

Pee a Rainbow: Scientist Snaps Shot of Colorful Urine

I apologize in advance, but urine for a treat today.

An article at LiveScience shows the above rainbow of urine colors collected in a week at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, WA.

Thankfully, there's also an explanation of what can change the urine that color.

Next up, a poop rainbow.

August 19, 2016

Coating to make soap pour cleanly out of plastic bottles, reduce waste and frustration

Anything that makes recylcing easier is to be lauded.

In this article from, Ohio State researchers found a way to spray coat polypropylene and polycarbonate with
a small amount of solvent and ultra-fine silica nanoparticles onto the inside of bottles. Manufacturers already use solvents to change the texture of molded plastics, because they cause the surface of the plastic to soften a little. By mixing the silica and solvent, the researchers were able to soften the surface of the polypropylene just enough that when the plastic re-hardened, the silica would be embedded in the surface. 
The structures are only a few micrometers—millionths of a meter—high, and covered in even smaller branchlike projections. They look like shaggy heart-shaped pillows, but they're hard as glass. 
They don't cover the inside of the bottle completely, either, but instead are planted a few micrometers apart. The main branches of the "y" overhang the plastic surface at an angle less than 90 degrees—steep enough that water, oils and even surfactant can't physically sustain a droplet shape that would fall in between the branches and touch the plastic. 
"You end up with air pockets underneath, and that's what gives you liquid repellency," Brown said.  
Instead of spreading out on the surface, the soap droplets form beads and roll right off.