WBEZ | chemistry http://www.wbez.org/tags/chemistry Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Historic chemistry lab linked to Thomas Jefferson discovered behind wall http://www.wbez.org/news/historic-chemistry-lab-linked-thomas-jefferson-discovered-behind-wall-113407 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/A chemical hearth recently discovered in the walls of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia dates back to its Jeffersonian origins..jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res449732207" previewtitle="A chemical hearth recently discovered in the walls of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia dates back to its Jeffersonian origins."><div data-crop-type=""><div id="res449732207" previewtitle="A chemical hearth recently discovered in the walls of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia dates back to its Jeffersonian origins."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A chemical hearth recently discovered in the walls of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia dates back to its Jeffersonian origins." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/18/-3-rotunda_chemical_hearth_42_da-7----cc2a3303b112db1a6ddd7b5cace93fb34f1a1028-s600-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="A chemical hearth recently discovered in the walls of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia dates back to its Jeffersonian origins. (Dan Addison/University of Virginia Communications)" /></div><div><p>A hidden chemistry lab was unearthed by a worker doing renovations to the iconic Rotunda at the University of Virginia, and school officials say the room is directly linked to the third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who helped design the building.</p></div></div><p>The &quot;chemical hearth,&quot; which dates back to the 1820s, is thought to be one of the few remaining in the world. It featured two sources of heat for conducting experiments, and a system for pulling out fumes.</p><p>According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.news.virginia.edu/content/jeffersonian-era-chemistry-hearth-preserved-rotunda-wall">University of Virginia press release</a>, the room, described as &quot;a semi-circular niche in the north end of the Lower East Oval Room,&quot; was preserved because the walls of the&nbsp;hearth&nbsp;were sealed shut in the mid-1800s:</p><blockquote><p><em>&quot;The University of Virginia&#39;s Rotunda still has its secrets, as conservators are discovering amid the building&#39;s ongoing two-year renovation.</em></p><p><em>&quot;One of them is a chemical hearth, part of an early science classroom. It had been sealed in one of the lower-floor walls of the Rotunda since the 1850s, and thus was protected from the 1895 fire that destroyed much of the building&#39;s interior.</em></p><p><em>&quot;Two small fireboxes of the hearth were uncovered in a 1970s renovation, but the hearth itself remained hidden until the current round of renovations. When preparing for the current renovations, workers examined some of the cavities in the walls and found the rest of the chemistry hearth.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><div id="res449731169" previewtitle="This photo from the University of Virginia shows a chemical hearth discovered in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia during renovations at the school in Charlottesville, Va."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="This photo from the University of Virginia shows a chemical hearth discovered in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia during renovations at the school in Charlottesville, Va." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/18/rotunda_chemical_hearth_02_da-17f95b7d6b622817bee937c46d42e2387b0baf30-s600-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="This photo from the University of Virginia shows a chemical hearth discovered in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia during renovations at the school in Charlottesville, Va. (Dan Addison/University of Virginia Communications)" /></div><div><div><p>The discovery was made by Matt&nbsp;Schiedt, who is a project manager for the company overseeing the renovations to the rotunda, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Secret-Jefferson-Era-Chemistry-Lab-Discovered-in-UVa-Rotunda-332966541.html?ref=541">Charlottesville Newsplex</a>.&nbsp;Schiedt&nbsp;told the publication he wanted to know how thick the walls were. He added:</p></div></div></div><blockquote><p><em>&quot;I was laying on my back looking up inside this little space. I saw that there was a piece of cut stone which is very unusual to have in this location. You could see that there was a square cut in the stone and that there was a finished space around that with plaster and painted walls.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><div id="res449731645" previewtitle="The University of Virginia said the walls of the chemical hearth had been sealed off since the 1850s. The room was protected from a fire in 1895 that destroyed much of the building's interior."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The University of Virginia said the walls of the chemical hearth had been sealed off since the 1850s. The room was protected from a fire in 1895 that destroyed much of the building's interior." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/18/rotunda_chemical_hearth_10_da-9913fc3fe67c694555775690059a05ef578ce9ca-s600-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="The University of Virginia said the walls of the chemical hearth had been sealed off since the 1850s. The room was protected from a fire in 1895 that destroyed much of the building's interior. (Dan Addison/University of Virginia Communications)" /></div><div><div><p>Schiedt&nbsp;tells NewsPlex most chemical&nbsp;hearths&nbsp;from the era have been destroyed, making the new discovery &quot;unique,&quot; he says.</p></div></div></div><p>According to the university&#39;s press release, Jefferson, who was the&nbsp;school&#39;s&nbsp;founder, collaborated with the university&#39;s first professor of natural history, John Emmet, to equip the space.</p><p>In a letter from April 1823, Jefferson requested the class be located on the ground floor so water would not have to be pumped to upper floors, according to the release:</p><blockquote><p><em>&quot;For the Professor of Chemistry, such experiments as require the use of furnaces, cannot be exhibited in his ordinary lecturing room,&quot;&quot;Jefferson wrote. &quot;We therefore prepare the rooms under the oval rooms of the ground floor of the Rotunda for furnaces, stoves &amp;c. These rooms are of 1,000 square feet area each.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p>The university says the chemical&nbsp;hearth&nbsp;will remain on display once renovations to the rotunda are complete. A barrier will be set up to keep people from entering the alcove, but the inside of the chemical&nbsp;hearth&nbsp;should be visible, according to university officials.</p></div></div><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/18/449729576/historic-chemistry-lab-with-links-to-thomas-jefferson-discovered-behind-wall?ft=nprml&amp;f=449729576" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 14:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/historic-chemistry-lab-linked-thomas-jefferson-discovered-behind-wall-113407 Three scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for DNA repair research http://www.wbez.org/news/three-scientists-win-nobel-prize-chemistry-dna-repair-research-113220 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" dna="" fredrik="" mechanistic="" of="" sandberg="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ap_432991312020_wide-513b2ba1aefcc2e5012f546668c642275e3c0b8e-s600-c85.jpg" studies="" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Professor Sara Snogerup Linse (left) explains the work that won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, won by Sweden's Tomas Lindahl, American Paul Modrich and U.S.-Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar on Wednesday. The three worked on " /></div><div><p><strong>Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET</strong></p><p>Their work details how cells repair damaged DNA and preserve genes. And now three scientists &mdash; Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar &mdash; have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Their work promises years of better treatment and better drugs.</p><p>The three researchers carried out their work separately, unearthing different mechanisms cells use to fix problems in a range of cells.</p><p>Lindahl, born in 1938, is a Swedish citizen. Modrich, born in 1946, is a U.S. citizen &mdash; as is Sancar, who is also a citizen of Turkey. Like Modrich, Sancar was born in 1946.</p><p>In the 1970s, Lindahl showed that contrary to previous beliefs, DNA decays &quot;at a rate that ought to have made the development of life on Earth impossible,&quot; as the Nobel Prize committee puts it. He then showed how cells constantly use base excision repair to repair this decay and prevent the collapse of our genetic information.</p><p>Working on how cells recover from damage sustained from sunlight or carcinogenic substances, Sancar mapped out how cells use nucleotide excision repair to correct defects.</p><p>Modrich solved the puzzle of how cells correct errors that arise when cells are replicated, finding that they use mismatch repair to sharply reduce the frequency of errors.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mismatch-dna-c2143d6d75a8b698eca803e07335af7d2f555c46.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 451px; width: 600px;" title="When faced with errors in genetic information brought on by cell replication, Paul Modrich showed that the cells use a process called mismatch repair to reduce problems. (Courtesy of the Nobel Prize Committee)" /></p><p>In making these discoveries, the researchers also laid the groundwork for understanding how flaws in these cellular repair systems cause hereditary diseases &mdash; and how they affect the way people&#39;s cells react to changes brought on by cancer and aging.</p><p>Lindahl has said that cancer is widely thought to be a disease of genome instability and DNA damage. &quot;The more we know about how DNA is damaged and how it&#39;s repaired the more effective we can be in devising methods to eradicate cancer cells specifically without harming normal cells,&quot; he said at a March conference at the National University of Ireland in Galway.</p><p>Modrich earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and now works at Duke University&#39;s School of Medicine; Sancar earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently teaches in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.</p><p>Lindahl earned his Ph.D. from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and is now an emeritus leader at the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in Britain.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/07/446532519/dna-repair-research-nets-chemistry-nobel-for-3-scientists?ft=nprml&amp;f=446532519" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/three-scientists-win-nobel-prize-chemistry-dna-repair-research-113220 Chemistry of chocolate http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/chemistry-chocolate-107507 <p><div><div>Tourists marvel at it, but Chicagoans just smile. In the north Loop area sometimes when the wind is blowing just right, the air is filled with the delicious, delightful aroma of chocolate. It&rsquo;s not magic, it&rsquo;s simply Blommer Chocolate Company cranking up its production line and brightening everyone&rsquo;s mood.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Illinois Science Council partnered with the Notebaert Nature Museum to offer a unique workshop on the Chemistry of Chocolate led by <strong>Dr. Shelby Hatch</strong>, chemistry faculty at Northwestern University, along with the <strong>Melissa Tisoncik</strong>, R&amp;D Specialist with Blommer Chocolate Company.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PeggyNotebaert-webstory_1.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Recorded live on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 17:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/chemistry-chocolate-107507 The Encyclopedia Show Presents Series 5, Vol 9: The Origin of Life http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/encyclopedia-show-presents-series-5-vol-9-origin-life-107239 <p><p>The Encyclopedia Show is a live literary variety show with unrivaled nerd-core charm. Commissioning exceptional local talent, nationally touring artists, and renowned thinkers that have included Lynda Barry, Sonia Sanchez, Paul Sereno, Bill Ayers, and Marc Smith, The Encyclopedia Show features spoken word, monologues, storytelling, live music, comedy, and yes, even actual experts.</p><p>This month&#39;s installment is an especially specially special show because we are partnering with the Emory Department of Chemistry and the National Science Foundation to discover The Origin of Life! With a diverse, brilliant line-up of music, writing, and miscellany on topics such as creation myths, arsenic based life, artificial chemical life and interstellar clouds, the show is out of this world.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/encyclopediashow-webstory_8.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><br />Recorded live Thursday, May 2, 2013 at The Vittum Theater.&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 02 May 2013 12:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/encyclopedia-show-presents-series-5-vol-9-origin-life-107239 Clever Apes #21: Secret lives of nuclear scientists http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-11-08/clever-apes-21-secret-lives-nuclear-scientists-93868 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/thumbnail.png" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" height="589" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/secret lives blog.png" title="Marius Stan and Dan Pancake lead double lives on top of their scientific pursuits. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer/Michael De Bonis)" width="604"></p><p>In pop culture, we tend to pigeonhole scientists into a few stereotypes: out-of-touch nerds (<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DUkGjWVOlc">Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor</a>), bumbling head-in-the-clouds types (<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5cYgRnfFDA">Doc Brown</a>) or obsessed madmen (<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H3dFh6GA-A">Dr. Frankenstein</a>/<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZCIPb2XTms">Moreau</a>/<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqkeemU7fyk">Jekyll</a>/<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iesXUFOlWC0">Strangelove</a>). In truth, research shows that the <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2010/05/reconsidering_the_image_of_sci.php">picture is a bit more nuanced</a>, but scientists still have to work uphill to convince people they are three-dimensional people.</p><p>Which is what makes it so much fun to pull back the curtain on the secret identities of a couple of local players in nuclear science. It would be one thing if their after-hours passion was playing in a cover band or tap dancing (both noble pursuits). But in the case of Marius Stan and Dan Pancake, these guys are entitled to some serious hipster cred.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 8px;">Listen to the episode: </span></strong></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483814-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Secret lives mix for web.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p><a href="https://blogs.anl.gov/expertsguide/marius-stan/">Marius Stan</a> is a chemist, physicist and computational materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, doing theoretical work and computer modeling on materials for nuclear reactors and such. He also has a <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2256387/">recurring role </a>on what might be the best show on television, <em>Breaking Bad</em>.</p><p>Dan Pancake runs <a href="http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2009/news090908.html">nuclear cleanup projects </a>at Argonne, spearheading the technically complex work of removing radioactive uranium and plutonium from the lab. He’s also a chef and restaurateur, owner of a new (and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-11/features/ct-dining-0811-vettel-autre-monde-20110811_1_berwyn-tuttaposto-dining">well-reviewed</a>) fine-dining <a href="http://autremondecafe.net/">Mediterranean restaurant in Berwyn</a>.</p><p>On this edition of Clever Apes, we reveal the secret lives of nuclear scientists. Just think of what other hipness lurks below the surface in labs and biology departments across our region.</p><p>As always, don’t forget to subscribe to our <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 22:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-11-08/clever-apes-21-secret-lives-nuclear-scientists-93868 How to put a new element on the Periodic Table http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-09/how-put-new-element-periodic-table-87691 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-10/flerovium_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two new elements were officially added to the periodic table this month. The elements were discovered years ago, but they needed approval from an international committee before they could be placed on the famous chart. We asked Ian Chillag and Mike Danforth, producers of NPR's <em>Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me</em> and hosts of the podcast <a href="http://howtodoeverything.org/">How To Do Everything</a>, to explore how the process works:</p><p><strong>How To Make A New Element</strong><br /></p><p>For starters, elements 114 and 116 don't occur in nature. So don't look for them in your backyard. That's because they were made in a lab. Which may seem like cheating, but that's how it's done these days.</p><p>We called up Paul Karol, chair of The Joint Working Party for the Discovery of New Elements, which gave official approval to the elements, to find out how the process works. And he offered a great explanation that was really long and complicated, so we'll summarize it thusly:</p><p><ol></p><p><li>Smash together atoms of two elements. </li></p><p><li>Hope their nuclei fuse. </li></p><p><li>If they do, you have a new element. Congratulations! <strong> </strong></li></p><p></ol></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>Now, before you go off smashing atoms together, please note that it's not as easy as our incredibly oversimplified explanation makes it seem. With elements 114 and 116 in particular, the end product is tiny — and exists for less than a second before it decays away.</p><p>So, it's not like you have a chunk of metal to show off. Instead, you get pages and pages of computer data from advanced sensors.</p><p>"These two species combine perhaps once out of a billion billion collisions," Karol says. "That's a billion billion. The experiments usually last for a month, and maybe they get one or two indications they've made something of interest."</p><p>So once you pull off your one-in-a-billion-billion shot, other scientists have to check your work by doing it again. You can see how this process could take a while.</p><p><strong>Possible Names For New Elements</strong></p><p>Once Karol's committee decides your element is legitimate, you get an invite from IUPAC to give your element a real name.</p><p>Since their discovery, elements 114 and 116 have been going by the placeholder names ununquadium and ununhexium. And chemists have been gossiping about possible names for the new elements.</p><p>As Sam Kean, author of <em>The Disappearing Spoon</em>, a book about the periodic table, says, "From some of the whispers I've heard, they're going to name one of the elements after a scientist named Georgy Flyorov, and another after Moscow."</p><p>Chemist Ken Moody will likely be among the first to know the new names. He heads the <a href="https://www.llnl.gov/">Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory</a>, the California lab that discovered elements 114 and 116 in conjunction with a Russian team.</p><p>Moody also coaches high school sports teams.</p><p>"One of the players on my team named Hanna told me I need to name it Hannaium," Moody says. "And Nicole wanted it named Nicolium. No matter what it gets named, there are going to be a whole lot of little girls that are disappointed."</p><p><strong>An Old Dispute, And A Proposal</strong></p><p>The naming process can get competitive. During the Cold War, labs from the United States and the Soviet Union both claimed to discover the same new element. Scientists refer to the decades-long naming battle that ensued as "The Transfermium Wars."</p><p>It was kind of like <em>Star Wars,</em> except instead of Darth Vader and Chewbacca fighting over the fate of the galaxy, it was the Russians and Americans fighting over whether to call an element Kurchatovium or Rutherfordium. And there were fewer light sabers. Finally, in 1997, IUPAC stepped in, and Rutherfordium won.</p><p>(Why Rutherfordium and Kurchatovium? Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealand-born, Nobel Prize-winning pioneer of atomic research. Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov was a Soviet nuclear physicist who guided the development of the Soviet nuclear program, from atom bombs to nuclear reactors.)</p><p>As for 114 and 116, the official names haven't been decided yet.</p><p>That prompted a question for Paul Karol: Could we be on the cusp of an era of selling corporate naming rights to new elements?</p><p>"I hate to say I can't envision it, because I've been surprised too many times," he says, "and I've also heard the expression, 'Everyone has their price.'"</p><p>So: Pepsium? Viagrium? Grouponium? Or maybe the Tostitos Periodic Table of Elements?</p><p>"Possibly," Karol says. "Unless Doritos gets there first, right?"</p><p><em>Producer Blythe Haaga contributed to the reporting of this story.</em> <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1307720083?&gn=How+To+Put+A+New+Element+On+The+Periodic+Table&ev=event2&ch=1024&h1=Strange+News,Games+%26+Humor,Research+News,Arts+%26+Life,Science,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137065238&c7=1024&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1024&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110610&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Thu, 09 Jun 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-09/how-put-new-element-periodic-table-87691