Watch and Hear: Crystal Clear
Crystals are ordered, complexly symmetrical, and even dynamic in their growth and dissolution. It’s no wonder we’re attracted to these chemical lattices as an art form. Linden Gledhill’s new montage of microscopic crystals and food dyes takes that to its aesthetic apex. In this great video, he uses them as a colorful backdrop to a track off Jon Hopkins’ (no relation to the medical school) new album Immunity.
See what amazingness can occur when a scientist (Gledhill is a trained biochemist) and an artist join forces? Let’s do more of that.
Check out links to Gledhill’s other microscopic explorations as well as a cool behind the scenes look at which chemical reactions made the colors you’re enjoying at The Creator’s Project (also on Tumblr).
(via The Creators Project)
Source: Vice Magazine
A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie
Scientists are known for loving their work. Biologists tend to their cultures and animals. Physicists polish their exquisite machines like sports car entusiasts treat vintage Ferraris. So do chemists love atoms? Apparently they do. At least enough to write a love story with, and about them.
IBM scientists have created the world’s smallest movie using individual atoms. It’s the story of a boy and his playful atom buddy, drawn in stop motion and with each quantum pixel positioned using a scanning tunneling microscope. Every frame is magnified a stunning 100 million times!
This amazing feat was accomplished by using a charged atomic needle to drag single carbon monoxide molecules (the individual atoms we see are one side of that two-atom molecule) around on a copper substrate. I’ve posted a little bit about these feats of atomic art before, with these “quantum corrals” and “ferrous wheels”.
See those ripples around each atom? They remind me of pebbles being tossed into a still pond. They are actually ripples in the electron field of the copper surface below! It’s a reminder that, contrary to many textbooks, electrons behave more like waves than particles following an orbit. And like any other wave, they can form intricate interference patterns. Check out this previous post for more on that.
The hope is that manipulating atomic structures like this may lead to even greater information storage capacity. Imaging all the world’s books and movies on your mobile phone at once!
Here’s a “making of” movie from IBM, featuring the sound of atoms being moved as well as the encouraging sight of several female team members.
This makes me as happy as atom boy there.
Maggie Koerth-Baker has written a chemistry and combustion rundown of ammonium nitrate, the chemical believed to be behind the devastating blast yesterday in West, TX: “Ammonium nitrate fertilizer isn’t really a dangerous explosive (most of the time)”.
Ammonium nitrate, a primary ingredient in synthetic fertilizers, isn’t itself very explosive. Accidents involving it are actually pretty rare, although incidents like the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in 1995 have given it quite a reputation. However, like anything, it’s the dose that makes the poison.
When it burns, it creates its own oxygen, which can lead to a runaway fire. In those runaway fires, the chemical can bind together from pellets into a massive plug, allowing it to trap huge amounts of hot gases beneath the weight of burning material. You can guess what happens when hot gases build up with no place to go.
More details at Boing Boing. Stay strong, West, TX.
Source: Boing Boing
Redefining The Kilogram
Veritasium takes you through the history of the kilogram standard, a block of metal locked in a basement that defines the most important international standard that we have.
Unfortunately, the mass of the current standard is changing thanks to … well, something not entirely known. Atomic evaporation maybe? What is definitely true is that a new kg standard is needed.
The replacement candidate is a nearly perfect sphere of a single isotope of crystalized silicon. It is the world’s roundest object! If this sphere were the Earth, the highest mountain and the lowest valley would only be a few meters apart.
An awesome chemistry and physics lesson from Derek!
What’s in a flame?
The chemistry and physics of fire are surprisingly complicated for something so ubiquitous, but there’s a pretty easy answer for “what’s in a flame?”
When a candle flame is placed between two contacts holding a about ten thousand volts, the flame is pulled to the positive and negative side like a flickering butterfly. The air, usually a good insulator, allows the ions within the flame to jump to either side, allowing an arc to form.
(This GIF isn’t animating on the Tumblr dashboard for some people. Click through to see the glory)