Fun with Chemistry and Physics

Here are some interesting and fun references for chemistry and physics. Please feel free to add to this list!

Interesting factoid: The average Circus Peanut™ weighs 6.7g. Conservatively estimating 0.3 mg/m2 for a monolayer, one Circus Peanut™ would cover about 22,300 m2 or 5.5 acres.

Useful Websites

http://keisan.casio.com/Online calculators for a huge variety of geometrical problems (ever wanted to know the radius of a circle inscribed in a heptadecagon?)
http://www.onlineconversions.com/Instant conversion between many different units of volume, length, area, temperature, pressure, etc. Slick.

Cool Books


Peter Atkins, Molecules (2003)

Atkins' Molecules by Peter Atkins (2003, Cambridge Press)

Unfortunately out of print, this is 'the most beautiful chemistry book ever written' (New Scientist). An awesome book that discusses (in plain English) the roles of hundreds of molecules in our everyday experience, and the chemical features that create their functions. If you can find a used copy, buy it; if not, Rat's copy is available for loan.

Interesting Scientific Findings


Magnetic Cows
Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (2008), 105(36), 13451-13455

Abstract: We demonstrate by means of simple, noninvasive methods (analysis of satellite images, field observations, and measuring ‘‘deer beds’’ in snow) that domestic cattle (n = 8,510 in 308 pastures) across the globe, and grazing and resting red and roe deer (n = 2,974 at 241 localities), align their body axes in roughly a north–south direction… Amazingly, this ubiquitous phenomenon does not seem to have been noticed by herdsmen, ranchers, or hunters… Our findings … challenge neuroscientists and biophysics to explain the proximate mechanisms.


Blowing Glass Windows
Antique Windowpanes and the Flow of Supercooled Liquids, Plumb, R.C. (1989) J. Chem. Ed. 66(12), 994-996.

Abstract: If one surveys a group of high school science teachers, or science students, quite a large number of them state that colonial window panes are thicker at the bottom than at the top because the glass is a supercooled liquid that has slowly flowed downward over the hundreds of vears since it was installed. It is a delightful idea — textbooks have used it as an illustration, teachers have passed it on, and the Society
Committee on Education of the American Chemical Society has included it in a sourcebook for phvsical chemistry
teachers. But is it true?

Cool Chemistry Websites

Fun With Chemistry

Making Silicon From Sand

Making Silicon From Sand, Popular Science, October 2005.

In a chemical reaction straight out of Harry Potter, you can turn dirt into the building block of every computer.


Chanteau, et al., 2003

Synthesis of Anthropomorphic Molecules: The NanoPutians,
Chanteau, et al., 2003, J. Org. Chem., 68 (23), 8750-8766.

Abstract: Described here are the synthetic details en route to an array of 2-nm-tall anthropomorphic molecules in monomeric, dimeric, and polymeric form. These anthropomorphic figures are called, as a class, NanoPutians. Using tools of chemical synthesis, the ultimate in designed miniaturization can be attained while preparing the most widely recognized structures: those that resemble humans.

Dai, et al., 2005

A "Nanonecklace" Synthesized from Monofunctionalized Gold Nanoparticles
Dai, et al., 2005, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 127 (22), 8008-8009.

Abstract: Gold nanoparticles with a single carboxylic acid group on the surface were prepared from a solid phase place exchange reaction and then coupled to polylysine using an in situ activation agent, diisopropylcarbodiimide (DIPCDI). The covalent amide bond linkage between the nanoparticles and polylysine and the ring closure of the polylysine chain have led to the formation of a nanoparticle/polymer hybrid material with "nanonecklace" structures.

Kinetics of Inactivation of Glassware
Kohn, A. 1955, J. Irrepr. Res. 2(1), 1-8.

The ground- and glass-breaking first article in the prestigious "Journal of Irreproducible Results" (now Annals of Improbable Research). A very funny and original paper that any worker in the research field can appreciate.

An unfortunate choice of camera angles for a book illustration

A rather funny photo from a serious textbook (click thumbnail to enlarge). The alligator clip is actually attached by a nearly-invisible wire to one of two gold electrodes in the box. The photo illustrates an electroactive polymer made of poly(2-acrylamido- 2-methyl-1-propane sulfonic acid) (PAMPS) gel. The gel contracts into a convex "lens" shape (shown) within seconds of application of a 30V potential across the gold electrodes. PAMPS is being actively investigated for its potential use in "artificial muscles", optical systems and MEMS actuators. [Photo from Artificial Muscles: Applications of advanced polymeric nanocomposites, by M. Shahinpoor, K.J. Kim and M. Mojarrad (Taylor & Francis, 2007; ISBN 1-58488-713-3), p. 225.]

Hazardous materials

An organic chemist's blog dedicated to compounds that are so toxic, stinky, explosive or otherwise scary that he will never work with them.

SEM pictures

Electron micrograph of 1-µm ADCS-treated silica microspheres

A nice SEM image of ADCS-coated silica microspheres, taken by Rat and Matt Ryder.