Thursday, October 22, 2009

National Chemistry Week

Happy National Chemistry Week!  NCW, as it is affectionately known, is an annual community-based program of the American Chemical Society (ACS) that seeks to communicate the importance of chemistry and the role that chemists play in improving our quality of life.  Every year the ACS chooses a new theme for NCW, and since this year marks the 140th anniversary of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, the theme for 2009 is “Chemistry – It’s Elemental!” 

The Georgia local section of the ACS is sponsoring and promoting many NCW activities throughout Metro Atlanta this week, and I was able to contribute to two of them.  On Tuesday night, a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Fernbank Science Center for a Science Café entitled “Nanotechnology: It’s Bigger than You Think,” which I facilitated together with Joyce Palmer.  The discussion was based upon the three-part series “Power of Small”, which ran on PBS last year.  Each episode is a panel discussion (including some luminaries of the nano-world such as George Whitesides and Andrew Maynard, among others) where scenarios about the applications of nanotechnology and its impact on society are considered.  Joyce and I used video segments along with targeted questions to engage the audience in a spirited conversation about nanotechnology and issues related to privacy, health and medical care, and the environment.  I encourage everyone to visit the “Power of Small” website, where you can watch the video clips and download related material.

On Wednesday, I joined several chemists in a unique media experiment at Georgia Tech.  Pete Ludovice and Bill Hunt of the Georgia Tech College of Engineering host a weekly radio show on WREK (91.1 FM) titled INSIDE THE BLACK BOX, or as they like to call it "science, only funnier."  In honor of NCW, we assembled a panel of “chemistry geeks” to talk about the work that we do. The other panelists were David Sherrill, Christine Payne, and Facundo Fernandez from the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Vernita Lockhart from The Coca-Cola Company.  The media experiment was that Warren Matthews (GA Tech OIT) arranged a live, video teleconference with chemistry students at Apalachee H.S. in Barrow County, GA and North Hall H.S. in Hall County, GA.  The students posed many excellent questions, including the benefits and risks of drinking Coke beverages to my friend Vernita, and we were all asked to reminisce about the “aha moment” in our lives when we realized that science was our calling.

In honor of the NCW theme, here is a link to “The Elements” sung by Tom Lehrer (Lyrics by Dmitri Mendeleev, Music by Gilbert & Sullivan).

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