These iron curtains are very, very sheer.

These iron curtains are very, very sheer.

Materials Science, processes, Uncategorized
Recently, a group of researchers in Dresden, Germany found a way to make one-atom-thick sheets of iron. It wasn't what they had set out to do, but they were alert enough to see this as the intriguing discovery it was rather than an annoying byproduct to be cleaned up. Thin metal films are used as coatings or wrappings (aluminum foil, for example), components in optical and laboratory instruments, and as chemical sensors and catalysts. For a lot of high-tech applications, including high-density recording media and electronic devices, the thinner the film, the better. The ultimate thin film would be a sheet one atom thick — a monolayer. Carbon monolayers, known as graphene, have been around for a few years, and researchers have been busy exploring the unusual properties of these…
Read More
How did the Fukushima nuclear accident affect wildlife?

How did the Fukushima nuclear accident affect wildlife?

energy, environment, Uncategorized
On March 11, 2011, a tsunami, a giant wave set off by an earthquake, struck the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. The tsunami caused a catastrophic failure of the power station and a release of radioactive material that has been rated second in magnitude only to the Chornobyl disaster. The extent of the radiological impact of this event on surrounding wildlife has been a contentious topic, but the results of a recent study are cautiously optimistic. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation oversaw a study by an international team of scientists, who evaluated the results of a 2011 environmental assessment of the area near the power plant and published their results earlier this year (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2014, 1, 198–203). The UN committee…
Read More
The Art of the Possible

The Art of the Possible

Materials Science, Uncategorized
I've been intending to start a lay-person's version of my weekly postings on the American Chemical Society website. Several of my Twitter followers have mentioned that they are impressed, but confused, by these tech-heavy synopses, written for an audience of professional chemists. I thought I might wait for a week with an "accessible" topic, like medieval bones or counterfeit currency, but I decided that I might as well just jump in and start today. I really picked a doozy of a week to start. This week's post deals with an energy minimization study of silica- and Germania-based zeolites. Say what? OK, let's start with "zeolites". These are inorganic materials, some found in nature, some made in a lab or a factory. If you're going to get really picky about it,…
Read More

If you would just listen to the facts…

Uncategorized
Julia Duin's article in the May 29 Washington Post (Serpent-handling pastor profiled earlier in Washington Post dies from rattlesnake bite) bothered me a lot, for reasons that I am still exploring. Duin is a photojournalist who has on several occasions reported on a small Pentecostal Christian group in rural West Virginia. This group demonstrates their religious faith by handling poisonous snakes during their church services. They cite Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs will follow those who believe: ...they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them...”. Mack Wolford, the pastor of this church, died shortly after a rattlesnake bit him during a "homecoming" celebration over the Memorial Day weekend. His father, the previous pastor, died from a poisonous snakebite in 1983. This…
Read More