Compiled By: Fredrik Eckers
Chemistry on both sides of the law.
This show explores the uses of chemistry on either side of the law: as a poison, as a set of skills to create illegal substances, and as a tool for forensics. We chat with Jay Aronson, the author of Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling, about how the development of DNA fingerprinting technologies has changed both criminal investigations and the relationship between science and the law. Jennifer Dionisio reviews the new AMC television series Breaking Bad, in which a chemistry teacher moonlights as a meth dealer. Element of the Week: Arsenic.
A look at the science of deliciousness.
Food writer Harold McGee describes molecular gastronomy as ?the science of deliciousness.? Learn more about the science of food (and deliciousness) in this week?s episode. First we take precautions by discussing Pepto-Bismol, in the event that an experiment in the kitchen goes wrong. Next we find out how to cook the perfect hard-boiled egg?and why it works that way. Finally join Chi Chan and Jennifer Dionisio as they work with a recipe for chocolate mousse that requires only two ingredients?chocolate and water. Element of the Week: Bismuth.
A look at the chemistry of clothing.
This week we discuss the chemistry behind what we wear. Many modern fabrics include synthetic materials that would not be possible without chemistry. In the Element of the Week, we learn about aluminum?s role in Lurex, a brand of metallic thread. Then producer Jean Parker takes us to India and visits a tannery in Bombay to tell us more about one of the oldest fabrics known to man?leather. Finally, we explore the world of pantyhose in Chemistry in your Cupboard as CHF?s Erin McLeary describes new chemically enhanced pantyhose. Element of the Week: Aluminum.
A look at the fine line between science and religion.
There?s an old stereotype that portrays science and religion as inevitably mired in conflict. On today?s show we look past the clich?s?evolution and Galileo and all that?for some areas where the two have something constructive to say to each other. We start off with early philosophers? attempts to understand the soul as an element. Next, we chat with Jackie Duffin, a historian and hematologist at the University of Toronto, who inadvertently found herself making a case for sainthood for Marie-Marguerite d?Youville (pictured). Partially because of Duffin?s testimony, d?Youville was recognized as the first Canadian saint in 1990. Duffin?s experience with the Vatican inspired her new book, Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World, which will be published by Oxford University Press this October. We wrap up the show with a look at the chemistry of zombies. Element of the Week: Pneuma.
An episode on the science of motherhood.
What makes motherhood scientific? This week, we try to answer, with a look at changing attitudes about mothers, pregnancy, and science. We explore the history of pregnancy tests, and what that has to do with South African clawed frogs. Janet Golden, an expert on fetal alcohol syndrome, joins us to talk about how ideas have changed regarding pregnant women and what they should and shouldn?t consume. And we learn about Marie Curie and her daughters?one a scientist, the other a writer. Element of the Week: Curium.
A look at the Olympic torch, what's actually in the medals, and pollution.
Addicted to the Olympics? Take a break from too much video with 12 minutes of audio. On today's show, we investigate Olympic mysteries, from the flame of the torch to the composition of those so-called gold medals. Next, we turn to one of the side stories at this year's games: pollution. Of course, China isn't the only country that has a problem with pollution. Production Andrew Stelzer takes us to San Francisco to see how one group of citizens is taking air quality monitoring into their own hands. Element of the Week: Gold.
Battling entropy in corpses and manuscripts.
Entropy is defined as the degree of disorder in a system, and according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics entropy is always increasing. Preservation is a way that humans are trying to beat entropy, and this week we look at why and how we preserve. Document preservation is important for historical items like the Constitution. We learn that argon is an inert gas much less reactive than oxygen and is used by places like the Library of Congress to display important documents safely. Also this week we interview Ronn Wade, director of the Maryland State Anatomy Board. Wade tells us about plastination, a modern-day mummy, as well as securing and preserving cadavers for medical students. And producer Eric Mack visits Nederland, Colorado, for Frozen Dead Guy Days where cryogenics and cryonics are discussed very seriously. Arguably Nederland?s most famous resident is the Frozen Dead Guy, Bredo Morstel. Element of the Week: Argon.
From photons to film
In the eleventh century the first camera obscura was invented, helping artists draw. It would be another eight centuries before people figured out how to capture images directly onto film. This week we focus on photography. We start with a look at how selenium is important to black and white photography and photocopiers. Next, CHF?s David Caruso talks about objective versus subjective photography?and if objective photography can even exist. Finally, producer Emily Wilson takes us on a preview of the exhibit Brought to Light, a show about modern science and photography that will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art beginning on 11 October 2008. Element of the Week: Selenium.
The chemistry of compost, and more!
All over the Midwest, farmers are cranking up their combines for the corn harvest. Modern agriculture depends on science and technology at every step of the way, from genetically modified crops, to the fertilizer on the fields, to the fuel in the tractor. We begin today?s show with a look at nitrogen fixation, a process that?s credited both with feeding the world and making modern warfare possible. Next, producer Amy Coombs invesigates how scientists are finding secondary uses for the byproducts of biodiesel. Our executive producer Audra Wolfe wraps up the show with a look at the chemical cycle of life, through compost. Element of the Week: Nitrogen.
A look at self-sacrificing scientists and home DNA test kits.
In this episode we delve into the world of experimenting on oneself. Many scientists have both knowingly and unknowingly used themselves as guinea pigs in the lab. Marie and Pierre Curie, discoverers of radium, are examples of the self-sacrificing scientist. We learn more about the Curies and others in this episode. Then we speak to Rebecca Herzig, a professor at Bates College in Maine and the author of Suffering for Science: Reason and Sacrifice in Modern America. And finally, we take a look at the latest trend at the pharmacy?home DNA test kits. Element of the Week: Radium.
Women scientists, past and present.
Breaking through the glass ceiling can be tough, especially when you are a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. This week?s episode takes a look at women in chemistry. First, we learn about the brave physicist after whom meitnerium is named. Then we talk with Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor and spokeswoman for women in the sciences. Finally, producer Catherine Girardeau shares an interview with her grandmother, a dietary researcher credited with changing the eating habits of Americans in the mid-20th century. Element of the Week: Meitnerium.
From pheromones to fall fruit, causes and effects.
According to Newton's third law, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." In this week's episode we explore causes and their effects in several different ways. We begin with francium, an element that has a half-life of only 22 minutes. Next Gigi Naglak tells us about pheromones in perfumes in Chemistry in your Cupboard. And finally producer Lara Ratzlaff visits an apple orchard and talks to apple researchers to tell us how apples become so satisfyingly crisp. Element of the Week: Francium.
Distillations takes a journey to the land of nod.
There's nothing quite like a good night's rest to recharge the body and restore the spirits. Today's show looks at the science of sleep--and insomnia. We start off with the sun's role in establishing human biorhythms. Next, we look at modern medicine's approach to the ancient problem of storing. Producer Catherine Giradeau wraps up the show with a piece on caffeine, the unregulated wonder drug that can perk you up or knock you out. Element of the Week: Hydrogen.
Distillations celebrates the opening of CHF's new museum.
This week we celebrate the opening of the Chemical Heritage Foundation's new museum! First, we take a look at the periodic table as a whole and how it came to be recognized in its current form. Then we learn about the Technicon Autoanalyzer, an instrument that may have helped bring about the second scientific revolution. Finally, CHF curator Erin McLeary takes us on a tour of the permanent exhibit in the museum, Making Modernity. Element of the Week: The Periodic Table.
A look at batteries and transportation.
The first cars didn't run on gas--they ran on electricity. Over a century later, the high cost of fuel has finally forced automakers to take the possibility of battery-powered cars seriously. On today's show we look at three kinds of batteries that have been proposed as transportation solutions. We start with nickel hydride batteries, the key component of contemporary hybrid cars like Toyota's Prius. Next, we look at the technology behind hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Producer Devin Browne wraps up the show with an exclusive visit to GM's battery lab in Warren, Michigan, for a close-up look at the future of lithium-ion battery cars. Element of the Week: Nickel.
Learn about the chemical side of cosmetics.
This week we're looking at the world of cosmetics. First we learn about kohl, an eyeliner that dates back centuries. Then we talk with Rodger Curren, president of the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, who was recently at CHF for a conference about the Cosmetics Directive in the EU. And finally, CHF's Jen Dionisio and Audra Wolfe visit the Environmental Working Group's online database, Skin Deep, to learn about the cosmetics products they use. Element of the Week: Lead.
Explore the wonders and pitfalls of chemistry's predecessor.
Alchemy is about a lot more than turning lead into gold or making the philosopher's stone. Until the 17th century, alchemists worked hard in their laboratories to produce medicines, develop metal- and glass-working techniques, and uncover the quintessential essence of all earthly and celestial matter. This week, Distillations explores the wonders and pitfalls of alchemy--a predecessor to chemistry. CHF's Anke Timmermann reviews Tara Nummedal's Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire, and producer Nina Goodby visits the Corning Museum of Glass to see their latest exhibit, Glass of the Alchemists. Element of the week: Quintessence.
Learn about umami and hear a poem about taste sensations in the West Indies.
Mmm...tasty! Eating is one of life's simple pleasures, but the chemical process behind it is actually quite complex. Balancing the right minerals with good taste is no easy matter. This week Distillations snuggles in with a hot bowl of soup and an episode about the chemistry of eating. We follow Aries Keck on her search for the elusive "fifth taste"--umami. Then we read an 18th-century poem about the lush taste sensations in the West Indies. Element of the Week: Magnesium.