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Science blog

Low temperature magnesium carbonate!

Researchers in Uppsala, Sweden accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend and ended up resolving a century-old chemistry problem. Their work has led to the development of a new material, dubbed Upsalite, with remarkable water-binding properties. Upsalite promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing in industry. Maria […]


Canny Chemistry Offers a Brand New Antibiotic

By Julie Walsh Researchers at the University of Adelaide have synthesised a new antibiotic which could represent a hugely important new weapon against the increasingly tenacious antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria which threaten patients. Their new technique involved using a bacterium’s own enzymes (complex molecules whose shapes enable biochemical activity) in order to formulate a new […]


BlueHost Outage: some thoughts

As so many Bluehost hosted websites we noticed our site was down for several hours on 02/08/13, noticeable first by the unresponsiveness of our email account (profound apologies for the delay in answering some emails, as well as to those who meant to order goods during the outage!) Going by our site and Bluehost’s statements […]


The Bromoil Circle of Great Britain

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned the art of Bromoil photography here. For a very comprehensive site on this photographic technique I suggest the aptly named Bromoil Circle of Great Britain (link). Do visit the multitude of members’ galleries for an excellent and extensive sample of Bromoils.


Salter scales calibration (SALTER 1066)

Yesterday my trusted Salter 1066 (capacity 3 kg x 1 g) went into ‘calibration required’ mode, as evidenced by the ‘CAL’ error code readout of the LCD display. This was after a change of battery. Quite shamefully the scales’ manual doesn’t even mention this error code, never mind tell you what to do when it […]


Preparation of ammonium hexafluorozirconate – (NH4)2ZrF6

Ammonium hexafluorozirconate (CAS 16919-31-6) is an important zirconium compound and precursor to zirconium tetrafluoride (ZrF4) via anaerobic pyrolysis of the former. Hexafluorozirconates also played a historical role in the isolation of Hafnium from Zirconium compounds by fractionated crystallisation. These complexes are also what makes the Alizarin dye lake test for soluble fluorides work. Here’s one […]


E-cigarettes: Vapers beware!

With the rise in classic cigarette replacements, designed to help you quit smoking or reduce the cost and harmful effects of traditional ciggies, has emerged an entire cottage industry of non-OEM nicotine refills for those nifty E-cigarettes. Vaping is definitely the new black. Stylish E-cigarette and refill (yes, we vape too!): But buyer beware: how […]



… which roughly translates as ‘beast of the beach’. Dutch artist (and it would appear also mathematician and engineer) Theo Jansen has been constructing these exquisite wind driven ‘animals’ since 1990, from plastic tubes, empty pop bottles and a lot of ingenuity. Beautiful soundtrack too: There is a lot more to it than meets the […]


The roundest object in the world (just don’t drop it!)

Last night a program on BBC4 by the excellent Marcus du Sautoy on measurements and standards of measurement reminded me of an ambitious project to replace the SI standard platinum kilogram (which ironically is fast losing weight!) by a new method based on counting silicon 28 atoms in an isotopically pure object of known volume […]


Mechanical riddle: cans of Spam on a ramp

Two identical cans of Spam are used in a simple experiment. The front (or back) legs of an otherwise level dining room table are supported by some books (or bricks, pieces of wood etc) so that a planar ramp is created, one that is level horizontally across the ramp. Two identical cans of Spam are […]