Reflections on long hours in the laboratory, and working for results

A recent Twitter discussion on long work weeks by academics caused me to reflect on my previous life in academia – that decade where I completed my MSc and PhD in chemistry, postdoctoral studies, and four years as an assistant professor of chemistry in two different universities. The Twitter discussion began in earnest when, In response to this tweet about the distribution of work hours for “average” professors: The average #professor works over 60 hours…

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The biennial athletic pursuit for group 11 elements has begun!

When I first saw a periodic table of the elements, I observed that the three Olympic medals – gold, silver and copper, the largest component of bronze – were the three group 11 elements. The order of these elements from lightest to heaviest – copper (Cu), then silver (Ag), then gold (Au) – follow the order of the medals in ascending value. (In 1994, a fourth group 11 element was discovered. With a half-life of…

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Why the Golden Age of Cinema was its most dangerous

Going to the movies in the first half of the 20th century was dangerous.  The movie theatre projection room was a hazardous place to work.  And while the source of the danger was well understood, it took several decades for filmmakers to finally offer moviegoers and projectionists a safer environment to enjoy Hollywood’s finest works. Before looking at the dangerous chemistry of early film, let us remember how motion pictures work.  The video portion of…

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Irrational behaviour at the casino – why were the other players so angry with me?

During our recent short trip to Niagara Falls, my wife and I strolled through a casino, as a warm and sheltered shortcut from our bed and breakfast to the waterfront.  I had no interest in trying out the slot machines or any of the table games.  I enjoy considering the statistics behind casino games, and I love playing card games and games in general with friends.  But I’m not a big fan of casinos themselves…

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Niagara Falls didn’t freeze over, and it was beautiful

My wife and I left the Downtown Toronto hustle for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s, for two nights in a lovely bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls. The intent of our mini-vacation was to spend some quiet time indoors, reading books, perhaps writing (in my case, I thought more about relaunching Atoms and Numbers!), and just relaxing after a busy few months. Unbeknown to us when we booked this trip in early…

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Why is a dog eating chemical-free deodorant?

During this past winter, Atoms and Numbers saw an incredible spike in traffic to my post on chemical-free chemistry sets. Most of the additional visitors came from Facebook, and due to their privacy setup, I could not locate the posts that generated the traffic, but I trust the readers enjoyed that post. I reread that post after I found this recent article on CBC News, which describes an entrepreneur from Fredericton (the capital city of my home…

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Closing the book on a fantastical 2013

As I am typing these words, I am at the end of a wonderful Christmas week in a house full of parents, and thankfully with heat and light after 32 hours without power in the aftermath of Ice Storm 2013.  The picture below shows the tree damage in my backyard, which will have to be dealt with… at some point, when the ice starts to melt away and I can get some traction walking in…

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My top ten tips for starting a science blog

I have been publishing on Atoms and Numbers website for over two years, and I greatly enjoy this as a hobby.  If you like writing, and you are curious about or excited by the idea of writing about science for a worldwide audience, then you may have considered starting a science blog. There are many articles on the Internet about the mechanics and technical aspects of starting a blog – I can’t point to a single…

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Some thoughts on the NDP’s proposed Independent Science Officer

During the Canadian Science Policy Conference on Thursday, NDP Science Critic Kennedy Stewart announced that he would table a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons, calling for the creation of an Independent Science Officer to “provide science-based advice to members of Parliament and to vet federal science and technology policies.” According to CBC News, this officer’s mandate would include: Assessing the state of scientific evidence relevant to any proposal or bill before Parliament;…

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