DailyDirt: Better Living Via Chemistry... Just Got A Bit More Complicated

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Almost no one liked chemistry class in high school, and on top of that, colleges use chem classes to weed out pre-med students. So the subject gets a bum rap a lot, and things aren't about to get any better. The periodic table just officially changed. Merry Christmas to chemistry teachers everywhere! Here are a few more quick links about this news and some chemistry-related stories:
  • The atomic weights of ten elements will now be expressed as intervals. And I'm looking forward to how They Might Be Giants will explain this in a song. [url]
  • There's a very boring answer to the question of what would happen if you threw every element together at the same time. It would reach equilibrium after creating a cloud of smoke. [url]
  • Do you know where your elements come from? Are they conflict-free? Blood diamonds get a movie, but when will they make a movie about "blood tantalum"? [url]
  • Have you noticed that your dish detergent is phosphate-free now? Procter & Gamble says it had no choice but to remove phosphate compounds from its products -- because it's better for the environment. Unfortunately, dishes everywhere aren't getting as clean as they used to be. [url]
  • Gold is not a gas, doesn't burn and won't kill you -- are those good enough reasons for you? I'll take: "Reasons why an element is precious for $200, Alex." [url]


  • Reader Comments (rss)

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    1.  
      identicon
      Darryl, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 5:37pm

      Yes another science lesson needed..

      How lucky are we that we do no ONLY have to rely on the periodic table of elements for out materials..

      Is concrete on the table of elements, its a good building material, it would probably make good money as well.

      Think about it.. (it might be a new experience)


      Did you actually read the one about Gold, and it being 'not a gas' ?

      This guy goes on the rule out most of the periodic table, FOR STUPID REASONS..

      He crosses out SILVER, because 'its reactive' and it tarnishes.. so what ??

      Why would tarnished money, be no good as money ?

      Does this great scientist, not know that you can MIX various elements together, to get 'compounds', that have different properties than a single element.

      Its fortunate that we has humans have alot more stuff to use, that what is available to us from the periodic table of elements.

      It would be a very sad world, if all we have was the table of elements, and were not able to create compounds from that table..

      But it you are stupid enough to think, for some reason, that you can only use a PURE elements as money,, this guy needs to get a new line of work..

      Clean dishes - lets destroy the environment so you do not have to scrub as hard to wash up..

      sounds almost like, "my car produces less pollution, but its no good like that, because it also goes a tiny bit slower".. so you would rather fuck up the environment, than to drive slowly, or to wash up property.


      Do you know where your elements come from? Are they conflict-free?

      Any element that is heavier than IRON comes from a supernova explosion, and probably all the elements on earth that are lighter than iron also come from a supernova explosion..

      If fact the sun, the earth, and our solar system is created from gas cloud of a supernova, that exploded propabably several billion years, before the sun started to form..

      Our sun is not big enough to crete elements heavier than IRON, to get any elements heavier than IRON, you need a supernova explosion..

      So the next time you hold a bit of lead in your hand you can say that element is older than the earth, and its older than the sun.

      That bit of lead, or uranium, being heavier than iron has been around well before the sun or the earth, ever started to exist.. (and in a GAS form !!!).. go figure LOL..

       

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    2.  
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      James Carmichael (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:06pm

      I love science; thanks again for the great links!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    3.  
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      DOlz (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

      re:Have you noticed that your dish detergent is phosphate-free now?

      This line in the article stuck out at me.

      ""I'm angry at the people who decided that phosphate was growing algae. I'm not sure that I believe that," Wright adds."

      Ms. Wright, people didn't decide phosphate was growing algae, they observed it and tested it to make sure that was the reason. It's called science and just because your life was inconvenienced doesn't make it wrong.

       

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    4.  
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      James Carmichael (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

      Re: Yes another science lesson needed..

      "So the next time you hold a bit of lead in your hand you can say that element is older than the earth, and its older than the sun."

      Yep, pretty amazing trivia. Chances are, a few atoms in that piece of lead also went through Julius Caesar's lungs at some point in time. Sweeeeet.

       

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    5.  
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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

      "Blood diamonds" is a term that Debeers came up with to market their own diamonds at higher prices. Anyone who knows how the diamond market works knows those certificates are a total joke.

       

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    6.  
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      ltlw0lf (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:27pm

      Re: Yes another science lesson needed..

      So the next time you hold a bit of lead in your hand you can say that element is older than the earth, and its older than the sun.

      Darryl, you can hold just about any element on Earth in your hand (well, at least the ones that aren't gas, don't react with you or the air around you, and don't kill you with their neutrons or ionizing radiation,) and it would be older than the earth or the sun. Since all elements (except hydrogen, and to some what of an extent, helium) are formed in the interiors of suns or during novas/supernovas, and spread during novas/supernovas. Thus, most elements on Earth are older than the Earth. There are, however, some notable exceptions, one of which you mention here. Lead may be made during a supernova, but often lead is a result of radioactive decay of higher elements. That lead in your hand may not be older than the Earth, if it was uranium first and then decayed to lead.

      As for silver/gold, I believe the chemist is absolutely correct, though I also agree that silver, while it tarnishes, makes excellent money. The reason gold is chosen as being more valuable than silver is because gold maintains its color and doesn't tarnish...which humans value more. Platinum is actually valued more than gold, partly because it also doesn't tarnish, but partly because it is rarer.) However, even though gold is valued more than silver, both were used for money throughout history.

       

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    7.  
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      Migzy, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:28pm

      Re: re:Have you noticed that your dish detergent is phosphate-free now?

      WTF! I've been using phosphate free dishwasher detergent for years now(Seventh Generation - in fact I've been using the same regular size box for years now - yes that's how often I run my dishwasher - I wait until its jam packed full before running it). My dishes come out perfectly clean every time and believe you me some of the dishes I put in are very dirty, greasy, covered in food, etc... Apart from some of my scratched up aluminum pans with really baked on food, but even hand washing them it takes a good effort to clean them after a long soak.

      I have never needed to run my dishwasher twice or even pre-rinse them. Sure I may use a bit more dishwasher detergent if the dishes are extraordinarily dirty(similarly to handwashing dishes you use more detergent for more or dirtier dishes).

       

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    8.  
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      Darryl, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:54pm

      Atomic weight of composites !! not what the periodic table is for..

      The atomic weights of ten elements will now be expressed as intervals.

      The atomic weight of an element, is its atomic weight, the atomic weight of an isotope of that element will be different to the weight of the non-isotopic version of that element.

      It does not have the FACT that the atomic weitht of an element is what is stated in the periodic table. the atomic weight of the element, is the total weight of the proton, the neutrons and the electroncs in the atom.

      Its the same for that atom NO MATTER WHAT,

      for example, U238 and U235 are DIFFERNET ELEMENTS, its not the same stuff, its made up of different basic elements, (protons in the nucleus).

      So U238 is an isotop of U235, yes, they punched in 3 more protons. Its diffent stuff, its not Uranium, its a new element, that has a different number of protons in its nucleus..

      that does not mean that if an element has impurities in it, (ie some isotopes of another element) that does not make the original element, or the isotope 'variable', or not precise.

      You dont pick elements from the period table, misx some of the elements together, (that are allready close) and call the error variation of that element 'wrong' or now 'within' a range of possiblities..

      That is not the case, and that is BAD science..

      What he is trying to say is the same as saying the properties of petrol are different, if there is a bucket of water sitting in the drum of petrol.

      Yes the water is present, but if you extract JUST the petrol not the water, it would measure exactly as petrol, if you extracted the water, and measured it, it would be exactly water.

      If you mix them up, its something different, but mixing them up does not change what petrol is, and it does not change what water is.

      Mixing U238 and U235 does not change the U238 or the U235, each atom of U238 is has a specific atomic weight, and U235 has another specific atomic weight.

      When they study and measure atomic weight, they do it on the element they want to measure, maybe a single atom.

      If they measure that atom and see it as 238 protons in its nucleus then its a new element, which happens to be the same as U235 but with 3 extra protons..

      The same as but different, means its different, there is not need for less precise or less accurate science.

      Saying 'a mix of elements' means that element or an element within that mix is somehow different or not actually what it is, is really bad science.

      The history, the age, or the origin, of an element has nothing to do with its physical properties.

      What he is trying to do is take away precise information of how those particular elements work on an atomic scale.

      The period table is not about listing compounds, and stating the average atomic weight of those componds, the periodic table of ELEMENTS, is a list of all the known elements, their physical properties, and their relationship with the other elements on the table of elements.

      Its not a periodic table of compounds, with the average atomic weights of each compound based on the mix ratio of the various different elements that make that compound..

      See the difference..

      James im glad you lose science, its a great subject, I could not imagine not knowing how things work, or why things work..

      We would still be living in caves, or in trees if it were not for science, and correct scientific principles..

      But you have to know what an atom is made of, and understand that an atom can be what it is, a single atom at any one time can have 1 and only 1 atomic number, at any one time it can have a certain number of protons and neutrons in its nucleus, and a certain number of electronics orbiting the nucleus.

      Is not a "range" of atomic numbers, the number of protons in the nucleus does not form an "interval" or range of possible values.. it is what it is, and if that number is different, then that stuff is different..

      Its a new element, different from the others, the others will have their own but different atomic weight, because it will have a different number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus.. its different stuff.

      Mix them two together, and measure it as a bulk, or composite and you will get an atomic weight that is determined by the ratio of one element to another element.
      Somewhere in between, but if you searched that material atom by atom you would NEVER find one single atom that would have that specific value (the average between the two).

      Because elements do not exist at the atomic values what would be within that range of values, they would exist at only the specific values of the elements in the mix.


      For example, say the atom number for one element is 10 and the other element is 20, you mix the equivalent mole value of those two elements together, 50/50.

      the range of atomic weight of that buld material will peak at 15 (half way between 10 and 20), so you would say by measuring that atomic weight of that meterial to be 15.

      then if you pulled that mass apart atom by atom and measured each atom, you would NEVER find an atom with an atomic weight of 15, all you will find are some atoms with a Z of 10 and some with a Z of 20. You might even work out that an atom, with an atomic weight cannot exist (its unstable, for example).

      So how have you advanced science by alowing errors, and bad science to enter something that is allready totally accuractly defined.

      Its also not scientifically usefull, in the study and analysis of atomic structure to think that an atomic mass of an atom could be within a range of values. when in fact that is not the case..

      I could try to explain it all day, but its really quite simple, the periodic table is about specific atoms, and their properties, its not about composits or bulk materials. or mixes of different ratio elements.

      It explains what THAT particular element is, then what ANOTHER particlular element is.. is does not try, to calculate the atomic weight (Z) of every combination of elements and isotpes and try to give an "average" value for something absolutely specific, and absolute.. (repeat for emphasis)..

       

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    9.  
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      Michael Ho (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:57pm

      Re: You're Very Welcome

      James,

      Glad you're enjoying these posts... we'll keep 'em coming.

      Mike

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    10.  
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      Michael Ho (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 7:04pm

      Re: Atomic weight of composites !! not what the periodic table is for..

      Darryl,

      I think you need to look up what the definition of an "isotope" is... Just saying.

      Mike

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    11.  
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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 7:20pm

      Only Dishwasher Detergents?

      I don’t use a dishwasher—I consider them a waste of time. And all my dishes come out nice and clean, thank you. I guess this development is just reinforcing the point.

      Oh, and it’s “Procter and Gamble”. Quite a common typo, poor things...

       

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    12.  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 7:55pm

      Re: Yes another science lesson needed..

      Yeah, those dumbass ancient civilizations who didn't know they could use compounds as money instead of bare elements, drrrrr what the hell were they thinking?

      try thinking past your own ego for a second, jesus

       

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    13.  
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      Dolz (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 8:35pm

      Re: Atomic weight of composites !! not what the periodic table is for..

      The example you use U235 and U238 are both Uranium isotopes. U238 has three more neutrons than U235 not protons. The largest atom yet observed has 118 protons and only a few of those have been created in particle accelerators.

      For more information on atomic structure you might what to check out the video on youtube "Protons neutrons, electrons and isotopes" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEX2aGpIDBY.

       

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    14.  
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      Ryan Diederich, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 9:31pm

      Atomic Weight Isnt Simple...

      For those of you who are questioning the changing of atomic weights to intervals, they have good reason to do so.

      Atomic weight may be always constant for smaller elements.

      As they get larger, they get less stable.

      Now of course, the last few, and newest, elements on the table are very unstable. Scientists have only been able to get them to exist for small fractions of a second.

      This leads me to believe that some of those elements may be stable in SEVERAL different configurations, say 118 and 119 electrons work for one element

       

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    15.  
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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 9:53pm

      Re: Re: Atomic weight of composites !! not what the periodic table is for..

      Darryl is the Techdirt clown that provides us with comical relief. Don't take anything he says seriously, he's just trying to be funny.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    16.  
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      Michael Ho (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 1:01am

      Re: Only Dishwasher Detergents?

      Oops. Thanks for the correction -- P&G is fixed now.

       

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    17.  
      identicon
      pegr, Dec 17th, 2010 @ 5:53am

      OK, this is the last time

      I'll mention that bit.ly links are inherently untrustable. Why do you use them Mike? They serve no purpose in this context.

      Trust isn't a binary, it's a degree. By using bit.ly links, you've made TechDirt less trustworthy. I HATE to see that happen.

      (Yes, I'm an InfoSec nerd.)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    18.  
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      DOlz (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 7:15am

      Re: Atomic Weight Isnt Simple...

      Atomic weights are constant for each isotope of each element. several elements (Sodium and Gold for example) have a single stable isotope so no matter where your sample comes from the average weight of the atoms is the same.

      The article is talking about in different parts of the world the ratio of isotopes for a particular atom vary. By knowing where a particular average weight of an atom occurs, you can measure an unknown sample to get an idea of where it came from.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    19.  
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      DOlz (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 7:20am

      Re: Re: Yes another science lesson needed..

      You know water is a pretty sable compound, so every time you have a glass of water some of those molecules were once dinosaur piss. Which is why I find expiration dates on bottled water so funny.

       

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    20.  
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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 7:54am

      Shakes Fist

      And we just bought a new dishwasher hoping the dishes would get cleaner. (Our old one was making a pretty bad noise, too. That was the main reason. It was 20 years old.)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    21.  
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      Michael Ho (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

      Re: OK, this is the last time

      Pegr,

      I use the bitly links to get a better idea for what our readers like -- because bitly links provides free/public clickthrough data. (Just add a "+" to the end of any bitly link, and you'll see.)

      FYI, there's also a Firefox extension that lets you preview the bitly links before clicking through:
      http://blog.bit.ly/post/68979274/expand-urls-and-get-traffic-summaries-before

      Perhaps you can provide me with more InfoSec info on why bitly links make Techdirt less trustworthy, Pegr? Is there any solution for maintaining trustworthiness and still tracking which links are popular? I'd like to know...

      Thanks!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    22.  
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      DOlz (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 8:22pm

      Periodic Table adjustment

      Professor Martyn Poliakoff of The University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry has recently put up a video explaining the changes.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ48TwPKHiQ

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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