Tag Archives: Harry Potter

A few minutes on the fabulousness of the periodic table of elements

I love the periodic table of elements and thought I was alone in my appreciation. I kept the secret close to me right into adulthood where I received quite a shock. It turns out I’m not alone and many, many others are just interested, if not downright obsessed.

In her Feb. 7, 2012 posting for the Guardian Science blogs, GrrlScientist profiles a new book about the periodic table of elements (The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction by University of California at Los Angeles lecturer and writer Eric Scerri). From the posting,

… we are introduced to an interesting cast of international characters, including physicists, chemists, geologists, teachers, tradesmen and nobleman, all who played a role in the discovery and evolution of the periodic table. Notably, we meet Scottish physician, William Prout, whose proposal that all matter was composed of hydrogen atoms motivated the scientists of the day to obtain ever more accurate weights for each atom in their quest to prove whether his hypothesis was correct. We meet Danish-American eccentric, Gustavus Hinrichs, who saw the connection between the frequencies of spectra emitted by the elements and the internal structures of their atoms. We also meet German physical chemist, Julius Lothar Meyer, who is considered by some historians to be the co-discoverer of the periodic table, along with the Russian scientist, Dimitri Mendeleev, who sketched out his periodic table on the back of an invitation to a local cheese factory.

This isn’t the only recent book about the periodic table of elements. Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World From the Periodic Table of the Elements published in 2010 was mentioned in my July 15, 2010 posting. In that posting I also mentioned and rhapsodized about a visual reworking of the periodic table of elements by Philip Stewart into something he called The Chemical Galaxy.

I see you can now purchase the poster through The Chemical Galaxy store but you can also order it from the Science Mall. At the time I purchased the poster, the Science Mall was the only option for someone in North America and I had a very good experience with them. Here’s what the poster looks like,

The Chemical Galaxy by Philip Stewart

Unfortunately, this image is too small to offer much detail but The Chemical Galaxy website does offer a larger version. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite convey the sheer gorgeousness of Stewart’s visualization.

For those who prefer a more musical approach, here’s Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) singing ‘The Elements’ song (originally written and performed by Tom Lehrer)

I look forward to reading the new book once I shoehorn it into my schedule. Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally write that suite of poems based on the elements in the periodic table.

Harry Potter educates about nanotechnology and Britain’s MI5 is looking for a technology futurist

A University of Houston team has received a $3M grant to create nanotechnology education programmes for local middle and high school students. They will be using Harry Potter and his magic as a metaphor for nanotechnology (from Nanowerk News),

“Despite being an adult, the story of Harry Potter and his magical world struck me both as an individual and a scientist. Clearly, most kids and many other adults also share this fascination,” Pradeep Sharma, the associate professor who is heading the program, said. “The tantalizing part is that several aspects of the ‘magic’ in Harry Potter can be explained by science or is certainly achievable in the future, given the way technology is leaping forward.” One example that would easily translate in the classroom, Sharma said, is Harry’s magical cloak, which makes him invisible.

Yes, every time some scientist does work on cloaking objects by bending light, Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility is mentioned (I have several references and it’s in my Nanotech Mysteries wiki here). Earlier this month, Australians decided to introduce nanotechnology education to teachers (more details here). As far as I know, there are no such programmes in Canada.

For anyone who has ever dreamed about being Q (the technology guru in James Bond movies) in real life, there’s an opportunity. Britain’s MI5 has advertised for this (from Physorg.com),

Applicants must have “world-class scientific expertise and credibility in relevant scientific and technology disciplines”, their advertisement read.

“I think it’s unlikely that the person will be required to develop a weapons system for the latest Aston Martin,” Professor John Beddington, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, told the BBC.

However, the successful candidate will help protect Britain against threats to national security by keeping on top of the latest moves in science and technology.

“It will involve a sort of future-gazing to see where technology will be taking us in a year or so,” Beddington said.

Good luck.