A Science Writing Workshop

Source: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/112/09/1968.pdf


Do you have humanity?

That titular question.

Turns out one needs to have humanity to sign up to receive newsletters from a certain site. In the days of yore (hah!) it used to be enough that one be a human to get newsletters, but times evidently, are a-changin’!

I was on the trail of a newsletter earlier in the day, when the following popped up, making me chuckle.

They have lofty ideals. 😉

Made me think of this real exchange from many moons ago.

Q: How big is your heart?
A: If it were any bigger, I’d risk getting canonised.

And oh, yes, my humanity is now machine-confirmed.

Biodiversity Photography Contest

All you shutterbugs out there, this one is for you!

Here’s a chance to celebrate India’s biodiversity by means of your pictures on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity. The day falls on May 22, 2017.

The contest, organised by the Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (National Biodiversity Authority), is open until May 12, 2017. The three categories under which you can submit your pictures (a total of up to 9) are:
Changing Landscapes,
Urban Biodiversity, and
Creative Renditions.

Details on: http://worldbiodiversity.in/

Aim: Awareness on Biodiversity in India!

The site nbaindia.org/cebpol/ states the last date to register for participation to be 7 May, 2017.

The Periodic Table and the Four New Elements

Was rummaging through my files on the computer, when I came upon this piece. It was written for ChemMag, the annual journal of the Department of Chemistry, Women’s Christian College, Chennai. It appeared in print in the 2016 issue.


The year 1869 was momentous for Chemistry. It was the year when Dmitri Mendeleev published the first ever Periodic Table [1]. But then, discoveries in science do not occur in vacuum (unless your protocol calls for vacuum, i.e.). Mendeleev gave us the Periodic Table, but he was drawing on work already done by Antoine Lavoisier, Johann Döbereiner, John Newlands and several others.

Historians of Chemistry believe that one fine night in 1869, Mendeleev literally fell asleep on his desk atop some note cards. Each of these cards carried information on every element known at that point. Mendeleev had 65 cards to work with. When Mendeleev awoke, he knew exactly how these cards were to be arranged, and he set about arranging these 65 cards in a systematic order based on atomic weights, which eventually gave us Mendeleev’s Periodic Table [2].

That was 1869. And this is 2016. From 65 elements then, our periodic table now boasts of 118 elements. We know that the elements in the Modern Periodic Table are arranged in increasing order of atomic numbers. We have the Groups – the vertical columns – which house elements based on their similarities in chemical properties, due to the same number of electrons in the outermost shell. And we have the Periods – the horizontal rows – which have elements arranged in the order of increasing atomic number, signifying an increase in the number of outer electrons, thereby demonstrating a move from metallic to non-metallic characteristics of the elements.

As new elements were discovered, they were provided appropriate places in the Periodic Table depending on their similarities with elements already known. But perhaps the genius of Mendeleev is in the predictive power of his Periodic Table. (That said, opinion however divides on whether it was Mendeleev or Newlands, who first left empty spaces for undiscovered elements.)

As the world was getting ready to ring in the new year, on 30 December, 2015, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced that they had confirmed the existence of elements 113, 115, 117 and 118. This meant that the hitherto incomplete seventh row of the Periodic Table was now complete [3].

All of these four elements are highly unstable superheavy elements with very short lifetimes, and are synthesised by bombarding heavy metals with ionising radiation.

Element 113 – with a placeholder name of ununtrium – was synthesised at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science in Japan. The lab lead by Kosuke Morita had been trying to synthesise this element since 2004 with varying degrees of success.

Elements 115 (ununpentium), 117 (ununseptium) and 118 (ununoctium) were synthesised by particle accelerator scientists from the US and Russia.

With the elements synthesised, now comes the rather interesting task of naming them. Like astronomers discovering cosmic bodies, scientists discovering elements also get the right to name them. It has been suggested elemental names can be based on mythological concepts, places, famous scientists etc. (Polonium, Einsteinium – ring a bell?) In line with this thought, element 113 discovered by the Japanese scientists may well be named Nipponium. Deliberations are on regarding the naming of the other three elements.

In theory, the Periodic Table could still get bigger. We’ll have to wait and watch. Or contribute, and watch. But amidst this scientific celebration, there remains a rather comic situation that calls for our attention: Education Boards all over the world need to update their Chemistry textbooks which have now been rendered obsolete due to these discoveries!

[1] On the Relationship of the Properties of the Elements to their Atomic Weights, D. Mendelejeff, Zeitschrift für Chemie 12, 405-406 (1869).
[2] http://time.com/4165979/periodic-table-new-elements/
[3] http://www.iupac.org/news/news-detail/article/discovery-and-assignment-of-elements-with-atomic-numbers-113-115-117-and-118.html


If zouikes is the answer, what is the question?


Why is Opportunity so well-mannered? Why must it insist on knocking on doors? I say it should pick up some cool entry tactics from a SWAT team.


What is the non-meat eater’s version of: I am so hungry I could eat a horse?
Just looking to be technically/gastronomically correct.


Notice at Railway Station: Change here for mainline trains.
My thought bubble: What is the dress code for mainline trains?


I always thought 1:00 am ideas were genius by default.
But alas!

Google strode in and cackled in derision —
I am not feeling lucky.


Not just because the markets are flooded with them. But more so because the following is an exquisite primer on philosophy, gastronomy, and the how-to of staying a mile away from the Heimlich. 😉

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

– Charles Simic, from Return to a Place Lit By a Glass of Milk