Signs of life. Harvard astronomer Carl Sagan says that “had the Mariner IV vehicle passed the same distance from earth that it did from Mars … no sign of life on our planet would have been uncovered.” At bottom left is a shot of Mars from 6000 miles above its surface. At bottom right is a panoramic view of the U.S. from 430 miles above earth. Above: A Mariner spacecraft is checked out by NASA technicians. Objective of Mariner missions is to collect data in interplanetary space between earth and Mars and in the vicinity of Mars. Mariner program will run through 1969.

Search for Life on Mars Faces Delays From Squeeze on Nonessential Spending

Chemical & Engineering News, January 17, 1966


These photos are shadowgraphs of a hydrogen flame exploding inside a balloon. The shadowgraph optical technique highlights density and temperature variations through their effect on a fluid’s refractive index. Here we see that the hydrogen flame has a strong cellular structure and is more turbulent than a methane flame. The cellular structure is a sign of an instability in the curved flame front. The instability and accompanying cellular appearance are a result of the complicated transport and reaction of fuel and oxidizer inside the flame. (Photo credits: P. Julien et al.)



LEGO has announced that they will produce a female scientist minifigure set!

After last year’s release of a single female scientist minifigure by LEGO, designer Alatariel Elensar submitted concepts for a full minifigure set of female scientists to the LEGO Ideas competition. This week, after more than ten thousand people voted for Elensar’s project, LEGO announced that they are putting the set into production for late summer 2014!!

The figures above (still concepts, not the final sets) are doing what female scientists do, devoid of pink, and full of awesome. As Maia Weinstock notes at Scientific American in her rundown of the LEGO project, toy companies have an enormous amount of power to determine what children think, helping them form their ideas about how the world is, and how it should be.

I’m proud of my favorite toy company for doing their part to inspire young minds. Sounds like we’ve got the perfect holiday gift idea, for young girls AND boys :)

(via molecularlifesciences)


The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability looks like a series of overturning ocean waves and occurs between layers of fluids undergoing shear. This video has a great lab demo of the phenomenon, including the set-up prior to execution. When the tank is tilted, the denser dyed salt water flows left while the fresh water flows to the right. These opposing flow directions shear the interface between the two fluids, which, once a certain velocity is surpassed, generates an instability in the interface. Initially, this disturbance is much too small to be seen, but it grows at an exponential rate. This is why nothing appears to happen for many seconds after the tilt before the interface suddenly deforms, overturns, and mixes. In actuality, the unstable perturbation is present almost immediately after the tilt, but it takes time for the tiny disturbance to grow. The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability is often seen in clouds, both on Earth and on other planets, and it is also responsible for the shape of ocean waves. (Video credit: M. Hallworth and G. Worster)


Today in 1898, Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers discovered krypton. Here’s more about Ramsay’s discovery of noble gases from our archives. (Images: top, Sir William Ramsay; bottom, a krypton-filled discharge tube shaped like the element’s symbol, both from Wikimedia Commons.)

As all students of the history of chemistry should know, Oct. 2 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir William Ramsay, eminent British scientist and recipient of the Nobel Prize, one of the discoverers of the inert gases, argon, helium, neon, krypton, and xenon.

The original discovery came about through the observation by Lord Rayleigh that some chemically pure nitrogen he had made had a lower density than nitrogen isolated from the air. Ramsay followed this lead to the discovery of the presence of argon in the nitrogen from the air. His next find among the inert gases was helium, first in some minerals and later in the air. Convinced that there were more of these gases to be found, he and his colleagues proceeded to the isolation of neon, krypton, and xenon by the fractional distillation of liquid air. Ramsay’s work did not stop there but continued to include the sixth member of the rare gas family, the emanation from radium.

These discoveries, which were only additions to the classical or fundamental knowledge of chemistry when they were made, have led us to materials which are now of great practical use. Argon first came into use for the filling of metal filament lamps. Today, argon, krypton, xenon, and neon find uses in electric lighting. Argon has become important in the welding of reactive metals, such as aluminum and magnesium, and also in the metallurgy of beryllium, cerium, titanium, and zirconium, which are becoming very important today. Helium has found important uses not only in lighter than air craft but has made possible low temperature research of inestimable value. Beyond these major uses of Ramsay’s discoveries, there are many more specialized.

We pay tribute to a scientist of genius whose intellectual drive to add to the fundamental knowledge of nature has materially enriched the life of people who never knew or heard of him.

Ramsay’s Anniversary

Chemical & Engineering News, October 13, 1952