Gold, new chemical discoveries

This video says about itself:

18 July 2012

In this video we explore the chemical resistance of gold.

The gold coin survives hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and sodium hydroxide

From Science News:

Chemists strike gold, solve mystery about precious metal’s properties

Predicted, actual energy needed for ionization now match

By Emily Conover

7:00am, January 23, 2017

Gold’s glimmer is not the only reason the element is so captivating. For decades, scientists have puzzled over why theoretical predictions of gold’s properties don’t match up with experiments. Now, highly detailed calculations have erased the discrepancy, according to a paper published in the Jan. 13 Physical Review Letters.

At issue was the energy required to remove an electron from a gold atom, or ionize it. Theoretical calculations of this ionization energy differed from scientists’ measurements. Likewise, the energy released when adding an electron — a quantity known as the electron affinity — was also off the mark. How easily an atom gives up or accepts electrons is important for understanding how elements react with other substances.

“It was well known that gold is a difficult system,” says chemist Sourav Pal of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, who was not involved with the study. Even gold’s most obvious feature can’t be explained without calling Einstein’s special theory of relativity into play: The theory accounts for gold’s yellowish color. (Special relativity shifts around the energy levels of electrons in gold atoms, causing the metal to absorb blue light, and thereby making reflected light appear more yellow).

With this new study, scientists have finally resolved the lingering questions about the energy involved in removing or adding an electron to the atom. “That is the main significance of this paper,” Pal says.

Early calculations, performed in the 1990s, differed from the predicted energies by more than a percent, and improved calculations since then still didn’t match the measured value. “Every time I went to a conference, people discussed that and asked, ‘What the hell is going on?’” says study coauthor Peter Schwerdtfeger, a chemist at Massey University Auckland in New Zealand.

The solution required a more complete consideration of the complex interplay among gold’s 79 electrons. Using advanced supercomputers to calculate the interactions of up to five of gold’s electrons at a time, the scientists resolved the discrepancy. Previous calculations had considered up to three electrons at a time. Also essential to include in the calculation were the effects of special relativity and the theory of quantum electrodynamics, which describes the quantum physics of particles like electrons.

The result indicates that gold indeed adheres to expectations — when calculations are detailed enough. “Quantum theory works perfectly well, and that makes me extremely happy,” says Schwerdtfeger.

Smashing gold ions creates most swirly fluid ever. Record-making vorticity found in quark-gluon plasma. By Emily Conover, 12:00pm, February 8, 2017: here.

Four new elements in periodic table

The periodic table’s newest elements now have names. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry approved the names nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og) on November 28

From Science News:

Names for four new elements get seal of approval

Countless periodic table posters are now obsolete

by Emily Conover

1:35pm, November 30, 2016

Meet the newest elements: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og). On November 28, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry gave their seal of approval to the names proposed for the four elements, which take slots 113, 115, 117 and 118 on the periodic table.

The new names, proposed in June, underwent five months of public comment and review. IUPAC decided to let the names stand, and unwieldy placeholder names — ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium — assigned when the elements were added to the periodic table in December 2015, can now be scrubbed.

Three of the elements were named for the places they were discovered. The name of element 113, “nihonium,” comes from the word “Nihon,” a Japanese word for the country of Japan. Element 115 is dubbed “moscovium,” after Moscow. And element 117, tennessine, is named after Tennessee. Element 118, oganesson, honors physicist Yuri Oganessian.

Scientists have produced a new form of hydrogen in the lab — negatively charged hydrogen clusters: here.

Moon rocks, asteroid impacts miscalculation?

This video says about itself:

Astronomy – Ch. 8: Origin of the Solar System (16 of 19) Late Heavy Bombardment

21 March 2015

In this video I will explain how astronomers deduced that early Solar System was a very violent place.

The video shows most scientists’ views of a year ago.

However, now …

From Science News:

Moon rocks may have misled asteroid bombardment dating

Spike in impacts 3.9 billion years ago may be mathematical mirage, study finds

By Laurel Hamers

3:00pm, September 12, 2016

A barrage of rocks hitting the solar system 3.9 billion years ago could have dramatically reshaped Earth’s geology and atmosphere. But some of the evidence for this proposed bombardment might be shakier than previously believed, new research suggests. Simplifications made when dating moon rocks could make it appear that asteroid and comet impacts spiked around this time even if the collision rate was actually decreasing, scientists report the week of September 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Many scientists think that a period of relative calm after Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago was interrupted by a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, when rocky debris pummeled Earth and the other planets. The moon’s cratered surface holds the best evidence for this event; scientists have measured radioactive decay of argon gas trapped inside moon rocks to date when craters on the moon were formed.

Many of the hundreds of moon rocks analyzed appear to be around 3.9 billion years old. That suggests the number of rocks hitting the moon suddenly spiked at that time — evidence for a Late Heavy Bombardment.

Geochemists Patrick Boehnke and Mark Harrison of UCLA took a second look at the data. Measuring argon from the same rock at different temperatures leeches the gas from different parts of the rock’s crystals; if all those age values align, researchers can be relatively confident they’re getting an accurate age. But many of the lunar samples previously analyzed gave different ages depending on the temperature at which their argon content was measured.

Instead of colliding sharply once and sitting undisrupted, which might give more uniform age data at different temperatures, these lunar rocks were probably tossed around and slammed into other rocks many times, Boehnke says. So assigning one impact age to those rocks might be an oversimplification.

Boehnke and Harrison created a model to simulate how this simplification might affect the patterns seen when scientists looked at the ages of many rocks. The team modeled 1,000 rocks and assigned each one an impact age. Some rocks hadn’t been knocked around and had a clear impact age. Others had been smashed repeatedly, which changed their argon content and obscured the actual impact age assigned by the model.

The model assumed that asteroid collisions decreased over time — that more of the rocks were older and fewer were newer. But still, collision ages appeared to spike 3.9 billion years ago thanks to the fuzziness introduced by the disrupted rocks. So the apparent asteroid increase at that time might just be a quirk due to the way the argon dating data were compiled and analyzed, not an indication of something dramatic actually happening.

“We can’t say the Late Heavy Bombardment didn’t happen,” Boehnke says. Nor do the results invalidate the technique of argon dating, which is used widely by geologists. Instead, Boehnke says, it points to the need for more nuanced interpretation of lunar rock data.

“A lot of data that shows this complexity is being interpreted in a very simplistic way,” he says.

Planetary scientist Simone Marchi says he finds the paper “certainly convincing in saying that we have to be very careful” when interpreting argon dating data from lunar samples.

But there’s other evidence for a Late Heavy Bombardment that doesn’t rely on argon dating, such as dating from more stable radioactive elements and analysis of overlapping craters on the moon, says Marchi, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. He supports the idea of a gentler Late Heavy Bombardment 4.1 billion years ago, instead of a dramatic burst 3.9 billion years ago (SN: 8/23/14, p.13).

Other recent work has also pointed out limitations in argon dating, says Noah Petro, a planetary geologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who wasn’t part of the study.   Collecting new samples and analyzing old ones with newer techniques could help scientists update their view of the early solar system. “We’re at this point with the moon right now where we’re finding the limitations of what we think we know.”

See also here.

Where the young hot Earth cached its gold. New view offers alternative history of how precious metals sank into the planet’s core: here.

New chemical elements in periodic table

This 2013 music video is called The NEW Periodic Table Song Lyrics (In Order).

From Discover magazine:

It’s Time to Update the Periodic Table, Again

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 4, 2016 3:30 pm

The periodic table just got a little bigger.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has officially confirmed the existence of four new elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118, completing the seventh row, or period, of the periodic table.

Filling Up the Periodic Table

The elements’ existence has been documented by researchers from Russia and the United States, as well as a separate team from Japan, for several years, but they awaited official review by the IUPAC to be formally accepted. Now that the confirmation process is complete, the researchers will submit permanent names for their elements. The IUPAC states that elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist. The elements are currently known by placeholder names, such as the ever catchy ununseptium for element 117.

The four newest discoveries will join other “superheavy” elements in the seventh period of the periodic table, including flerovium and livermorium, which were added in 2011.

A team of researchers from Japan’s Riken Institute led by Kosuke Morita first discovered evidence of element 113, or ununtrium, back in 2004 when they shot a beam of zinc ions at a thin layer of bismuth, and confirmed their finding in 2012. Moving at 10 percent the speed of light, the nuclei of both atoms occasionally fused together, creating an element with 113 protons.

Gone in the Blink of an Eye

Don’t go looking for these new additions to the periodic table, however. Due to their volatile nature, all of the newfound elements exist only in the lab, and disappear soon after they form. As with all elements beyond uranium, these new elements are radioactive, meaning they decay into other elements over time by releasing pairs of protons and neutrons called alpha particles.

Superheavy elements have particularly brief lifespans, often disappearing a fraction of a second after they are created. Newly minted 113, for example, exists for less than a thousandth of a second before it decays into roentgenium.

Proof Difficult to Obtain

The brief existence of superheavy elements makes it hard to prove they are real. It took Morita’s team almost a decade to definitively show their element existed after they initially discovered it. They accomplished this by looking at the chain of decay the element goes through on its way to becoming stable. Most radioactive elements don’t transition directly to stable atoms, but instead go through a cascading series of unstable ones, jettisoning protons and neutrons bit by bit as they become more stable. With time and luck, the researchers observed their element at every stage of its decay into known elements, beginning with roentgenium and ending with mendelevium.

Extremely short lifespans make these new elements effectively useless for practical applications. However, these new discoveries take researchers one step closer to the so-called “Island of Stability,” a region of the periodic table where elements that are both superheavy and stable are thought to exist, and which is believed to begin around atomic number 120. While none of these atoms have been discovered yet, their existence is predicted by the “magic number” theory. The theory says that certain numbers of protons and neutrons are more stable than others, as they create completely filled energy shells within the nucleus.

While creating these mythical elements is exciting, the biggest priority at the moment is finding a name for the newest additions to the periodic table. Any suggestions?

Surprising oxygen discovery on comet 67P

This video says about itself:

Rosetta orbiter: ‘Surprise’ oxygen discovery

28 October 2015

Scientists have learned that the air surrounding Comet 67P where the European Space Agency’s probe landed is rich with oxygen. Report by Jessica Wakefield.

From Astronomy Now:

Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

University of Bern Press Release

29 October 2015

The biggest surprise so far in the chemical analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s atmosphere is the high proportion of oxygen molecules. While such molecules are common in the Earth’s atmosphere, their presence on comets had originally been ruled out.

Early on in the mission of the ROSINA mass spectrometer, in September of last year, researchers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern made an unexpected discovery when analysing the comet’s gases: Between the expected peak values of sulfur and methanol, clear traces of oxygen (O2) molecules were detected. It turned out that O2 is in fact the fourth most common gas in the comet’s atmosphere, after water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). As oxygen is highly reactive chemically, it was previously thought that in the early solar system it must have combined with the abundant hydrogen then present to form water. Nevertheless, oxygen molecules were present on the comet. “We had never thought that oxygen could ‘survive’ for billions of years without combining with other substances,” says Prof. Kathrin Altwegg, project leader of the ROSINA mass spectrometer and co-author of the study. The findings are published today in the scientific journal Nature.

Invisible from Earth

Molecular oxygen is very difficult to detect with spectroscopic measurements from telescopes, which explains why this molecule had not already been observed on other comets. An in situ measurement by the ROSINA mass spectrometer was needed to make this discovery. “It was also astonishing that the ratio of water to oxygen didn’t change in different locations on the comet or over time — so there is a stable correlation between water and oxygen,” says co-author Altwegg.

Ancient Substance

In contrast to comets, it is known that oxygen molecules occur on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. That is explained by their being struck by high-energy particles from their respective mother planets, which do not exist in the case of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet has been bombarded for 4.6 billion years, though, by high-energy cosmic radiation particles. These particles can split water, resulting in the formation of oxygen, hydrogen and ozone, among other substances. These particles only penetrate a few metres into the surface, however. In each of its revolutions around the Sun, though, the comet loses between one and ten metres from its circumference. Since its last meeting with Jupiter in 1959, which set the comet on its current orbit, it has consequently lost more than 100 metres of its material.

The most likely explanation, according to the researchers, is that the oxygen originated very early, before the formation of the solar system. Specifically, high-energy particles struck grains of ice in the cold and dense birthplaces of stars, the so-called dark nebulae, and split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen was then not further “processed” in the early solar system. The oxygen measurements show that at least a significant part of the comet’s material is older than our solar system and has a composition typical of dark nebulae, from which solar nebulae and later planetary systems originate. “This evidence of oxygen as an ancient substance will likely discredit some theoretical models of the formation of the solar system,” says Altwegg.

German professor praises drones, poison gas

This 1 April 2015 video from the USA is called Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars • FULL DOCUMENTARY FILM • BRAVE NEW FILMS.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German professor Herfried Münkler: Combat drones and poison gas are “humane” weapons

16 April 2015

About two weeks after the German and French governments decided at a joint cabinet meeting to manufacture combat drones in Europe, Humboldt University Professor Herfried Münkler praised such drones as “humane” weapons in a long interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung (FAZ). He drew a historical parallel to poison gas, which was used for the first time in the First World War, describing it also as “humane.”

When the FAZ noted that poison gas is perceived “as especially terrible,” Münkler replied, “There is this striking paradox. Between three or four percent die in poison gas attacks, while the death toll from artillery wounds is around fifty percent, and the rate of mortality from rifle or machine gun fire thirty percent. That means that you could actually say that gas is a rather ‘humane’ weapon, because it has a relatively low death toll.”

Münkler added that in drone attacks the operators “have much more time for observation than the pilot of a fighter bomber,” and “the collateral damage of drone attacks” is “clearly lower than that from fighter bombers.”

It is difficult to say which is more repulsive: Münkler’s trivialization of poison gas attacks in the First World War, or his plea for combat drones today.

This video says about itself:

Deadly Battles of World War I – Ypres the Gas Inferno

7 November 2014

Poison gas killed 80,000 soldiers in World War I. Nearly a million more were victims who suffered its lingering effects. Initially the wind distributed chlorine gas across the battlefields of the western front but an arms race quickly developed until one in three shells contained some form of toxic gas.

It’s not the statistics, however, that make this a successful documentary. A surprising amount of black-and-white footage and interviews with survivors and relatives of key players tell a compelling tale of motivations and consequences. For those who adhere to the maxim that history repeats itself, it’s worth noting that despite an international convention banning chemical weapons, both sides of the Great War deployed poison gases with few reservations. As one interviewee puts it, patriotism defeated morality.

The Johannes Stern article continues:

The hundredth anniversary of the first use of poison gas as a weapon of mass extermination is just under a week away. On April 22, 1915, German troops used chlorine gas in the battle at Ypres.

The Deutsche Welle published an article a year ago that described how a yellowish cloud of 180 tons of chlorine gas wafted out of the German trenches to the enemy lines: “There began the horror. The enveloped soldiers stumbled around, turning red, blind and coughing. Three thousand of them suffocated and an additional seven thousand soldiers, who were badly burned, survived.”

In an escalating gas war, in which more and more effective chemical weapons were put into use, “about 120 thousand tons of 38 types of warfare agents were deployed, about 100 thousand soldiers [died] and 1.2 million men were wounded,” according to a paper published by the Federal Agency of Civic Education.

Science historian Ernst Peter Fischer commented on the first poison gas attack in Ypres in the Deutsche Welle account. “At that moment, science lost its innocence,” he said. Until then, the goal of science consisted of easing the conditions of life of human beings. “Now science provided the conditions for killing human life,” Fischer said.

Fischer cited the example of the Berlin chemist Fritz Haber, who founded and headed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electro-chemistry. Haber placed his entire scientific ability in the service of mass extermination. This proved no hindrance to his career. After the end of the war, the “father of gas warfare” won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and sat on the supervisory board of the chemistry giant I.G. Farben, which later produced the poison gas Zyklon B for the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Haber, who was himself Jewish, emigrated in 1933 and died shortly thereafter.

The use of poison gas, which Münkler praises as a “humane weapon,” was not just a new method for slaughtering millions of soldiers. Its use was then and remains today a war crime. It contravenes the Hague Convention of 1907 and was once again explicitly forbidden in the Geneva Protocol of 1925. In the war in Iraq and as part of the war threats against Syria, imperialist propaganda used the actual or alleged use of poison gas in these countries as sufficient grounds for war.

For this reason, Münkler’s parallel between poison gas and drone warfare is particularly significant. The comparison is apt, not because they are both “humane” methods of war, but because both exemplify the development of new stages in imperialist brutality.

The US-led drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen not only violate international law, but have taken the lives of thousands of innocent victims (Münkle’s “collateral damage”) in recent years. According to research carried out by the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US military has wiped out between 2.4 and 3.9 thousand people in “targeted killings” in Pakistan alone. These victims of combat drones are not infrequently women, children or innocent participants at birthday parties, weddings or funerals.

Münkler’s justification for warfare with poison gas and combat drones is utterly cynical. He accuses the opponents of gas and drone warfare of clinging to the ideal of a long bygone “heroic” age.

“The criticism of gas warfare and the criticism of drone warfare are connected in that they both have to do with the ethos of the fighter. The astounding thing is that drones are criticized in a post-heroic society, but with the arguments of the heroic society, which demands the struggle of man against man,” explained the professor.

By “post-heroic,” Münkler means that war is no longer fought man to man, but rather that soldiers and civilians of less developed states are slaughtered in cold blood by their adversaries—at the mercy of remote-controlled drones or poison gas, which soldiers cannot defend themselves against.

“We are observing the transformation of war into policing,” he said in the FAZ. “Goals are being pursued in a way that can be understood as making investments in the future of the area of intervention by minimizing losses. Hegel called the weapon ‘the essence of the fighter’—drones are the typical weapon of post-heroic society. There is no ethos or aesthetic of war. There is only effectiveness of battlefield management.”

It requires the intellectual degradation of a German professor to try to use Hegel for the purpose of celebrating combat drones as an “effective” category of weapon above any ethical or moral criticism.

Münkler’s argument is an insult to the intelligence of the vast majority of the population which opposes combat drones, but not because of any longing for a “heroic” age or a preference for fighting wars with the sword “man against man.” Rather, drones are hated because no other weapon is more closely associated with imperialist aggression, war crimes and the suffering of civilian populations.

Münkler also introduces social Darwinist arguments to justify drone warfare. The “post-heroic society” is characterized “by two elements,” he said in the FAZ interview: “A low rate of reproduction in the population. There is no longer a surplus of young men for the battlefield. And the idea of self sacrifice at the ‘altar of the fatherland’ is completely foreign to us.”

Two years ago Münkler had already presented an argument against ethical and moral objections to modern weapons of destruction. At the fourteenth annual foreign policy conference of the Green Party affiliated Heinrich Böll Stiftung, he gave a lecture titled: “New fighting systems and the ethics of war.”

At that time Münkler warned: “Post-heroic societies such as ours should be very careful when they talk about the ethics of war. They are playing with fire, especially when they use ethics to demand more from soldiers than they would demand of themselves.”

He then told the politicians and foreign policy experts in attendance: “The ‘citizen in uniform’ is much closer to war drones than the soldier of a classical army, and he prefers their use to the deployment of light infantry in hostile terrain, with the goal of eliminating an actual or supposed threat in direct contact with the enemy. To express it pointedly: in the criticism of drones, the ethics of a pre-bourgeois society is giving voice to heroic ideas in a nostalgic form. This is a critique that has not been thought out to the end.”

Irrespective of how “thought out to the end” is his own overblown pontification, the stance of the professor is very clear—his standpoint is highly militaristic. In a situation in which neither the population nor the majority of soldiers favors being slaughtered in open warfare on the battlefield, he recommends drones to the ruling elite as a suitable means of achieving the ends of German imperialism through military means.

The fact that Münkler now places poison gas in the same category as drones shows that inhumane and militaristic attitudes are once again running rampant in ruling circles in Berlin 70 years after the end of the Second World War. The report of the Böll Stiftung on the conference two years ago concluded that Münkler’s presentation of “controversial combat drones as a positive new stage in weapons technology from an ethical point of view” was seen as a “minor provocation.”

Since then, Münkler’s “minor provocation” has become a dangerous reality. The Böll Stiftung campaigns for a confrontation with Russia, the German government is acquiring combat drones and Münkler himself is giving a seminar at Humboldt University under the title “Theories of war: new wars, humanitarian interventions, drone wars.” In his new book, Macht in der Mitte (Power in the Middle), Münkler demands that Germany once again “play the difficult role of ‘taskmaster’” in Europe. The German government is working on this too!

Herfried Münkler declares Germany to be Europe’s “hegemon”: here.
At the end of August [2015], Mehring Verlag will publish the German edition of the book Scholarship or War Propaganda? The Return of German Militarism and the Dispute at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

Gingko biloba trees and chemistry

This video is called Ginkgo biloba: A Tree that Conquers Time.

From the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis:

Advancement in the chemical analysis and quality control of flavonoid in Ginkgo biloba

14 March 2015


• The ginkgo flavonoid related articles (from 2009 to 2014) were reviewed.

• Chemical composition and routine analysis of ginkgo flavonoid were summarized.

• Evaluation criterion of ginkgo flavonoid purification was discussed.

• Direct and indirect quantitative methods of ginkgo flavonoid were compared.


Flavonoids are the main active constituents in Ginkgo biloba L., which have been suggested to have broad-spectrum free-radical scavenging activities. This review summarizes the recent advances in the chemical analysis of the flavonoids in G. biloba and its finished products (from 2009 to 2014), including chemical composition, sample preparation, separation, detection and different quality criteria.

More than 70 kinds of flavonoids have been identified in this plant. In this review, various analytical approaches as well as their chromatographic conditions have been described, and their advantages/disadvantages are also compared. Quantitative analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids applied by most pharmacopeias start with an acidic hydrolysis followed by determination of the resulting aglycones using HPLC.

But increasing direct assay of individual flavonol glycosides found that many adulterated products were still qualified by the present tests. To obtain an authentic and applicable analytical approach for quality evaluation of Ginkgo and its finished products, related suggestions and opinions in the recent publications are mainly discussed in this review. This discussion on chemical analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids will also be found as a significant guide for widely varied natural flavonoids.

This video from Harvard University in the USA says about itself:

The Ginkgo’s Secrets

Gingko expert Peter Del Tredici shares highlights about his favorite “living fossil” at the Arnold Arboretum.