Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two fun science links

I haven't had a chance to watch these yet, but the Vega Trust in the UK has, on line, four full length lectures on quantum electrodynamics by Richard Feynman from 1979. Someday I'll have the four or five hours available to watch these.

Much shorter, and much more viscerally fun, check out this video to see that alkali metal chemistry really can be fun. (Thanks for the link, Pat!)


Anonymous said...

About the alkali-metal chemistry: hmm. During graduate school, I disposed of excess metals by burning them in the fume hood once a week or so. It was a recommended safety procedure. I did all of 'em except Fr: Li, Na, K, Rb and Cs. The best one was actually K, which burned with a dramatic flame as in the video. Rb and Cs woofed too fast to watch and tended to put themselves out. The quantities I burned were similar to those in the videos (they probably bought their inert-gas-filled vials from Alfa, just like me). Nothing ever exploded despite the allegedly massive amounts of hydrogen gas that evolved.

Of course an explosion requires a buildup of pressure. If there really were a water-soluble vial, where would the pressure build-up come from? You already knew that scientists are a bunch of killjoys.

Anonymous said...

Yep - they couldn't get it to work so they faked what they claim "ought" to have happened. More at I tend to agree with Ben Goldacre's suggestion that they ought to have admitted tom and explained, the failure then blown up the bathtub!
For genuine alkali metal explosions you need a little more mass. Videos here.