08 April 2012
HUNTING THE ELEMENTS
"Why do bombs go boom? How much gold is in 400 tons of dirt? And how come rare earths, the metals that make our gadgets go, aren't that rare at all? We live in a world of incredible material variety. Yet everything we know ~ the stars, the planets, life itself ~ comes from about 90 basic building blocks, all right here on this remarkable chart ~ the periodic table of the elements. It's a story that begins with the Big Bang, and eventually leads to us."
Thus begins an incredible learning moment (well, an hour and 53 minutes) on the PBS NOVA program Hunting the Elements. Even if you took high school and college chemistry (and shame on you if you didn't), this seamless presentation will perk your interest. The graphics are wonderful ~ what I wouldn't have given to have been able to play with this technology when I was a teacher! More to the point, the information which those graphics convey is fundamental to our understanding of how things work, and why. This is definitely not your grandfather's chemistry class. The program's host, David Pogue, escorts us on a lively journey through "the world of weird, extreme chemistry ~ the strongest acids, the deadliest poisons, the universe's most abundant elements, and the rarest of the rare ~ substances cooked up in atom smashers that flicker into existence for only fractions of a second." Watch it alone, watch it with your family. You're almost guaranteed to hear "Wow", or "Cool", or "I didn't know that".
BONUS ~ here is National Geographic's updated animation of the collapse and sinking of the sea liner Titanic, amended by filmmaker James Cameron based on forsenic evidence from the wreckage ~ evidence which wasn't available when he directed his popular 1997 film.