Posts Tagged ‘organic’

ChemWiki, free textbook for University students

// March 3rd, 2011 // 4 Comments » // Science Communication

This week, thousands of Australians went back to Uni starting a new semester of study. For some, science is their bag and they’re picking up a chemistry class or two. I’ve been there, and they’ve got a big year ahead.

There’s nothing quite like studying chem. Is it the nerdiness? The lab work? The elegant complexity and simplicity of laws? Perhaps its the joy of pushing electrons, pure love of a benzene ring, cherished conjugated systems or perfectly balancing equations.

But it takes a while to get to that state of love, like dating an attractive person with a terribly annoying habit. Don’t drop out, seek counseling at the ChemWiki.

An open access textbook, ChemWiki is a collaborative approach towards chemistry education. Students and faculty members write and rewrite sections to make it accurate and easy to understand. It’s been in development for two and a half years, and over 2000 people have contributed.

I first heard about it when it was still an infant wiki in swaddling clothes from Kyle Finchsigmate at The Chem Blog, which is now sadly shut down. Kyle is the reason I started blogging, being the first blog I subscribed to after his Nacho Average Cheesecake post changed my life.

Since those small beginnings, $2000 and a handful of uni classes spreading the news, it has grown pretty huge. It’s at the stage where it could replace paper textbooks for Uni chem courses, which is a saving of at least $150 per student. It’s ideal for Universities who are embracing new technologies in the classroom, like the University of Adelaide who gave a free iPad to every new student this year.

Unlike paper textbooks (and most hypertextbooks too,) the ChemWiki is designed in a non-linear way. You can jump from topic to topic with hyperlinks, so knowledge is constructed to suit the student. For me, chemistry only really came together in third year when the separate subjects wove together like a tapestry. It suddenly ALL made sense. But with non-linear learning, its easier to see patterns and connections and build up a frame of understanding as you go. I’m a fan.

I can’t recommend the ChemWiki enough. It covers coursework about analytical, biological, organic and inorganic topics, and is perfect for Chemistry students at Uni. Get involved and spread the word!

Ivy vs UV, could plant nanoparticles be the new sunscreen?

// July 21st, 2010 // Comments Off on Ivy vs UV, could plant nanoparticles be the new sunscreen? // How Things Work, Recent Research

English Ivy

Image by Tamara Horová

Research published in June shows that nanoparticles from the English Ivy might make superior sunscreen to current brands, offering high broad spectrum protection and lasting for longer than current creams.

The trend towards organics has influenced industries like food, coffee and shampoo as well as pretty much everything you can conceivably imagine. Over the past few years, some people have become worried about sunscreen containing nanosized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. While these absorb light in the UV spectrum and protect the skin, perhaps the tiny particles could be absorbed through the skin and unleash toxic hell on the body! These could be unfounded fears, and damage from the sun is far more likely than damage from the sunscreen.

Personally, I’m all for synthetic chemicals. I think dear old Mother N has some freaky chemical concoctions of her own, many of which did not evolve to help humans but people inject it into their face anyway. Natural does not mean safe in my book.

All the same, ivy nanoparticles make a strong case. They absorbed or scattered light in the UV spectrum over five times better than titanium dioxide. The absorption dropped quickly when reaching the visible spectrum, so like current sunscreens it would look near invisible on your face.

Just like ivy can stick to brick walls and trees, the ivy nanoparticles have adhesive qualities. They could lead to sunscreens which last longer and are more water resistant. Hey, maybe that’s why Adam and Eve seem to always have ivy covering their-

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ResearchBlogging.orgXia, L., Lenaghan, S., Zhang, M., Zhang, Z., & Li, Q. (2010). Naturally occurring nanoparticles from English ivy: an alternative to metal-based nanoparticles for UV protection Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 8 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1477-3155-8-12






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