It’s Getting Hot in Here

Fact: A lit cigarette is as hot as lava. It’s become normal to light up a cheeky one in the smoking area after a few pints, but few realise that the end of a lit cigarette burns at roughly 900°C – around the same temperature as molten rock when it erupts from the top of…

Part 1: Burn Baby Burn

Fact: Capcaisin makes chillies hot. Put a foot wrong when ordering in your local curry house and you could easily find yourself downing pints of milk to try and stop the fire in your mouth. But what causes that burning sensation? It’s all down to a single molecule called capcaisin. This molecule causes irritation and a burning…

Pearly Whites

Fact: Pearls dissolve in vinegar. Pearls are as solid as rocks, but drop your necklace in a glass of vinegar and watch your favourite pearls melt away before your eyes. It might seem outlandish, but really its just simple chemistry. The trick is that pearls are simply calcium carbonate crystals (or CaCO3, if you’re feeling academic…

Part 2: Diamonds Are Forever

Fact: It can rain diamonds. But don’t get overexcited, its not anywhere close; this phenomenon is only known to occur on planets such as Neptune and Uranus, known as ‘gas giants’. Such planets have high concentrations of methane in their atmosphere, and massive lightning storms ignite the methane to produce burnt carbon, or soot, the raw building…

Part 1: My Sun and Stars

Fact: Humans are 90% stardust. Human beings are mostly made up of water, with a few other bits and pieces thrown in for good measure. That means we are largely made of Hydrogen atoms, followed by lots of Oxygen, a fair bit of Carbon, some Nitrogen and a sprinkling of some more interesting stuff. Immediately…

Part 1: VK or G&T?

Fact: A Gin and Tonic glows bright blue under UV light. Or more accurately, tonic water glows blue (gin optional). Tonic water contains the molecule Quinine, which is found in the bark of willow trees and is the ingredient that gives tonic water its characteristic bitter taste. Quinine has plenty of tricks up its sleeve – it’s been used…

When I was Three, I Wanted To Be…

Fact: A 10-year old girl discovered a new molecule in her chemistry lesson. Anyone who did chemistry at school will remember those ball-and-stick molecule toys that teachers used to try and get everyone enthusiastic about covalent bonding. But 10 year old Clara Lazen decided she knew more than her teacher. Clara managed to arrange black,…

Breakfast: Take Two

Fact: You can un-boil an egg. Boiling an egg causes a fundamental change in the proteins that make up the egg white, which you’ll know if you ever had eggs and soldiers as a kid because a raw egg and a cooked egg look pretty different. The high temperature causes the proteins to lose their shape and…

When Pineapples Fight Back

Fact: Pineapples are the only food to try to eat you while you eat them. You read that right – pineapples are actually flesh eating monsters. The zombie apocolypse is upon us. Pineapples contain an enzyme, called Bromelain, which is released when you chow down on your favorite tropical treat. It targets and breaks down a range of…