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by K. M. REESE
May 3, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 18



Who is the oldest chemist?

Herbert T. Pratt writes from New Castle, Del., to note that chemist Chaplin Tyler, a longtime employee of DuPont, died on Feb. 29 in Wilmington, Del., at age 105. Pratt wonders whether Tyler set the record for a chemist’s longevity, pointing out that French chemist Michel E. Chevreul died in 1889 at age 103.

If Tyler has indeed set the record, it could still get broken by chemist Ray Crist, who stopped teaching at Messiah College, Grantham, Pa., on April 13 at age 104. According to the Associated Press, Crist does not plan to goof off. He's currently working on a paper intended to explain how plants absorb toxic metals and so clean the soil.

Two years ago, at age 102, Crist was named America's oldest worker by a nonprofit training group called Experience Works (C&EN, Sept. 23, 2002, page 93). He had worked on the Manhattan Project, at Union Carbide, and at Dickinson College before moving to Messiah at age 70. While there, he took a token salary of $1.00 a year.

Periodic table in everyday life

Todd M. Hamilton writes from Adrian, Mich., that he “loves to see influences of the periodic table and chemistry in everyday life.” The other day, he says, he was at the local Sears store and saw an advertisement on a wall for Canyon River Blues (a Sears clothes label). The ad was a square that looked like an element square in the periodic table with the initials Crb and the number 27 (cobalt) in the top corner.

Hamilton wonders “why they didn’t pick Cr. Perhaps a copyright issue, I guess. At any rate, what a cool thing for a chemist to see at Sears!”

Bartman baffled Cub outfielder

A report about a baseball that was blown up on purpose (C&EN, March 22, page 64) caught the eye of reader Herb Hart of Chicago. The ball was about to be caught when a spectator named Steve Bartman interfered with the prospective catcher. It said here that Bartman interfered with an opposing outfielder. Not so, says Hart. The outfielder was a Cub named Moises Alou. The umpire, Hart says, did not call interference on the play.

Thar's gold in that bottle

Jim Klent of Fremont, Calif., notes that on the broadcast for this year’s IgNoble Prizes, each winner was given a container that held 1 cubic nanometer of gold. Klent says he liked that so much that he’s “given a few students small glass bottles in which I shake a piece of gold for a moment or two. I tell the students that there are a fair number of cubic nanometers of gold in the bottle.”

Heavy chemical element found

Over the transom the other day came an essay that went as follows:

“A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named Governmentium.
“Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 11 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

“These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert.

“However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second. … Some scientists … speculate that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.

“When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium—an element which radiates just as much energy since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.”


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