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Dissolvable Design, MJ In The Classroom, Chemistry Snack Time

by Lauren K. Wolf
June 7, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 23


Sustainable Wedding Gown:
Credit: Sheffield Hallam U
Dissolves faster than celebrity marriages.
Credit: Sheffield Hallam U
Dissolves faster than celebrity marriages.

Forget spending thousands of dollars on a designer WEDDING DRESS that can be worn only once. Just in time for the June wedding season, fashion and engineering students at Sheffield Hallam University, in England, have come together to create an eco-friendly, multiple-wear gown for the big day—and a few of the days to follow.

The dress, now on display at the university’s Furnival Gallery, comes apart in several transformative pieces, each of which is dissolvable in water. According to Abdul Hoque, an associate lecturer involved with the design project, the material fabricated by the students “is composed of a thermoplastic polyvinyl alcohol-based formulation similar to what is used in many water-soluble packaging materials such as dishwasher detergents and toilet blocks.”

When Hoque initially approached the fashion lecturers with the idea to work together, he says, “they could not imagine why anyone would want to wear dissolvable clothing.” But as discussions progressed, the “Sustainable Marriage” project materialized as a way “to explore the issues surrounding throwaway fashion, landfill, and sustainability” of both textiles and marriage, says Lesley Campbell, a course leader for fashion at Sheffield Hallam.

Although the university doesn’t currently have plans to market the dress, it has attracted a lot of interest, Campbell says, and further development will be explored.

Another marriage made in heaven has recently come to Newscripts’ attention: the unity of MICHAEL JACKSON and chemical education. A new article in the Journal of Pan African Studies,Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: MJ in the Scholarly Literature,” lists books, articles, and websites that contain academic research influenced by the King of Pop (2010, 3, 14).

The “weirdest Michael Jackson related piece” the authors say they found comes from ACS’s own Journal of Chemical Education. In a 2004 article, Cory C. Pye, an associate professor of chemistry at Saint Mary’s University, in Nova Scotia, wrote about his use of music in teaching general chemistry (2004, 81, 507). Specifically, Pye adapts classic songs, such as Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” to have lyrics about chemistry (the hit became “Nitrobenzene”) and then sings them to his class to illustrate certain concepts.

Pye tells Newscripts that he originally came up with the idea of teaching through song while trying to motivate some of his engineering students to learn chemistry. “I reached the point of exasperation,” Pye says. “I said to myself, ‘My God, do I have to do a song and dance for them?’ ” He then realized that might not be such a bad idea.

At the end of each general chemistry chapter he covers in the classroom, Pye performs a related song. Among the others are “Hotel Californium,” adapted from the famous Eagles tune, and “Welcome to the Gas Phase,” of Guns N’ Roses fame.

Credit: Pam Pollack
Credit: Pam Pollack

To learn more about Pye’s songs and to hear some of his recordings, go to the “Newscripts” blog at

Newscripts reader Arthur Greenberg writes from Durham, N.H., to share some NOMENCLATURE HUMOR only a chemist could appreciate. While recently shopping at an upscale supermarket, Greenberg says, he could not resist Z Crackers, a product from Savory Pie Co., in New York, that boasts having zero trans fats. “But of course there must be no (E)-fats in Z Crackers!” Greenberg writes, adding that he hopes “the (Z)(cis)-fat level is negligible” too.


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