‘Seafood Tango’. Full show

Let me show you a short video, with lots of music and few clothes. Plus, you’ll learn about contaminants in food. The Internet is about to explode!

Last May I performed my last show at the SETAC Europe 27th annual meeting. It was a cabaret about contaminants in seafood from Europe. More precisely, it was about flame retardants, which are used to prevent fires and reach the sea and sea life. And, as karma goes, they end up in the consumers’ stomach.

But don’t let me tell you about it. See it with your own eyes in this 10-minute video that SETAC Europe shared with me so that I can share with you. I’ve even added subtitles.

Pesticides, language and ‘Doctor Who’. What are pyrethroids?

Doctor becomes her (images©: BBC)

I’m currently writing my PhD thesis in Catalan —and some percentage in English to get the international mention— when they reveal that the actor who will take the lead role in Doctor Who will be, in fact, an actress. Weirdly enough, both facts are closely related.

If you saw the teaser of my first scientific musical two years ago, you know that pyrethroids are pesticides, that they are less toxic than DDT, organophosphorates and carbamates and that they are used in aquaculture —and that I’m not a professional singer. However, as you never saw the whole show, this video has a Shakespearean feel, much ado about nothing. So today I’m introducing these pesticides that you have been eating all your life and have probably applied to your hair unknowingly.

About a century ago pyrethrins, which were extracted from a plant of the chrysanthemum family, were modified to study how their chemical activity changed. Pyrethroids were created. In the seventies, pyrethroids went from household products to agricultural pesticides and started substituting other pesticides. Pyrethroids were more effective, stable but biodegradable and selectively more toxic to insects than mammals.

But pyrethroids are not only used on the crops. They are used to fight parasites in farms and fish farms, to treat lice or scabies and to control malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Now go check your home insecticide; it’s bound to have pyrethroids in it.

So why are language and Doctor Who in this article’s title? As I’m writing my thesis in Catalan, I’ve realised my mother tongue does something weird, unusual and against terminology’s best practices. In Catalan pyrethroids are transgender —not to be confused with transgenic. So the English permethrin in an agricultural context will be a male word (permetrín), while in a farmaceutical context it will be female (permetrina). English has feet that smell and noses that run; we’re entitled to our own excentricities. However, only pyrethroids that in English end in -in are transgender, others, e.g. fenvalerate, don’t change.

It bugs me [bugs and pesticides; see what I did there?] that when I talk about the compounds as molecules or when I discuss different applications in my thesis there will be no or both contexts involved. And you can’t go changing pesticides’ gender every other paragraph. It bugs me square that, maybe influenced by Spanish, which makes them always female, in my laboratory we’ve always used them in female form in Catalan. I might have to go back and amend some texts.

Depending on the context, pyrethroids can change gender in Catalan

Which brings us to Doctor Who and the recent announcement of the new Doctor. After 54 years and 13* male incarnations, Doctor becomes her. Sadly enough, myriads of haters (both men and women) find it outrageous that a 2000-year-old alien who changes his body periodically is going to include his genitals in the next change. On the other hand, we’ve never been told what’s down there so, who knows?

Long story short, I write a blog to look modern and fashionable and there’s nothing more modern and fashionable than respecting the gender change of any person, character or pesticide.

 

—-

* Disclaimer for trolls die-hard fans: I am obviously counting the War Doctor, but not the Metacrisis Doctor as that is a deviation that doesn’t lead to the current incarnation.

‘Seafood Tango’, a cabaret act about seafood safety

Ladies and gentelmen, this year’s SETAC meeting will bring the 4th edition of their science slam session. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Preparations for the video [photo©: Manuel García]

Preparations for the video [photo©: Manuel García]

SETAC Europe 27th annual meeting is taking place in Brussels next May. If you have read my blog in the last two years, you already know that my favourite session of the SETAC congress is the science slam. If you are new to my humble site, this session allows scientists to present their research in original and unexpected entertaining ways.

I’ve always been of the opinion that science slam is like sex; it’s great to watch, but it feels so much better to participate! That’s why, once more, I’m submitting a video presentation of my new show in order to be selected for this year’s session.

This cabaret-style number is a seafood take on Cell Block Tango from the musical Chicago. It was premiered at the ECsafeSEAFOOD Final Conference three weeks ago, also in Brussels. Now I’m going to share it with a bigger audience —because I didn’t learn to do my make-up for just one day, girl!

The good thing is this time I’m not singing that much. You’re welcome.

(Unofficial) Periodic Table Day

It might not be popular as it’s not an official international day, but today, 7th of February, is periodic table day.

There’s always geeks celebrating whatever they obsess over. The National Periodic Table Day Foundation was created with quite a transparent objective. They chose the 7th of February because on that day John Newlands—who invented the periods of the periodic table—published what they consider the first periodic table ever.

TERMCAT's interactive periodic table [source: TERMCAT]

TERMCAT’s interactive periodic table [source: TERMCAT]

On the home page of their web site, the history of the table is told through the contributions of nine (male) chemists. If you prefer a shorter and lighter version of it, revisit my old ramblings about the periodic table.

The celebration this year is specially relevant as a few months ago the four missing elements of period eight were added to the table with their new official names and symbols. Moreover, I took part in the making of a new interactive and fully up-to-date periodic table published last November, which I am very proud of.

Happy Periodic Table Day!

Final names for the new chemical elements

Something that affects me as a chemist and a terminologist has happened. I’m obviously not talking about my sprained wrist after falling off my bike, which forced me to write this post with only my right hand. Yes, that happened, but it affects me many additional parts of my life.

El setè període s'ha completat [imatge©: IUPAC]

The seventh period is complete [image©: IUPAC]

The IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) has officially validated the new names and symbols for the elements that remained unnamed in the seventh period (i.e. line) of the periodic table.

On the 8th of June, the IUPAC presented the names and symbols proposed by the teams that discovered the four elements. Although more about synthesising and characterising rather than discovering nowadays. Five months of revision were required, finishing on the 8th of November, for the IUPAC Council to formally approve them. Note that the approval was made public on the 30th; I’m not the only one with no rush to publish.

The new names and symbols

atomic number
name symbol
113 nihonium Nh
115 moscovium Mc
117 tennessine Ts
118 oganesson Og

The first three names are related to the places of the discovery of the elements. Nihon is a way of pronouncing in Japanese the name of Japan. Moscovium refers to Moscow, the capital city of Russia. And tennessine comes from Tennessee, in the USA. Oganesson, however, honours Yuri Oganessian for his contribution to transactinoid elements research.

Now you know what to call these four elements in your everyday conversations about chemistry. Or, at least, there are some new combinations of letters to obtain a high score playing Scrabble.

1st SETAC science slam across the pond

It’s been almost two months since my post about the science slam in SETAC Nantes (video of the whole show included—check it out!). If you got any ideas from that, you should know that it’s happening again soon in Orlando.

It has now been three years of successful science slams for SETAC Europe. In exactly three months SETAC North America is going to hold their first edition at the other side of the pond. The good news is that an extended deadline means you can apply to the session until next Friday! At first it was last Monday.

Of course, to apply you should be a researcher who’s willing to work some extra hours in August and provide a fine product before a ridiculously close deadline now. Same old, same old.

You’ll find very detailed and useful information on the official website. You can also watch this video for lighter information. Yes, it’s me… singing… I should stop doing this.