‘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.

Science slam: Enjoy learning science

A year ago I introduced some of you to the science slam world through my application. It’s about time to tell you about the consequences of that.

One of the slammers in Nantes last month [frame from the video]

One of the slammers in Nantes last month [frame from the video]

In April 2015, I performed in a special session of a scientific congress. The aim of that session was to present our work in a way that it was attractive, entertaining and easy to understand. Science for the people if you like. It was also a contest. And I won it. Indeed, my Disney musical about pesticides in salmon was a great success in spite of my singing skills. I guess that my moves, the unexpected on-stage costume change and the cheeky jokes made up for that.

Since that day, strangers approach me in every congress to remind me that to them I’m a showman and all my scientific achievements will never mean a thing next to that. I must say it doesn’t bother me as long as I can make a living out of it.

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) seems to be trying to help with that. Last December they published an interview to me and the winner of the first edition in SETAC Globe. And they offered us to host this year’s science slam in Nantes. Needless to say, we accepted.

It is frustrating to answer ‘no’ every time someone asks if there’s a recording of my musical. But this year my co-host, Michele De Rosa, filmed the whole show, except the battery died during the last slammer’s presentation. However, they reconstructed the end with footage from Erica Brockmeier, who was making a documentary on the show. This is why now you can enjoy it yourselves. You’re welcome.

Posters at scientific congresses

A year ago I posted about scientific congresses, where researchers share their results. I mentioned posters and today they’re getting the post they deserve.

A great example I came across in Nantes

A great example I came across in Nantes

Last Monday I showed two posters at the SETAC congress in Nantes. Scientists present our results in poster format for different reasons. First situation is when we aim at an oral presentation, but the chairpersons of the session decide that other studies are a better way to use their limited couple of hours. Your work is therefore exiled to the exposition room—because an extra poster won’t take too much space in that huge hall. On the other hand, the deadline might be too close and our study is just beginning or we have only a few results. A poster can contain less information and this is less compromising when writing the abstract for applying. In other cases we know we don’t have the time for it or that our results are poor.

Posters are hung for a whole day and renewed next. Scientists look at them during coffee-breaks having a snack or at lunch time. Some even ask questions to the authors. I think it is actually a moment for socialising and networking rather than debating the studies.

More than half of the posters are aesthetic aberrations with silly fonts, colours that impede reading, chaotic distributions, low-resolution images or pictures made with Paint. Most of the remaining posters give too much information and have intricate writing or an unclear narrative line. And the 10 % that are worth reading don’t belong to my field of expertise; which is fine with me, since I can devote my time to eating pastries.