‘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.

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.

Let’s save the water ecosystems

This has been the busiest autumn ever for me. And you are to blame. ‘You’ meaning any living creature on Earth, but mainly humans as the source of the problem.

For the last three months I’ve had a huge load of work from three research projects. They all study chemical pollution in water and its surrounding ecosystems, including soil and animals.

Factors such as pollution, water use or land use threaten water systems. Contamination of water is a complex issue with implications for the environment and human health.

Logos of three projects about water ecosystems

Logos of three projects about water ecosystems

The SEA-on-a-CHIP project aims to analyse marine waters in real time. To achieve this, a small and flexible sensor is being developed to analyse water in situ and send the data to the land. This would provide an automated early warning system to control areas of interest.

We mentioned human health. Although seafood is considered healthy and safe food, it can transfer pollutants from the aquatic environment to humans through their diet. ECsafeSEAFOOD assesses food safety regarding selected compound families.

Moreover, the aforementioned factors combined with water scarcity may produce new and unknown effects to water resources. The Globaqua project studies these factors in rivers for an improvement in water management policies.

To sum up, scores of scientists are devoting myriads of hours to keep water ecosystems under control and ensure a good quality of seafood and clean water availability. If you want to help us, use all kind of products responsibly and mind your residues.

I’m interviewed at Ràdio Vilafranca

Few of this blog’s readers might know that last Monday 9th of June the radio station of my hometown, Ràdio Vilafranca, broadcasted an interview to me in the magazine Penedès gamma extra.

Carla Sanmartín and Daniel García Peris interview bloggers from my hometown area or who write about related topics, e. g. wine, since Penedès wines are well-known. They focused on the Catalan version of the blog, but they are quite the same. Here’s the audio in Catalan, but panic not, for you can find an abridged translation below:


Download the interview

C – Here’s another edition of Penedesfera with Daniel García Peris to meet our bloggers. Good morning, Daniel.

D – Good morning. Today we’ve got Òscar Aznar Alemany, with his blog Traduquímica et al.

C – Welcome, Òscar.

Ò – Good morning.

Glasses of the magazine [source]

C – We have to introduce Òscar as a translator, corrector and chemist, which is an explosive combination. He’s a man who can both be an environmental chemist at CSIC [state lab] and work with Termcat [centre of terminology]. Congratulations because you fly high in the two fields.

Ò – Yes, I started studying Chemistry at university and then joined the Translation and Interpreting school thanks to a friend. That’s how this started.

C – And you seem to keep yourself active in both fields.

Ò – True. Lately, I had been focusing in collaborations with Termcat, on scientific texts, combining both. However, I got an offer for a PhD with a contract at CSIC and I felt like going back to the lab.

C – And what do you do there?

Ò – I analyse marine pollution, especially a kind of pesticides called pyrethroids.

C – So you’ve got a lot to do.

Ò – Well, it’s funny to be an environmental chemist because you want to find pollutants in your samples to draw conclusions…

C – But if you do you feel bad, right? I understand. How can we classify Òscar’s blog, Dani?

Here I learnt most of my chemistry, but nothing about the thin space [source]

D – He’s got a very personal blog, but it’s quite educational in his areas of expertise. Sometimes he even mixes them, like in that post about the thin space.

Ò – I find these things very interesting because, as a scientist, you’re not taught linguistic related stuff you need for the documents you’re going to produce.

C – So, how do you plan the topics for your posts?

Ò – I try to write about language because that’s something everybody can use and sometimes publish posts on simple chemistry or the chemical research process. I don’t want to overload people with excessively specialised matters. I also write about books and my trips, but from a cultural or linguistic point of view as much as possible.

C – What got your attention of his blog, Dani?

D – This duality and his will to communicate and help us avoid typical mistakes.

C – So, what bothers you the most, linguistic contamination or environmental contamination?

Ò – Ha, ha! It depends on how serious they are. I’ve recently analysed salmon from supermarkets and pesticide levels are a thousand times below the accepted limits. That doesn’t bother me.

D – I guess you analyse all kinds of materials, don’t you?

If they are that clean, someone’s not working [source]

Ò – Indeed, in the lab there’s people analysing all sort of compounds. I also work with flame retardants. These are used in everything, for instance computers or chairs in theatres, in order to avoid or weaken fires. These compounds are constantly released by these objects, but you’ve got to choose between a possible cancer at an old age or to have people dying in fires every day.

C – Well, if you add this ‘at an old age’ bit, maybe… But it scares me anyway.

Ò – But that’s the lesser of two evils. Ha, ha! The other option is not to use computers or chairs.

C – Well, I’ve been there. Without computers I mean, not chairs. But yes, there’s been a huge progress in our lifestyle, technology and also chemistry.

Ò – Sure. I fight this war, and sometimes write about it, trying to decriminalize chemistry. You see ads selling soap with no chemicals, as if soap flowed from a spring on a mountain.

C – But lots of soaps have unnecessary chemicals, right?

Ò – Sure, but the word chemistry evokes things like cancer, radiation, death, acid…

C – Ha, ha! Wow!

Ò – There’s a dark side to chemistry, indeed; but we owe it a lot.

Does this look familiar?

Does this look familiar?

C – Of course. We are chemistry. It’s just; sometimes we could use it less. Do we agree on that? Ha, ha!

Ò – Sure. Ha, ha!

D – So you focus on language because it’s more for all audiences than science.

C – But science on the media is becoming more popular lately.

Ò – From my point of view, common people are more likely to use the linguistic tips because not everyone has access to a lab.

D – On the Internet it’s easier for someone interested in that to find it, though.

Ò – That’s true. My colleges from university or the lab find it interesting too sometimes.

C – When did you start this blog? And was it your first?

Ò – I started four years ago because I took a course on presenting TV programmes and…

C – To become a presenter?

Ò – Yes, it was a short course.

The Catalan counterpart to this blog

The Catalan counterpart to this blog

C – That’s interesting because, talking about science becoming more popular, that’s thanks to good communicators. And we need people like this.

Ò – Right. So, a man had been recording and interviewing us throughout the course and gave us some advice at the end. He thought I had a funny way of telling things and making stories appealing even when they weren’t and encouraged me to start a blog. And I saw it as a way to practise my writing and learn in the process. And that’s my aim, to learn, not to get lots of readers. Of course, if someone likes it and learns something, that’s even better. So, I started a blog in Catalan and a bit of Spanish and its twin in English.

D – Maybe another option between TV and blog is YouTube.

Ò – In fact, I’ve thought about it. But I’d rather have a solid base and be really proud of my blogs—which I am, quite—before adventuring into something new.

C – So these are two actually different blogs we’ve seen today.

D – Indeed. Different because of this uncommon combination of topics and here we’ve got the exponent.

C – Fantastic. Thank you very much, Òscar. It’s been a real pleasure meeting you and talking about your work.

Ò – Thank you.

The chemist as a Pokémon trainer: sampling

It’s not the first appearance of chemistry or Pokémon in this blog; it is, nevertheless, the first time they meet in a single post.

Have you ever wondered where the samples that chemists analyze come from? And I’m not talking about that piece of fabric from the murderer’s jacket in CSI; I mean the ones that environmental chemists analyze, for example. We work with water, sediments, aquatic animals and birds…

This is me looking for salmon

This is me looking for salmon [source]

The issue about our samples is that they can’t be acquired at the supermarket; but they need to be collected from their natural location. Although that’s not completely true. This week I bought some salmon samples; except the shop assistant didn’t know those were samples she was selling and not food.

As I was saying, some scientists put on an overall and knee-tall boots—or rubber overalls that include the boots—and get in bushes and get wet up to the waist in rivers or set off to weird spots like the Antarctica. Sometimes they just want to fill a jar with water, sometimes they want to find a specific species of fish.

Those are the kind of samples that are hard to catch and, although you try to catch ‘em all, you’ll fish a dozen magikarps before you get a dratini.