VX – What is it?

Over this last month or so, the nerve agent VX has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons but I did think it was worth looking at the chemistry of this molecule in this moths blog post. The obvious question is what is it? VX, or, to use the full IUPAC name is actually Ethyl ({2-ethyl}sulfanyl)(methyl)phosphinate. It is referred to as VX as it is a ‘V’ series of nerve agents (‘V’ stands for venom) and was first syntheiszed in the ...

Metallic Hydrogen and Scepticism

Scientists are supposed to be sceptical of others claims – you will encounter this in NOS (NOS 1.7 ‘Scientists must adopt a sceptical attitude to claims’). Why do I quote this? Well, you may have recently read or seen in the news that a new form (state) of Hydrogen has been produced. Hydrogen has been subjected to incredibly high pressure (495GPa or 495,000,000,000Pa – that’s 495 billion Pa). By contrast, standard atmospheric pressure is around 100,000Pa so this value is getting ...

Become a Future Science Leader!

No matter whether you’re an aspiring Biologist, Physicist, Chemist, or inventor, the IB Diploma is a fantastic stepping stone to studying your subject at university. However, an ambitious student can be left directionless with so many choices and questions – which subject should I follow? How do I break in to the science industry? With that question in mind our academics set about creating the perfect course for aspirant scientists - “Future Science Leader”. What is it? Future Science Leaders is a new ...

Chemical Warfare

Firstly, and before I forget, a very Happy New Year to all of my readers! I hope you had a good one wherever in the world you are. I have been meaning to write this for a while but other blog posts seem to get in the way! The post was developed after I read a news article about CS gas being accidently sprayed at London City Airport towards the end of October last year (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/21/london-city-airport-evacuated-after-chemical-incident/) I should point out that CS ...

Christmas Plant Indicators

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, chances are you will be familiar with the Poinsetta plant (see image below). Poinstetta's are traditional Christmas plants due to their deep red colour and originate from Mexico. Image kindly sourced from: By André Karwath aka Aka - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16584 Probably what you didn't know though is that the deep red colour is called by a class of molecule called an anthocyanin (read more on anthocyanins here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthocyanin) Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments that change ...

Planetary Round Up

Saturn’s hexagon – have you heard of it? It is quite easy to see from the above images – and isn’t it amazing? A near perfect, natural hexagon of immense proportions. The sides of the hexagon are estimated to be nearly 14,000km in length – to put that into perspective, the diameter of the earth is a mere 12,700km! It does remind me of a quote from the film Prometheus (“God doesn’t build in straight lines”) but let’s not go down that ...

How well do YOU do it?

ATL or Approaches to Teaching and Learning. Hopefully, this will not be a new phrase or acronym to you and that your teachers will have exposed you to it…. But what is it? Well, ATL has been part of IB for at least 18 months and most probably even longer than that. It’s the idea that the IB does not only tell your teachers what to teach (ie, the curriculum) but also how they should teach it (that’s the Approaches to ...

The New Extended Essay

Were you aware that a new EE guide was out? It has been live for around three months and is for first examinations May 2018, so that will be students whom you start to teach this coming August / September. Now that things have got quieter with IB teaching (IB2 students are finished) I thought it was worth writing about it so that it can inform your planning. The first thing is that the guide is entirely electronic. I am sure that ...

The Halogens and the Sea

There are a few references to lab work in this post – I do need to stress that any labs you carry out need to be under the supervision of one of your teachers (and risk assessed by the teacher) and carried out in school. I have always been fascinated by the link with the number of substances dissolved in the sea. For example, gold ions are dissolved in the sea and it is estimated that there are getting on for ...

Carbon Neutral Fuels

Please note: The blog post works on the premise that you understand that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and it is one of the molecules responsible for global warming. ‘Carbon neutral’ is a fairly common phrase we tend to see quite regularly today. I noticed that ‘Sky’ (the TV company) markets itself as a carbon neutral company. Another carbon related phrase is ‘offsetting carbon’ – so if you fly with BA you can pay extra and offset your carbon footprint….. But ...