Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Connecticut Valley Section of the American Chemical Society celebrates it's Centennial Anniversary

Guest post by George Ruger, Chair Mid-Hudson Section of the American Chemical Society
Photos courtesy of George Ruger

The official celebration for the Connecticut Valley Section's (CVS) 100th Anniversary was held on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at Trinity College in Hartford, CT.  ACS President-Elect Bassam Shakhashiri started off the festivities by presenting a certificate to celebrate the milestone to Mark Peczuh, Chair of the Connecticut Valley Section.  Then he talked about his 4 Presidential Initiatives and his theme during his Presidential year, Advancing Chemistry / Communicating Chemistry. 

The morning speaker was Dan Nocera, Professor from MIT.  Based on Dan's data, we are currently using 14 terawatts of energy on the planet, but we will need an additional 16 terawatts of energy by 2050.  Why so much more?  It is largely expected that by the year 2050 the world population will grow from nearly 7 billion people today to 9 billion people.  In addition, over the next 40 years there will be another 3 billion people in poor countries who will be looking for access to energy.  Therefore there will be twice as many people looking for access to the energy supply by 2050, and that goes on the assumption that the energy needs of the legacy world will not increase.  For energy in the non-legacy world, cost is the first issue, not efficiency.  High efficiency comes with a high cost.  The key, in Dan's opinion, is in providing the non-legacy world a carbon-neutral, sustainable energy supply.  Dan's work is largely focusing on obtaining energy from solar power.  He is looking at photosynthesis in plants for inspiration and trying to find a cost efficient way to generate energy that can be done in small scale in parts of the world that don't have access to the power grid. 

Lunch was provided to the attendees.  They also had the opportunity to view posters from the CVS which paid tribute to the history of the section and highlighted some of the important figures of the section, including those who are ACS Fellows.  One poster was dedicated to letters from other sections who congratulated the CVS on their 100th Anniversary.  A few of the 18 local sections in the Northeast Region sent letters and also sent representatives to the event.  The crowd had over 100 people, many of them high school kids from nearby schools. 
The afternoon speaker was Bassam Shakhashiri.  He was wearing his red SCIENCE IS FUN t-shirt for this portion of the event.  Bassam commented that everything around us is made of chemicals.  He also said those of us in the science-rich sector should share what we know with the science poor sector.  There is a gap between the sectors, and that gap is widening to the detriment of both sectors.  Bassam also talked about some of the reasons for communication- to inform, to engage, to educate, to advocate, and to persuade.  He also mentioned the Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, a report given every two years to Congress, and said we should all be familiar with what is in it. 

For the Science Is Fun demonstration, Bassam started by raising up a match.  He let it go and it dropped to the table.  He said "That is Physics."  Then he struck it on the side of the match box and the match lit to a brilliant flame.  He replied "That is Chemistry!"  Bassam also lit what looked like a dollar bill and it burned to a big flash, leaving no ashes behind.  Then he confessed that it wasn't a real dollar bill, but flash paper that looked like a dollar bill.  Then he sought a volunteer from the audience to donate a real bill.  He soaked the bill in a liquid and then lit the bill.  The bill seemed to burn with a bright yellow flame but actually remained intact.  The liquid burned off but didn't damage the bill.  He asked the audience what the liquid might be.  Then he said it was a mixture of alcohol and water.  Bassam also made use of 6 1000ml graduated cylinders.  There were three colors, and two cylinders had each color.  He added dry ice to one of the two of each color and we observed the color changes.  He talked a little bit about the Chemistry behind the color changes and then added the dry ice to the others.  Bassam also demonstrated Bernoulli's Principle by blowing up a long cylindrical plastic tube using only the air in his lungs, plus a little help from the surrounding air. 

In conclusion, Bassam said that all forms of science need to work together, including Chemistry, Physics, and Biology.

At the end of the event three cakes dedicated to the 100 year old Connecticut Valley Section were cut and eaten.  

No party is complete without cake.     

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