Chemistry gets its own show



By Alan Boyle

Scientific concepts take center stage in a video series that connects chemistry to spearmint gum, dill pickles, cheeseburgers and other everyday goodies.

The National Science Foundation and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, cooked up the “Chemistry Now” series to capitalize on the International Year of Chemistry. (NBC Universal and Microsoft are partners in the joint venture.) The series focuses on the chemistry behind common physical objects and the changes they go through, as well as the lives and work of scientists on the frontiers of chemistry.

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“The International Year of Chemistry is an excellent opportunity to reach out to the public and convey to them the ways in which chemistry is involved in their lives each and every day,” Matthew Platz, director of the NSF’s Division of Chemistry, said in this week’s announcement about the series.

“Chemistry Now” is meant to make concepts that may sound complicated more digestible for students in the classroom, as well as your run-of-the-mill video viewer on the Web. For example, the video above explains how a chemical known as carvone can taste like spearmint if the molecule is patterned in a particular way, but can taste like dill if the molecule takes on a mirror-image pattern.

Each week’s featured video comes along with additional clips, graphics and lesson plans tailor-made for the classroom. Three packages have been put out so far, on the chemistry of water, cheese and mirror molecules. Future installments will focus on the other components of a cheeseburger (from the bun to the pickles), as well as chocolate (just in time for Valentine’s Day), flowers and much, much more.

The first half of the 32-package “Chemistry Now” series runs through May. The second half picks up in the fall to keep pace with the traditional academic school year. The scientific content is drawn from news reports as well as from the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Scientific American and the National Science Teachers Association’s lesson plans. NBC Learn turns all that science into the “Chemistry Now” video packages.

“Using unique and engaging storytelling, NBC News can help break down barriers to understanding complicated scientific concepts,” Soraya Gage, executive producer of NBC Learn, said in this week’s announcement.

You can keep up with the weekly episodes on NBC Learn’s website as well as NSF’s Science360 website and the NSTA blog.

More science on video:

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