Slinn Pickings – news from the world of chemistry

Guest blogger and chemist Robert Slinn contributes his favorite news snippets from the world of chemistry

  • Einstein in your engine – Cars start thanks to Einstein's principle of relativity. That's the peculiar conclusion of new calculations by Rajeev Ahuja of Uppsala University in Sweden and his coworkers, who have looked at how relativistic effects on electron energies in lead atoms affect the voltage of the lead-acid battery, the standard electrical power source in cars. They find that these contribute around 80-85 per cent of the electrical potential of about 2.1V developed by such batteries.
  • Fastest movie in the world recorded – When we catch a cold, the immune system steps in to defend us. This is a well-known biological fact, but is difficult to observe directly. Processes at a molecular level are not only miniscule, they are often extremely fast, and therefore difficult to capture in action. Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) and the Technische Uni-versität Berlin (TUB) now present a method that takes us a good step towards producing a "molecular movie". They can record two pictures at such a short time interval that it will soon be possible to observe molecules and nanostructures in real time.
  • Foxes zero in on prey via Earth’s magnetic field – It sounds like something a guided missile would do. Foxes seem to zero in on prey using Earth's magnetic field. They are the first animal thought to use the field to judge distance rather than just direction.
  • What’s In Your Bottled Water — Besides Water? – A survey of websites and labels of more than 170 bottled waters sold in the U.S. found only three — and only one of the top 10 domestic brands — that give customers information about the water’s source, the method of purification and any chemical pollutants that remained after the water was treated, according to a new report by Environmental Working Group (EWG).