By Ann Fenech, on 12 June 2010
Interspersing his speech with words including “spectacularly brilliant”, “stunningly beautiful”, “just mesmerising”, Andrea Sella, from UCL Chemistry has just reminded me exactly why I love chemistry. He is clearly enthusiastic about his subject, and that enthusiasm was definitely infectious.
As Sella stated, chemistry always seems to be thought about in connection with pollution, cancer and other negative terms. However, there is so much more to it.
The ancient Greeks believed that the world was made up of 4 elements: water, earth, air and fire. However, as chemists (or alchemists) tried to discover more, they started identifying individual elements, culminating in the development of the periodic table. Quoting Sella, “It’s true that chemistry is about the elements. But it is also about much more than that”.
During the event we saw slow-motion videos from the series, but even more impressively Andrea Sella had numerous demos prepared for us – from burning potassium, to burning diamonds…yes there was a lot of burning!
A truly inspiring event, both for how much information it provided, but even more so for the way it brought that information to your attention in a subtle but exciting manner.
As a chemist I cannot resist ending with this quote, again from Sella:
If it stinks and burns: it’s chemistry;
If it doesn’t work: it’s physics.