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The Coldest Chemical Reaction in the Known Universe Just Happened – Popular Mechanics

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Chuanchai Pundej / EyeEmGetty Images

For the first time, scientists have watched a chemical reaction happen from beginning to end without any missing pieces. Kang-Kuen Nis lab at Harvard University chilled molecules to within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero and used a Kerplunk!-style array of lasers to document the reaction as it happened.

Taking molecules to extremely low temperatures can be called ultracold chemistry, and it not only slows the particles down, but allows them to be manipulated in ways they cant be at higher temperatures. The molecules are essentially in a hypothermic coma that reduces their movement to the lowest possible speed.

One of the ways solid materials mislead us is by suggesting the particles in them arent active, but solidity and liquidity are usually the result of chemical reactions themselves. Within an ice cube, molecules move less than they do in liquid water and steam, but they still move very fast compared with what the Harvard lab calls the quantum crawl of near-zero Kelvin.

Ni has used ultracold chemistry to do a de facto Crispr drawer on molecules, combining impossible pairs that are so cold that they lack the normal resistance to bonding. This led to interesting work by itself, but the scientists in Nis lab realized they were seeing something else amazing: Instead of a before and after, where molecules were separate and then together, they were seeing what happened in the middle for the first time ever.

That new understanding will inform future research into how molecules combine and split. Both the observation of splitting and the molecule manipulation are made possible by ultracold chemistry, which slows a chemical reaction from a trillionth of a second to a huge, leisurely millionth or more.

Its amazing that scientists were observing anything within that trillionth of a second to begin with, which they did using powerful and extremely fast lasers. With microsecondsmicro is metric for a millionththe same level of laser power can document a hugely increased amount of data about the reaction. One microsecond is a million times longer than the chemical-bonds phase of a naturally occurring chemical reaction. Imagine if you sneezed in a very cold room and your half-second sneeze extended to 139 hours.

Nis research team is excited to see what else its near-absolute-zero facility will help reveal. The ability to slow reaction observation time by a factor of a million offers tantalizing possibilities in every field of science, but perhaps most of all in quantum physics, where the measured impression has always been that a few things are somehow happening simultaneously.

Is that truly the case, or is there billionth-of-a-second microthread processing that just appears smooth and simultaneous? If we slow particles enough, can we identify why observing them changes their outcomes or even stop that from happening? And what will having this power mean for changing isotopes, making new molecules, and more? The possibilities are limitless. Nis team published its paper in Science, and lead author Ming-Guang Hu summed it up nicely: Without this technique, without this paper, we cannot even think about this.

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The Coldest Chemical Reaction in the Known Universe Just Happened - Popular Mechanics

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Scientists Just Triggered The Coldest Chemical Reaction in The Known Universe – ScienceAlert

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Set in the middle of a mass of laser equipment, researchers have managed to trigger the coldest chemical reaction in the known Universe. This feat promises to reveal some essential truths about how the building blocks of matter react at ultra-low temperatures.

How cold is the reaction exactly? We're talking in the region of 500 nanokelvin - just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero. The frigid nature of this set-up is important, since at these sort of temperatures molecules tend to slow to the point of almost stopping.

If you want a chemical reaction to happen, tardy molecules are not what you'd typically be after.But in this case, the reduction in both temperature and speed gave the Harvard University-led team the opportunity to see something that's never been observed before: the moment when two molecules meet together and form... two new molecules.

Scientists have been able to observe the central part of a chemical reaction. (Ming-Guang Hu)

"Probably in the next couple of years, we are the only lab that can do this," says physicist Ming-Guang Hu, from Harvard University.

Chemical reactions take just a picosecond,which makes trying to capture what happens in that time frame very tricky indeed. Even ultra-fast lasers acting as cameras can usually capture the start and end of a reaction, not what happens in the middle.

Slowing the reaction in the extremely cold temperatures achieved by the team was therefore the perfect solution.

"Because [the molecules] are so cold, now we kind of have a bottleneck effect," says chemical biologist Kang-Kuen Ni, also from Harvard University.

The absolute coldest temperature in the Universe is absolute zero - but it's impossible to achieve, because it means atoms would stop completely. We can, however, get close to it.

Ultra-low temperatures mean ultra-low energy, which in turn means a much slower reaction: two potassium rubidium molecules chosen for their pliability were delayed in the reaction stage for microseconds (millionths of a second).

A technique known as photoionisation detection was then used to observe what was happening to the two molecules, giving scientists invaluable real data to help inform their models and hypotheses.

Being able to observe chemical reactions at such close quarters and at such a fundamental level opens up the possibility of being able to design new reactions too an almost limitless number of combinations are imaginable, potentially useful in everything from material construction to quantum computing.

It's a journey that Kang-Kuen Ni has been on for years working at incredibly small scales to observe and to control what happens when chemicals react with each other.

Now the team is investigating ways in which chemical reactions could be influenced or manipulated to order either changing the energies involved before the reaction happens, or even nudging the molecules to alter the reaction while it's in progress.

"With our controllability, this time window is long enough, we can probe," says Hu. "Now, with this apparatus, we can think about [influencing reactions]. Without this technique, without this paper, we cannot even think about this."

The research is published in Science.

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Scientists Just Triggered The Coldest Chemical Reaction in The Known Universe - ScienceAlert

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Put priority in its place | Opinion – Chemistry World

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

We have a thirst for firsts. The first person to achieve something gets their place in history, and competing to be first is a powerful motivator even when the goal is effectively arbitrary. In October, Eliud Kipchoge (unofficially) became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours. It was an incredible feat of endurance, but Kipchoges official record set in 2018 is 2:01:39, and from where I sit, 7299 seconds is no less impressive than 7200 seconds. Still, such symbolic firsts inspire intense competition and they are just as seductive to scientists as they are to sportspeople.

As we reported recently, scientists are now very near to making the first room temperature superconductor, with a lanthanum hydrides 13C transition temperature coming tantalisingly close. In this particular room, the thermostat sits just north of 0C, which is a little wintry for most but its a good deal warmer than the liquid nitrogen temperatures needed by cuprate ceramics that were the previous best in class.

Yet hitting room temperature wont herald the dawn of widespread superconducting technology. Yes, the temperature is more readily achievable, but practicality is still a long way off when the materials also have to be crushed under a million atmospheres of pressure. So this will be a far more symbolic than scientific effort. As Mikhail Eremets one of the researchers hoping to break the barrier told Nature, the target has no real physical meaning. However, it is enormously important psychologically.

The race to make the first room temperature superconductor shows how human behaviour influences scientific progress. Getting a superconductor over this psychological threshold may be pretty incremental; its well within reach and we know how well make up the difference. But it represents decades of work the lifetime of an entire field and will make headlines around the world. There may even be a Nobel in it for the discoverers. All of which is spurring on the few groups working in the field to claim the prize any of them could be the first to get there and only one of them will. In the science economy, that priority carries a significant premium.

Yet while competition for first place is the lifeblood of athletics and sports, in science it can come with damaging consequences. In an editorial for Infection and Immunity in 2015, Ferric Fang and Arturo Casadevall argued that this competitive drive for priority does science far more harm than good it leads to wasted effort, it stifles creativity, breeds secrecy and creates a hostile environment for young scientists, especially young women. Just look at our history.

As the International Year of the Periodic Table draws to a close, and we reflect on a year of celebration, we should also note what the table teaches us about our culture. Scratch the tables surface just about anywhere and youll find an argument about who deserves the credit lurking underneath; the table is littered with priority disputes and our obsession with the idea of individual genius. Today, a handful of teams around the world compete to be the first to synthesise the next element, and for the right to name it, which will very likely honour an individual person or nation. The table is sciences culture in microcosm; every inch of it is covered in our motivations, like smudgy fingerprints.

So how do we address this fixation with firsts, when it is so embedded in our culture? It seems fanciful to think we can just forget about them pushing back the frontiers means someone has to be at the front. Perhaps we can instead broaden the scope of that culture to include other motivations altruism, charity and curiosity, for example so that these are more apparent in the way we carry out and celebrate science. The problem with focusing only on firsts is that it pushes everyone else into last.

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Put priority in its place | Opinion - Chemistry World

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MSPCA, Acton police offer reward after puppy found with chemical burns – Boston Herald

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

The MSPCA and Acton police are offering a $1,000 reward for information after a 12-week-old puppy was found discarded in the woods, suffering from chemical burns that authorities believe were intentionally inflicted.

A good Samaritan was out walking her dog in the Acton woods on Nov. 15 when she found a puppy cowering on the side of the trail unable to walk and covered in open wounds but still wagging her tail.

The woman alerted authorities and drove the puppy to the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, where veterinarians have been working to save the life of the young fido, now called Ramona, ever since.

We occasionally will see cases of neglect to potentially something that borders on cruelty, Anna Rafferty-Arnold, associate director at the MSPCAs Boston adoption center, told the Herald. But to see a dog come in with such severe wounds that are so suspicious of something that would be intentional is rare.

Ramona arrived with chemical burns covering more than 40 percent of her body wounds so severe she must undergo a weekly debridement procedure to remove the dead tissue and give the skin underneath a chance to heal.

She also had bite wounds on her back and a broken left front elbow, which may have to be amputated because it started to heal improperly, said shelter veterinarian Rebecca Fellman.

Ramona will remain at the MSPCA for the next four months as she undergoes treatment, and will be under a state-mandated four-month quarantine for the bite wounds. Afterward, staff hope to put her up for adoption.

She still looks in rough shape and she still is in a sad condition, but she does look a lot better, Rafferty-Arnold said. While she is still uncomfortable she has a great spirit. She still has a wagging tail and shes giving kisses and is just a really sweet deal, and were excited for her to go up for adoption.

Acton police have opened an animal cruelty investigation, and are offering a $1,000 reward in conjunction with the MSPCA for information that leads to a conviction. Anyone with information is asked to call 978-929-7711.

The MSPCA estimates caring for Ramona will cost upward of $4,000, and are seeking donations to help.

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MSPCA, Acton police offer reward after puppy found with chemical burns - Boston Herald

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Chemical weapons watchdog to add Novichok agents to banned list – Chemistry World

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is to add five additional compound families including the Novichoks to the list of chemicals tightly restricted under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

This decision was reached on 27 November during the annual meeting of the CWCs 193 member states in The Hague. This will be the first time chemicals have been added to the CWC controlled chemicals annex since the treaty came into force in 1997. All five families will become schedule 1 chemicals, meaning theyll join the likes of sarin, VX and the sulfur mustards as chemicals deemed by the convention to have little or no peaceful purposes.These chemicals can still be produced in very limited quantities under strict supervision for the purposes of protective and medical research.

The changes will take effect 180 days after the OPCW director-general Fernando Arias informs the UN secretary-general of the updates. The OPCW was unable to confirm when the notification that triggers the countdown will be made.

The Novichoks are a group of organophosphate nerve agents developed in Russia in the 1970s and 80s. They were not used in anger as far as we know until former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in the UK city of Salisbury on 4 March 2018.

This incident led to a joint proposal by Canada, the Netherlands and the US to add the Novichoks and another additional chemical family to the CWC. Russia submitted a later proposal to add an additional three families to the same list. Both requests were agreed last week.

This is the first time in its history that the Chemical Weapons Conventions annex on chemicals has been updated. This is an important development that demonstrates the adaptability of the convention to changing threats, said Arias as the amendments were announced.

A point of confusion here is that the use of the Novichok in Salisbury was already a breach of the CWC. As is the use of chlorine also not listed in the CWC annex in Syria. The treaty has catch-all wording that prohibits the use of any chemical for chemical weapons purposes regardless of whether it is specifically noted on the controlled list or not.

But adding these chemicals to the list isnt just a symbolic gesture, it gives the OPCW the right to monitor their use and the acquisition of their precursors. Under the CWC, states are permitted to hold small quantities of schedule 1 chemicals, but these are all monitored down to milligram quantities, explains Alastair Hay, a toxicologist and chemical weapons expert from the University of Leeds, UK. Listing will help to shut down any activity with Novichoks, other than the ability to analyse and perhaps test defences such as gas masks and protective clothing.

Correction: The headline was changed on 3 December 2019 to reflect that the chemical classes added to the schedule 1 list have not been banned outright but that their production and use is very tightly restricted

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Chemical weapons watchdog to add Novichok agents to banned list - Chemistry World

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Why Al Horford isn’t surprised the Celtics already have strong chemistry – Yahoo Sports

Posted: December 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Al Horford hasn't played with Kemba Walker or Enes Kanter.

He hasn't been inside the BostonCeltics' locker room without Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier in the fold.

The Philadelphia 76ers big man has played for Brad Stevens, though, and that experience gave him all the evidence he needs.

In a chat with the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett over the weekend, Horford weighed in on his former team's hot start and said he's not surprised to see Stevens' group jelling so quickly.

"Coach, you know, he's going to put everyone in position to be successful," Horford said."I mean, even the year that we were there that Kyrieand Gordon were missing and we had Shane Larkin starting or Semi (Ojeleye), he figured out how to do the most with what he had. So I'm not surprised by this."

When pressed on why Stevens couldn't make things work last season, Horford pointed to an overabundance of talent that led to chemistry issues.

"Last year was just too much," Horford added. "There were too many guys for coach to satisfy everyone."

Horford was one of five Celtics to average more than 27 minutes per night last season, and that group didn't even include Hayward or Jaylen Brown. That the 33-year-old decided to leave Boston forPhilly in the offseason was a sign he saw the writing on the wall with Boston's crowded roster.

Horford apparently shares the same view as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who pointed to the"equal depth" on last season's squad as a potential cause of Boston's chemistry issues.

The new-look C's seem to be getting along quite well, though. They're 14-5 entering Tuesday and have the chance to avenge one of those five losses when they host Horford's Sixers next Thursday.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage ofCeltics-Heat, which tips off Wednesday at 7p.m.with Celtics Pregame Live, and thenTommy & Mike have the call at 7:30p.m.You can alsostream the gameonthe MyTeams App.

Why Al Horford isn't surprised the Celtics already have strong chemistry originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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Why Al Horford isn't surprised the Celtics already have strong chemistry - Yahoo Sports

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