Mirrors always fog up after we come out of the shower. It is the same story. Shower. Fog. Shower. Fog. Shower. Fog.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop mirrors from fogging up with a bit of science.  The trick is that you have to stop water droplets from beading up on the surface of the glass. Scientists would say that you need to change the surface tension. One way to do that is to spread a bit of shaving cream on the glass and then remove it 30 seconds later. The next time you shower, there won’t be any fog where the shaving cream once was.

Here’s to better living with a bit of chemistry.

Our ancestors slept differently.

If you went back to the time before the Industrial Revolution, you would find them turn in around 9 or 10 pm and then sleep for about three and a half hours. Then, they would wake up on purpose and stay up for an hour or so. In that time, they would read, eat, clean, and sometimes visit their neighbors who were also up at this time. After about an hour, they would go back to sleep for another three and a half hours.  These two segments of sleep were called “first sleep” and “second sleep” and everyone slept this way.

Sleeping in two segments was the way everyone slept centuries ago, but by the early 20th century this way of sleeping was gone. There were two inventions that contributed to this: the lightbulb and the clock. With artificial light, we went to sleep later, which shortened the first sleep. With the clock, we had to get up early to go to the factory for work. So, the second sleep was shortened. After a while,  it did not make sense to sleep for two short segments, so we consolidated them to make the way we sleep today.

Today, there are some scientists and historians who believe that sleeping in two parts, that is segmented sleep, is the natural way of sleeping. Details about how our sleep changed and what we can do to get a good night sleep are all spelled out in a new book called The Alchemy of Us.

The Alchemy of Us Book jacket

The Alchemy of Us

In 1916, chemist Jan Czochralski mistakenly dipped his fountain pen into molten tin, which resulted in a thread of metal on the end.  Using the same force that moves soda up a straw, called capillary forces, Czochralski found an inexpensive way to make solid crystals starting from a liquid. He did not know this then, but his lab accident later created a cheap way to make silicon semiconductors, a method that was perfected by chemist Gordon Teal in the 1950s at Bell Labs.  And this process would enabled the integrated circuit, which is the heart of your computer. The start of the Electronic Age and Silicon Valley all came together because of a lab accident.

Most of the silicon chips that we use today are created by this method but very little is written about this scientist. In laboratories across the world, the method he created is called the CZ Method (after Czochralski), but most people don’t know his story.   Yet, it was his work that changed the world.

Want to know more?

A technical description of his work can be found in this Materials Research Society Bulletin article (which is downloadable.) More information about how the computer chip came to be can be found in  The Alchemy of Us.



The Alchemy of Us Book jacket

The Alchemy of Us