Letters to the editor

In the November 2016 issue you asked about podcasts... I listened to a few different podcasts that are history based. I like to connect history and chemistry when possible. 

The podcast "History Chicks" is stories about women, fictional and non-fictional.  They have a great two-part biography of Marie Curie (8/27/16 and 9/18/16) and one episode called "Four Inventors" (12/12/15).

The podcast "Stuff You Missed in History Class" has multiple chemistry connected stories:

  • Radium Girls (9/3/12),
  • Rosalind Franklin (12/14/11),
  • Fritz Haber (12/12/11),
  • Antoine Lavoisier (1/8/14),
  • Leo Baekeland (2/18/15),
  • Montgolfier Brothers and their balloons (9/7/16), and Alchemy (10/24/11).  

Other science episodes:

  • Elizabeth Blackwell (3/24/14),
  • Particle Physics and animals (7/8/13),
  • Tesla (2/4/16 and 2/6/13),Nikola
  • Alan Turing (9/10/12) and
  • Bloodwork (10/31/11 and 10/31/11).



Josephine Parlagreco

Mepham High School, Bellmore NY

In the September issue, Chem 13 News reprinted the potato candle demonstration. This demo has been around for many years and I used it, like many, to grab or hook the students into thinking about the day's topic.

I never told students it was a potato and at the end of the demonstration I ate the evidence. Students would be left wondering and forced to re-evaluate all their observations. I knew it had impact because during the school year, students continued to ask how it worked. This question would even be asked by parents during their parent-teacher interviews. 

Then many years later, I received a letter from a past student, now the Department Chair of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. She recounted the impression of this candle discrepant event in her life: I started studying how babies perceive the world, and specifically, how their knowledge about the world might help them figure out what they're looking at. In fact, in a paper I wrote to pass my qualifying exam,

I referred to a demonstration you did for us in Chemistry class on making observations. As l recall (and this could be clouded by the years...) you lit a "candle" and asked us to describe what we saw, when actually the candle was a piece of apple with a wick in it! That was a good example of how your knowledge of what happens when a candle burns (dripping wax, etc.) clouds what is really there to be observe.

This is how a simple demo can change a student’s life.  What you say in class, and how you say, is important.

Lee Marek, retired

Naperville North High School, Naperville IL