Periodic Pandemonium: Exploring Chemistry’s Rule-Breakers

When I tell people that I study chemistry, the response is usually some version of “You must be bright” or “I hated that class” or, put more simply, “Why?”  I’ve grown used to defending my love for chemistry, and I’ve often pointed to its straightforward nature as the source of my affection. I liked that the elements on the periodic table are arranged according to trends in their chemical properties, and that we can infer things about an element’s behavior by its position.   An element’s electronegativity (the tendency to attract electrons), for example, increases as you move from left to right and from bottom to top across the table. The size of the atom, meanwhile, increases from right to left and from top to bottom. In class, I labeled different chunks of the periodic table to signify alkali metals, transition metals, lanthanides, actinides, halogens and other categories of elements with neatly-defined criteria for membership.  As a straight-A student and a type-A personality, I appreciated how chemistry was so orderly, how there was always a right answer.   

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The Science of Fireworks

This Fourth of July, many families will be wrapping up their festivities by going to see a blazing, brilliant firework show.  No matter if it’s your local community or Navy Pier in Chicago, people of all ages marvel at the stunning displays of color and sound.  Firework displays have become very sophisticated, and every year you many notice some shapes that you have not seen the previous year.  Have you ever wondered how those shapes and colors are made?  Well, you have science to thank, particularly chemistry.  Continue reading “The Science of Fireworks”

Chemistry of Coffee

Coffee beans

Politicians don’t talk about it, but perhaps the most important stimulus to the US economy comes in a cup – the coffee cup. Millions consider the ancient and awesome bean critical to their daily productivity. If you’re a coffee drinker, come be a coffee thinker – and coffee scientist – to learn about this fascinating elixir.

Illinois Science Council brings back our popular “Chemistry for Adults” series in collaboration with Second Chance Coffee Company for a unique Chemistry of Coffee event with Dr. Shelby Hatch (ISC’s Chemist-in-Residence) and the coffee experts behind the fantastic I Have a Bean coffee. Whether you’re a daily connoisseur or just occasionally partake, come get the inside scoop on the coffee bean.

This event is not just a talk or tasting (although there will definitely be tasting!). You will engage in hands-on chemistry experiments and leave with insider info to improve your morning coffee routine and dazzle your friends with your knowledge. Through discussion and experimentation, you’ll learn about: the selection of the coffee bean; the process of roasting; particle size and surface area; chemical changes that take place in roasting and brewing; concentrations (dosage); temperature; pre-infusion (time and volume); and find out what is most important of these for taste. No science prerequisite is necessary, only curiosity!

Take this opportunity to come to the Loop on a Saturday and experience the Christkindlmarket, Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival on Daley Plaza or the many shopping and entertainment options in and around Block 37. Space is limited – sign up now!

Second Chance Coffee Company was founded in Wheaton, IL in 2007 to accomplish two things—roast and distribute truly exceptional coffee, and help transform the lives of post-prison people in the process. The company roasts and distributes coffee under the brand name “I Have a Bean.” Learn about their great business model and mission here.

Latinicity is a unique dining option in the heart of downtown Chicago featuring 8 innovative kitchen stations of Latin flavor, a coffee café, full bar and lounge, and a sit-down Mexican restaurant situated inside the food hall. Latinicity knows how to pair it’s excellent food with excellent beverages, including I Have a Bean coffee.

ISC’s Chemistry for Adults programs have included Chemistry of… Beer with Metropolitan Brewing, Whiskey with Koval Distillery, Chocolate with Blommer Chocolate, Spirits with CH Distillery, and Honey with the Notebaert Nature Museum, as well as cosmetics chemistry. Visit to sign up for our mailing list of future programs.