Welcome to Chemistry!

YES! We get to start chemistry this week.


A rather athletic looking Ernest Rutherford discovering to atom nucleus.

We will start with a really useful lab that pretty much previews the entire 8 week unit and will save you lots of chore time at home.

Then we get to perform a hilarious play (you have to laugh – I wrote it) in which all the dead scientists argue about why their contribution to understanding the atom was the most important.


(If you ever need to write a biography – pick a scientist – more egos and wacky backstories than you can shake a stick at. )

During the play we will be taking infomercial breaks to learn chemistry laws , parts of the atom,  see pictures and be amazed at awesome beardage.

It a brand new year…and a brand new critter!


Awww…it’s a kittybearraccoonmonkey.

Welcome! So glad to have you and newly identified mammalian carnivore with us! The olinguito pictured above has been in museums for decades, but misidentified as its older cousin, the Olingo. Both are shy, arboreal creatures of the South American cloud forest, and darn cute.

That and so much more coolness of science is coming your way this week in our prep week unit on science safety and methods, with a nod to the upcoming unit on the properties of matter. We will come to understand the beauty of the scientific method and how you have been lied to about what it is up to this point, and practice it by trying to make sense of strange phenomena. We will also tour the possible dangers in a lab and how to avoid them.

Everything will be served with a side order of, “whoa…that’s weird.”  Ask your kids about neutrinos….

A Vaccine for Zits! Practical Microbiology.

Within a few years, you should be able get a treatment to prevent acne. Seriously.

If he only knew as a kid where he woudl be as an adult...

Yes, this is Cristiano Ronaldo as a teenager. Acne doesn’t care.

What causes zits?
1. Excess production of normal skin oils.  Because you are a teenager or stressed adult.
2. Clogging of hair follicles caused by accumulation of dead cells. Face washing can help with this….
3. Bacterial buildup: Too much oil and plug creates pressure, which can rupture the cellular walls of the pores make a great breeding ground for that bacteria, propionibacterium acnes, shown below.
4. White blood cells rush in to kill the bacteria. That would be the pus. Mmmmmm.

Propionibacterium Acnes

The rod shaped bacteria P. acnes in strings just waiting to build up before that important day.

Most of the treatments, like benzoyl perioxide,  are designed to kill the bacteria. But bacteria get resistant to antibiotics and the antibiotics kill the helpful bacteria you need. Sneaky researchers at USC San Diego figured out that there is a protein they call CAMP, that P. acnes uses to kill cells and create all the drama. Expose the body to CAMP, the body makes antibodies, then the bacteria can’t do their part so no acne develops.  Awesome.

Poor Ronaldo had to wait to grow out of it. Of course, he’s now a major soccer superstar and Armani underwear model so apparently, life improves after middle school.

Ronaldo living the good life.

No, I am not posting the rest of the picture.

Yeah, we’re looking at your fatty acid….

Sounds like I said...heh heh.

Fatty acids are a critical component of your phospholipid bilayers – your cell membranes.

Pretty cool. The inside of the cell membrane is made of lipids – greasy little fatty acid strings attached to glycerol, a phosphate group, and topped with a polar group. Why is that cool? Because if it wasn’t made of non-polar greasy stuff, your cell membranes would dissolve in water – and thus, so would you!

Look at those fatty acid tails!

Look at those fatty acid tails!

We will be studying cell innards and what they do this week. I generally talk at you and tell you great stories, but this week I’m giving you computers and microscopes and a bunch of learn at your own pace, whoa look at this activities for you to learn by.

Our next test is Monday, 3/4. Progress reports go out Wednesday, 3/6.

Love and Intestinal Distress

I love you so much, I will boil your water before giving it to you.

I love you so much, I will boil your water before giving it to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet pickles of love! Eighth grade is the best place to be for Valentine’s Day because most folks don;t have significant others so they just bring love and sugary happiness to share with everybody. Big group hug on the hall. My gift today is a training essay – a scaffolded essay assignment on applications of ecology. This is a practice for future essay tests. Just want to make sure you know how to do them well. We will work in groups and you have all day in class for two questions and, if you need more time, they ca be finished over the three day weekend.

We will start our next unit – Microbiology and Tiny Things That Kill You next week. IN honor of that and the holiday, I offer you the protozoan Giradia in the last phase of cell division, making a temporary heart before it splits in two. They love you so much, that if they get in your drinking water, they multiply in your intestines and cause, er, their love to, er, flow…