I've done an AMA before, but right now I'm stuck on a pesky chapter, so what better way to answer all of your questions about science, journalism, element discovery, the weird bit at the end of the periodic table, or how Colonel Sanders helped build the first atomic bombs.

[Previous AMA](https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/77lqvt/iama_science_journalist_whos_just_traveled_36000/) (I've since been to Australia, Sweden and Italy as well, so I updated the mileage).

[Proof]( https://twitter.com/ChemistryKit/status/1001116442362826752\)

Comments: 501 • Responses: 92  • Date: 

Malakatuni588 karma

How did Colonel Sanders help build the first atomic bomb?

mrcchapman821 karma

Before he became The Colonel, Harland Sanders was the assistant cafeteria manager at Oak Ridge. This was one of the secret bases built by the US to work on the Manhattan Project, and was home to the world's first permanent nuclear reactor. They did work on uranium there, and also did the proof of concept for making plutonium (which is what the nuclear reactor was for). The history of KFC is thus tied in to the making of the atom bomb.

Oddly enough, the guy who discovered plutonium got food poisoning so badly when he visited Oak Ridge that on later trips he always insisted on bringing in sandwiches. Apparently a lot of people got the squits there...

BAHHROO68 karma

Secret recipe research wasn’t flawless.

mrcchapman81 karma

Makes you think about the herbs and spices, doesn't it?

_Serene_19 karma

mrcchapman80 karma

The spice only comes from Arrakis. The spice must flow.

Pennypacking16 karma

Oak Ridge was the world's largest building for awhile, if I am remembering some show about it correctly.

mrcchapman17 karma

Yeah, that was while it was a top secret base, too! The K-25

mmmgluten10 karma

a lot of people got the squits there...

Known as "The Colonel's Revenge." This is what they meant when they said "The South shall rise again!"

mrcchapman14 karma

The Colonel always did love his gravy.

(Seriously, dude wanted to stop selling chicken and just flog gravy at one point).

frankalright16275 karma

What's the most interesting breakthrough that could happen in the next decade or two?

mrcchapman768 karma


I think we're going to get 119 and 120. There's very little doubt in the community that'll happen. But the biggest breakthrough would be hitting the island. It's essentially a region of nuclides where isotopes of elements that currently last for minutes/seconds will last for years, possibly millions of years. We're close to it (you can tell as the half-lives increase) but we haven't been able to create a superheavy element with enough neutrons yet to hit the region.

That would change everything. Suddenly you'd have an element (most likely 114 or 120) that would be so stable you could hold it in your hand. Rather than just have a few atoms, we'd be able to build much larger quantities. That opens up the opportunities for chemistry, for industrial applications, for understanding how our universe fits together.

If you ask any superheavy expert, discovering an element is lovely, but the Island of Stability is THE goal.

TheSolarian132 karma

Isn't it the case that current theory suggest that super heavies would be incredibly radioactive even if they could be formed?

mrcchapman192 karma

Yeah, although in truth nobody really knows. I've seen theories predicting that elements around Z=140 have nuclei the shape of donuts.

TheSolarian87 karma

How much of this do you think is based on misunderstanding and lack of understanding of the electron cloud and interactions at that level? Previously it was though that all electron clouds for all atoms were 'spherical' but that turned out not quite to be the case.

mrcchapman160 karma

Dude, I come from chemistry. GIVE ME SHELLS. SHELLS ARE LIFE.

It's a huge part of it, sure. But we're at the level now where distinctions such as chemistry and physics don't really mean very much and, honestly, it makes my brain hurt.

Usgarden9 karma

Nuclei have shells! Just...they are a bit bleugh at this mass range

mrcchapman7 karma

Thanks, Maria G-M.

frankalright1647 karma

Would 119 and 120 be in groups 1 and 2?

mrcchapman108 karma

Prrrooooooobably. That's a tricky one because at the moment relativistic effects mean that we're losing periodicity - the elements aren't playing by the rules. It could be that the periodic table stops mattering after about 118.

Currently 119 and 120 would almost certainly be in group 1 and 2. The big question is 121: do we get another actinide series? And does it go in Group 3, especially given IUPAC are likely to rule that lutetium/lawrencium go there? Interesting times.

DragoonDM8 karma

Is there any way to predict the chemical properties of these elements in advance, or is that something that would require physical experimentation?

mrcchapman16 karma

Yeah, by looking at the group they are in (group trends go down the periodic table - like how potassium explodes more in water than lithium). Unfortunately relativity screws things up on that front and the trends are not being followed any more.

frankalright161 karma


mrcchapman8 karma

Magic numbers.

Seriously, I'm not kidding. It's theory about the formation of the nucleus called magic numbers. Check out the work of [Maria Goeppert-Mayer](https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1963/mayer-bio.html) and others.

whataremyxomycetes251 karma

Most dangerous thing you've done in the name of goofing around science?

mrcchapman674 karma

Convince some very nice men (and one woman) with AK47s that it was totally legit for me to have video cameras while walking through their checkpoint into their nuclear facility.

That or trying to match vodka shots with Russian scientists. Damn.

whataremyxomycetes153 karma

Why'd you choose science journalism over being an actual scientist? What's your goal as a science journalist? Man, this is actually amusing. I'm apprehensive about entering the world of scientists but I'm currently being shoe-horned into taking a science course

mrcchapman253 karma

I get bored really easily (hence doing this rather than writing a book). As a science journalist I can be writing about superheavy elements one moment, and interviewing Nobel prize winners the next. It's so much more fun! Thursday I'm going to a body farm. I just wouldn't be doing that variety of stuff if I was an actual scientist.

JMoneyG020889 karma

Wtf is a body farm lol

mrcchapman217 karma

It's for criminal forensics. You bury a load of corpses in different weather/soil conditions and watch how they decompose, so you can learn more about time/cause of death etc. in the real world.

stop-chemistry-time163 karma

You recently wrote a Chemistry World article about the hidden costs of work (e.g. teachers buying supplies).

What is your take on the expectation in organic chemistry, in many (most?) UK/US groups, that PhD students and postdocs buy their own laptops, even if though will use them 90% of the time in furtherance of their research efforts? Do you think anything can be done to change this attitude, and thus help to professionalise research by assuring data retention/security and avoiding time wasted on personal laptop repairs?

mrcchapman170 karma

I think 90% is waaaaay too low - more like 100%! You can't do research these days without a computer, and the increased reliance on machines (whether it's directly computational chemistry, machine-assisted learning, just saying up to date on papers, whatever) is going to make a computer as valuable as anything on the bench. The smart researchers already recognise this and are doing what they can to support it.

The question mark is where 'personal' and 'professional' divides. If it's a laptop solely for work, then that should be provided; if it's a laptop that's also for personal use, then I think postgrads should get the same level of support as undergrads in getting one. Regardless, remember that you can (and should) file tax returns to claim back such expenses. It's a pain in the arse, but if you've bought a laptop for work, there's no need to give the government a tip. :)

stop-chemistry-time36 karma

Yeah, I see the point with personal/professional, and the comparison to undergrads. In my view, PIs/departments should provide desktop computers for their workers (student and staff, one each), and maybe have a loan pool of laptops for conferences/research trips.

The big issue I see more and more is that when a PhD student or postdoc leaves a group, they take all of their data with them, because it's on their portable computer (and, often, not backed up completely - no IT policy has an impact when someone is busy labelling vials and cleaning their hood on their last day!). With increasing numbers of funders mandating data retention, I feel like it's only a matter of time until something gives. Desktop computers help because even if the researcher departs without organising their data nicely, at least it is still on the hard drive.

mrcchapman36 karma

Data retention is a huge part of it. I think cloud working is going to ease that worry up, though.

BipolarWalrus130 karma

Have you been to FermiLab in Illinois before? If so, what did you think of it?

mrcchapman124 karma

Sadly not. FermiLab, Argonne and (a little bit further up, in Michigan) FRIB are all on the list. Unfortunately I couldn't fit them in, although I have liaised and interviewed scientists from there.

drewwalton192168018 karma

My brother did a really long internship at Argonne after he got his bachelor's in physics.

mrcchapman56 karma

It felt long, by those days Argonne.

midget_messiah92 karma

Could there be a naturally occurring element we haven’t discovered yet?

mrcchapman180 karma

In the universe? 100% yes. Probably a third of the periodic table is undiscovered at the moment, and these elements almost certainly exist in neutron stars and supernovae.

On Earth? Hmm. Doubtful. We've looked in all kinds of places for them (everything from subway tunnels to hot springs) and haven't found a blip. The heaviest we've ever found is plutonium - although that's now being questioned. If there's anything on Earth, chances are it'll be a long-lived isotope of one of the elements already found that we just thought was man-made.

midget_messiah73 karma

I see. How do we know a third of the periodic table is undiscovered?

mrcchapman112 karma

Theory. We're pretty sure there are elements out there to about 172. Nobody really knows. And just because the elements probably go out that far doesn't mean they will all exist as atoms: some might be so unstable they don't even attract electrons before they poof out of existence.

Mgrimm2008151 karma

Then that wouldn’t even be an element if it can’t attract electrons right? Would we have to rewrite our definition of an element or am I just stupid?

mrcchapman93 karma

We would. Current definition of an element is that it is a unique number of protons that lasts 10x-14 seconds - the length of time it would take to attract electrons.

This is what I mean by weird.

ImaCallItLikeISeeIt22 karma

he heaviest we've ever found is plutonium - although that's now being questioned.

What do you mean by plutonium being questioned?

mrcchapman55 karma

The element itself is beyond question. In the 1970s a team at Los Alamos was reported to have found a sample of plutonium that occurred naturally on Earth (a tiny amount, but still there from the very beginning of the solar system). Later attempts to repeat their work didn't get the same result.

Tin_Rallison88 karma

did u study to be a scientist or journalist?

mrcchapman349 karma

I wanted to be a farmer, so I studied pharmacy at university.

Four years later I noticed the lack of cows and felt a bit conned.

autismgirl61 karma

Do you miss pharmacy?

mrcchapman143 karma

I miss the sweet money. But then these days, so do most actual pharmacists.

Nah, I don't. I liked some aspects of it (the clinical bits) but working in a dispensary is a grind.

candyman70826 karma

If you were to be a farmer, what would you have wanted to grow or raise?

(Edit: by raise i mean livestock)

candyman70826 karma

And you would have started dating everyone in your town too huh 😂

mrcchapman50 karma

I’m happily married to Abigail, thank you.

evolveair99958 karma

What was the most interesting/weird lab you've been to?

mrcchapman182 karma

They're all weird in their own way. Oak Ridge is sprawling and incredible, the Aussies have a great sense of humour, Berkeley is just so historic.

I'm going to go with RIKEN in Japan, though. It's the only lab which sells its own brand of particle-accelerated mutant sake, and threw some cherry blossom trees into a radioactive beam to make multi-blooming cherry blossoms.

Theman0001143 karma

Literally the most Japan thing I've ever heard.

mrcchapman88 karma

I was once led by a woman dressed as a maid into a neon disco dancing gaint robot fighting pit.

AUCE0554 karma

At what point did you realize how big of a need you are?

mrcchapman129 karma

When I realised that you meant 'nerd' and not 'need'.

I prefer to think of myself as a dork.

Allong1263 karma

Except that the world has always needed nerds and dorks, whether or not they've ever thought to ask for then.

Legends such as the ones you report on, form the inspiration that motivate generation after generation of young scientists, toward reaching higher levels of scientific enlightenment.

Consider the fact that without writing a single advancing "technical" paper on the topic, you could be a big part of the solution, to some of the biggest open questions that chemistry and physics has to offer.

Now go plant some seeds in some minds, you dork.

mrcchapman57 karma

That was unexpectedly wholesome.

DocRock3m49 karma

Have you ever walked in on two scientists hooking up on the equipment, also if there is any protocol on that?

mrcchapman61 karma

Probably need a risk assessment for that.

smokatokey43 karma

Based on your work in science, have you seen anything that points to intelligent extra terrestrial life?

mrcchapman113 karma

Nope. To quote Monty Python: "And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, 'cause there's bugger all down here on Earth."

bickdig-234542 karma

Any chance of accidentally becoming flash by those particle accelerators ?

mrcchapman69 karma

Nah, I’m always careful unless I end up badly injured and in the DCU rather than Arrowverse by mistake.

_snoop_41 karma

How prevalent, if at all, are psychedelics in the scientific communities you work in?

mrcchapman74 karma

They are not, as far as I know. I've never taken drugs, and I don't know any scientist who takes drugs.

JimboFett38 karma

Who seemed like they were doing the most with the least resources?

mrcchapman82 karma

Historically, that would be Enrico Fermi. Dude hired his assistants' kid brothers to move his lab equipment, had to do his bombardments hiding down the end of a corridor to avoid getting irradiated, and his radioactive source was only because he stuck a tube in someone else's safe downstairs and piped up all that lovely radon gas.

Today? It's impossible to say. Science is so collaborative now, and so carefully budgeted, that everyone does as much as they can with the resources they can.

elverloho38 karma

About that upcoming island of stability. Are there any good theories or even guesses floating around as to what sort of magical properties those future materials could have?

mrcchapman39 karma

Loads. There's a lot of research going into the chemistry of 114 already (led by Robert Eichler in Switzerland and Christoph Dullmann in Germany). Too early to say what, though.

unonuthinjonsnow33 karma

How was Berkeley?

mrcchapman59 karma

Chilly. Everyone says California is the Sunshine State, but nobody mentioned that to the Bay Area.

Seriously, I loved Berkeley. The campus was amazing, a real academic/activist vibe, and even the hike up the hill to the lab was fun. Funny thing was, when I got to the cyclotron the person I was meeting suggested we head back into downtown Berkeley and grab some sticky ribs. Ended up going up and down Grizzly Peak four times in about two hours.

Downtown Berkeley had a serious excess of hippy shops, as I recall. I mean, I get the attraction for some of a vape/Tibet shop, but you don't need five of them in a row.

DrewsephA26 karma

Everyone says California is the Sunshine State

That's Florida.

Source: Floridian :)

mrcchapman31 karma

My bad. I once had a run in with the Florida Department of Citrus for badmouthing grapefruits (true story!) so I tend to ignore Florida whenever possible.

DrewsephA14 karma


I once had a run in with the Florida Department of Citrus for badmouthing grapefruits

Please tell us this story!


tend to ignore Florida whenever possible.

Yeah, we all do lol.

mrcchapman85 karma

Not much to tell. I wrote that grapefruit juice interacts with a lot of drugs (it does) because of the way your liver metabolises it.

I got a very stroppy letter from the Florida Department if Citrus which accused me of “maligning grapefruits” because I hadn’t been balanced enough to say it was also a tasty, wholesome and nutritious beverage (it isn’t, it’s fucking gross).

Funniest letter I’ve ever received, I keep it framed at home.

OneStacking18 karma

What was your driving motivation that led to you starting what you did? Also, if you could go back to before you started exploring labs, would you change your field of work?

mrcchapman52 karma

Starting the book? It all started with Lemmy from Motörhead. He died right before four new elements were confirmed, and someone started a petition to name an element after him because it was a heavy metal. It made me snort my drink laughing, so I decided to find out how the elements were named.

Then I discovered this weird little world where people do research driving VW Beetles at 70mph. I fell in love.

Would I change my field of work? Probably, but whether that would be a better choice I'm not sure. I'm rather happy with where I've landed.

ihopeshelovedme10 karma

Driving VW Beetles at 70mph? Is there a story behind this?

mrcchapman25 karma

The discovery of mendelevium. It was a bit crazy in the 1950s.

There's even a YouTube video of the actual discoverers recreating it for TV!

luckyluke19313 karma

I think nowadays, a lab safety safety person would prohibit you from showing this to a lab safety person since they would probably die of heart attack when seeing how they worked.

mrcchapman31 karma

I know someone who wanted to get radioactive material across a lab quickly so they cut open a tennis ball, put the material inside, and batted it over...

FunnyMemeName18 karma

What is, in your opinion, the most important thing that scientists can/should use particle accelerators for?

Also, thank you for taking the time to answer people’s questions :)

AAA_Alex17 karma

Is there really a chemical that can make frogs gay?

mrcchapman32 karma


yosemitetrailblazer17 karma

Have you read the book called The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean? I just finished it and it showed me how to see the periodic table of elements from a different perspective. Do you have a favorite element, and why?

mrcchapman31 karma

Yeah, I have read it. I'm not sure all of it is correct, though; there's one part where he says Fermi died of lung cancer from beryllium poisoning, and everything I can see says he died of stomach cancer.

My favourite element... I used to say boron, but I'm going to pick oganesson. It's really weird (it probably doesn't have electron shells) and it's named after Yuri Oganessian, who is a friend and just an amazing person. It also started me out on the whole superheavy adventure.

WalleStark17 karma

I'm still really young (17), having just finished my Chemistry A-Level course and heading into my freshman year at uni next fall. I'm super interested in nuclear chemistry, but as an Egyptian, I'm not sure if that's a field that I'll be able to work in if I stay in Egypt and I'm not sure if I'm gonna be able to leave. Which is why I opted to study Chemical Engineering rather than Pharmacy or Chemistry, to allow myself a more variety of choices. If I am able to leave the country to travel outside, can I work in nuclear chemistry with a Chemical Engineering degree? Or is is a more industrial and less scientific degree? How many people have you encountered with this degree?

mrcchapman14 karma

I’ve met lots of chemical engineers. It’s a job that is always in high demand. Sadly it is radiochemistry that is dying out.

WalleStark15 karma

Can you explain, relatively simply, why the Island of Stability is expected to be at the proton number 120? What makes it so distinct? Is it the proton number, the nucleon number, their arrangement? Nothing?

mrcchapman23 karma

Magic numbers. Inside the nucleus, bits pair off like waltzers on a dance floor. Certain numbers of dancers just fit better - everyone move more easily. Some isotopes of 120 are predicted to have this ‘magic number’ which helps keep everything more stable.

SapphireZephyr15 karma

If someone would like to pursue this field of study, what degree/major should he choose? What did YOU choose and how did you get into this field in the first place?

mrcchapman28 karma

I chose pharmacy, became a sub-editor on a medical magazine, and then from there moved to reporter, doing various jobs as I worked my way up the career ladder. If you want to be a journalist, then there is no 'right' course - although a graduate course in journalism will help. Pick a course related to the area that you'd choose to specialise in. For me, that was science/medicine. Doesn't matter what - I work with people with everything from PhDs in chemistry to zoology degrees, even one person with a special interest in Japanese literature.

To quote the lovely Jeff Goldblum: "Life, ah ah ah, finds a way."

jeffbud9813 karma

Is it possible that there is a whole higher/lower "dimension" so to say for the currently understood periodic table? Also what is an interesting fact about an obscure element no body really hears about?

mrcchapman41 karma

you can make the periodic table 3D pretty easily by including isotopes or bond formations.

Interesting fact: cobalt is named after a mine sprite called a kobold, meaning it is the only element that appears in the D&D monster manual. Well... except like, iron golems or whatever. OK, I guess that isn't a particularly interesting fact. As you were.

NerdonSight12 karma

You seem to have a pretty good sense of humour, how important would you say humour is in the field of science?

mrcchapman32 karma

I think if you can't take the piss out of what you're doing, you're in the wrong line of work. That goes for all things.

Maxiie0089 karma

Favorite pizza toppings combination?

mrcchapman27 karma

Ground beef, jalapenos, onions, and olives.

Meaty, tangy, sweet, salty. Oh yes.

Notaroadbiker6 karma

What is the most shitty clickbait misleading title youve ever written?

PloxtTY5 karma

Something that has bothered me since college physics; when an electron moves around a sphere, is its acceeleration vector pointing into the center of the sphere, or along the plane in which it travels?

mrcchapman14 karma

Sorry dude, physics is not my strong suit. It took me long enough to feel comfortable that a helium ion and an alpha particle were the same thing.

Bertrum5 karma

Considering that the Large Hadron Collider has not achieved all of the goals it was originally set out to do, and the experiments have taken longer then they were originally anticipated. What do you think the future holds for the LHC? Also have you visited any fusion reactor labs like the K-STAR in South Korea? Or the european fusion reactors?

mrcchapman8 karma

LHC has some serious competition, but you don't build a piece of kit that vast without being willing to upgrade. We haven't seen the last of LHC.

I haven't been to K-STAR; the only European (continental Europe) lab I've visited is GSI.

PurpleHello984 karma

What is your favourite part of science?

mrcchapman5 karma

I'm always more interested in the people than the science itself, I think.

If I had to pick one area that I'm always delighted to hear more about, it'd be either forensics or marine research.

7eregrine4 karma

Why? Has anyone asked this? Why are visiting them?

mrcchapman7 karma

I’m writing a book about their work.

__epimetheus4 karma

Hi! I'm a current college student who really wants to be a science journalist. What academic and career paths brought you to science journalism?

(Currently, I'm a journalism major and documentary prod minor, though my minor was chemistry in the past. I have plans on going to grad school for science communication, if possible!)

EDIT: Just saw your previous answers to iterations of this post. New question: favorite element?

mrcchapman5 karma

There are so many. I wouldn’t worry about whether it is the “right” path as there isn’t one - only the one that is right for you. Sounds like good skills in AV; I would only do the sci comm course if that is where you want to end up as a lot of the skills can be picked up doing it. My advice would be a) start a blog and/or b) get out there and do some sci comm!

Kingsmillclover4 karma

Who in your opinion is the cleverest person you've met?

mrcchapman10 karma

Probably one of the Nobel prize winners? George Smoot was a great laugh, we had a sit-down and a beer for about an hour talking about The Big Bang Theory (TV show, not the actual theory).

AFewStupidQuestions4 karma

As a science journalist, how do you feel now that /r/science no longer does AMA's due to changes in Reddit's algorithm?


mrcchapman6 karma

Total solidarity. I know some of the mods and I know how tough that decision would have been.

tknp3 karma

What role did women scientists play in the discovery of elements? My grandmother worked at a lab in the east bay of California and signed any papers she was involved with with just her initials for her first name for the fear her work might not be taken seriously otherwise. Are there other such stories?

mrcchapman6 karma

GREAT question.

Yeah, there are loads of women involved, and I want to showcase that as much as possible! The leader is Dawn Shaughnessy from Lawrence Livermore (five elements: 114-118), but you also have Nancy Stoyer (114, 116), Pirkko Eskola (104-106), and of course Darleane Hoffman (no elements, but just an astonishing researcher who everyone reveres).

Before that, Marie Curie and Marguerite Perey both discovered elements. And two more, Irene Joliot-Curie and Lise Meitner, made discoveries that brought in the atomic age. Meitner is honoured with element 109: meitnerium.

Burgher_NY3 karma

My lab usually only discovers a crumb of food in the floor. You must know that dog who wears a tie and wears glasses.

In any event, in laymen’s terms, it seems like new elements are constantly discovered. Is there any predicted end game? Or will we one day break the universe?

mrcchapman3 karma

They aren’t. We go at about four new elements a decade, but it’s in spurts.

Current end game is estimated at around element 172, but some theorists think we could go on much further.

aahelo2 karma

Have you had a chance to see CERN's particle accelerator (the LHC)? I have heard that supposedly it's got a 27 km circumference. I'm not sure if this is actually true, buy if it is, that's completely mind blowing!

Other than that, what's the biggest/most impressive piece of machinary that you have seen in person?

How many times did you go "wow!" (if at all) during this expedition?

mrcchapman7 karma

I have not seen that in person. I’ve been to where they are breaking ground for FAIR, though.

Most impressive bit of kit? Hmm. I love a giant 2000 ton magnet, nuclear reactor or particle cannon as much as the next dude, but my pick is the Titan Supercomputer. 17000 graphics cards, all capable of playing Skyrim (I asked).

Austangj2 karma

What could we really do with the island of stability?

mrcchapman3 karma

The first thing would be a lot of science exploring the chemistry/physics of those isotopes. We still don't understand a lot of stuff, and it'll really open our eyes. From there, you can either go into practical applications or use it to extrapolate how the universe came into being.

EuropeanAmerican4202 karma

Coolest shit you ever saw?

mrcchapman12 karma

James Brown live.

EuropeanAmerican4203 karma

Lol fair enough. Coolest science experiment you ever saw?

mrcchapman7 karma

Some ultracold experiments on atoms at around 1 milliKelvin (that's 1000th of a degree Celsius off absolute zero). At that temp, everything slows down so you can start observing quantum effects.

gregorthealmighty2 karma

Since you mention Sweden, I’m guessing you’ve had the chance to visit either MAX IV and ESS? How did you find them? Did you perchance partake in the recent EUSJA visit?

mrcchapman2 karma

Actually I was in Stockholm for only about 24 hours, visiting Ytterby and the old cyclotron institute at the University of Stockholm (where, possibly, element 102 was first synthesised).

gregorthealmighty2 karma

I just found out that it was 115 I was thinking of, but apparently it was awarded to a team from Russia instead.

mrcchapman2 karma

Russia/US. It’s a JINR/Livermore element.

ImpeachJohnV2 karma

Any cool Glenn Seaborg stories?

mrcchapman3 karma

Well he was the one who got the squits at Oak Ridge (see above)...

mmmgluten2 karma

So how much time did you spend in Ytterby, exactly? Since so much of the periodic table was named after that tiny town, I imagine you did a decent amount of work there?

mrcchapman4 karma

About 15 minutes walking to the quarry, about 5 minutes looking at the quarry really slowly, about 15 minutes walking back, about 5 minutes waiting for the bus.

Phlink751 karma

Is this your theme song?


mrcchapman2 karma

I prefer Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head.

NinjaRedditorAtWork1 karma

What's your favourite element and why?

mrcchapman2 karma

Oganesson, because Yuri Oganessian is just amazing.

MoosicalWhimsical1 karma

Who is your role model?

mrcchapman3 karma

One day I wish I am as awesome as Mary Roach.

ssundfor0 karma

What were you doing on your travels?

mrcchapman5 karma

Mostly visiting the labs. My view is that if you are going to write about something, you need to see it in person and experience it, feel the vibe of the place. I few of the labs don't exist any more, but I did manage to get a guided tour of the abandoned lab in Stockholm, which was creepy and amazing.

I also drove out into the middle of New Mexico to visit the Trinity site, where the first nuclear bomb was tested.

ajx_7110 karma

Ever been to South Asia?

mrcchapman6 karma

Dude I grew up in Hong Kong! I've been to Thailand, China, The Philippines, India and Taiwan.

ajx_7110 karma

Wow that's awesome. What were the Thailand and Indian trips about ?

mrcchapman3 karma

Thailand was a holiday to Phuket, India was a pharmaceutical conference in Kerala. I ended up doing a piece to camera in front of an elephant, and it decided my head was a coconut and started investigating me with its trunk. Weirdest link I've ever done.

rahul-kumi0 karma

What is that one common but weird aspect you found in every lab you visited?

mrcchapman3 karma

They all make their own brand of alcohol.

Livermore makes wine. Oak Ridge commissioned a special barrel of Jack Daniel's. Dubna has its own vodka. RIKEN has its own brand of sake.

redviking1010 karma

Harrison Wells?

mrcchapman2 karma

Which one?

corbanato0 karma

What lab was the most interesting for you to visit ?

mrcchapman2 karma

I loved Oak Ridge. I visited the reactor, the hot cells, but also their neutron source, the world's first permanent nuclear reactor, and the TITAN supercomputer. Even got a chance to walk around where they are building SUMMIT (which will be the fastest computer in the world when it goes online). Pretty special place.

Gallcws0 karma

Hi there, Kit. I’m wondering how you first got into science journalism? Did you study journalism or science or both?

Cheers and thanks for the AMA.

mrcchapman2 karma

I studied pharmacy first, and then ended up with a job working as a sub editor for a medical journal. From there I applied for a job as a reporter on a pharmacy magazine (C+D) and took it from there. I don't believe you necessarily need to be taught to be a journalist, a lot of it you can work out on the job pretty quickly.