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Whatever Happened to Acid Rain?

Episode description

Remember acid rain? If you were a kid in the 1980s like our hosts were, the threat of poison falling from the sky probably made some kind of impression on your consciousness. But thanks to the work of scientists, government, the media, and the pope—that’s right, the pope—the problem was fixed! Well, mostly fixed is probably more accurate.

This complicated story spans 27 years, six U.S. presidents, and ecologist Gene Likens's entire career. Discover the insidious details in the second chapter of our three-part series on environmental success stories. 


Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez Audio Engineer: James Morrison  Additional audio was recorded by David G. Rainey.

Image of Gene Likens by Phil Bradshaw of FreshFly.

We interviewed Rachel Rothschild, a former Science History Institute research fellow and Rumford Scholar, about her book, “Poisonous Skies: Acid Rain and the Globalization of Pollution.” To research this episode we read her 2015 dissertation, A Poisonous Sky: Scientific Research and International Diplomacy on Acid Rain. We also read Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (Bloomsbury, 2010).

We interviewed Gene Likens at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire in 2015 with Glenn Holsten and FreshFly. We interviewed him again in May 2018.


The following are the archival news clips we used as they appear in the episode:

Bettina Gregory, Tom Jarriel, and Bill Zimmerman. ABC Evening News, December 14, 1978. 

Walter Cronkite and Jim Kilpatrick. “Environment: The Earth Revisited/Acid Rain.” CBS Evening News, September 11, 1979.

Robert Bazell and John Chancellor. “Special Segment: Acid Rain.” NBC Evening News, May 9, 1980.

“The MacNeil/Lehrer Report: Acid Rain,” NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Boston: WGBH; Washington, DC: Library of Congress), aired May 26, 1980, on PBS,

“The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Boston: WGBH; Washington, DC: Library of Congress), aired on June 30, 1988, on PBS,

Tom Brokaw and Robert Hager. “Air Pollution: George Bush.” NBC Evening News, November 15, 1990.


Our theme music was composed by Zach Young. 

Additional music courtesy of the Audio Network

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July 8th, 2011


Today the Distillations team delves into the weird and wonderful world of its favorite barnyard animal: the cow. First find out why so few …

Episode 124: Our Chemical Landscape – The Suburb

June 24th, 2011


Today we continue the four-part series: Our Chemical Landscape. These shows look at how science has shaped the city, the suburb, the farm, and the wild. This episode is about the suburb, and how its residents' …

Episode 123: Under the Sea

June 10th, 2011


Today Distillations welcomes guest producer Ari Daniel Shapiro, host of the podcast Ocean Gazing, who takes us on a tour of the ocean, revealing how optics can evaluate long-term changes in the oceanic environment and …

Episode 122: Our Chemical Landscape – The City

May 27th, 2011


In honor of the International Year of Chemistry, today we begin the four-part series Our Chemical Landscape. These shows look at how science has shaped the city, the suburbs, the farm, and the wild. Today's episode is …

Episode 121: Geek Chic

May 13th, 2011


Today's show wonders if it's becoming chic to be a geek. First, we see how pop culture portrayals of scientists have boosted their reputations with …

Episode 120: Nuclear Medicine

April 29th, 2011


In the midst of Japan's nuclear crisis, it's easy to forget that radioactive isotopes are often employed to save human lives. This week we look at diagnostic and therapeutic applications of nuclear medicine.


Episode 119: Climate Change

April 15th, 2011


One of this century's great challenges will be mitigating the effects of our steadily warming planet. In today's episode we explore the consequences of our changing climate.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 118: Placebos

April 1st, 2011


This week, we celebrate April Fools' Day with a little medical trickery. First, we learn about Franz Mesmer's questionable 18th-century cures. Next …

Episode 117: Women's History Month

March 18th, 2011


TIn this episode we learn about lesser-known women in the sciences. We start with Dorothy Hodgkin, the third woman to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry, and end with a tour spotlighting important females whose stories are …

Episode 116: Crime Fighters

March 3rd, 2011


From primetime to print, forensic scientists are usually depicted as courtroom heroes, but their real-life work makes for more than a thrilling story. On today's episode we look at how one such scientist sealed the fate …

Episode 115: Black History Month

February 18th, 2011


In honor of Black History Month, we reveal the lesser known accomplishments of George Washington Carver, and also pull from our oral history …

Episode 114: Elements of Expression

February 4th, 2011


In this episode we learn about how the mass production of oil paints spawned a new artistic movement and get a tour of artist Dove Bradshaw's studio.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:43 The …

Episode 113: Burning Rubber

January 21st, 2011


Rubber has played a shockingly dramatic role in our political and military history. In today's episode we revisit the consequences of the natural …

Episode 112: Nuclear Power

January 7th, 2011


On this episode we learn about the history and future of nuclear power, in the U.S. and abroad.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:08 History of the Nuclear Power Industry

04:13 Interview with Keith …

Episode 111: A Distillations Carol

December 24th, 2010


On this episode we are visited by the ghosts of chemistry's past, present, and future, who teach us about Greek fire, red sludge, and the future of the sun.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:30 Introduction

00:44 …

Episode 110: Essential Elements - Air

December 10th, 2010


This week we continue our four-part series about earth, air, water, and fire. Today’s episode is about air and how the gases in it have been changing ever since Day 1.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

Episode 109: East Meets West

November 26th, 2010


On today's show we look at the Western perspective of Eastern medicine. First yogic breathing; then acupuncture.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:27 Introduction

00:59 Acupuncture

03:29 Yogic Breathing

08:25 Closing …

Episode 108: Essential Elements - Fire

November 12th, 2010


This week we continue our four-part series about earth, air, water, and fire. Today’s episode is about fire and how humans have tried to protect themselves from it.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

Episode 107: Medical Gross Out

October 29th, 2010


Today’s show will have your skin crawling… literally. In honor of Halloween we bring you a show revealing a scarier (and squirmier) side of science.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:27 Introduction

00:54 Forensic …

Episode 106: Essential Elements – Water

October 22nd, 2010


This week we continue our 4-part series about earth, air, water, and fire. Today’s episode is about water and the many ways to ensure it is potable.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:28 Portable …

Episode 105: Periodic Table Contents

October 8th, 2010


In this week’s episode we pay tribute to the periodic table. We talk to Sam Kean, author of the best-selling book The Disappearing Spoon and hear an excerpt from Primo Levi’s book The Periodic Table.


00:00 …

Episode 104: Essential Elements – Earth

September 24th, 2010


This week we begin our four-part series about earth, air, water, and fire. Today’s episode is about earth and the Marcellus Shale.


00:00 …

Episode 103: Herbal Remedy

September 10th, 2010


Before pharmaceuticals existed, all medicines had to come from natural sources—like plants. On this week’s show we focus on such remedies.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:24 Digitalis, aka …

Episode 102: Best of Distillations #6

August 27th, 2010


We continue to bring you some of our favorite segments from past Distillations episodes this week: Senescence, Richard Holmes, and Boy Rocketeer.

Episode 101: Best of Distillations #5

August 13th, 2010


This month Distillations takes a step back to bring you some of our favorite segments from past episodes: Glenn Seaborg, the Three Sisters, and Living with Illness.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

Episode 100: Birthday Episode

July 30th, 2010


Distillations marks its 100th episode this week! To celebrate, we revisit segments from some of our past shows and bring you new developments on electric car batteries, hair mats cleaning up oil spills, and the Obama …

Episode 99: Summer BBQ

July 16th, 2010


Halfway through July, we are just about in the middle of summer. So we thought it would be appropriate to talk about meat and barbecuing in this …

Episode 98: Climate Engineering

July 2nd, 2010


As atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, does the world have to get hotter? Controlling the earth’s weather and climate is this week’s topic.


Episode 97: Immortality

June 18th, 2010


If you could live forever, would you? Though most believe this to be a hypothetical question, there are some scientific processes that impart eternal …

Episode 96: Infamous Science

June 4th, 2010


Innovation can be messy work, and sometimes outright disastrous. This week on Distillations we’re looking at some of the 20th century’s most infamous scientific missteps.


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00:31 …

Episode 95: Cleaning Up -- Retro Edition

May 21st, 2010


This week we’re digging into our archives and looking back at one of our first episodes of Distillations.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

00:59 Commentary: Trash Island

03:21 Element of the Week: …

Episode 94: Scientific Visions

May 7th, 2010


The future is now. Distillations, therefore, is pausing to compare what people once predicted the modern world would look like to the actual reality …

Episode 93: Kids’ Science

April 23rd, 2010


In honor of National Lab Day in May this episode focuses on the scientist in every kid.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

00:54 Chemical Agent: Bangsite

02:32 Feature: Kids Doing Science

06:51 Boy …

Episode 92: Scientific Collaborations

April 9th, 2010


April is National Poetry Month and Distillations is celebrating by looking at the connections between science and literature.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:26 Chemical Agent: Opium

03:41 …

Episode 91: Marvels and Ciphers

March 26th, 2010


In early March 2010 the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum opened its newest temporary exhibit, Marvels and Ciphers: A Look Inside the Flask.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:40 Introduction

01:05 Chemical Agent: …

Episode 90: Useful Waste

March 12th, 2010


What’s better than recycling? Reducing waste! OK, maybe not better, but equally important. In this week’s episode of Distillations we learn about industrial-waste reduction.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 89: Plastic World

February 26th, 2010


Love it or hate it, plastic is hard to avoid. This week we take a look at plastic made from corn and find out just how biodegradable it really is.

Episode 88: A Sense of Scent

February 12th, 2010


On this week’s episode of Distillations we’re talking about what the nose knows. First up we learn about the nose itself—how it works and how losing your sense of smell can affect your day-to-day life.


00:00 …

Episode 87: Scientific Journeys

January 29th, 2010


Scientific discoveries can be dramatic tales of unexpected adventure. They can also be personal explorations of intuition and faith.


Episode 86: In Sickness and in Health

January 15th, 2010


Whether it’s preventing illness by vaccines or avoiding germs, this episode is about getting sick and staying healthy.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:22 Chemical Agent: Meningitis Vaccine

03:27 …

Episode 85: International Year in Review

January 1st, 2010


Another year has come and gone, but the impact of scientific discoveries made and concerns raised will be felt in 2010 and beyond.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:20 Asia: Water Management in a …

Episode 84: Crystals

December 18th, 2009


There are many different types of crystals we encounter, ranging from tiny to extremely large in size.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 83: Fellows in Action

December 4th, 2009


What do Isaac Newton, yeast, and Harold Urey have in common? They all come under the research microscope of Chemical Heritage Foundation fellows.

Episode 82: Food Myths

November 20th, 2009


In this episode of Distillations we clarify common misconceptions about food.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:18 Chemical Agent: Sucralose

03:30 Chemistry in Your Cupboard: Detox Diets

06:04 A …

Episode 81: Light

November 6th, 2009


Let there be light! Whether it comes from the sky or a bulb, we’d be lost without it.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:01 …

Episode 80: Autumn

October 23rd, 2009


Autumn! Learn about leaf changes, the three sisters, and apple cider. Chemical Agent: Senescence.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

Episode 79: Changing Phases

October 9th, 2009


Everything falls into one of three phases of matter: solid, liquid, or gas. Or does it?


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:11 …

Episode 78: Public Science

September 25th, 2009


Science isn’t some exalted ideal confined to labs and classrooms—it’s all around us. In this episode we share different ways that scientists have reached out to educate and enlighten the masses.


00:00 …

Episode 77: Innovations and Inventions

September 11th, 2009


Every year the Chemical Heritage Foundation holds Innovation Day—an event for people to get together to discuss and learn about science’s exciting …

Episode 76: Working Class Chemistry

August 28th, 2009


In honor of Labor Day this episode of Distillations looks at how chemistry has affected the work of a variety of professionals—for better or worse.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

00:59 Chemical …

Episode 75: Best of Distillations #4

August 14th, 2009


Distillations is sharing more of our favorite episodes this week: free radicals, art forgery, and snoring.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

00:48 Chemical Agent: Free Radicals

02:42 Feature: …

Episode 74: Best of Distillations #3

July 31st, 2009


It’s almost the end of the summer; so the Distillations crew is taking a look back at some of our favorite episodes this week: panspermia, umami, and pheromone perfumes.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:40 …

Episode 73: Brave New Worlds

July 17th, 2009


Birth, once nature's miracle, is increasingly manipulated by humans and regulated by society. In this week’s episode we look at a range of …

Episode 72: Space and Place

July 3rd, 2009


Location, location, location! In this week’s episode we talk about why and how certain spaces are chosen and used. Chemical Agent: Bromine.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:07 Chemical Agent: …

Episode 71: Breakfast

June 19th, 2009


Rise and Shine! Today we look at some of the most essential elements of a satisfying breakfast.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:21 Chemical Agent: Pectin

03:34 Chemistry in Your Cupboard: Butter …

Episode 70: The Chemistry of Dentistry

June 5th, 2009


Distillations takes a look at the history and chemistry of dentistry. We find out how baking soda cleans your teeth and lidocaine numbs your gums.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:15 Chemical …

Episode 69: Lab Safety

May 22nd, 2009


Laboratory science can be a risky business. While some of these substances’ dangers are easily mitigated by following proper safety procedures, …

Episode 68: Integrated Circuits

May 8th, 2009


This year is the 50th anniversary of the integrated circuit! The IC is an important part of many electronic technologies we use today, from your iPod …

Episode 67: Baseball

April 24th, 2009


After several long, cold months baseball season has finally begun! From Philadelphia, the home of 2008 World Series Champions, we bring you a show …

Episode 66: Cleaning Green

April 10th, 2009


It is officially spring — time to open the windows, let the fresh air in, and sweep those winter blues away! Learn about acetic acid and its cleaning …

Episode 65: Going to the Dogs

March 27th, 2009


Nearly 60% of American households have at least one pet, and nearly two-thirds of pet owners had more than one. That’s a lot of dogs, cats, turtles, …

Episode 64: sLowlife

March 13th, 2009


Plants are not the silent, stationary creatures we imagine them to be. They drift, stretch, and dance in search of nutrients, water, and sunlight. …

Episode 63: Biofuel

February 27th, 2009


Fossil fuel has gotten us into all sorts of trouble lately. Gas production and consumption has caused international conflict, wrecked havoc on our planet, and lightened our wallets at the gas pump. Why not turn to …

Episode 62: Chemical Romance

February 13th, 2009


It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, and love is in the air. Let’s learn how atoms find each other with an examination of chemical bonds. Chemical Agent: Free Radicals.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

Episode 61: Space Science

February 6th, 2009


Space, the Final Frontier! Mention the chemistry of space and you’re likely to hear bad jokes about Tang or the behavior of liquids in zero gravity. But it turns out that there’s an entire field—astrochemistry—dedicated …

Episode 60: Professional Networks

January 30th, 2009


Today Distillations is finding out more about professional networks—particularly in the field of chemistry.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 …

Episode 59: Winter Sports

January 23rd, 2009


We’re hitting the slopes—and tending our wounds—on today’s episode of Distillations. We start off with the science behind sports gels. Next, find out more about the synthetic fabrics. Finally, learn about the latest …

Episode 58: Presidents & Policy 

January 16th, 2009


Distillations is taking a look at the presidential side of chemistry. First we learn about stem cells and the controversy surrounding their research. Next we find out why 21-gun salutes are safe and not so smoky in …

Episode 57: Library & Information Services

January 9th, 2009


Let’s go to the library! This week we take a field trip to that venerable institution where great reading abounds and shushing up is de rigueur.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:04 Chemical Agent: …

Episode 56: New Year's Resolutions

January 2nd, 2009


What do you resolve to do in 2009? Get in shape? Improve your eating habits? Stop smoking? We cover them all on this week’s show.Our Mystery Solved! …

Episode 55: Anniversary

December 26th, 2008


We are marking the one year anniversary of Distillations this week! To celebrate we’re looking back at the year 2008 and its noteworthy occasions: first, boron, whose 200th birthday was this year, then, the Nobel Prize.

Episode 54: Holiday Greetings 2008

December 19th, 2008


Thanks to J. J. Thomson‘s plum pudding model of the atom, chemistry will be forever associated with 19th-century British Christmas traditions. His …

Episode 53: Faking It

December 12th, 2008


The truth behind the fake—this week Distillations explores the science of forgery. Some forgery is known and expected, such as fake meat products for vegetarians, while other fakes are meant to deceive…think imitated …

Episode 52: Wine

December 5th, 2008


Americans are still relatively new to consuming wine—but they do so with gusto during the holiday season. On today’s show we take a look at the …

Episode 51: Global Health

November 28th, 2008


Monday, December 1, is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. In honor of this campaign, Distillations is considering global health.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

00:58 Element of the Week: Silver

Episode 50: Children's Health

November 21st, 2008


Nothing is more important to parents than the health of their children, and advances in chemistry and pharmaceuticals have made it possible for children to receive the best care that science has to offer. However, …

Episode 49: Eating

November 14th, 2008


Eating is one of life’s simple pleasures, but the chemical process behind it is actually quite complex. Balancing the right minerals with good taste is no easy matter.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

Episode 48: Alchemy

November 7th, 2008


Alchemy is about a lot more than turning lead into gold or making the philosopher’s stone. Until the 17th century, alchemists worked hard in their …

Episode 47: Making Up

October 31st, 2008


Happy Halloween from Distillations! This week we’re looking at the world of cosmetics, which seems fitting for a day when many people wear makeup who might not normally.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 46: Charging Up

October 24th, 2008


The first cars didn’t run on gas—they ran on electricity. Over a century later, the high cost of fuel has finally forced automakers to take the possibility of battery-powered cars seriously. On today’s show we look at …

Episode 45: Making Modernity   

October 17th, 2008


This week we celebrate the opening of the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s new museum!


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:04 …

Episode 44: Sweet Dreams

October 10th, 2008


There’s nothing quite like a good night’s rest to recharge the body and restore the spirits. Today’s show looks at the science of sleep—and insomnia.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:28 Element of …

Episode 43: Cause and Effect

October 3rd, 2008


According to Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this week’s episode we explore causes and their effects in several different ways.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 …

Episode 42: Women in Chemistry

September 26th, 2008


Breaking through the glass ceiling can be tough, especially when you are a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. This week’s episode takes a look at women in chemistry.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:30 …

Episode 41: Self-Experimentation

September 19th, 2008


This week we delve into the world of experimenting on oneself. Many scientists have both knowingly and unknowingly used themselves as guinea pigs in the lab.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:23 …

Episode 40: Agriculture

September 12th, 2008


All over the Midwest, farmers are cranking up their combines for the corn harvest. Modern agriculture depends on science and technology at every step …

Episode 39: Photography

September 5th, 2008


In the eleventh century the first camera obscura was invented, helping artists draw. It would be another eight centuries before people figured out …

Episode 38: Best of Distillations #2

August 22nd, 2008


We continue to look back at some of our favorite episodes this week at Distillations.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

00:48 Element of the Week: Black Bile

02:12 A Conversation with Jackie Duffin

Episode 37: Best of Distillations #1

August 22nd, 2008


This week we’re looking back at some of our favorite Distillations episodes.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

00:50 Element of …

Episode 36: Olympics

August 15th, 2008


Addicted to the Olympics? Take a break from too much video with 12 minutes of audio. On today’s show, we investigate Olympic mysteries, from the …

Episode 35: Things We Wear

August 8th, 2008


This week we discuss the chemistry behind what we wear. Many modern fabrics include synthetic materials, and these synthetics would not be possible …

Episode 34: Criminal Chemistry

August 1st, 2008


We’re rather fond of chemistry here at Distillations, but even we have to admit that not everyone who’s interested in chemistry is inspired purely by a love of science. On today’s show we explore the uses of chemistry …

Episode 33: Molecular Gastronomy

July 25th, 2008


The term molecular gastronomy can sound pretentious, but food writer Harold McGee describes it as “the science of deliciousness.” Learn more about …

Episode 32: Religious Experience

July 18th, 2008


There’s an old stereotype that portrays science and religion as inevitably mired in conflict. On today’s show we look past the clichés—evolution and …

Episode 31: Motherhood

July 11th, 2008


What makes motherhood scientific? This week, we try to answer, with a look at motherhood, pregnancy, and science.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

01:06 Element of the Week: Curium

03:43 A …

Episode 30: American Chemistry

July 4th, 2008


Chemistry has been part of the American experience ever since the settlers at Jamestown built a lab for blowing glass and assaying metal (you can …

Episode 29: Left Behind

June 27th, 2008


Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. So when you take your garbage out to the curb every week, do you ever stop to think about where it’s going? In this week’s episode, Jori Lewis explores how New York City is …

Episode 28: Summer

June 20th, 2008


Summer 2008 officially begins today, June 20, at 7:50 EDT (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Here at Distillations, we’re celebrating with a show …

Episode 27: Illumination

June 13th, 2008


Illumination has been a quest of humans for centuries now—both in terms of the cerebral and the physical. In today’s episode we focus on the physical type of illumination.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 26: Performance

June 6th, 2008


Baseball, track, swimming, biking—is there any sport that hasn’t suffered a scandal in the past few years? It turns out that the obvious …

Episode 25: The Chemistry of Time

May 30th, 2008


There are four fundamental qualities: time, length, mass, and temperature. All other units can be derived from them, but these four can’t be broken down any further. This week we focus on time—the measurement that …

Episode 24: Beer and Brewing

May 23rd, 2008


What do Isaac Newton, yeast, and Harold Urey have in common? They all come under the research microscope of Chemical Heritage Foundation fellows.

Episode 23: Preservation

May 16th, 2008


Entropy is defined as the degree of disorder in a system, and according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics entropy is always increasing. Preservation is a way that humans are trying to beat entropy, and this week we …

Episode 22: Virtual Classrooms

May 9th, 2008


Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and wikis are just a few of so-called Web 2.0 technologies that are transforming the look and feel of science on the Web.

Episode 21: Sound

May 2nd, 2008


Sound is often thought to be a science of physics, but on today’s show we consider its chemistry.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 Introduction

01:11 Element of the Week: Neodymium

03:03 Chemistry in Your …

Episode 20: Spring Cleaning

April 25th, 2008


Tuesday, April 22 was Earth Day. Amid all the hubbub about “going green,” it’s a fair question to ask how much power individual consumers have to reduce their environmental impact.


00:00 Opening Credits

Episode 19: Jamestown

April 11th, 2008


Jamestown celebrated its 400th anniversary last year. Many people may know that it was the first permanent English settlement in North America, but less commonly known is that Jamestown was also the birthplace of the …

Episode 18: Beyond the Chip

April 11th, 2008


Semiconductors are at the heart of countless electronic devices. Although we often think of Silicon Valley as being built on computer chips, the companies that make the chips often depend upon materials and equipment …

Episode 16: Vitamania!

March 28th, 2008


In today’s show we take a closer look at vitamins, the tiny substances that are vital to our health.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:31 …

Episode 17: Dual Use

March 28th, 2008


Science has long been a component of warfare, and in this week’s episode we look at how it has played a part in both destruction and preservation during times of war.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

Episode 15: The Art of Science

March 21st, 2008


While chemistry often plays a silent role in art, such as synthetic additives in acrylic paints, both artists and scientists have consciously chosen …

Episode 14: Blockbuster Science

March 14th, 2008


Is science on the silver screen any less real than science in the lab? A crew from CHF attempts to answer this question with a visit to a new Star Wars exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.


Episode 13: The Nanoscale

March 7th, 2008


You’ve heard the hype—but what’s nanotechnology really all about? Today’s show is an investigation into the current reality and the future potential …

Episode 12: Chemistry as Technology

February 29th, 2008


In today’s world, technology is seemingly ubiquitous. Chemistry plays a role in many technologies and may be obvious in some products, but is quite …

Episode 11: Wonder Drugs

February 22nd, 2008


From antibiotics to chemotherapy, modern pharmaceuticals have transformed the experience of illness in the 20th century. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder and chairman of Biocon, Ltd., joins us for a discussion of how …

Episode 10: Color

February 15th, 2008


Color literally fills our world, and it plays a dominant role in how we perceive our surroundings. Scientists have been fascinated with the question …

Episode 9: The Love Show

February 8th, 2008


Please note: In today’s episode we have included more mature content than a typical show.

A Valentine for our listeners, this show is dedicated to the chemistry of love. In today’s show, we explain why passion has …

Episode 8: Chemistry in the Classroom

February 1st, 2008


Today’s show takes a look at how scientists and educators are reinventing American science education. We chat with Tom Tritton, former president of …

Episode 7: Electronics

January 25th, 2008


We don’t normally think of computers, radios, and cell phones as products of chemistry, but none of these devices would be possible without …

Episode 6: The Chemistry of Texts

January 18th, 2008


Creating ink for both the printed and handwritten page, as well as preserving it, has a long history in which chemistry plays an integral part. Some historic inks have started to destroy the pages they’re printed on. …

Episode 5: The Body Chemical

January 11th, 2008


Western medicine has always looked at the body as a system in balance. Today’s show looks at how ideas about the body’s equilibrium have changed over the past few centuries, from humoral theory to the discovery of …

Episode 4: Measurement

January 4th, 2008


Chemistry has always been a science of measurement. In this episode, we look at several cases of how measurements affect scientific research and practice as well as daily life.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 …

Episode 3: Happy Holidays from CHF!

December 28th, 2007


This week, in honor of the holiday season, we’re offering a toast to chemistry. We’ll explain what makes champagne bubble, and why size matters when …

Episode 2: Cleaning Up

December 21st, 2007


After the recent oil spills in the San Francisco Bay and the Kerch Strait, Distillations delves into the reality of cleaning up human-made messes.


00:00 Opening Credits

00:32 Introduction

00:55 Commentary by …

Episode 1: Communicating Chemistry

December 14th, 2007


How do scientists explain what they do to the larger public, and how can historians help? In this first episode of Distillations, we explore this …

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