Monthly Archives: January 2014

Meet the Family!

Posters are now available in three sizes:

Poster Selection 3

Furthermore, I’ve re-formatted Table of Esters and their Smells, Table of Organic Compounds and their SmellsMeet the Terpenes and my first ever graphic, Tea Types, so that all the text is legible from several metres away. No more small print. Great for longer-range or classroom use. Here’s an example:

Meet the Terpenes GIANT ad

The whole set looks fantastic on high-quality A3 paper; so much better than on screen. Placed on a desk or a wall, they’re ready to make an impact. In print, they bring life and relevance to Chemistry, which is exactly what I intended when I created them.

They also seem to provoke quite a discussion.

I’ve managed to keep the print prices ridiculously cheap. All three sizes are printed on thick-but-sturdy 250 gsm matte paper, and I’ll sign them if you want me to. Cheap international shipping is still available—most orders ship for just $6—and turnaround times are fast.

Order A3, A4 or A5 prints using this form. 

James 🙂

In other news:

  • DESIGN YOUR OWN SHIRTS: T-Shirt Store has a new customise-your-own T-Shirt app from CorelDRAW. From today onwards, you can put any design onto any product for men, women, children, babies, or dogs. Click “Shop by Product” or “Shop by Design” to start creating!
  • A COFFEE MUG has just entered the T-Shirt Store. Check it out. It’s on the front page.
  • INTERNATIONAL: Designs are now available in 7 different languages: English, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch and Simplified Chinese. If you want these products in more languages, just drop me an email. We’ll see what we can do 🙂

Chapter 4: Relative Atomic Mass & the Mole

These ‘chapter’ posts are not complete summaries or sets of notes. They are simply collections of supplementary resources that I recommend using in the classroom in addition to the textbook and any other assignments on the course. Most of the resources here are videos, but I will also occasionally put worksheets, quizzes, books, apps and games here as well.

4.1: Masses of particles

Watch the following introductory videos on relative atomic mass.

You no longer need to know the workings of a mass spectrometer because it’s been deleted from the VCE Chemistry study design. However, many schools still use older worksheets, which ask you to label the function of each part of the machine. Ask your teacher whether the mass spectrometer machine will be examined in your school’s Year 11 examination.

Mass spectrometer

Even though knowledge of the mass spectrometer is not required, understanding how it works can help students to interpret the kinds of graphs that it produces. This video explains how the mass spectrometer works (beyond VCE level).

Here are some sample questions for you to try.

4.2: The mole

We have several ‘number-words’ in English. Examples include ‘pair’, which means ‘2’; ‘dozen’, which means ’12’, and ‘ream’, which means ‘500’. A mole is a very large number-word with a value of 6.02×1023.

The mole is also called ‘Avogadro’s number’.

Most important formula here is n = N ÷ NA

  • n is the number of moles in your sample;
  • N is the number of particles (either molecules or atoms);
  • NA is Avogadro’s number (6.02×1023).

Click here for the lesson that accompanies the above video.

4.3: Molar mass

Relative molar mass is the mass of a molecule, formula, isotope or atom compared to the molar mass of carbon-12, which has a molar mass of exactly 12.

The following are all forms of relative molar mass and have no units:

  • relative molecular mass (used for molecules)
  • relative formula mass (used for repeating structures such as crystals)
  • relative isotopic mass (used for single isotopes)
  • relative atomic mass (used for single elements that contain mixtures of isotopes)

Most important formula here is n = m ÷ M

  • n is the number of moles of particles in your sample;
  • m is the mass of the sample in grams;
  • M is the relative molar mass of your sample.

4.4: Percentage composition

Use the m-n-ratio method to find the percentage composition of any particular compound. A demonstration is shown below.

Read: Heinemann Chemistry 1 Chapter 4

All-Natural Banana Has Gone Viral: 2M views

banana collage 2 million jameskennedymonash

This post is a shameless list of newspapers and famous blogs that published articles about the All-Natural Banana, which has now exceeded 2 million views on the internet.

It’s also spawned a successful clothing line and a poster print business. In other words, for what started as a simple teaching aid, “Ingredients” is getting pretty big. 🙂

Here’s the list:

I’m now sending multiple print shipments every day, most of them international.

It now exists in 7 languages. More on that soon.

It has over 120,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook (but I don’t use Facebook)

And it’s been shared widely across social media like Twitter. In other words, it’s gone viral.

Exciting changes to the T-Shirt Store will be announced tomorrow. 🙂 James

If Beetroots had Ingredients Labels…

It’s Australia Day and beetroot burgers are in ‘season’.

Chemically, beetroots are remarkably simple.

ingredients of an AUSTRALIAN BEETROOTThe colour in beetroots comes from just two E-numbers (which are each groups of about 10 compounds); and the flavour comes almost entirely from geosimin. So simple.

Happy Australia Day!

On a Podcast, I Explain Why I Made These Graphics

The Collapsed Wavefunction Podcast

I went on a science podcast explaining why I made the Banana posters. The episode’s called “Bananas, Eggs and Blueberries”, and is presented by Chad Jones and Sam Matthews of The Collapsed Wavefunction.

It was an excellent conversation. Listen to it on iTunes here or online here.

Show Notes (all times are approximate):

  • 1:30 – Where did the idea for these posters come from?
  • 4:00 – Chemophobia and the posters. James says that relevance – not chemophobia – was the driving motivation for the posters.
  • 8:00 – You can now get T-Shirts with the ingredients.
  • 9:00 – How did James determine what chemicals are really in these foods?
  • 10:30 – Why isn’t potassium listed in the ingredients for a banana? Aren’t bananas full of potassium
  • 11:30 – “E-numbers”: What are they and what is the fear about?
  • 15:00 – As a high school teacher, what opinion does James have about the state of science education?
  • 17:00 – What else can we do to make chemistry relevant? A KickStarter perhaps?
  • 21:00 – The Fortnightly Scientist: Luca Turin (TED talk)
  • 28:00 – Table of Esters and their Smells
  • 31:30 – Why James made all these posters
  • 35:45 – How can I do what James does?

Ingredients of an All-Natural Kiwi

Welcome Kiwi to the all-natural gang.

Merchandise is in the T-Shirt Store.

Also, some exciting changes are coming to the T-Shirt Store very soon.

Ingredients of an All-Natural Kiwi POSTER
Click for large JPEG

Poster Prints Now Available

jameskennedymonash poster selection

I’m obsessed with print. I love typefaces, I care about using the right quality paper and inks, and I’m fussy about alignment, kerning and line spacing. And that’s why I decided to sell “Ingredients” poster prints.

I’ve got one of each of these prints, and—Wow!—they look so much more gorgeous in real life than on-screen.

Ordering prints is a less formal affair than the T-Shirt Store—just cover my costs via PayPal and I’ll get the prints on the way to your address within 24 hours. Click the Order Prints tab in the website’s ribbon to get your hands on some of these “Ingredients” prints.

Oh—and they’re cheap. Just $10 each and worldwide shipping is available 🙂

Order one to help spread the word. I’ll even sign them if you like 😉 James

Meet the Terpenes: A Visual Introduction from Isoprene to Latex

Inspiration for Meet the Terpenes came from the rhetological fallacies graphic over at Information is Beautiful, while motivation came from a 45°C heat wave this week that prevented any sensible Australians from going outside. So I stayed at home and did this.

Meet the Terpenes - A Visual Introduction from Isoprene to Latex
Click to download 200dpi JPEG (5.4Mb)

It took about three days to sketch, research and create.

Three days ago, I knew nothing about terpenes. My undergraduate phytochemistry class was really difficult. The teacher was a genius, and put huge amounts of effort into his tutorials, giving us thick booklets at each seminar filled with his hand-written notes and dozens of chemical structures. But for some reason, I just didn’t get it.

So this week, I decided to make the graphic I wish I’d had when I took the phytochemistry class many years ago. Having this poster on my wall would have answered all my questions and made the class much more enjoyable. I hope you find it useful, too.

As always, I welcome all feedback, corrections, suggestions and comments, etc.

Enjoy 🙂 James

Book: The Power of Infographics

The Power of Infographics

A book on how to make simple infographics about boring things
200 pages, ★★

The Power of Infographics is a comprehensive guide on how to turn drab topics like sales and organisation charts into unintentional office comedy. None of this book was intended to be funny—no, it was intended to be useful, but I find the charts in this book are so pointless that they belong with doodles and LOLcats, not in an ‘art’ book.

Here’s one of those pointless charts.

The Power of Infographics
What’s the point of this chart?

This book is written for people with no time to read. All the usual nuances of a corporate book are in here, including short chapters, bullet-lists, repetitive catchphrases (memes) and boring case-studies about how people increased their sales blah blah blah.

Some of the graphics are quite good, which is my rationale for giving it two stars. But the whole book is full of graphics on corporate networking, sales figures, and social media statistics. So very, very dull. Read Information is Beautiful instead. ★★

Book: Adam Robots by Adam Roberts

Adam Robots by Adam Roberts

Originally written for Dark Matter Fanzine

High-class tasting menu of sci-fi sub-genres
392 pages, ★★★★★

Adam Robots is a collection of science fiction short stories. It’s a five-star tasting menu of sci-fi sub-genres. It was perfect  for a novice sci-fi reader like me because it allowed me to discover which sci-fi sub-genres I enjoy reading the most.

By far the best story in this book was ‘Thrownness’, a twist on Groundhog Day. The title, ‘Thrownness’, is a rough translation of the German word “Geworfenheit”, which is a philosophical term used to describe the feelings people have about a past that is neither deterministic nor chosen. Author Adam Roberts brings this bizarre abstract concept to life by making the protagonist’s world ‘reset’ itself every 70 hours. After a ‘reset’, all the characters go back to where they were 70 hours ago and start going about the same 3-day routine in perfect repetition. The only difference between each cycle is what the protagonist chooses to do (his location and thoughts are not reset each time). He starts off well-behaved, but soon learns that the only way to survive is to rob, cheat and steal. (He steals from the same people in each 3-day cycle but his ‘crimes’ are forgotten after 3 days!) There’s definitely an element of dark, understated humour that’s unmistakably British underlying this short story.

‘Thrownness’ also makes a political point about incarceration and the notorious problem of reoffending. The situation, not the man himself, propelled the protagonist’s downward spiral. With no roots and no long-term direction in his life, he very quickly resorts to crime.

‘Shall I Tell You the Problem With Time Travel?’ was another one of my favourite stories in this book. Protagonist Professor Bradley, a scientist developing time travel in the near future, has realised that every time travel attempt causes a giant explosion at the intended time and place of arrival. He also notes that he can only travel into the past—not into the future. I won’t give anything away here, but the story is very cleverly-written and not contradicted by present-day scientific theories, which is important for me.

Reality is very important for me in books, which is why I read so much non-fiction. I’m not a fan of the extremely farfetched sub-genres in sci-fi—complicated alien civilisations and the like, or artificial intelligence—and I’m put off by scientific impossibility. I learned all this by reading Adam Robots. I learned that I enjoy reading sci-fi that’s set either in a believable future, or in a slightly altered present, and Adam Robots gave me a very generous serving of both. ‘The Time Telephone’ and ‘A Prison Term of A Thousand Years’ in this book were also very good.

Recommended for people who want to get more into reading sci-fi. Five out of five stars. ★★★★★

My T-Shirt Store is Now Open!

Love Science? Show off your love of “organic” chemistry with an Ingredients T-Shirt from James Kennedy Clothing. All our T-shirts are made in Australia. Priced from just $15.95 each.

Visit our store here:

James Kennedy Clothing T-Shirt Store
Click the image to visit the official “All-Natural Ingredients” Store

Just 10 days after it was created, the Ingredients of an All-Natural Banana was already the third most Reddited post of all time on Reddit Chemistry.

They were downloaded 7,000 times last week from this website alone.

I didn’t intend to make any more of these images. Three was enough. But I decided to take this Ingredients theme a bit further after I saw how widely they’d been circulated on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and various other social media sites—many of which are in foreign languages—and none of which, I use.

So welcome to the Store. There’ll be more products coming soon if people like what’s already up there. I welcome your feedback as always. James 🙂

Banana/Blueberry/Egg Ingredients Poster PDFs

Here are high-resolution PDFs of all three posters. Free to use. Feedback welcome.

Click each image to download the PDF poster.

Ingredients of an All-Natural Egg Ingredients of an All-Natural Banana Ingredients of All-Natural Blueberries

About these posters: As a Chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of “chemicals”, and demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab.

Book: Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson

Richard Branson - Screw Business as Usual

“Do good, have fun, and the money will follow”

372 pages, ★★★★★

Screw Business as Usual starts and ends with stories about natural disasters. In the opening pages, author Richard Branson’s Necker Island family home catches fire following a lightning strike. Times like this “remind us that stuff doesn’t matter”, he writes. The closing pages describe how a category III hurricane hit Necker Island while Virgin Unite (the charity arm of his multi-billion dollar Virgin empire) was staying there. In each case, Branson writes how opportunity rises in the face of adversity; how destruction clears way for the new; and how every unfortunate event has a ‘good’ side. I couldn’t agree more.

On page 12, he issues the readers a warning: “make sure you’ve read [this book] and can articulate its contents before you consider having this book on lying around on your desk!” (The contents, should they need to be articulated, could be summed up like this: Capitalists no longer face a choice between making money and doing good. Many businesses that “do good” (environmentally or socially) are finding that good deeds boost the company’s profits overall”.) Between pages 200 and 250, he includes plenty of detailed case studies to support his point.

I really like that despite Branson’s massive persona, he still laughs at himself sometimes. On page 21, he hints that he name drops too much, and it’s true. Honestly, though, I expected him to: Richard Branson is a ‘big’ personality known for his outlandish gestures and it would have seemed disappointingly out-of-character if he were too modest in this book. (Just type “Richard Branson” into Google Images for some examples of this.) After admitting he name-drops too much, he proceeds to name-drop throughout this book: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Queen, James Lovelock, Ban Ki-Moon and Al Gore are mentioned many times each. Page 230 adds Ray Anderson, Jochen and Ted Turner to the list of superstars he has close connections with. He laughs at himself on this and on several other occasions. I like the self-aware, self-mocking Branson that we see in this book.

I also really like the emphasis on “doing good”. This is clear not only from his many not-for-profit groups, which work worldwide in many different sectors, but also from his willingness to “do good” even if “doing good” means breaking the law! Twice, he breaks the law and the law changes for him, not the other way around. Once, at he beginning of the book, Branson breaks an old law that made it illegal to mention “venereal disease” in public. Branson felt it was a serious social problem at the time, and that the law was preventing useful health information from reaching the public. So he broke the law, got arrested, then took Her Majesty’s Government to court. (They apologised to Branson and then changed the law!) Later, the end of the book, Branson’s group tells factories in South Africa to ignore the law on racially-segregated toilets, which resulted in many black workers having to urinate, dehumanisingly, in gutters. This time, too, the law changed for him, not the other way around!

I learned a lot from this book. I learned that Peter Gabriel was signed by Virgin Records in 1983. I also learned that Virgin’s staff must love their jobs—Branson holds parties for Virgin Atlantic staff tropical island house and writes them personalised letters of invitation. In these letters (one is copied into the book), I learned that Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to introduce fully-non-smoking flights, and was also the first airline to have entertainment screens on the back of every seat!

Branson tells us all to love our jobs. He gives examples of businesses that do this very well, such as a greengrocery chain in Sussex that hires “local heroes”—people who love their job and their produce, and aren’t there “just for the pay check”. I’m really pleased to say that I’m one of those people 🙂

This quote fits perfectly with this book’s philosophy:

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

― Randy Komisar, Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur

(I am still yet to review Randy Komisar’s book, Monk and the Riddle.)

In one respect, Screw Business as Usual reminds me a lot of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Both books straddle the non-fiction and biography genres. Both books tell tales of opportunity and what makes people succeed. In particular, the story about Peter Avis in this book seemed very similar to a scene in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. In this book, Branson writes about Peter Avis, who, like Branson, is also dyslexic. While Branson has long talked quite openly about how his dyslexia shaped his thinking, and how it inspired the clean, easy-to-navigate customer experience that Virgin’s companies offer, Avis found dyslexia very debilitating throughout school and early adulthood. Avis, unlike Branson, didn’t come from such a supportive background, and his dyslexia went unnoticed for many years until someone cared enough to help him solve the problem. Malcolm Gladwell gives a similar example in his book (which I haven’t reviewed yet), where a child might be “blessed with confidence, acting skills and bursts of creativity” if they come from a rich background; but diagnosed with ADHD if they come from a poorer background. What’s more interesting about Branson’s stories, though, is that they’re from his own life—and his own friends—not from unrelated case studies.

In conclusion, Branson says that unrestrained capitalism (“Greed is Good”) versus the flower power peace-and-love of the 1960s have merged to form a new era of capitalism, and Richard Branson labels, “Capitalism 24902”. (Read the book to find out what that means.)

This is a rare, high-quality business management book. It’s laced with personal examples, which are always much more interesting than random case studies, and I love the message he sends out in this book. Recommended for anyone who admires great people. ★★★★★

Book: Physics of the Impossible

Physics Of The Impossible

Tour of the future. Written with poetic grace and a child’s wonder.
328 pages, ★★★★★

Michio Kaku is one of the most readable pop-sci writers of today. His books straddle the boundary between physics and science fiction. He uses sci-fi technologies (such as teleportation, warp drive and invisibility) to get readers excited about real-world physics, which, he predicts, will resemble current-day sci-fi in a few millennia from now.

He’s one of few scientists lucky enough to work on what we call “sexy science”. Sexy science is the stuff that gets everyone excited; the stuff that doesn’t bore people when they ask you what you do; and only it constitutes about 1% of all scientific research. Unlike biology (much of which is “sexy”), research at the forefront of physics can be extremely complicated and abstract, and seems to have little practical implication. Kaku succeeds not only because he’s a great writer, but also because he writes about fascinating (“sexy science”) topics that have a direct connection to everyone’s lives.

In Physics of the Impossible, Kaku tackles 15 “sexy” physics topics in three groups:

  1. Class I impossibilities: impossible this century (e.g. invisibility)
  2. Class II impossibilities: impossible this millennium (e.g. time travel)
  3. Class III impossibilities: violations of the known laws of physics (e.g. perpetual motion machines)

Most of these 15 topics are in Class I, and I’m really excited that some will even become true in our lifetimes (cold fusion, perhaps, or fission-powered rockets?)

Author Michio Kaku is extremely optimistic not only that these incredible technologies will eventually come to fruition, but also that humanity will use them all in a benevolent way. He assumes that humanity won’t exterminate itself, and I’m pleased to say that there’s no mention of climate change or nuclear bombs in this book whatsoever! Kaku’s books make me feel very excited about the future of science—and reassured about the fate of humanity. Kaku’s books invoke feelings of wonder, excitement and hope. Kaku, and authors like him, are doing Physics a great service.

(Makes me wonder—Chemistry really needs a Michio Kaku to balance out the damage done to its reputation by Breaking Bad’s Walter White.)

Physics of the Impossible is similar to his later book, Physics of the Future, which I reviewed two years ago. They’re both captivating reads. The main difference is Physics of the Future’s much smarter conclusion: that once we’ve solved one major technological problem, such as cold fusion or warm superconductors, all the other technological barriers we now face will disappear. Excitingly, Kaku just announced a new book, Future of the Mind, which is coming out in February 2014, and I definitely want to get my hands on a copy. 🙂

I recommend this book for moderate fans of either physics or science fiction. ★★★