Field of Science

Chemists' Magic Decoder Ring

What if we gave out chemical name
decoders instead of periodic tables?
Vintage magic decoder ring.
Used under CC license. Source.

Earlier this week the Royal Society of Chemistry released a report on the public perceptions of chemistry.  It's a great set of data for those of us who write and talk about chemistry outside of the classroom environment. This infographic sums up the key findings, one of which is that people lack confidence in talking about chemistry.

Stuart Cantrill, chief editor of the journal Nature Chemistry (full disclosure, I contribute regularly to the editorial content of the journal), noted in the discussion which followed the presentation that chemistry uses a very "specific technical language...if you're not talking the same language as someone you are talking to, they can't engage with's almost like a secret language that only chemists know." (Listen here starting at 25:45)

It made me wonder if we should hand out a cheat sheet on how to decode chemical names and functionality instead of the traditional and iconic periodic tables at events. It might make for less splashy t-shirts or shower curtains, but then again, Andy Brunning of Compound Interest makes amazing graphics on all sorts of chemical themes.

Next post:  the secret language of chemists and why butter makes me think of four!

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