Fermi Questions: Back of the Envelope Calculations

The Art of Estimation
When I was in high school, in the days before electronic calculators were available, we learned how to use mechanical slide rules (see ChemMatters, April 2004, p.4) for our calculations. While they were great for getting a good answer to math problems, they didn’t keep track of the decimal place. That had to be done by keeping track of an order of magnitude estimate of the answer. Continue reading “Fermi Questions: Back of the Envelope Calculations”

The Martian Virtual Book Club Resources

The Virtual Book Club is officially live now! If you didn’t sign up before, you are still able to access and use all of the great resources we’ve created around Andy Weir’s The Martian! Check the blog each Thursday from now until May to follow our journey as we read the book, post background information about the activities and the book, and take a look at what the Clubs are sharing through #ACSChemClubBook.

ChemClubs who signed up for the Virtual Book Club, you’ll be receiving a packet soon with the guides and activities available below. There are two contests each with an opportunity to win a movie prize pack. Just share your photos, lists, calculations, etc. on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using #ACSChemClubBook, or send your responses to hschemclubs@acs.org.

Continue reading The Martian Virtual Book Club Resources”

Books to Read


Hear the word “book” mentioned in connection with “chemistry,” and many of us might automatically picture a textbook packed with information about elements, stoichiometry, acids and bases, and the like. But what about fiction and non-fiction that you could pick up at the local library or bookstore? Some fiction weaves chemistry and other science directly into the story, while many non-fiction books are perfect illustrations of how chemistry relates to the world around us.

The JCE ChemEd Xchange blog post “Reading Non-fiction Within a Grade 10 Chemistry Class” by chemistry teacher Lowell Thomson focuses on how he’s using the non-fiction book The Case of the Frozen Addicts with his students. He says that the book “reads almost as a mystery novel – except it’s a true accounting,” telling a story of inadvertent use of designer drugs. In addition to reading the book, his students are engaging with the material through blogging, discussions, making posters, and using Twitter.

What about having a book club activity within your ChemClub to explore chemistry through fiction and non-fiction selections? For ideas on books to read, visit the ACS ChemClub Pinterest page “Books to Read.” You might start with a book that has a related movie; for example, the movie October Sky is based on Homer Hickam, Jr.’s book Rocket Boys. The article “Teaching Chemistry Using October Sky” highlights the science shown in the movie and could be used as a jumping-off point for discussion. Or, check out the Journal of Chemical Education’s annual collection of summer reading suggestions for teachers. What books do you think we should add to the Pinterest page? Maybe your your Club already does this? Tell us about it!