So if you’ve been following my previous articles on this blog, you will recall that in my last post we discussed the constant presence of chemical elements in our society… Literally and figuratively! (See what I did there?) We decided that everything is a technically a chemical, from the coffee you’re drinking right now to the rubber soles of your shoes and even that super healthy “all natural” bowl of oatmeal that you had for breakfast this morning. Because if we’re being honest, no matter how hard you try to live an all-organic, nothing but natural, detox lifestyle… The truth is, you’re still consuming and interacting with zillions of chemicals on a daily basis. No matter how hard you try to run away from them! They’re always there! So if we can agree that everything in our world is actually made up of different types of chemicals, then in what ways do you think we interact with these chemicals in real life? And even more importantly, how do these chemicals interact with each other in real life?
I recently attended an extremely insightful and informative chemistry symposium that featured many different educated chemists, all of whom were presenting valuable information regarding the uses of chemistry in everyday life and activities. The audience was exposed to a variety of perspectives from many different interests during the symposium; we learned about the chemical processes behind burning rubber tires, how the body processes foods like chocolate or coffee, and even talked about the unexpectedly complex steps in which seemingly simple rock candies are formed! As you would expect, some presentations were delivered in more effective manners than others, but overall they were rather interesting and extremely informative! Today I would like to share with you three of the presentations in which I found the subject as well as the delivery of the information by the presenter to be above par. (I know you were thinking it, but no, unfortunately none of the presentations were about golf so I was unable make another pun there..)
The first presentation that I found impressive also actually happened to be the opening presentation of the symposium. This in itself takes a lot of courage on behalf of the presenter to volunteer to go first before seeing anyone else’s presentations. So we can already award some kudos to this chemist for bravery. The second part that I enjoyed about his presentation was the delivery. He had good volume as well as a rather simple and straightforward tone that kept the audience’s attention. He clearly felt very confident in the information that he was providing about the topic, which was about the use of carbohydrates in the body during marathon running. While carbohydrate and calorie processing can be a rather complicated topic to explain, he did a wonderful job of keeping it simple enough for the audience to follow, while also including valuable, informative information. We learned that the average person stores somewhere around 2,000 calories in their body per day, but many more calories than this are required to be able to run a marathon. Running a whole marathon, which is usually about 26 miles, requires your body to burn around 2,600 or more calories all in one period of time, which may seem impossible. But once we run out of these calories from our regular daily stores to use, our bodies transition from using aerobic respiration to anaerobic respiration, which is not as effective at producing energy. This is referred to as “hitting the wall.” The presenter then took us into a discussion of how the body processes oxygen to produce this energy, therefore referring back to the chemistry behind it all, and how runners choose to “carb load” a week or so before the race. This “carb loading” includes eating pasta, bread and other carbohydrate filled foods in order to have as many calories as possible to work with while running, therefore pushing that wall back further. Overall this presenter did a fantastic job of taking us step by step through the life and chemical processes involved in being a marathon runner, all the while keeping us interested and captivated!
The next presentation that really caught my eye was one about the negative effects of burning tires and why it is such a problem to throw away rubber tires without recycling them. This presenter also did a great job of speaking loud enough for everyone to hear him, which is always a good thing. Another part of his delivery that I appreciated was that this guy had cracked the code for how to overcome the dreaded “um” barrier. Yeah, we all do it. Every time we give a presentation or even when we’re just talking, we’re bound to say a couple of um’s here and there as a filler. No matter how well rehearsed we are in our subject. But this presenter figured out a great way to overcome the dreaded um’s. During every transition or mini silence where he was getting his thoughts together, he replaced the word “um” with “so” or “and.” Just by employing this simple technique he automatically sounded twice as informed as he would have by saying “um” every two minutes. It was pretty great. Anyway, his presentation was also rather interesting, considering it was about exploding tires. Well, not really exploding, but tires that randomly burst into flames and pollute the atmosphere. Same thing. I was intrigued, regardless. Apparently it is illegal in most states to burn old tires from cars. This is because not only do they burst into nasty massive ten foot flame balls, but the chemicals that they release are also pretty nasty, as well as bad for the air we breathe. He described to us the chemical process behind the burning tires really well and made it clear to the audience how these burning tires were hurting our atmosphere. He then went on to discuss the ways we can avoid destroying the earth with these tire bonfires by chopping them up for mulch, or making other tires out of them. As a whole his presentation was logical and went along an easy to follow path that gave us a really neat understanding of the process of tire burning, which is apparently worse than what you might think.
My third favorite presentation was about rock candy. I mean honestly, who doesn’t like rock candy?? And not only was it about some super cool candy, but her presentation was in a do it yourself, recipe type form. So rather than just learning about the candy, we learned how to make the candy too!!! What??? Apparently forming rock candy takes a lot of patience and also includes a lot of chemistry. Who knew? The candy is created by dipping a string into a heavily saturated solution that is extremely sugary and heated up really hot in order to oversaturate the liquid with sugar. Once the string is removed, the sugar precipitates back out of the solution as the candy cools. This causes crystals to form and make the rock candy we know and love! You do this over and over until you have a big chunk of pretty rock candy. I never thought that the saturation of a solution could be used like that to make such a cool treat. She also presented very well and although she had a couple pauses and some um’s, I really enjoyed listening to her teach us about these crystal candies. She had a very relaxed, conversational tone and spoke clearly and was obviously excited about her topic. And not only was she enthusiastic, but she knew her stuff as well!
I thoroughly enjoyed this chemistry symposium and was really glad I got the opportunity to go to it. I learned a lot about the chemistry behind marathon running, burning tires, and making candy. It is truly impressive how much chemistry is in our every day lives. I also learned a little bit about presenting techniques which I plan on incorporating into my own presentations in the future. Conversational tones that are loud, clear and informative help to keep the audiences attention. Knowing your stuff in order to have confidence and being able to dumb it down for the audience is also helpful. I hope you enjoyed learning about all these interesting topics as much as I did, I wish you were there!!