I realise the International Year of Chemistry is now over but, after hearing several programmes with Professors Tony Ryan and/or Andrea Sella in recent weeks, it is my considered opinion that every year should be both international and about chemistry.  As my modest contribution, I thought I’d introduce a couple of the members of the Platinoids to a wider audience.

The Saturday before last, I visited the Gallery of the Courtauld Institute, home to one of the largest collections of Cézanne’s work in the UK, which allowed me to do a little bit of homework for my Open University course.  Oh yes, I have managed to convert part of my OU coursework into the I-Spy Book of Cézanne and so am educating myself and dumbing down at one and the same time!   Splendidly, my membership of the Art Fund allowed me to enter the gallery for nowt.  Less splendidly, my mobile phone tried to auto-correct nowt to Moët when I tried to update my Facebook status with this breaking news – clearly a soft, southern device with champagne tastes.

To reach the gallery, I had to walk from Embankment tube station (as a result of planned engineering work) and passed along the side of Somerset House facing the river.  This was a bit of a struggle as the whole area had been taken over by London Fashion Week.  The place was heaving with people who looked as though they had dressed in the dark, surrounded by more normally dressed men carrying vast quantities of photographic equipment (and, in many cases, short step-ladders – it’s tragic how many ladders come from broken homes).  I have never been “papped” so often over the space of 5 minutes – though I’m sure I will be cropped from all the pictures, quick and lively.

Amidst this hurly-burly was a temporary structure, which I presume contained a catwalk (or similar), that proudly claimed to be sponsored by the International Palladium Board. As I’m sure you all know, the group 10 metal has its primary use in the catalytic converters fitted to motor vehicles – important for pollution control, but hardly high fashion.  I was thus at a loss to know how the IPB hoped to benefit from their largesse.  Upon my return from town, I was forced to seek out the IPB website to try and discover their angle: apparently, platinum jewellery is so last year and the well dressed fashionista should be wearing palladium (well, according to the IPB – who may not be entirely reliable as a source).   It may also help that palladium is only a fraction of the cost of platinum (or, indeed, gold) at present – however, I should warn you that as it can discolour above 400ºC and reacts with concentrated nitric acid it may not be the ideal choice for the chemistry teacher in your life (though, I suspect that chemistry lessons today are much less exciting than in the days of my youth).

Whilst listening to the triumphant return of Shaun W Keaveny from his break, I heard a name check for another platinoid in the music news.  Mineral extraction has not been a major theme of the rock or pop world in recent years (only Clementine and Big Bad John sprang to my mind – both of which are recent only in the geological sense), but the latest release from the Arctic Monkeys may be set to rectify this lack.  I believe their new song is about quarrying for Ruthenium – or so I assume as is is entitled Ru mine.  I’ll be interested to find what they’ve found to rhyme with Ruthenium – if you exclude other chemical elements, my rhyming dictionary only offers proscenium, so I’d be looking to introduce a theatrical reference myself (palladium would have made this so much easier…).

I bet we all wish I could have found a way to fit the RU Mine “gag” into 140 characters, but as I couldn’t we all had to endure more than 600 words.  Perhaps I should launch an appeal to fund a course in précis for the author?


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