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January 1, 2011, 5:10 pm

Happy New Year 2011

Celebrating a New Year with molecules... artist Harwinder Singh Gill carved his greeting for 2011 in coloured pencils. What has this to do with molecules? Look closely and think a little, and many questions should arise... here is one to start with: What is pencil lead made of?

 

 

What was discovered?

Carving pencils doesn't sound like a very scientific thing to do - but if you take a simple black lead pencil and ask "how does it work?" you can come up with some very interesting questions indeed!

The carbon atoms are arranged in sheets just one atom thick - called graphene - studying this form of carbon lead to a Nobel Prize in 2010, and what it can be used for has opened up new avenues for nanotechnology.

Then you could ask "how are coloured pencils made?" - see this video or read more here - or "why does the pencil lead break when I drop it?" 

How?

By asking questions about the world around you! This will allow a good idea to form in your mind, which scientists would call your "hypothesis", which can be tested in an experiment.

Why is it important?

Asking important questions, gathering data from experiments and arriving at conclusions based on the results of these experiments, forms the basis of the scientific method.

This is a powerful way to understand the world around us!  So, think of a good question and enter it for the Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize 2011 - if our eminent scientists like your ideas, you could win!

 

See also

sticky tape 1
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