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The chemistry-lab wall

“94 Elements”, a series of short films about the stuff of life

Samantha Weinberg | May/June 2012

The periodic table is a fixture on the chemistry-lab wall. Every schoolchild should know its crenellated shape, and be able to recite the top line, at least: hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium...But how many of us have given much thought to the essential importance of the 94 elements that occur in nature? As the blurb for the film project “94 Elements” says: “Together they make up everything in the world.” That could be overwhelming, but the man behind “94 Elements”, Mike Paterson, breaks it down with four-to-seven-minute films, each with a different author and its own story, showing how an element is used. For Carbon (atomic number 6), a West African film-maker explores the life of a diamond miner in Sierra Leone; Phosphorus (15) examines the use of white phosphorus in the Palestinian territories; in Gadolinium (64), Nino Kirtadze ventures inside an MRI machine in Tbilisi to look at image contrast. More than a series of films, “94 Elements” straddles several media, inviting us to participate via games, an app, Twitter and live commodity-price streams, and even to make our own mini-movies—a suitable ambition for a project about the very stuff of life.
~ SAMANTHA WEINBERG

94 Elements pfilm.co.uk/94elements.html; 94elements.com, from May 1st

SCIENCE AT A GLANCE

Codebreaker: Alan Turing's life and legacy (Science Museum, London, June 21st to June 2013). The story of Britain’s great codebreaker and father of computer science.

Transit of Venus (worldwide, June 5th). Venus passes in front of the sun – an event that will not be repeated for 105 years. To mark this once-in-more-than-a-lifetime moment, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, has a series of events and a free exhibition.

Carbon 12 (L'Espace Fondation EDF, Paris, May 4th to September 16th). Carbon is used in almost everything, from fuel to tennis racquets, but its impact is now being felt on earth, wind and sea. This exhibition looks at its relationship with climate science.

World Science Festival (New York, May 30th to June 3rd). Science meets the arts, with the likes of the Oxford mathematician Marcus du Sautoy in conversation with the composer Philip Glass. Plus talks on psycholinguistics and a global cure for cancer. ~ SW

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