Infographics Show How the Different Fields of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science Fit Together

Ask anyone who’s pursued a career in the sciences what first piqued their interest in what would become their field, and they’ll almost certainly have a story. Gazing at the stars on a camping trip, raising a pet frog, fooling around with computers and their components: an experience sparks a desire for knowledge and understanding, and the pursuit of that desire eventually delivers one to their specific area of specialization.

Or, as they say in science, at least it works that way in theory; the reality usually unrolls less smoothly. On such a journey, just like any other, it might help to have a map.




Enter the work of science writer and physicist Dominic Walliman, whose animated work on the Youtube channel Domain of Science we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture. (See the “Related Content” section below for the links.)

Walliman’s videos astutely explain how the subfields of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computer science relate to each other, but now he’s turned that same material into infographics readable at a glance: maps, essentially, of the intellectual territory. He’s made these maps, of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computer science, freely available on his Flickr account: you can view them all on a single page here along with a few more of his infographics..

As much use as Walliman’s maps might be to science-minded youngsters looking for the best way to direct their fascinations into a proper course of study, they also offer a helpful reminder to those farther down the path — especially those who’ve struggled with the blinders of hyperspecialization — of where their work fits in the grand scheme of things. No matter one’s field, scientific or otherwise, one always labors under the threat of losing sight of the forest for the trees. Or the realm of life for the bioinformatics, biophysics, and biomathematics; the whole of mathematics for the number theory, the differential geometry, and the differential equations; the workings of computers for the scheduling, the optimization, and the boolean satisfiability.

Related Content:

The Map of Biology: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Biology Fit Together

The Map of Computer Science: New Animation Presents a Survey of Computer Science, from Alan Turing to “Augmented Reality”

The Map of Mathematics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Math Fit Together

The Map of Physics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Physics Fit Together

The Map of Chemistry: New Animation Summarizes the Entire Field of Chemistry in 12 Minutes

The Art of Data Visualization: How to Tell Complex Stories Through Smart Design

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Brilliant Colors of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made with Alchemy

Today the word “alchemy” seems used primarily to label a variety of crackpot pursuits, with their bogus premises and impossible promises. To the extent that alchemists long strove to turn lead miraculously into gold, that sounds like a fair enough charge, but the field of alchemy as a whole, whose history runs from Hellenistic Egypt to the 18th century (with a revival in the 19th), chalked up a few lasting, reality-based accomplishments as well. Take, for instance, medieval illuminated manuscripts: without alchemy, they wouldn’t have the vivid and varied color palettes that continue to enrich our own vision of that era.

Many of the illuminators’ most brilliant pigments “didn’t come straight from nature but were made through alchemy,” says the video from the Getty above, produced to accompany the museum’s exhibition “The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts.”




Alchemists “explored how materials interacted and transformed,” and “discovering paint colors was a practical outcome.” The colors they developed included “mosaic gold,” a fusion of tin and sulfur; verdigris, “made by exposing copper to fumes of vinegar, wine, or even urine”; and vermillion, a mixture of sulfur and mercury that made a brilliant red “associated with chemical change and with alchemy itself.”

The very nature of books, specifically the fact that they spend most of the time closed, has performed a degree of inadvertent preservation of illuminated manuscripts, keeping their alchemical colors relatively bold and deep. (Although, as the Getty video notes, some pigments such as verdigris have a tendency to eat through the paper — one somehow wants to blame the urine.) Still, that hardly means that preservationists have nothing to do where illuminated manuscripts are concerned: keeping the windows they provide onto the histories of art, the book, and humanity clear takes work, some of it based on an ever-improving understanding of alchemy. Lead may never turn into gold, but these centuries-old illuminated manuscripts may survive centuries into the future, a fact that seems not entirely un-miraculous itself.

Related Content:

Behold the Beautiful Pages from a Medieval Monk’s Sketchbook: A Window Into How Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made (1494)

The Aberdeen Bestiary, One of the Great Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, Now Digitized in High Resolution & Made Available Online

1,600-Year-Old Illuminated Manuscript of the Aeneid Digitized & Put Online by The Vatican

Dante’s Divine Comedy Illustrated in a Remarkable Illuminated Medieval Manuscript (c. 1450)

Wonderfully Weird & Ingenious Medieval Books

1,000-Year-Old Illustrated Guide to the Medicinal Use of Plants Now Digitized & Put Online

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Read the Uplifting Letter That Albert Einstein Sent to Marie Curie During a Time of Personal Crisis (1911)

Marie Curie’s 1911 Nobel Prize win, her second, for the discovery of radium and polonium, would have been cause for public celebration in her adopted France, but for the nearly simultaneous revelation of her affair with fellow physicist Paul Langevin, the fellow standing to the right of a 32-year-old Albert Einstein in the above group photo from the 1911 Solvay Conference in Physics.

Both stories broke while Curie—unsurprisingly, the sole woman in the photo—was attending the conference in Brussels.




Equally unsurprisingly, the press preferred la scandal to la réalisation scientifique. Sex sells, then and now.

The fires of radium which beam so mysteriously…have just lit a fire in the heart of one of the scientists who studies their action so devotedly; and the wife and the children of this scientist are in tears….

—Le Journal, November 4, 1911

There’s no denying that the affair was painful for Langevin’s family, particularly his wife, Jeanne, who supplied the media with incriminating letters from Curie to her husband. She must have been aware that Curie would be the one to bear the brunt of the public’s disapproval. Double standards with regard to gender are nothing new.

A furious throng gathered outside of Curie’s house and anti-Semitic papers, dissatisfied with labeling the pioneering scientist a mere home wrecker, declared—erroneously—that she was Jewish. The timeline was tweaked to suggest that Curie had taken up with Langevin prior to her husband’s death. Fellow radiochemist Bertram Boltwood seized the opportunity to declare that “she is exactly what I always thought she was, a detestable idiot.”

In the midst of this, Einstein, who had made Curie’s acquaintance at the conference, proved himself a true friend with a “don’t let the bastards get you down” letter, written on November 23. Other than a delicate allusion to Langevin as a person with whom he felt privileged to be in contact, he refrained from mentioning the cause of her misfortune.

A friendly word can go a long way in times of disgrace, and Einstein supplied his new friend with some stoutly unequivocal ones, denouncing the scandalmongers as “reptiles” feasting on sensationalistic “hogwash”:

Highly esteemed Mrs. Curie,

Do not laugh at me for writing you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling. However, I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble, whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism! I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive, and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance in Brussels. Anyone who does not number among these reptiles is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact. If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.

With most amicable regards to you, Langevin, and Perrin, yours very truly,

A. Einstein

PS I have determined the statistical law of motion of the diatomic molecule in Planck’s radiation field by means of a comical witticism, naturally under the constraint that the structure’s motion follows the laws of standard mechanics. My hope that this law is valid in reality is very small, though.

That deliberately geeky postscript amounts to another sweet show of support. Perhaps it fortified Curie when a week later, she received a letter from Nobel Committee member Svante Arrhenius, urging her to skip the Prize ceremony in Stockholm. Curie rejected Arrhenius’ suggestion thusly:

The prize has been awarded for the discovery of radium and polonium. I believe that there is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life. I cannot accept … that the appreciation of the value of scientific work should be influenced by libel and slander concerning private life.

For a more in-depth look at Marie Curie’s nightmarish November, refer to “Honor and Dishonor” the sixteenth chapter in Barbara Goldsmith’s Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie.

Related Content:

Marie Curie Attended a Secret, Underground “Flying University” When Women Were Banned from Polish Universities

Albert Einstein Imposes on His First Wife a Cruel List of Marital Demands

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

How American Women “Kickstarted” a Campaign to Give Marie Curie a Gram of Radium, Raising $120,000 in 1921

Marie Curie Invented Mobile X-Ray Units to Help Save Wounded Soldiers in World War I

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements: Visualizing the Chemical Elements That Could Vanish Before You Know It

The Periodic Table of Elements lists the 118 chemical elements that make up everything in our world. Some you’re familiar with–Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, etc. Others maybe less so–Vanadium, Germanium and Yttrium.

According to the American Chemical Society, 44 of those 118 elements might disappear by century’s end. Enter the Periodic Table of Endangered Elements (shown above). The most endangered ones, highlighted in red, are Zinc, Gallium, Germanium, Arsenic (is this a good or very bad thing?), Silver, Indium, Tellurium, and Hafnium. Made available under a Creative Commons license, the Periodic Table of Endangered Elements can be viewed in a larger format here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Kottke

Related Content:

Interactive Periodic Table of Elements Shows How the Elements Actually Get Used in Making Everyday Things

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Periodic Table Battleship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Elements

“The Periodic Table Table” — All The Elements in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Smallest Periodic Table on a Human Hair

“The Periodic Table of Storytelling” Reveals the Elements of Telling a Good Story

Chemistry on YouTube: “Periodic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

Free Online Chemistry Courses

A New Animation Explains How Caffeine Keeps Us Awake

Let’s preface this by recalling that Honoré de Balzac drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day and lived to the ripe old age of … 51.

Of course, he produced dozens of novels, plays, and short stories before taking his leave. Perhaps his caffeine habit had a little something to do with that?

Pharmacist Hanan Qasim’s TED-Ed primer on how caffeine keeps us awake top loads the positive effects of the most world’s commonly used psychoactive substance. Global consumption is equivalent to the weight of 14 Eiffel Towers, measured in drops of coffee, soda, chocolate, energy drinks, decaf…and that’s just humans. Insects get theirs from nectar, though with them, a little goes a very long, potentially deadly way.




Caffeine’s structural resemblance to the neurotransmitter adenosine is what gives it that special oomph. Adenosine causes sleepiness by plugging into neural receptors in the brain, causing them to fire more sluggishly. Caffeine takes advantage of their similar molecular structures to slip into these receptors, effectively stealing adenosine’s parking space.

With a bioavailability of 99%, this interloper arrives ready to party.

On the plus side, caffeine is both a mental and physical pick me up.

In appropriate doses, it can keep your mind from wandering during a late night study session.

It lifts the body’s metabolic rate and boosts performance during exercise—an effect that’s easily counteracted by getting the bulk of your caffeine from chocolate or sweetened soda, or by dumping another Eiffel Tower’s worth of sugar into your coffee.

There’s even some evidence that moderate consumption may reduce the likelihood of such diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

What to do when that caffeine effect starts wearing off?

Gulp down more!

As with many drugs, prolonged usage diminishes the sought-after effects, causing its devotees (or addicts, if you like) to seek out higher doses, negative side effects be damned. Nervous jitters, incontinence, birth defects, raised heart rate and blood pressure… it’s a compelling case for sticking with water.

Animator Draško Ivezić (a 3-latte-a-day man, according to his studio’s website) does a hilarious job of personifying both caffeine and the humans in its thrall, particularly an egg-shaped new father.

Go to TED-Ed to learn more, or test your grasp of caffeine with a quiz.

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Wake Up & Smell the Coffee: The New All-in-One Coffee-Maker/Alarm Clock is Finally Here!

Physics & Caffeine: Stop Motion Film Uses a Cup of Coffee to Explain Key Concepts in Physics

This is Coffee!: A 1961 Tribute to Our Favorite Stimulant

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Periodic Table of Elements Presented as Interactive Haikus

British poet and speculative fiction writer recently got a little creative with the Periodic Table, writing one haiku for each element.

Carbon

Show-stealing diva,
throw yourself at anyone,
decked out in diamonds.

Silicon

Locked in rock and sand,
age upon age
awaiting the digital dawn.

Strontium

Deadly bone seeker
released by Fukushima;
your sweet days long gone.

You can access the complete Elemental haiku here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Mental Floss

Related Content

Interactive Periodic Table of Elements Shows How the Elements Actually Get Used in Making Everyday Things

The Periodic Table of Elements Scaled to Show The Elements’ Actual Abundance on Earth

Periodic Table Battleship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Elements

“The Periodic Table Table” — All The Elements in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Smallest Periodic Table on a Human Hair

“The Periodic Table of Storytelling” Reveals the Elements of Telling a Good Story

Chemistry on YouTube: “Periodic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

Free Online Chemistry Courses

Interactive Periodic Table of Elements Shows How the Elements Actually Get Used in Making Everyday Things

Keith Enevoldsen, a software engineer at Boeing, has created an Interactive Periodic Table of Elements. As you might expect, the table shows the name, symbol, and atomic number of each element. But even better, it illustrates the main way in which we use, or come into contact with, each element in everyday life. For example, Cadmium you will find in batteries, yellow paints, and fire sprinklers. Argon you’ll encounter in light bulbs and neon tubes. And Boron in soaps, semiconductors and sports equipment.

The Interactive Periodic Table of Elements (click here to access it) is a handy tool for chemistry teachers and students, but also for anyone interested in how the elements make a chemical contribution to our world. Also worth noting: Enevoldsen has released his Interactive Table under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Mental Floss

Related Content:

The Periodic Table of Elements Scaled to Show The Elements’ Actual Abundance on Earth

Periodic Table Battleship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Elements

“The Periodic Table Table” — All The Elements in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Smallest Periodic Table on a Human Hair

“The Periodic Table of Storytelling” Reveals the Elements of Telling a Good Story

Chemistry on YouTube: “Periodic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

Free Online Chemistry Courses

The Map of Chemistry: New Animation Summarizes the Entire Field of Chemistry in 12 Minutes

Philosophers, technologists, and futurists spend a good deal of time obsessing about the nature of reality. Recently, no small number of such people have come together to endorse the so-called “simulation argument,” the mind-boggling, sci-fi idea that everything we experience exists as a virtual performance inside a computer system more sophisticated than we could ever imagine. It’s a scenario right out of Philip K. Dick, and one Dick believed possible. It’s also, perhaps, terminally theoretical and impossible to verify.

So… where might the perplexed turn should they want to understand the world around them? Are we doomed to experience reality—as postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard thought—as nothing more than endless simulation? It’s a little old-fashioned, but maybe we could ask a scientist? One like physicist, science writer, educator Dominic Walliman, whose series of short videos offer to the layperson “maps” of physics, math, and, just above, chemistry.




Walliman’s ingenious teaching tools excel in conveying a tremendous amount of complex information in a comprehensive and intelligible way. We not only get an overview of each field’s intellectual history, but we see how the various subdisciplines interact.

One of the oddities of chemistry is that it was once just as much, if not more, concerned with what isn’t. Many of the tools and techniques of modern chemistry were developed by alchemists—magicians, essentially, whom we would see as charlatans even though they included in their number such towering intellects as Isaac Newton. Walliman does not get into this strange story, interesting as it is. Instead, he begins with a prehistory of sorts, pointing out that since humans started using fire, cooking, and working with metal we have been engaging in chemistry.

Then we’re launched right into the basic building blocks—the parts of the atom and the periodic table. If, like me, you passed high school chemistry by writing a song about the elements as a final project, you may be unlikely to remember the various types of chemical bonds and may never have heard of “Van der Waals bonding.” There’s an opportunity to look something up. And there’s nothing wrong with being a primarily auditory or visual learner. Walliman’s instruction does a real service for those who are.

Walliman moves through the basics briskly and into the differences between and uses of organic and inorganic chemistry. As the animation pulls back to reveal the full map, we see it is comprised of two halves: “rules of chemistry” and “areas of chemistry.” We do not get explanations for the extreme end of the latter category. Fields like “computational chemistry” are left unexplored, perhaps because they are too far outside Walliman’s expertise. One refreshing feature of the videos on his “Domain of Science” channel is their intellectual humility.

If you’ve enjoyed the physics and mathematics videos, for example, you should check back in with their Youtube pages, where Walliman has posted lists of corrections. He has a list as well on the chemistry video page. “I endeavour to be as accurate as possible in my videos,” he writes here, “but I am human and definitely don’t know everything, so there are sometimes mistakes. Also, due to the nature of my videos, there are bound to be oversimplifications.” It’s an admission that, from my perspective, should inspire more, not less, confidence in his instruction. Ideally, scientists should be driven by curiosity, not vanity, though that is also an all-too-human trait. (See many more maps, experiments, instructional videos, and talks on Walliman’s website.)

In the “Map of Physics,” you’ll note that we eventually reach a gaping “chasm of ignorance”—a place where no one has any idea what’s going on. Maybe this is where we reach the edges of the simulation. But most scientists, whether physicists, chemists, or mathematicians, would rather reserve judgment and keep building on what they know with some degree of certainty. You can see a full image of the “Map of Chemistry” further up, and purchase a poster version here.

Find Free Chemistry Courses in our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Related Content:

The Map of Physics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Physics Fit Together

The Map of Mathematics: Animation Shows How All the Different Fields in Math Fit Together

Isaac Newton’s Recipe for the Mythical ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ Is Being Digitized & Put Online (Along with His Other Alchemy Manuscripts)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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