Sunday, November 4, 2018

Trophy featuring alchemist Hennig Brand boiling his own urine in hopes of producing gold


What are we looking for in specific?
We need short (3-5 minute) funny original presentations in which the speaker gives a fake scientific lecture. The lecture can be on any scientific topic, but it must either propose a hypothesis, suggest a big idea for a scientific project, or describe an experiment. See the video above for an example of a winning talk. If you’ve seen earlier shows, you’ll know we formerly provided a theme for each show. We are now doing all shows in an “open theme” format. In case that’s daunting, here are some writing prompts:

New theories of evolution, human psychology, or animal behavior.
Ways to solve major problems (real or imagined) facing humanity
Ways to use science to improve human life
Proposals for large scale social science experiments
Proposals for “big science” projects, like space missions or the LHC
The speakers will then be asked to “defend” their theories before a panel of judges for 1-3 minutes.
Like many before him, he was interested in water (H2O) and tried combining it with various other materials, in hundreds of combinations. He had seen for instance a recipe in a book 400 Auserlensene Chemische Process by F. T. Kessler of Strasbourg for using alum, saltpetre (potassium nitrate) and concentrated urine to turn base metals into silver[citation needed] (a recipe which did not work).

Around 1669 he heated residues from boiled-down urine on his furnace until the retort was red hot, where all of a sudden glowing fumes filled it and liquid dripped out, bursting into flames. He could catch the liquid in a jar and cover it, where it solidified and continued to give off a pale-green glow. What he collected was phosphorus, which he named from the Greek word for "light-bearing" or "light-bearer."

Phosphorus must have been awe-inspiring to an alchemist: it was a product of man, and seeming to glow with a "life force" that did not diminish over time (and did not need re-exposure to light like the previously discovered Bologna Stone). Brand kept his discovery secret, as alchemists of the time did, and worked with the phosphorus trying unsuccessfully to use it to produce gold.