Antarctica update

My sister’s blog has now been spun off to its own site,

– which has just been updated with a fascinating

post about the results of all the science she was doing in Antarctica.

By measuring lots of different molecules

all at the same time, we found out far more than any one, three, or ten could

have illuminated. Stéph showed us data of NO and NO2,

the concentration of which is ordinarily dominated by oxidant chemistry. Bill,

James, and Zoë presented the oxidants: OH, HO2 and

CH3O2, normally controlled by

NO and NO2. They had each measured their particular molecule

successfully but the numbers didn’t add up. On their own, the numbers couldn’t

be reproduced in models, the ultimate test of our understanding. Alfonso then

showed us halogen oxides: ClO, BrO and, to everyone’s surprise, IO. With the

kind of concentrations he observed with that great big telescope, much higher

than expected, all the other results can be explained.

At school I had a physics teacher, Nigel Wood as I recall, who was infectiously enthusiastic

about the way in which things amazingly all fit together in science. It’s pretty

impressive in physics, but it’s even more impressive when it happens in chemistry,

which is far more prone to experimental mishap. And it’s more impressive yet

when you’re not getting the results you expected but they still make

perfect sense when you put them all together. Congratulations to all at BAS!

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