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The Strange Case of Professor Promezio: A Cold Case in the Chemistry Museum

Marina Alloisio, Andrea Basso*, Maria Maddalena Carnasciali, Marco Grotti*, Silvia Vicini,

University of Genova, Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, Via Dodecaneso 31, 16146 Genova, Italy

Accepted: 2020-04-21 | Published Online: 2020-04-22 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-813


Promezio is a famous Italian chemistry professor who is searching for missing element n. 61. In 1924 his laboratory is partially destroyed by a fire and he disappears. Almost one hundred years later high school students are recruited to investigate this strange case. “The strange case of Professor Promezio” represents a unicum in the panorama of laboratory activities for high school students: it is a cold case in which students are asked to investigate a fact that took place almost a century ago. Through the chemical analysis of different findings, the connection with historical events of that period, the study of the suspects' interrogation reports, the reproduction of the experiments conducted by Professor Promezio, the students will identify the possible culprit. A complex scientific problem is solved exploring different areas of chemistry and, in addition, interconnections with history, geography, ethics and other school subjects are deepened.

Estonian scientist in USSR (Memories and reflections about Endel Lippmaa, 1930 - 2015)

Kessenikh A. V., S. I. Vavilov Institute RAS for History of Science and Technology, Moscow, Russia

Accepted: 2020-04-21 | Published Online: 2020-04-22 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-851


Endel Lippmaa - Estonian physicist and chemist was one of the pioneers in the development and application of NMR method (1950s - 1970s). He had to work in conditions when Estonia was part of the USSR as the Estonian SSR and, nevertheless, the development of science in the republic was not interrupted. He later became an academician and vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR. The important role of Lippmaa in the development of nuclear magnetic resonance and other areas of chemical physics in Estonia, the USSR, and around the world is considered. The article also contains the reminiscences considering personal contacts with Lippmaa of the famous Russian chemist Yu.A. Ustynyuk. In 1994 Lippmaa was awarded the AMPERE  Prize for original research in high-resolution NMR of solid-state. Perhaps in more favorable conditions, in contact with other eminent scientists who worked abroad, he would have achieved even greater results, but such contacts were during a long time difficult or impossible for him.

Communicating Science: a Modern Event

Di Meo Antonio

Accepted: 2020-04-26 | Published Online: 2020-04-28 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-923


Science is by its very nature an intersubjective, public, collaborative and democratic (at least in principle) enterprise. The modern scholar of nature, in fact, cannot but communicate first of all to his/her colleagues the results of his/her research, since, in the final analysis, science is a socially shared and socially validated corpus of knowledge. The results of research must therefore be made public but non only among the specialists. The modern way of communicating science has triggered a progressively accelerating circulation of documents (rather than researchers), reversing a more than secular trend in which scholars reached the places where knowledge was deposited and archived. The modern databases, that host books, newspaper and periodicals like actual libraries and are accessible online, represent the last expression of this inverted mobility between documents and consultants.

The Eminent French Chemist Claude-Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) in the Literature between the 19th and 21th Centuries

Aleksander Sztejnberg

Professor Emeritus, University of Opole, Oleska 48, 45-052 Opole, Poland

Accepted: 2020-05-11 | Published Online: 2020-05-12 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-879


Claude-Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) was one of the greatest French chemists of the eighteenth and the first 20 years of the nineteenth century. His life and scientific achievements were described in the literature published between the 19th and 21st centuries in different countries. The purpose of this article is to familiarize readers with the important events in the life of Berthollet and his research activities, in particular some of his experimental research results, as well as his selected publications. In addition, the names of authors of biographies or biographical notes about Berthollet, published in 1823-2018 are presented.

Entropy as the Driving Force of Pathogenesis: an Attempt of Classification of the Diseases Based on the Laws of Physics

Laurent Schwartz,* Anne Devin, Frédéric Bouillaud, Marc Henry

Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris, France

Accepted: 2020-05-27 | Published Online: 2020-05-28 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-865


In nature, every physical process involving matter is ruled by the second law of thermodynamics (the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time, and is constant if and only if all processes are reversible). The living cell being a material system should comply by releasing entropy either into the body or into the outside environment. In case of pathologies, entropy cannot be fully exported outside the body and stays inside the body either in the form of intracellular biomass, of extracellular waste products.

We propose hereafter, a new way of classifying diseases by looking at the kind of entropy which cannot be easily excreted outside the body. In such a classification, inflammatory diseases play with entropy through increased heat, biomass synthesis (proliferation of lymphocytes and neutrophils) and secretion of pro-inflammatory proteins (waste products from the cell’s point of view).

In the case of chronic inflammation, it induces mitochondrial impairment, owing to the increased osmotic pressure associated to hyper-osmolarity leading to cancer and degenerative diseases (DDs).

In the special case of degenerative diseases, cellular entropy is mostly released in the form of wastes, such as amyloid plaques or Lewy’s bodies, and not as proliferating cells as in cancer. Consequently, despite quite different symptoms, these two diseases are proposed to be Janus-like twins, meaning that a remedy active against cancer, should also be active against various forms of DDs.

…And All the World a Dream: Memory Outlining the Mysterious Temperature-Dependency of Crystallization of Water, a.k.a. the Mpemba Effect

Evangelina Uskoković, Theo Uskoković, Victoria Wu, Vuk Uskoković*

Advanced Materials and Nanobiotechnology Laboratory, Irvine, USA

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine, USA

Accepted: 2020-06-05 | Published Online: 2020-06-05 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-895


Introduction Year 2019 marked the semi-centennial since the release of Cool?, a seminal paper by Mpemba and Osborne that demonstrated the counterintuitively faster crystallization of warm water than the cold one when they are both cooled under the same conditions. Objective This docufiction piece celebrates the “cool” of the story around the discovery of this effect by taking the form of a play during which a scientific study elucidating the mechanistic origins of this peculiar effect was performed and discussed. Methods This play celebrating scientific research as a literal play takes place over the period of 24 hours on an autumn day in 2019 and is divided to four acts: the noon (Act I), the afternoon (Act II), the night (Act III), and the sunrise (Act IV). It is interjected with diegetic musical lines that are sang by the muses in the alternate version and by the characters per se in this version, either acapella or to the tunes played by an onstage radio. The protagonists of the play are mom and dad scientists on exile from scientific institutions and their two children, an elementary school-age boy and a preschooler girl, implying the study’s strong educational character, alongside the philosophical and humanistic. Results Through the simple kinetic analyses of the crystallization of water and the melting of ice, but also more complex light scattering, optical absorbance, infrared imaging and X-ray diffraction analyses, the study provides observations in support of the hypothesis that structural memory in the liquid state is a key factor explaining the Mpemba effect. As per this explanatory model, the increased polydispersity and delayed relaxation of cluster symmetries forming in the preheated water allow it to crystallize faster than the initially cold water. This is made possible either by the direct semblance of an unrelaxed population of high-temperature clusters to the space group of ice Ih or by preserving the dynamic conditions for cluster reorganization that shorten the stochastic search for configurations that facilitate the transition to the solid state at or around the freezing point. Air cavities in the liquid phase, including micro- and nano-bubbles, are shown not to be responsible for the Mpemba effect. However, larger temperature gradients and densities of convection streams in the preheated water get partially preserved during cooling, acting as possible factors of influence that render the occurrence of this anomalous phenomenon feasible. Parallels with hydroxyapatite, the most abundant inorganic material in our bodies after water, were made during the discussion. Conclusions It is concluded that structural memory allows water to exhibit the Mpemba effect and that science belongs to the province of children of all ages.

Early Industrial Roots of Green Chemistry - II

International “Pollution Prevention” Efforts During the 1970’s and 1980’s

Mark A. Murphy

UVLAW Patents LLC, North Carolina, USA

Accepted: 2020-06-30 | Published Online: 2020-06-30 | DOI: 10.13128/Substantia-894


Many literature articles and/or conventional histories of “Green Chemistry” describe its start as being a result of actions at the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and/or in Academia during the 1990’s. But many examples of environmentally friendly Real-World chemical processes were invented, developed and commercialized in the oil refining, commodity chemical, and consumer product industries starting about the time of World War II.  Those efforts dramatically accelerated and evolved into explicitly environmentally oriented “Pollution Prevention” efforts during the 1970’s and 1980’s. A UN conference in November 1976 brought together over 150 attendees from industry, academia, and governmental and non-governmental organizations from 30 countries to address environmental issues related to preventing pollution caused by the chemically-related industries.  Seventy-nine papers published in 1978 from the conference proceedings (titled “Non-Waste Technology and Production”) addressed a wide variety of technical, economic, environmental, and policy issues and approaches, and documented many examples of already commercialized environmentally friendly chemically based processes.  On a parallel track, in 1975 the 3M Corporation initiated a major corporate-wide program called “Pollution Prevention Pays (“3P”) that commercialized thousands of environmentally oriented Real-World processes and/or inventions, in many countries, and simultaneously saved 3M large sums of money. Similar “Pollution Prevention” approaches were emulated and elaborated by many chemically based corporations in many countries during the 1980s. The “Green Chemistry” terminology adopted by the EPA and Academia in the 1990’s evolved from the “Pollution Prevention” approaches, programs, and commercialized inventions that had occurred long before the 1990s.