Dec 062015

When researcher Adam Friend discovers a new artificial sweetener he dreams of the financial success this will bring. What he does not foresee are the conflicts with those who also seek to profit from his work and those who oppose it as another unwanted chemical in our food. Meanwhile, his partner Yvette and her friend Laura become involved in ways that neither envisaged. Adam’s dream becomes a nightmare at the launch of the new sweetener, but then he gets a helping hand from a most unexpected source…

This is a tale of intrigue, deception, plots, romance, and betrayal, and all the while something rather strange is lurking in the background. Book cover of Sweet Dreams


Dec 062015

This book devotes a single page to every known element, including the ones named this century, and highlights its most interesting features: where it comes from, how much we use, and what it is used for. There’s also a table of its key properties. At the end of the book is an Element Quiz based on their names and chemical formulas. Yorks Guide to Elements

Nov 102013

Radiation is a danger to life, but this is a radioactive planet and we have quite a few radioactive elements in our bodies. Let us look at just one, the best known one: uranium. How many atoms of uranium in the human body undergo radioactive decay per minute?

The amount of uranium in the average person is 0.1mg although some may have only 0.01mg while others can have up to 0.4mg.

The chemical unit of 1 mole is the atomic weight in grams and for uranium this is 238 grams, and 1 mole of any element contains 6.02 x 1023 atoms. This means that 0.1 mg of uranium, which is 0.0001 gram, contains 6.02 x 1023 x 10-4 atoms which is 6.20 x 1019 atoms. We have more than a billion billion uranium atoms in our body.

Uranium consists of two isotopes; 99.3% is U-238 (half-life = 4.5 x 109 years) and 0.7% U-235 (half-life 700 x 106 years). Therefore, of the 6.20 x 1019 atoms uranium in the human body, 5.98 x 1019 atoms are U-238 and 0.04 x 1019 atoms are U-235.

Consider U-238

The 5.89 x 1019 atoms will reduce to 2.94 x 1019 atoms in 4.5 x 109 years.

Atoms per year undergoing radioactive decay = 2.94 x 1019/4.5 x 10-9 = 0.65 x 1010.

Minutes in a year = 365 x 24 x 60 = 525,600

Atoms per minute undergoing radioactive decay = 0.65 x 1010 / 525,600 = 12,300

Consider U235

Its 0.04 x 1019 atoms will reduce to 0.02 x 1019 atoms in 700 x 106 years.

Atoms per year undergoing radioactive decay = 0.02 x 1019 / 700 x 106 = 0.286 x 109.

Atoms per minute undergoing radioactive decay = 0.286 x 109/525,600 = 544

Total = 12,800 atoms per minute undergoing radioactive decay.

Which sounds a lot, but is a real threat? However, it is rarely mentioned when others protest about our exposure to other body ‘insults’ from traces of ‘harmful chemicals’ in our food, the implication often being that these are the cause cancer. However, radiation is definitely a cause of cancer but uranium is not the only radioactive element in our body. The others are potassium, carbon-14, thorium, etc.

Does the effect of this natural radioactivity outweigh any impact on the body from chemicals? The body’s repair mechanism obviously evolved to cope with this threat from radiation, as it had to do when dealing with natural materials for which it had no use. The uranium is mainly deposited in the skeleton as uranium phosphate, so it probably does little harm in any case.

Have I got these numbers right? If not then please let me know.

Nov 102013

Halloween Quiz  I devised this quiz for the Twilight Meeting of Ampthill Rotary Club which was held on 30th  October 2013. The winning score was 19 and the prize was a box of Black Magic chocolates. 1 On which day should Halloween really be celebrated? • 31st October • 31st November• 31st December  Answer: 31st [...]

May 102013

In my book The Consumer’s Good Chemical Guide, published in 1994, I wrote about what I called the Boring Diet and this was based on 1000 calories a day. It was boring because you ate the same meals every day for 14 days, at the end of which time you would be guaranteed to have lost [...]