| Knowing a bit of chemistry can help take the sting out of your next run in with a bee. When you get stung, a bee injects you with an acid. What's the best way to neutralize an acid? Apply a base. Here's what to do: Mix up a paste of baking soda and water, and rub it on your bee sting. By increasing the pH level, the base paste will relieve some of your discomfort.
Sometimes glass — or at least the means for making it — can literally fall from the sky. The conventional way to make glass is to heat sand to very high temperatures and then pour it into a mold. But molds and human involvement are not always needed. Around 1865, a large meteorite fell in a remote area of the Saudi Arabian desert, heating the sand and turning it into glass.
That nifty sparks-in-the-dark trick with wintergreen Life Savers is really a chemical reaction. When you bite into the candy and break its sugar crystals, they give off electrons and invisible ultraviolet light. But the chemical that gives the candy its flavor (methyl salicylate) reacts with the ultraviolet light to make visible flashes of light. The technical name for this process is triboluminescence, which means luminescence due to friction.
Michelangelo relied on the power of chemistry to create his famous Sistine Chapel. Like many artists before and after him, Michelangelo painted frescoes — the technique of painting onto the wet plaster surface of a wall or ceiling. The lime (calcium hydroxide) in the plaster reacts with the air as it dries, forming calcium carbonate. This chemical reaction causes the paint to crystallize and become a part of the plaster.