Monday, June 29, 2009

Supercritical Fluids

Last week, worked picked up nicely and I got a lot of good stuff done, so I thought I would write a bit more about my science.

I talked a bit last about how I am working with supercritical fluids and what they are. I don't think I talked too much about why they are so useful though. First, they have the properties of both a liquid and a gas: they can dissolve solids like a liquid, but can also diffuse through solids like a gas. Additionally, the most commonly used SC fluids are water, ethanol, and carbon dioxide, which are a lot less harmful than the organic solvents used in lots of typical liquid reactions. Finally, synthesis performed with SC fluids are very "tunable" in that very small changes in pressure or temperature change the density of the fluid a lot, which can really affect the products of your synthesis. This is mainly because the solubility of the materials in the SC fluid depends on the density of the fluid. If the SC fluid is more dense, the material will be more soluble and thus will have a better chance of interacting (undergoing a chemical reaction) with any other chemicals you put in there. Obviously, if you increase the pressure on the system, the density is going to go up. Temperature is a bit trickier, but if you increase the temperature the solubility will generally increase (this is not true right by the critical point, but it's pretty true everywhere else). There are also other synthesis properties you can vary, but I'll talk about those a bit more later.

Some of the more interesting uses of SC fluids are decaffination of coffee beans, extraction of chemicals from hops for beer production, dyeing, and biodiesel prodution. Of course, there is also nanoparticle formation, which is what I am investigating (it's also used a lot in the pharmaceutical industry). SC fluid synthesis is very good at creating very small particles in a very narrow size range. This is because of the way crystals grow. The starting step of crystal growth is called "nucleation", which is the very first bond that is formed between the atoms. After nucleation, more and more bonds and atoms are added to this first growth site, to form a larger crystal. In this case, in order for crystals to form, the SC solution needs to be what is called "supersaturated" with the crystal material. This means that the amount of material dissolved in the solution is more than the solubility limit. Most of the time, this is accomplished by suddenly dropping the pressure or temperature to reduce the solubility limit. By supersaturating the solution at the same time as nucleation occurs, we can cause a whole bunch of nucleation events to occur in a very short period of time. This uses up all of the crystal material, so not much crystal growth occurs, only a lot of nucleation. This results in teeny-tiny crystals that are all about the same size.

My PtBi particles are made by dissolving Pt and Bi compounds in a solvent (water or ethanol), then reacting them at about 320C and 250 bars (about 250 atmospheres; you're feeling 1 atm right now, unless you're reading this while scuba diving or something equally ridiculous). However, there are a lot of things I can vary to create different compounds and different size particles. First of all, I can vary the solvents that I use, which will change the solubility of the Pt and Bi compounds and how well they react with each other. I can of course change the temperature and pressure, but they don't seem to react too well below or above 320C. The Pt and Bi compounds I'm using aren't super soluble in water in the first place, so it also helps to keep the pressure up high. Another thing I can vary is the residence time of the chemicals in the reactor, by controlling the flow rate of the solutions into the reactor. This basically changes how long they are held at that high temperature, which could change the crystal growth rates or even the reaction products.

So, now that you're convinced that I at least know what I'm doing, am I actually doing it? Well, I've had some luck making at least some sort of PtBi compounds, but I'm not sure that I've got the straight 1:1 Pt:Bi ratio I'm looking for. I also know, for sure, that I have some unreacted Pt in there. Multiphase compounds are super annoying; getting your reaction product to be "phase pure" is like the holy grail of materials science. Lately I've been playing around with some of the more subtle variables, like flow rate and solvent ratios, so we'll see what I get out of that.

Coming up next time: characterization! Just how do I figure out what I have made? Stay tuned for the answer...

Wikipedia fun fact: supercritical fluids exist in nature also. Two examples are undersea volcanoes, which are very hot but also under a lot of pressure, and the atmosphere of Venus, which is again very hot but at very high pressures.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Danish Graduation

This weekend has been the graduation weekend for all of the gymnasiums (high school equivalent) here in Denmark. How do I know this? Because, the Danish gymnasium students have an AWESOME tradition to celebrate their graduation. First of all, they wear sailor hats, like these girls here:
(I don't actually know these girls, I found them on the internet to illustrate my point). Once they have their sailor hats on, each class rents a truck with an open back. Gymnasium is three years long, and it's like elementary school in the U.S., you stay with a class of 25-30 people for most of your subjects (except for stuff like music and art) for all three years. So they rent this truck, hire someone to drive it, and then the entire class piles in the back and drives around the city. They drive around to the house of each person in the class, where their parents give them beer, liquor, and cake. Since there are 25ish people in the class, this takes all day. They get super drunk and sing songs and are generally rowdy, and everyone they drive by honks and waves and yells congratulations to them. Here are a couple of the trucks I saw today:
When I was here before, I was only in the second year of gymnasium. I was super disappointed by this, because it meant that I didn't get to drive around in a truck while wearing a sailor hat and getting drunk!

All in all, I think it's a pretty great way to celebrate a graduation. I have to say that I didn't really enjoy my recent college graduation very much. The entire weekend was incredibly stressful and rushed - I felt like there were so many things I had to go to and do (in addition to trying to pack everything up) that I didn't get to slow down and enjoy anything. It was so frantic running around trying to see all of the people I wanted to see, and then there was the added element of everyone's families being there that made it even crazier. I would have much preferred gathering all my friends up in a truck and just having a really great and ridiculous day together.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


So I think what happened was that and Picasa (google photo app) were doing some weird fraternizing thing the other day, and I made them stop. Apparently I have to let them have their sordid little affair in order to preserve my pictures. Sigh. I am truly, as Tim said, "blog-challenged".


I don't know what happened to all my pictures in previous posts. I think I deleted something I should not have...oops. :(

More Danish Experiences

On Sunday, I headed south of the city to go to Moesgaard Museum. This is a Danish history museum located on an old manorial estate. Their claim to fame is this bog mummy that was found in the area in 1952:
The body was found in a bog by some peat cutters. The body was in fact so well preserved that many in the village believed that it was the body of a local drunk who had vanished about 20 years earlier. Bogs mummies are very well preserved due to a combination of conditions: very acidic water, cold temperatures, anerobic conditions, as well as the sugars found in the sphagum moss present in bogs. What was really interesting was all the precautions that the curators had to take after the mummy was removed from the bog to keep him from disintegrating. Once the mummy was no longer in the special bog conditions, it had to undergo many treatments to preserve it. Scientists removed many of the organs to determine characteristics about the mummy, such as age, health, and cause of death (ritual sacrifice, most likely). They were even able to remove his stomach to determine his last meal!

Another cool exhibit the museum had was on rune stones. Some of them were the typical rune stones that are used to mark graves or ceremonial sites:
Another one I thought was really cool was this one of Loki, the trickster from Norse mythology.
You can tell that this is Loki because his mouth is sewn shut. Apparently, the trouble started when Loki thought it would be funny to cut Sif's, Thor's wife's, hair off. Thor was very angry, so Loki promised to go and ask the dwarves to make a golden wig for Sif. Loki, trickster that he was, pitted two dwarf clans against each other to make the golden wig and other gifts for the gods. However, when Loki returned to Thor with the gifts, Thor was unimpressed, as none of them were as great as Mjolnir, Thor's hammer. So, Thor helped the dwarves catch Loki, with the provision that the dwarves could have Loki's head. However, when the dwarves were about to chop off Loki's head, he reminded them that they could only have his head, not his neck, as decapitation would require. So, they had to content themselves with sewing his mouth shut.

Another really cool aspect of the rune exhibit was that it made the point that runic was a working language for some time, not just something that was used on gravestones and monuments. There was a wide variety of objects with runic inscriptions. Many were used to mark ownership, or to send messages to others. Here are a couple translations:
And here are some modern-day objects translated into runic.

The museum was set on a large patch of forest. In a field, there were examples of burial sites from around Denmark. Most of them were made with large stones. Because they took so much effort to make, they were often reused once the previous body had decayed. Most often, they also contained offerings or objects to be used in the afterlife, such as food, jewelry, or weapons.
What you can't see in this picture is that the field was also filled with sheep - they were swarming me! I also took advantage of the great weather (around 75F, which sadly enough, feels hot to me now) to walk in the very pretty Danish woods.

Tuesday, yesterday, was a holiday in Denmark. It was Sankt Hans Aften, or Saint Hans Eve. This occurs ever year on June 23rd, the summer solstice. This is a pagan holiday that celebrates the arrival of summer. Bonfires are lit on the beach, because the pagans believed that they would keep away evil spirits that roamed free during the summer. In Denmark, a witch is typically made out of straw and old clothes. The witch is placed on top of the bonfire and burned. This burning sends the witch back to Blocksbjerg, a mountain in Germany were witches were thought to have gathered (this is only one of the many ways that Danish love to diss the Germans; another example being that the literal translation of the word mullet in Danish is "german-hair").

I was invited over to the house of Ulla and Joergen, who are friends of another Ulla I know, a Danish woman who lives in Yakima. We ate a delicious dinner with their daughter Susanne, her husband, and their two granddaughters. One of the granddaughters is heading over the the U.S. soon to spend the summer in Yakima; unfortunately, she leaves at the same time as I head back there. They were all very nice and interesting to talk to - funnily enough, they also mentioned that Danish people are cold and unfriendly initially as compared to Americans. Susanne lived in Greenland for some years, and it was really cool to hear about her experiences there!
Ulla and Joergen live right by the beach, so after dinner we headed down to watch the fires. They told me that they swim there every day, even in the winter! Here was one of the bonfires, complete with a witch:
Then, it was time to light the bonfires. The Danish people also sang songs while the fires were being lit.
One really cool thing, which I think is true of Danish holidays in general, is that everyone participates. There were all sorts of different people there: families with small children, elderly couples, groups of teenagers. It's not considered "uncool" to celebrate a traditional holiday such as this one; there were plenty of drunk teenagers at the beach singing along (the students were extra rowdy because they had just finished school - they also wear sailor hats when they graduate, making it extra hilarious).

Finally, one bonus picture, of the owls that live in the forest where I go running:


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Two Sides of Danish People

Danish people, in general, tend to have dichotomous personalities.

Normally, Danes are very cold and take a long time to warm up to people. Danish people even acknowledge that this is true about their culture. I find this occurs much more in the males than in the females. For example, I sit in an office with 5 male grad students, not one of whom will talk to me. Fortunately, the two female grad students I do lab work with are a bit nicer and chattier. But if you enter a store or a restaurant, the employees will not greet you, and ask if you need anything. If someone runs into you on the street, they will not say "excuse me" or "sorry", just push right past you. This can make it quite hard to be a foreigner here, when you're used to people being a bit more outgoing. The other day I was really down about this because not a lot of people in my lab talk to me, so it makes work quite boring. I was really grumpy and kicking myself for not moving to a country with nicer, friendlier, inhabitants. Then, Friday Bar happened.

Friday Bar is what high school and university students do on Friday afternoons. Its basically a low key party at your school building with beer and snacks. At 4 PM on Friday, my coworker/friend Kirsten stops by my office to tell me that they are drinking beer in her office. We sit around for awhile drinking beer in the office, and then go to the Physics Friday Bar, because the Chemistry Friday Bar was closed this week. This is when the other side of the Danish personality came out.

The other side of the Danish personality is wonderful! Once you get a beer or two into a Dane, and they open up to you, they are fun and welcoming people. They love to hear about how things are different in the U.S., and are always interested in what Americans think about Denmark (I told them that we think that Scandinavians are crazy people who drink lots of beer and run around naked, and affirmed that my description pretty much summed it up). Danish people even have a special word to describe this kind of activity/situation: hyggeligt. The best translation for this is "cozy", but that is not altogether correct. It best means when Danish people open up and are friendly and you're just sitting around chatting and drinking beer and maybe eating some good food. So, Friday Bar with my labmates was great fun! We drank beer, ate pizza, and talked about all sorts of topics. I met some more of the chemistry students, as well as a couple Chinese postdocs (they exist in every lab, all over the world) who were impressed that I am going to Singapore. And I found out that a couple guys in my lab scuba dive, and were considering going in DK, so maybe I will get some diving in. Finally, at midnight, I gave up and went home, but they were still partying; I have no idea what time they made it home.

So, although sometimes hard to deal with, Danes are good people in the end. Although this kind of culture without pleasantries is somewhat uncomfortable for me, having grown up in one that requires all sorts of false sentiment to be considered "polite", I have to wonder if it's better to just do away with all of them. It would certainly stream-line things, and the Danes seem to do just fine without them. And really, isn't it more impolite to ask some stranger how their day is going, when you don't care at all about their day, than to lie to their face and pretend to care?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Amsterdam, take 2

I spent the last three days in Amsterdam with my good friends Max and Chris. It was a lot of fun and I remembered my camera this time! The weather was a bit warmer, which was a welcome change from chilly Denmark.

I arrived on Thursday night and met up with Max and Chris at the central train station. From there, it was a short walk to where we were staying - with Max's aunt Jacqueline. She lives in the Red Light District. Yes, this sounds super sketch, but it was actually a quite nice neighborhood. Because of lots of delays, my flight had gotten in pretty late, so we walked around a bit and then went to bed.

The first activity on the schedule for Friday was the Van Gogh museum. Sorry, no pictures here, cameras weren't allowed in the museum. The exhibit was nicely arranged in chronological order, so you could see how much his style changed and evolved over time. We saw a few of the really famous paintings, like Sunflowers, and The Potato Eaters. One thing I thought was really interested was that they occasionally had paintings by other artists who had influenced Van Gogh mixed in. They placed them in a way so that you could see the similarities/influences between their work and Van Gogh's. There were also several exhibits about other artists. My favorite was one of old lithographs. They were very intricate and surreal. Finally, there was a section about how they analyze the paintings to verify their authenticity. They used Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis (to determine what elements are present, and thus what types of pigment were used), which are two techniques I use very often! I got very nerdily excited about this. After the Van Gogh museum, we hit up a large flea market and did some quality wandering. We then had some delicious Thai food with Jacqueline, and finished off the night with beers in a small brew pub.

On Saturday, we returned to the flea market and looked at lots of old stuff. The selection of items there was incredible - everything from old books, random houseware crap, cameras, and wedding dresses! Then, we went to the science museum. It is the large blue, ship-like building in the background of this picture, where Max is not paying attention:
This museum was great! They had a lot of fun exhibits. One of the coolest was a huge Rube Goldberg machine, which is an over-engineered machine that uses lots of complicated steps to accomplish a simple task.
There was a very large and very creepy animatronic robot that talked to you as you walked by:
Finally, there was a large exhibit on puberty and the science of sex!
There was even a gallery of orgasm faces. Oh those crazy Dutch!

On Sunday, we headed up to North Amsterdam, which required taking a ferry. We were up there to go to an art walk, in a neighborhood where there was lots of galleries. These galleries were all supposed to be open, so you could go in and see the artists working and such. Unfortunately, only a few galleries were open. Damn lazy europeans, always closing things on Sundays. Anyways, we had a nice walk and got to see a different part of Amsterdam. Here's a picture from the ferry dock:
And my two favorite boys:

After eating dinner, it was time for me to head home. My flight got in slightly early to Copenhagen, so I sprinted through the whole airport to catch a train that would enable me to get home at 2:30 AM, rather than 4 AM. I caught this train, and was very excited, until the train got to Copenhagen's central station and we learned that the train would be delayed at least 1 hour because someone had jumped in front of a train at a station down the line. I finally arrived in Aarhus at 4:45 AM ish. I had planned to walk home, since there are no buses at that hour, but was so tired and cold that I ended up taking an expensive taxi home. Travel snafus aside, the weekend was great and completely worth it!

Also, a special shout out to Kat Perry, who is my number 1 fan!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Science!

Note: this post is about the science that I am doing this summer. If you're more interested in my posts about travel, wait until Monday, when I will post about my awesome upcoming weekend with Max and Chris in Amsterdam.

My main project for this summer is entitled "Supercritical synthesis of PtBi nanoparticles for use as a fuel cell catalyst". Now I will explain what this means. It takes a minute, so hang in there.

Fuel cells work by converting chemical energy into electrical energy - that is, they react chemicals together to get electricity out. A fuel cell has 3 main parts, the anode, the electrolyte, and the cathode. In a standard hydrogen fuel cell (the most basic type), hydrogen is supplied to the anode where it is converted to 2 H+ ions and 2 electrons. These H+ ions can travel through the electrolyte, but the electrons cannot. They must travel through an external circuit, which generates the electric current. At the cathode, the H+ ions and the electrons are reunited, and combined with O2- ions (which come from the air) to form water. Here is a simple picture:
However, there are a lot of problems with this standard fuel cell. The first is the problem of using hydrogen as a fuel. It's hard to make, dangerous to store, and, since it's a gas, it takes up a lot of space. So, there has been a lot of research lately into running fuel cells on other fuels. Most of these research is focused on small organic molecules (SOMs) such as methanol, ethanol, formic acid, or ethylene glycol (antifreeze). There is a particular focus on ethanol, since it is less poisonous than the other SOMs, and can be produced from plant sources (but don't even get me started on how much I dislike corn ethanol...).

Additionally, the hydrogen doesn't just split into ions and electrons by itself. It needs a catalyst to do this. The most effective and commonly used catalyst is platinum. However, platinum is very expensive. In fact, it has become so expensive lately, that catalytic converter theft is dramatically on the rise due to the platinum that they contain. Anyways, when the conversion is made to using SOMs as fuel instead of hydrogen, platinum doesn't work so well as a catalyst anymore. Why? Because platinum becomes "poisoned" by carbon monoxide, an intermediate in the oxidation process that must take place at the anode. Basically what this means is that the CO sticks to the platinum atoms really well and won't leave or allow other atoms to bind to the platinum, so the reaction can go no further.

Scientists have found that by adding other metals, such as lead or bismuth, to the platinum, they can prevent this CO poisoning. In a very general sense, this is because the addition of other atoms increases the distance between the platinum atoms, which keeps the CO molecule from forming the "bridge" between two platinum atoms that it needs to stay stuck on them. So, this is really great. The PtPb and PtBi catalysts solve the CO problem, they're cheaper than pure Pt, and they work for lots of different SOM fuels.

Next problem? They take a really long time to make. In order for them to be a feasible solution and bring fuel cells to a mass market, all parts of the cell must be cheap, quick, and easy to manufacture. This is finally where I come in, in case you were lost in here somewhere. I'm working on a new way to make PtBi nanoparticles that could be used as a catalyst. Instead of taking a day or a week like the old methods, this method takes about 1 minute, max. It's also very reproducible, easy to scale up, and doesn't use any toxic reagents.

This synthesis method is called supercritical synthesis. If you look at a simple phase diagram, like this one for water:
you can see that, at high temperatures and pressures, there is something called the "critical point" in the upper right of the graph. Water at temperatures AND pressures higher than this critical point is called supercritical. This is true for any gas/liquid, but the most common species used for supercritical synthesis are water and carbon dioxide. I will be using supercritical water as a solvent to synthsize PtBi nanoparticles. There are all sorts of ways that I can set up the synthesis to hopefully effect the size and structures of these nanoparticles, but I will save that for another post.

In general, fuel cells are sort of depressing to work on (also did some work on them last summer). As you can see, every time one problem is solved, 10 more pop up. I realize this is true for most scientific challenges, but I think fuel cells are worse than most. I think the scientific community has pretty much realized that hydrogen fuel cells are a lost cause, but it's still holding out for the hope that they can be feasible when used with ethanol/methanol. In my opinion (a quite hypocritical one since this is my second summer working on fuel cells), we should be spending a lot less energy (hah, a pun!) on these and a lot more on battery technology. They're similar fields, but battery technologies are way behind where they should be, and I think that they're really holding us back in terms of electrifying a good deal of our transportation. We have the energy generation part down: wind, solar getting better every day, etc. Energy storage, people. That's what we're still missing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fun Fact!

I forgot that I found out a fun fact from the Chemistry department technical manager the other day, which I confirmed through wikipedia. As I'm sure you know, Denmark was occupied by the Germans during WWII. Aarhus's University was used as a Nazi command center for the city. My dorm, Kolligiet 4, was the special Gestapo center. They also kept prisoners on the top floors to try to dissuade the Allies from bombing the building. Well, they did in fact bomb the buidling, and my dorm had to be compeltely rebuilt after WWII! Neat, huh? I would link to the wikipedia, but the info was only on the Danish wiki.
Thursday was my first day at work. I took a very long tour of the chemistry building and was introduced to I think pretty much everyone who works in the entire building. I briefly met Bo, who I will be working for. But, he was all sorts of busy with a student giving a Ph.D. defense, a Norwegian colleague who was apparently wandering lost all over city, and a knee operation, so we put off getting me started until Friday/Monday. So, instead of working, I set out to downtown to find out what this "World Pictures Australia" event that I had been seeing ads for was about.
Turns out, this was an event where all of downtown Aarhus became Australia themed for a day. I think a lot of it had to do with promoting tourism to Australia, because they were many flight/travel companies there. There were exhibits on Australian wildlife...
The Jutland girls marching band...
And Danes playing beach volleyball.
This was made much more amusing by the fact that the Danish boys were really bad at volleyball. Also, it was pretty cold (50 F ish) and had been raining, so they were probably freezing. And there were dancing girls on pedestals (see: girl in red shorts). I enjoy the juxtaposition in this photograph - beach volleyball in front of the centuries old cathedral.

Friday was a public holiday: Constitution Day. I tried to go in to work to meet my boss, Bo, but the entire building was locked. Silly American girl, trying to go to work on a public holiday. Instead, I went to a new art exhibit in Aarhus called "Sculpture by the Sea". It consisted of many (over 50) sculptures set up along the coast. The exhibition was originally shown in Australia, but Frederik and Mary (the prince and princess) wanted to bring it to Denmark (note: Mary is from Australia. She is (was) a commoner. This was a huge deal to the Danes, that someone in the royal family would marry a commoner. But, the Danes love her now because she learned Danish really quickly and is very good at public relations). This was one of my favorite sculptures:
It was very delicate and intricate, and moved and turned with the wind. This was another cool moving sculpture:
And a whale-plane!
Since it was the day the exhibit opened, Frederik and Mary were there to introduce it. Of course, I wanted to see them! They are more popular than celebrities here. Unfortunately, the other speeches by the mayor, the art director, etc took so long that I had to leave to catch my bus and I did not get to see them. Very disappointing.

Then, I took the train to Solrod Strand to visit my host family for the weekend. My host mom, Mona, picked me up from the train station, and we went to visit my host grandmother Kirsten.
Saturday, I woke up early to eat breakfast with my host brother, Lasse, before he had to leave to go play in a floorball tournament. I took a walk down to the city center with Mona, and then walked around on the beach for awhile.Then, we went to a birthday party for some of Peter (host dad) and Mona's friends' (adult) children. It started at 1 PM and was described to me as a 'lunch'. When we arrived at 1, a beer was immediately placed in hand. We ate some delicious danish food (herring and rye bread - better than it sounds) and drank lots. Then, we had more food, Danish barbeque. Then, it was time for cake and coffee; it was maybe 4 PM at this point. It started to rain about now, so it was lucky that all Danish parties involve tents set up in the backyard, so we all took shelter in the tent. At this point, I remembered (how could I forget) that Danish parties go on forever, and I realized I was in for a very long day. At some point here, Peter showed up, because he had been in Poland for work. We hung out a bit more, then it was time to eat some delicious Danish sausage! Every good Danish party involves eating sausage. Then, we watched the Danish national football game against Sweden, which Denmark won! Peter, Mona, and I finally biked home around 10 PM, and I fell immediately asleep, being exhausted after 9 hours of partying. This morning, Lasse, and my other host brother, Jakob, came for brunch. I had forgotten how much I like my host brothers - they are incredibly friendly and open, as is my whole host family. Denmark was voting on several issues today, so Peter and Mona took me with them to witness the Danish democratic process. After that, I had to go to the train station and come home. It was such nice weather here that I went out for a long run. Aaaand, that about brings me up to now!

Now, in Danish House Names Part 2, one of my favorite house names, just down the street from Peter and Mona's house:Stormly!
With a tree on the roof and a very cute post box in red!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

So, after 3 days of travel, I made it to Aarhus. The first stop on my journey was Amsterdam, where I had a day-long layover. I first went to the Anne Frank house, which, although very crowded, which was very cool. Although all the furniture was removed after the house was raided, there were a lot of other artifacts that were left. Then I went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, which was very well done! It had many interesting exhibits about various groups that had roles in the Resistance, such as students, the church, and the Boy Scouts. There were also a lot of neat examples of Nazi propaganda and secret documents from the Resistance. Finally, I went to the Museum of the Tropics, which focused on the Dutch presence in the East Indies. The best part of this museum were the collections of curiosities that Dutchmen had brought back from the colonies, including religious ornaments and preserved lizards and other animals. I also took this opportunity to eat some Schwarma, one of my favorite European foods. However, I don't have any pictures from Amsterdam, because I left my camera in the luggage locker at the airport! This is OK though, because I'll be back there next weekend, so I will extra-remember my camera then!

After a very short stop-over in Copenhagen, I took the train to Aarhus. I live in the dorms on campus, right next to the chemistry building were I will be working. Here is a picture of my dorm:

And here is me in my room:

Then, like any good Scandinavian, I went to Ikea to buy stuff for my room, and of course eat their delicious food. Today, I went out to the main walking street in Aarhus and found the Town Hall. According to my travel book, it was only constructed in 1941, and was very controversial, as it doesn't look as traditional as most town halls in Denmark:
You can also see the Aarhus Cathedral in this picture, although unfortunately they are doing construction on the facade. Apparently there are frescos inside that depict gory scenes from the Bible.

And for all you Norsk mythology fans...

It is pretty common for houses/buildings to be named in Denmark, although I'm not sure how that tradition got started. As I was waiting for the bus, I noticed that the building across the street was named "Yggdrasil", which to me seems like a slightly presumptuous name for a building.