Air is an invisible gas as are hydrogen and helium. How can you tell if a balloon contains hydrogen? Hydrogen has particular physical and chemical properties that can be tested. Dr. Cech enlists student volunteers to show how a chemical reaction can be used to identify a substance.
Without an appropriate catalyst some chemical reactions would be so slow as to appear not to occur at all on the human timescale. However, when catalyzed, these reactions can be very dramatic.
HHMI President Dr. Thomas Cech discusses the path he took to become a scientist and his reaction to receiving the Nobel Prize.
Dr. Cech uses a penny and a beaker of acetone to illustrate how a catalyst works.
Listen to past HHMI President Dr. Thomas Cech discussing his Nobel Prize-winning discovery of RNA's catalytic properties.