Saturday, 12 March 2011

Melvyn is the New Manganese

Manganese to be called Melvyn

In Our Time and the joy of being talked up to

In praise of… Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg of Wigton, presented the 500th edition of In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 this week.  The website is one of the best in the BBC and over the next few weeks and months, much more archive material is going to be put on.  The committee considered that the name Melvyn should be awarded to a man of distinction, a real big hitter.  Manganese is a very useful element and potassium paermanganate has a lovely colour.  Dr A.V. O'Gadro, the vice chair of CREDO*, has said that Melvyn reminds him of Deep Purple (the rock group) and that Potassium Permanganate embodies the colour purple (not the Whoopi variety), i.e. an element on its own.    

Just to show off with our new super and sub script system, the formula for potassium permanaganate is KMNO4.  The compound itself is almost jet black in the crystalline form, but forms a deep purple solution in water.  Interestingly, you can get the purple to turn green with a lot of pH control.  The oxide, manganese dioxide, is often used in catalysis.  This is nothing to do with cats, and there are two types of catalysis: homogeneous and heterogeneous.
Some 10 years ago, Melvyn was considered too Labour-leaning for the BBC flagship programme Start the Week, so he was moved to the Thursday slot, leaving Andrew Marr to do the book plug programme on a Monday.  We have a few links to the the In Our Time website, and you can see that Obreption has waxed lyrical on the Telegraph blog concerning Melvyn's programme (see link at the top).  Dr Tony has said that he has also blogged in favour of Melvyn, though under an assumed name to avoid hostility with the the anti-Reithian, right-wing, little Englanders of a prominent broadsheet, and well-kknown media mogul allegedly riddled with make-believe of which no more anon.
Therefore, while the auction for V has been very keen, the CREDO committee has no greater pleasure than to award the symbol Mn to Melvyn.


In Our Time:

In Our Time archive:

*The CREDO stands for Commission for the Realisation  of Enlightenment Despite Obscurants. There is a nasty outfit named DEECREDO which does the opposite.


  1. What an excellent idea! How about drawing up an equivalent periodic table. Can we nominate James Naughtie for Sulphur for turning up in the most inappropriate places for no reason at all? I hear he's in Japan interviewing someone in the UK!!!!!!

  2. Yes. How about Clegg for ARSE-NICK?

  3. And can we apply CU to Jeremey Hunt?

  4. Speaking of Deep Purple and freiherr von unt zu, how phony are your titles? This one appeared on the NY Times this morning:

    In Germany, Uproar Over a Doctoral Thesis

    Meanwhile, Mr. Guttenberg formally transferred power to a new defense minister on Thursday evening in a slightly weird torch-lit military ceremony in which the outgoing minister traditionally chooses the music.

    Mr. Guttenberg picked AC/DC.

    The head conductor of the military band said that request “just totally breaks the mold of our music styles,” and substituted Deep Purple instead.

    The song was “Smoke on the Water.”

  5. To all:

    Thank you for your many submissions. I don't think Nick Clegg will go down in history as being worthy of an element in the periodic table. The same applies to Mr Jeremy Hunt (check spelling) and Naughtie is eminently forgettable - not even a wind egg (check Benson reference to Miss Mapp). The arsole analogy shows what can happen when you mix in a little bit of Clegg, a bit of Con, a bit of SDP and a lot of phlogiston.

  6. I listened to a most interesting debate this morning just before Melvyn (Mn)came on to talk about universities. There was an interesting spat between Peter Atkins and the old bag Mary Midgeley. Can Atkins's letters represent a chemical element: there is As, At, or would you want to use one of the Latin names for gold or a German name for tungsten? What is your hot thought process on this?

    We saw you on the Telegraph blog wondering what the Hartree-Fock, ghastly music and science had to do with each other.