Year in Review

2018 in review: Compound Interest’s Top 5 graphics

With 2018 coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on the graphics from the past twelve months. Here, we’ll look at the 5 most popular graphics on the site this year, as well as some of my favourites!

For all of the graphics featured in this round-up, clicking on the graphic will take you to the original post, where you can read the accompanying article, view a larger image, and download a PDF of the graphic.

2018 was the first time I’ve posted fewer than 100 new graphics on the site over the course of the year. However, in case you think that’s because I’ve been being a bit lazy, that’s largely the result of switching from weekly to monthly chemistry news round-ups. Doing so has actually given me a bit more time to produce other graphics! Below is a run-down of the top 5 graphics, according to page views on the site, from the past year.

#5: Why is milk white? The chemistry of milk

The chemistry of milk v2
Click to view full post

Food-related chemistry posts have always been popular, and this year was no exception, with this graphic on milk making it into the top 5. The site’s catalogue of food chemistry graphics was also bolstered by this year’s additions of graphics on the myth of spinach’s iron content, an explanation of why eggs glow under UV light, and what makes pufferfish (fugu) poisonous. There were also further posts on coffee chemistry, comparing arabica and robusta coffees, and looking at how decaffeinated coffee is made.

#4: What are Lego bricks made of, and why is treading on them so painful?

The Chemistry of Lego
Click to view full post

This post was a good excuse for me to go foraging through the old Lego boxes that my parents had stashed away to grab some suitable figures and parts for the photos! The article accompanying the post also addressed the question of why stepping on Lego is so painful (a 2×2 Lego piece can withstand a force equivalent to being stood on by someone weighing around 430 kilograms!).

Materials chemistry popped up in a number of other graphics over the course of the year, with the World Cup trophy, wedding rings, condoms and slime all being examined. Also related to this graphic on Lego was a look at how plastics are recycled in C&EN.

#3: National blood donor month: blood type compatibilities

Blood Types & Compatibilities
Click to enlarge

The first graphic of 2018 also proved to be one of the most popular! This graphic tried to present a simple view of which blood types can donate and receive blood to or from other blood types. It followed on from this 2015 post on the chemistry of blood.

Other health-related posts on the site in 2018 included a look at platinum drugs for cancer, and an explanation of how pregnancy tests work.

#2: The chemistry behind why you shouldn’t eat laundry pods

The Chemistry of Laundry Pods
Click to view the full post

The year started with stories in the news about an online challenge which encouraged the eating of laundry pods. I have to admit that I didn’t think that a graphic explaining why you shouldn’t eat laundry pods would ever be a necessity, but it’s one I ended up making as a consequence! It was also a useful opportunity to explore the various compounds that laundry pods contain and how they help clean dirty clothes.

Cleaning also popped up as a topic in one of the editions of Periodic Graphics I produced for C&EN, which looked at the chemical differences between soap and body wash. Additionally, another graphic looked at the various components that help dishwashers clean.

#1: What are Novichok agents? What we do (and don’t) know about them

Chemical Warfare – Novichok nerve agents June 2018
Click to view the full post

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the most viewed graphic on the site this year stemmed from the biggest chemistry news story of 2018. This was a tricky one to put together given the lack of information available on Novichok agents, but gave an overview of their origin and potential chemical structures. 

The Novichok story wasn’t the only time that concerns related to chemical exposure hit the news. There was also concern about the dangers of asbestos. On a lighter note, another graphic looked at whether daffodils are unfairly labelled as ‘flower killers’.

Other graphics

There are a few other graphics from this year that I think are worth highlighting in case you missed them. Firstly, given the number of volcanic eruptions that have featured in the news this year, the edition of Periodic Graphics I made for C&EN looking at the chemistry of these eruptions seems pertinent. 

C&EN – Volcanoes preview
Click to view full graphic on the C&EN site

Another important topic this year was that of women in chemistry. The Royal Society of Chemistry released its ‘Breaking the Barriers’ report which promotes women’s retention and progression in the chemical sciences. On that topic, the graphic below, made for International Women’s Day, highlighted some contemporary women in chemistry.

Twelve Women in Chemistry
Click to view full post

2018 also saw Frances Arnold, George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their use of directed evolution to produce new enzymes and antibodies. Arnold became the fifth women to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and only the second since 1964. She’s also the first American woman to win in Chemistry.

2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Click to view full post

Finally, towards the end of the year, I once again helped out with #RealTimeChem Week by designed the banners and promotional posters. This year the theme was ‘Chem 4 Life’, and you can see the award winners for the week here.

RealTimeChem Week 2018


Looking into 2019

Compound Interest has now been running for five years! In that time we’ve already covered a lot of topics, but there’s still plenty left uncovered. What would you like to see graphics on in 2019? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook!

Additionally, I’m pretty awful at self-promotion so I don’t mention it as often as I probably should, but Compound Interest also has a Patreon. If you’d like to contribute towards the running costs of the site, please do consider signing up to give a small amount there. I hugely appreciate all those who’ve already done so, and I’m hoping to use it towards making improvements to the site over the coming year.

In the meantime, thanks once again to all of you following the site. Wishing you all a happy 2019!



The graphic in this article is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. See the site’s content usage guidelines.

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