Amusing News Aliquots
May29

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. Photographer is the lone bidder on a Russian space flight suit, giving rise to the poignant and funny “Everyday Astronaut” series. [BuzzFeed] Doctors are beginning Sci-Fi-esque human trials of cooling trauma victims to a state of “suspended animation” to buy more time to fix wounds. [The Atlantic] Is beer taking up too much space in  your fridge? Time to get one of these nifty underground beer coolers. [ShortList] A Michigan zoo is selling “loads” of its animals’ manure for $25 a pop. Sounds like you’re sitting on a gold mine, cat and dog owners. [Washington Post] With Paul the Octopus dearly departed, Europeans turn to Stephen Hawkings to analyze England’s chance of winning the World Cup. Bad news, mates: “As we say in science, England couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.” [Time] Need proof that Canadians are the toughest around? Their bears enjoy taking naps atop power lines. [Sun News] WarkaWater towers look like some wacky art installation, but they’re actually capable of harvesting enough drinking water for a family of seven. [NPR] From the it’s-so-bizarre-it-just-might-work files: Artificial sweeteners as potential tracers of municipal landfill leachate. [Seriously, Science?] “Look, Mom, no hands!” screams a 16-year-old freshly licensed driver. Google’s new car doesn’t have a steering wheel … or gas or brakes, for that matter. [Jalopnik] According to a study, cynicism can increase the likelihood of developing dementia. Yeah, like the Newscripts gang buys that. [ScienceDaily]   ...

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Amusing News Aliquots
May22

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. A zoo in the Philippines has begun offering its patrons a snake massage, in which four pythons crawl over the bodies of their massage subjects. In related news, a zoo in the Philippines has begun feeding its pythons humans with bad backs. [Metro] Shortly after being born, a baby moose in Ontario made a trip to Tim Hortons.  It’s proof that nature’s food chain really does work. [Sun News] More Canadian animal news! A momma black bear in British Columbia was recently videotaped pulling one of her cubs away from a busy highway. [Toronto Sun] Researchers set up an exercise wheel for wild mice, and it becomes a popular local hangout for the critters. Wow, even mice are trying to get to the gym. [Guardian] Why don’t octopus arms get stuck together? Chemistry, of course. [Seriously, Science?] Stanford researcher makes origami microscope—and you thought all those origami cranes were impressive. [Humans Invent] There’s been a long-time fear of the government tapping our phones, but nah, we don’t mind the recording technology that comes with a “Like” button, a “Feeling Happy” status option, and ridiculously good-looking tagged photos of ourselves. [Valley Wag] In other social media news, perhaps you and your friends’ photos are in NASA’s #GlobalSelfie. [Time] Yelp can help you find a place to have dinner – and can also help epidemiologists track unreported cases of food poisoning. Perhaps individual users should also search for “sick,” “vomit,” “diarrhea,” and “food poisoning” when picking a date spot.  [Washington...

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Flame Challenge’s Competitive Field Narrows
Apr30

Flame Challenge’s Competitive Field Narrows

Yesterday, the Flame Challenge announced via Twitter their finalists for this year’s contest to answer the question “What is color?” And science enthusiasts everywhere are tickled pink. The Flame Challenge is an annual competition sponsored by Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. As the center’s name suggests, the purpose of the Flame Challenge is to improve science literacy by asking scientists to explain seemingly simple phenomena in a way that an 11-year-old can understand. The competition’s inaugural year in 2012 sought to answer the question “What is a flame?” Last year’s competition focused on “What is time?” Entries seeking to explain this year’s question of “What is color?” (a topic C&EN recently explored) have been whittled down to three written and three video explanations. To crown an ultimate champion in each of these categories, a collection of preselected children’s science classes will vote on which entries they like best, with the final winners announced on June 1. Until then, be sure to check out the video finalists, which are all posted below. And also check out the Flame Challenge website today at noon EST to watch Alan Alda discuss this year’s final entries with students from 10 different classes from around the...

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Tribute To A Numerical Inorganic Icon: Kenneth Wade
Apr11

Tribute To A Numerical Inorganic Icon: Kenneth Wade

University of Durham chemistry professor Kenneth Wade, famously known for the borane electron-counting rule that bears his name, passed away on March 16 at age 81. Chemists at the University of Nottingham, led by big-haired chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff, have prepared a lovely video tribute to Professor Wade as part of their Periodic Table of Video series. Chemists use electron-counting rules to determine bonding patterns in different classes of compounds, such as the familiar octet rule for first- and second-row elements, the 18-electron rule for transition metals, and the Hückel 4n + 2 rule for aromatic compounds. However, these rules don’t readily apply to electron-deficient molecules such as boranes that utilize multicentered bonding–a pair of electrons shared between more than two atoms–so other rules have been devised. In 1971, building on the collective observations of other chemists, Wade formulated his n + 1 rule. Wade’s rule states that a cage molecule with a geometry based on a closed polyhedron constructed of triangles with n vertices will possess n + 1 skeletal bonding electron pairs. Wade’s rule and its corollaries have been refined and extended by a number of researchers. When coupled with spectroscopic studies and theoretical calculations, these rules have been successful in showing the structural interconnections between boranes, carboranes, other heteroboranes, carbocations, organometallic complexes, and transition-metal cluster compounds. Hats off to Professor...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Mar28

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. Ever wonder how scientists deciphered the mysteries of reproduction? Did you know frogs in tiny taffeta pants were involved? [Buzz Hoot Roar] Study finds that couples who yawn together, stay together. It’s just the sort of motivation you needed to sit through another family slide show. [Mother Nature Network] A dwarf planet has been named after Joe Biden. It marks the first time that the vice president has ever been characterized as having a small presence. [TPM] “Cuddle Care” dolls let kids play doctor … but is being recalled for sending kids to the real doctor. [NPR]  Golfers started the fire. Yes, they did light it. And 200 firefighters tried to fight it. [iO9] Analytical chemist finds half of an ancient sea turtle bone in a stream in New Jersey. Turns out the other half has been sitting in a museum for nearly 200 years. [LA Times] University of Pennsylvania scientist claims that sufficient sleep can diminish the likelihood of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. “But if we start sleeping more, that will cut into precious time that we could spend eating!” said everyone in America. [The Week] In related news: The city that’s cracking down on sugary soft drinks now has a 24-hour ATM … for cupcakes. [Kitchenette] Water–you know it as a solid, liquid, or gas. Now meet the water blob. [Fast Co.] Danish zoo slammed for feeding unneeded giraffe to lions. Their response? Kill the lions. [Washington Post]...

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Tattoo Advice For Penning A Synthetic Symphony
Mar24

Tattoo Advice For Penning A Synthetic Symphony

This week I wrote about the “Atalanta Fugi­ens,” a gorgeous 17th century alchemy text that includes a musical score. What’s crazy is that this score is not just a background melody for the musically inclined alchemist. The score is actually a recipe for making the philosophers’ stone, with individual musical parts for the chemical components, mercury, sulfur, and salt. I’m desperately hoping some modern-day chemist will be inspired to write a musical score for their next total synthesis, and that some journal agrees to publish this music in the Materials & Methods section. (Or at the very least, the Supplementary Information section.) Butt! A word of warning: Should any musically inclined chemist decide to pen a synthetic opera, however, they should certainly consider the admonishment of medieval artist Hieronymous Bosch. Namely, DO NOT tattoo that score on to your behind. Taking a closer look at the hell component of Bosch’s masterpiece “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” discriminating viewers will note that the poor soul with the Gregorian chant on his nether region is being whipped by a demon tongue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Incidentally, that demon-whipped, butt-hugging music is also available for download, thanks to Amelia Hamrick, a student in Oklahoma. Have a...

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