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Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Bethany Halford.

Veggie view: MRI of broccoli. Credit: Inside Insides via OffBeat
Veggie view: MRI of broccoli. Credit: Inside Insides via OffBeat

Finally, the all-important medical techniques being used to create awesome Internet posts. Observe: MRIs of fruits and vegetables. [OffBeat]

How chemists help Cadbury create those crazy crème eggs and other Easter goodies. [Guardian]

Bad news, nappers. Not only are you missing out on life while snoozing, you’re also going to die young. [Gawker]

In a risky experiment involving voodoo dolls, snack deprivation, and couples therapy, researchers show that “hanger” (hunger-induced anger) exists. [NPR]

One way to avoid hangry prom dates? KFC corsages, of course. [NBC News]

Not really science news, but this Nebraska toddler who found his way into one of those claw machine things is some sort of genius, right? [Huffington Post]

Macro lens meets photogenic molluscs. These snail pictures almost make us want to invite these guys into our gardens. [Bored Panda]

When seeking treatment for rare genetic disorder, researchers go through the trouble of cloning goats. Why? “It is cheaper to feed goats than to feed cell lines,” they say. [Digital Journal]

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.

wadeChemists 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 Wade.

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

This squirrel loves to horse around. Credit: Jim Zielinski/ZielinskiPhotography.com

This squirrel loves to horse around.
Credit: Jim Zielinski/ZielinskiPhotography.com

When is a squirrel not a squirrel? When it’s eating out of a squirrel feeder shaped like a horse, of course. [Washington Post]

Researchers get prairie voles soused and then study their “pairing behavior.” Anyone who’s been to a bar on a Saturday night knows how this study ends. [National Geographic]

“Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots – everybody!” Turns out, the teens who most enjoy listening to songs with alcohol-soaked lyrics are also most likely to drink and binge on alcohol. No word on whether training kids to emulate song lyrics can be traced back to Baby Mozart CDs. [NPR]

After being asked by a local radio station to name the ingredients in the chicken patty sandwich it serves students, Chicago Public Schools has responded by saying the sandwich consists of a “chicken patty” and “bun.” The evasive response has resulted in irate parents wanting to serve the school system plenty of knuckle sandwiches. [WBEZ]

Although Newscripts condones peeing in the ocean, researchers find that peeing in a swimming pool creates toxic byproducts. [Washington Post]

Oft overlooked elements get a little attention. Were you feeling taken for granted, Europium? [Mother Nature Network]

Have you checked out the Compound Interest blog? It’s pretty nifty. [Daily Mail]

Crank up that chemistry set. A $5 chemistry lab is in the making, inspired by wind-up music boxes. [C&EN]

According to researchers at the University of Louisville, three-dimensional printing may one day be used to construct a heart. The news is yet another example of the medical community putting the needs of tin woodmen ahead of the needs of scarecrows and cowardly lions. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Chemists Save King’s College Choir

The Newscripts gang had to carefully navigate the interwebs this week to find Amusing News Aliquots. That’s because plenty in the science and tech crowd posted April Fools’ stories–including one about a study that found scientists need to use more esoteric jargon when communicating with the public and another about how Google Fiber can also deliver you coffee via its network. You know, just like those dry, humorless scientists do every year.

But the clip below comes from King’s College, Cambridge, where Chaplain Richard Lloyd Morgan explains how his school’s world-famous choir is maintaining high male voices, thanks to the college’s chemists.

The whole story and video was an April Fools’ prank, and the Choir of King’s College YouTube channel later added that acknowledgment in the video title, lest people get too outraged in the Comments section.

And King’s College did trick quite a few people. Most impressive, the chaplain’s seriousness and the choir boys’ straight faces give nothing away.

“The complexity of the regulations involved mean that it really is no longer practical to have young boys singing in the choir,” Morgan deadpans.

And yet another solution was nixed: “After a lengthy consultation process, during which we learned that the surgical solution was surprisingly unpopular,” he says, “someone in the chemistry department came up with a very simple solution.”

Here it is:

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


Wildlife in the living room: This baby elephant would like you to change the channel. Credit: Francoise Malby Anthony/io9

Stray baby elephant wanders into living room, gets a snack. The Newscripts gang would like a baby elephant, please. [io9]

Scientists at England’s University of Leicester have run the numbers and determined that Noah’s ark could have held 70,000 animals. Stay tuned to future studies from the group, including “How badly did David beat Goliath?”, “Is a Jonah-rich diet good for whales?”, and “Can burning bushes actually talk?” [The Telegraph]

Scientists have determined that, aside from humans, only two animals can actually dance: parrots and Asian elephants. Then again, their strict definition of “dance” may exclude a lot of humans. [NPR]

How did engineers of the Ming dynasty move 100-ton stones to the Forbidden City 500 years ago? Ice paths, of course. [Seriously, Science?]

NASA is working on a surgical robotic device that would allow astronauts to operate on themselves in space. And we thought space ice cream was cool. [io9]

Check out this behind-the-scenes look at artists putting together an exhibit on pterosaurs. Says one scientific artist of his work: “It’s great at cocktail parties: a billionaire hedge-fund manager and a 5-year-old both want to talk to you with equal interest.” [New York Times]

President William Henry Harrison—whose death a mere month after he took office is commonly blamed on pneumonia developed after his numbingly long inaugural address—may actually have died thanks to a marsh of human excrement near the White House. So much for the perks of the presidency. [New York Times]

A dog from Texas has turned up in Cincinnati, four days after running away from home. The dog said he decided to make the trek to Cincinnati after a breeze rolled in from the north and he wondered, “What’s that smell?” [Cincinnati.com]

More olfactory news: Recycled vegetable oil can be used to pave dusty country roads, leaving behind a faint french fry smell. The discovery means there’s never been a better time than now to eat someone’s dust. [CBC]



Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Drop it like it's hot: Frogs can't reproduce unless they get those pants off. Credit: Buzz Hoot Roar

Drop it like it’s hot: Frogs can’t reproduce unless they get those pants off. Credit: Buzz Hoot Roar

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]


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:

Hieronymous Bosch's vision of hell includes music on butts. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hieronymous Bosch’s vision of hell includes music on butts. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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 listen

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

The sea anemone: Plant? Animal? Vegimal? Credit: Nature

The sea anemone: Plant? Animal? Vegimal?
Credit: Nature

Scientists have characterized the sea anemone as half animal and half plant. When the sea anemone tries to pick someone up at a bar, however, it likes to say that it’s all animal. [ScienceDaily]

A Tibetan mastiff has been purchased in China for almost $2 million. Dog experts say it may be the most someone’s ever paid for the privilege of picking up poop. [NY Daily News]

Polar bear cubs at a German zoo used a photo op this week to make their first public appearance with their mother. Surprisingly, a bottle of Coca-Cola was nowhere to be found. [The Guardian]

In other zoo news, depressed man gets yet another rejection – from a tiger. [Time]

On average, Americans assume that 30% of Congress smokes pot. When asked whether they cared that their representatives get high, many said, “Nah, man, whatever. That’s totally cool, dude.” [Huffington Post]

Dr. Freddy on Five Things Synthetic Chemists Hate. The Newscripts gang heartily concurs. [Synthetic Remarks]

“Covered with more than 880 gems, the Diamond Armor suit repels both bullets and stains and even has built-in air conditioning.” But what will stop the relentless eyerolls? [Daily Mail]

Add this to the list of inventions we’re not sure we want: the Smell-o-phone. [CNN]

We journalists were going to write a story about how journalism is dying, but a robot scooped us. [iO9]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Jeff Huber.


Spotlight stealer: Girl takes credit for the small egg her chicken laid. Credit: Cheddar Valley Gazette

A chicken may have laid the world’s smallest egg. Hungry Denny’s patrons hope the egg will be served with the world’s smallest strip of bacon. [Cheddar Valley Gazette]

A solar power plant near Las Vegas has received complaints that the glare from its panels is distracting pilots and poses a safety hazard. Thank goodness there aren’t any other potential distractions in the Las Vegas skyline for pilots to contend with. [Gizmodo]

Finally, science validates the five-second rule of dropped food. Now it’s society’s turn to accept the slovenly behavior. [Science Daily]

The mood of your friends on social media can affect your mood as well, researchers say. So maybe it’s time you stop following Grumpy Cat on Twitter. [NPR]

Study shows invertebrates might feel pain. Calamari consumers and lobster lovers everywhere cringe a little. [Washington Post]

Pee can actually be used to power a cell phone. “A urine-laced phone?!” the Newscripts gang scoffed. “That’ll never happen. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go back to using our cell phones, which we’ve accidentally dropped into the toilet three times.” [BBC]

Not to be outdone by sci-fi movies, surgeons reconstruct a man’s face with a 3-D printer. [iO9]

Seattle police authorized to use facial-recognition software. Criminals lining up to get new 3-D printed faces. [NBC News]

A bar in upstate New York has turned an ice-frozen parking lot into a field for turkey curling. It’s exactly the kind of sensible decision you would expect an establishment that sells inebriating beverages to make. [12 WBNG Action News]

No, professor, your lecture is so stimulating that I have to cool my brain! [Gizmodo]

Three tiger cubs were recently born in the ZSL London Zoo. Vladimir Putin says he can’t wait to pose with them for a photo-op. [The Telegraph]

Just How Scientific Were This Year’s Best Picture Oscar Nominees?


Oscar: It’s hard to argue that science isn’t fundamental to a statue that is covered in gold. Credit: Travis/Wikimedia Commons

The Oscars were last Sunday. It was a time for us, the moviegoing public, to take to social media and cattily comment on Zac Efron’s inability to read a teleprompter …

John Travolta’s mispronunciation of the name of “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel …

and Kim Novak’s bizarre spotlight-seeking behavior at an award show where she wasn’t even nominated …

But what about us members of the moviegoing public who are also science nerds? Where can we go to talk about how our favorite subject permeated this year’s nominated films? Why, to the Newscripts blog, of course! This year, we break down the science portrayed in each of the Best Picture nominees, ranking them from least to most amount of scientific material tackled. And if you think we missed some crucial science in the movies, sound off in our comments section. Also, be warned, spoilers are sprinkled throughout this post, so if you’re planning to catch up on these nominees sometime in the future, proceed with caution. Now, without further ado, the nominees are ...


9. “12 Years a Slave”

Synopsis: Freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sold into slavery and spends 12 years toiling in the fields of the antebellum South. Director Steve McQueen uses excruciatingly long takes to force his audience to confront the violence of the U.S.’s dark past. By not cutting away from such cruelty, the film captivates in its brutal honesty. This really is the best picture of 2013.

Is there science? Not really. By virtue of being a period piece, “12 Years a Slave” comes closest to touching the subject of science when it reminds its audience of the technological advances our current society enjoys over pre-Civil War America; one such reminder occurs when Northup struggles to write a letter home to his family using ink he made from crushed berries. But outside of such reminders of our advancements in technology, the film doesn’t offer much scientific fodder.


8. “American Hustle”

Synopsis: A team of professional swindlers (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation on corrupt politicians. Cowriter and director David O. Russell packs the movie with enough flashy costumes, big hair, and loud music to almost distract you from the fact that the movie’s glut of dialogue diminishes its coherence. Almost.

Is there science? Like “12 Years a Slave,” the science in “American Hustle” largely stems from the fact that the movie is a period piece, and no scene in the movie references science more overtly than the scene in which Bale’s bored housewife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, places an aluminum container with tinfoil in a microwave that was given as a gift to Bale’s character by Camden, N.J., mayor Carmine Polito. After the microwave bursts in flames, Lawrence berates her husband for bringing a “science oven” into their home that she believes “takes all the nutrition out of our food.” Surprisingly, concern over the nutritional content of microwaved food is something that we’re still debating today, although such worries are unfounded. Another point of contention with this scene in the movie? Apparently, metal can’t catch fire in a microwave. (Warning: Video contains not-safe-for-work language.)

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