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In Print: Chemist Gets High On A Unicycle

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.

For most chemistry students, balance means juggling work inside the lab with life outside it. For Max Schulze, it means something else entirely. That’s because the rising senior at Colorado School of Mines is not only a chemistry major, but he’s also a world champion unicyclist.

Max Schulze

Serious air: Chemistry major Max Schulze defies gravity on his unicycle. Credit: Minesh Bacrania

In this week’s Newscripts column, Senior Correspondent Marc Reisch interviews Schulze, whose impressive balance atop a unicycle has led to top honors at multiple gatherings of the Unicycle World Championships & Convention (aka Unicon). Schulze is currently gearing up for the next Unicon, which will take place in Montreal in 2014.

Schulze “seems to have developed an outstanding sense of balance both on the unicycle and off it. That’s something we can all admire,” says Marc, who admits to having had very little knowledge of unicycling prior to his conversation with Schulze. “Like most folks, I have a fondness for motorized four-wheeled vehicles because they are very convenient to get me from point A to point B,” Marc deadpans. “I’m also capable of navigating motorless two-wheeled vehicles. But I have resisted riding one-wheeled vehicles for fear of falling flat on my face.”

Despite a lack of familiarity with unicycling, Marc nevertheless found himself very impressed by Schulze. One of the things Marc found most admirable was the time Schulze has spent visiting grade schools near his hometown of Los Alamos, N.M., “to show youngsters what they might achieve with practice and commitment.” Marc says that during these visits, Schulze will often have elementary school teachers lie down on the ground in a row and then proceed to jump over them them while riding his unicycle. “Now isn’t that every youngster’s desire in life: to pass over his or her teachers?” Marc laughs.

Check out some of Schulze’s hair-raising tricks in the following video. Newscripts readers, don’t try this at home!

For the second part of his Newscripts column, Marc reports on the recent discovery of a nucleobase that scientists hope will make it easier to predict what color cacao pods will ultimately be produced by cacao tree seedlings. Understanding cacao pod color is important because such pigmentation plays a role in determining the flavor of the beans within a pod.

“My hope is that the researchers will succeed in banning forever low-quality chocolate from this earth,” says Marc, an admitted chocoholic with a helpful suggestion to the study’s researchers: Figure out how to construct a frost-tolerant cacao tree!  “I would really like to grow such a tree in my postage-stamp-sized backyard in New York City,” he says.

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