Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.
Astronaut demonstrates what happens when a wet towel is wrung out in space. His cabinmates remind him of their spaceship’s strict “Clean up after yourself” rule. [Huffington Post]
The Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine release an online quiz to evaluate how your knowledge of science and technology compares with others’. Beat your grandfather to the punch, and forward him the link before he sends it to you. [Pew Research Center]
Newest loot for Mexico-to-China smugglers: giant bladders from endangered fish. [Washington Post]
And you thought medical marijuana had a hard time – researchers now looking into ecstasy as a possible treatment for serious stress disorders. [USA Today]
Happy 50th issue, Nature Chemistry. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones who have goofed up and published left-handed DNA. [The Sceptical Chymist]
Turns out the “cinnamon challenge” dare isn’t as innocuous as it sounds. Some attempters have wound up with long-term breathing problems or collapsed lungs. [Time]
Supposed extraterrestrial skeleton turns out to be a mummified human. Hunt for real-life Alf continues. [Metro]
Mars rovers – so immature. [io9]
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.
Answer: These topics appear in this week’s print Newscripts column. Question: What are a “Jeopardy!” champion and a fluorescent millipede?
In April 22′s C&EN, associate editor Emily Bones chronicles American Chemical Society member Keith E. Whitener Jr.’s recent winning streak on television’s “Jeopardy!” In the fall of last year, Whitener won the quiz show seven times, nabbing $148,597 in cash plus an additional $100,000 for being the first runner-up in last February’s Tournament of Champions.
It’s tough to hear of Whitener’s success and not assume he had an easy time on the syndicated game show. But according to Emily, the Tournament of Champions, a two-week-long competition featuring prior “Jeopardy!” winners, was particularly challenging for Whitener. She remembers Whitener telling her, “Since everyone there was at least a four-time champion, the games tended to fly by. I’m not particularly fast on the buzzer, so it was a little bit intimidating for me.”
Whitener attributes his “Jeopardy!” success to his scientific pedigree—he researched endohedral fullerenes during his time as a Yale University grad student, and he currently works as a postdoctoral researcher of graphene surface chemistry at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.—which helped him clean up in the science categories. Emily, who is a former high school chemistry teacher, however, thinks something else might have been afoot during Whitener’s impressive run.
Strolling around the French Quarter on my last day attending the spring ACS national meeting in New Orleans, I stumbled across the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a 19th-century apothecary shop filled from floor to ceiling with bottles and jars containing crude drugs, herbal medicines, and even voodoo potions. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to visit this gem of a place, check out this virtual tour I put together–and be sure to visit the next time ACS visits New Orleans in spring 2018!
At last week’s American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans, a group of chemists came together to discuss the latest and greatest in alcohol. No, this wasn’t on Bourbon Street. And karaoke, to-go cups, and beaded necklaces weren’t involved (as far as I know).
This week’s issue of Chemical & Engineering News features a column I wrote about one of the session’s presentations. Neil C. Da Costa, a researcher at International Flavors & Fragrances, in New Jersey, entertained the audience with tales of the hurricane, that rum-based drink the Big Easy is famous for. I featured Da Costa’s studies of the hurricane because of the soft spot I have for the cocktail: The first time I drank one was during my undergraduate years at, you guessed it, my first national ACS meeting.
But I gave short shrift to other “Chemistry of the Bar” presentations. One particularly interesting talk was given by Jerry Zweigenbaum, a researcher at Agilent Technologies, in Delaware. Along with Alyson E. Mitchell and coworkers at the University of California, Davis, Zweigenbaum investigated the ingredients of the after-dinner liquor amaretto.
If you’re like me, you might have thought that because amaretto smells like almonds, it’s made from them. Zweigenbaum says that’s not necessarily the case.
According to legend, amaretto was first made in 1525 by soaking apricot kernels in alcohol. You can see the tale, conveniently located on the website of amaretto maker Disaronno, here. Apparently, one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s star pupils was asked to paint a fresco of the Madonna in the Italian city Saronno. His model was a local innkeeper who showed her gratitude by gifting the fellow a drink made from the infamous kernels.
Today, Disaronno says its amaretto contains “herbs and fruits soaked in apricot kernel oil.”
But the problem with alcohols like amaretto, Zweigenbaum says, is they are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives here in the U.S., rather than by FDA. That means companies don’t have to list the beverages’ ingredients or nutritional content.
So what exactly Disaronno and other amaretto companies are putting in their wares remains a mystery. Zweigenbaum decided to find out. Continue reading →
This week, friend of the blog See Arr Oh is hosting a blog carnival devoted to chemistry in film. I’m a big fan of the silver screen, so in honor of the #chemmoviecarnival, I’m going to break a couple of rules and talk about one of my favorite films: “Fight Club.”
Living in a world where casual violence has become far too commonplace, I confess that it feels peculiar to be so fond of this film. After all, there are some alarming acts of violence in David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel about, well, many things, but in particular life in our consumer-driven world.
I first saw this movie when it came out in theaters, back in 1999, and one of my companions commented as we left, “I hate everyone who liked that movie.” For me, however, the film’s violence is just an unusual way to get at a theme that might otherwise come off as cheesy: Appreciate every moment of your precious life.
To that end, there is this chemistry-related cinematic moment, in which one of the film’s central characters (Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt) gives the other (played by Edward Norton) a chemical burn with lye. Be forewarned it’s pretty graphic.
Please, please, please do not do this. It is not cool to give yourself or your friends chemical burns. That said, note the accuracy of the chemistry here: “you can run water over your hand and make it worse, or you can use vinegar to neutralize the burn.” Also, I am always amused at how Durden is so careful to put on gloves and safety glasses, but then rips them off for dramatic effect. It’s certainly not the most positive depiction of chemistry in film, but does drive home the movie’s point.
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford, Jeff Huber, and Sophia Cai.
Wonder how ants descend mere minutes into a picnic? Ants optimize routes for speed, a la Fermat’s principle of least time. [NBC News]
Ladies, looking for a fertile fella? Seems men who sport kilts “have significantly better rates of sperm quality and higher fertility.” From the Scottish Medical Journal, of course. [Improbable Research]
Researchers believe frog feet could be used to aid intestinal health. Connoisseurs of French food say, “We’re way ahead of you.” [ScienceDaily]
Forget anxiety meds, Tylenol shown to help dampen fears of existential uncertainty or death. [Gizmodo]
Not that we would try it, but there’s some interesting chemistry behind the marijuana-infused spirit known as the Green Dragon. [PopSci]
Feeling lazy and unmotivated? Blame your lazy and unmotivated parents … preferably via the Internet, so you don’t have to get off the couch. [Huffington Post]
Dogs who have been spayed or neutered live longer than those who haven’t. Canine community reconsiders its animosity toward Bob Barker. [e! Science News]
And you thought running columns was tedious. What about studying where people stand in an elevator? [NPR]
Check out a related video:
Growing up, most boys dream of one day becoming a chemical engineer and enjoying the endless parade of fans, money, and women that comes with it. Terrence Howard wasn’t so lucky. He had to settle for Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor instead. But don’t feel too sorry for Howard because as he mentioned during a Feb. 26 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” he actually holds a Ph.D. in applied materials and chemical engineering from South Carolina State University!
Howard turned the lemons of being left out of “Iron Man 2″ into the lemonade of earning a doctorate? It all sounds very impressive. The problem? It’s a lie. Continue reading →
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.
Wish we’d thought of this: A collection of the silliest science stock photos. [Jacks of Science]
Researcher at the American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans reports detecting arsenic in a variety of beers and totally harshes everyone’s buzz. [NPR]
Iron-infused silly putty devours magnet. Nom nom nom. With video! [Slate]
More video! Man without Hogwarts training manages to wiggle a rat’s tail through a scientific version of mind melding. [Live Science]
Llamas and alpacas make volunteer visits to nursing homes, and their community service isn’t even court-ordered. [Mother Nature Network]
That music man may be sexy, but his harmonica may be making him infertile. [Improbable Research]
Peeing in your compost heap will boost its fertilizing power, just please try to do so while your neighbors aren’t looking. [National Geographic]
Got some spare booze and liquid nitrogen lying around? Then why not make alcoholic dippin’ dots? [Gizmodo]
Scientists use synthetic plant leaves to capture bedbugs. “You mean these plants aren’t real?” skeptical bedbugs ask. “They look so real.” [BBC]
In the age of Internet memes and viral videos, a window of opportunity opens for sometimes the most random–and often hilarious–alter egos. Meet CHEMIST HULK (@ChemistHulk), who is a Twitter phenomenon inspired by the Marvel comic but also by fellow tweeters @ECONOMISTHULK (6,500+ followers) and @DRUNKHULK (185,000+ followers), among others. By comparison, CHEMIST HULK is just a few Twitter weeks old with just a few hundred followers, but he’s already causing ripples throughout the chemistry online community. He discusses lab work, science awards, and the puzzling aspects of puny human society:
WHAT HULK FAVOURITE SCIENCE? EASY. MECHANOCHEMISTRY. FUNCTION ON PRINCIPLE OF SMASH AND CRUSH, OVER AND OVER.
— CHEMIST HULK (@ChemistHulk) April 5, 2013
HULK BE CONTROVERSIAL! HULK THINK OUR NOBEL SHOULD BE WON BY BIOLOGISTS! HULK FINDS BEAUTY IN COMMON GOALS OF INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH!
— CHEMIST HULK (@ChemistHulk) March 31, 2013
HULK HATE SELF-HEALING POLYMERS. ONCE SMASH, STAY SMASH.
— CHEMIST HULK (@ChemistHulk) April 4, 2013
And this week, he agreed to be interviewed by Newscripts. But of course, it was in typical online fashion, as he (or she?) doesn’t want to reveal the secret identity of the chemist version of Dr. Bruce Banner.
SC: I admit, I’m new to the CHEMIST HULK bandwagon. How did you find yourself come about on Twitter?
CH: HULK SEE PLACE IN WORLD FOR SMASHING OF PRECONCEPTIONS BY MAKING ERUDITE SPEECH COME FROM SIMPLE COUNTENANCE. HULK ALSO DECIDE TWITTER HAVE NICHE FOR HULK CHEMICAL EXPERTISE.
From The CENtral Science Blogs
- May 21st, 2013By Sophia Cai
- May 20th, 2013By Jyllian Kemsley
- May 20th, 2013By Sarah Everts
- May 17th, 2013By Carmen Drahl
- May 13th, 2013By Lisa Jarvis
- May 6th, 2013By Melody Bomgardner
- Apr 23rd, 2013By David Kroll
- Apr 18th, 2013By Glen Ernst
- Mar 11th, 2013By Rick Mullin