In Print: Mission to Mars, Molecular Fashion
May28

In Print: Mission to Mars, Molecular Fashion

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. Meet Anders. He’s 51 and Swedish. He’s also one of more than 78,000 people who have applied to take a one-way trip to Mars. As this week’s Newscripts column explores, Netherlands-based “nonprofit” Mars One is currently soliciting applications from individuals interested in traveling to the Red Planet in 2023 and never returning. Approximately 28 to 40 applicants will be chosen from the pool of applicants to participate in a reality show in which they will train for seven years for the mission. An audience vote will then help determine the four people who will ultimately go where no man has gone before. There is a video portion to the application that requires applicants, such as Anders, to tell a little bit about themselves and explain their reasons for wanting to travel to a foreign planet. Many of these videos are posted to the Mars One website, and what’s most striking about them is the general lack of enthusiasm many of these applicants have when discussing the opportunity to go to Mars. “I’ve often fantasized to just get on board a spaceship and go to explore the universe. I often get the feeling that I don’t belong here, but out there, in space,” the aforementioned Anders says, without so much as a smile. What’s behind this dearth of excitement? Maybe, deep down, the applicants recognize just how unlikely this trip to Mars really is. Mars One’s website says that the mission will cost $6 billion. It’s an astronomical figure that seems even more unobtainable when considering that the website says that the revenue Mars One generates from its reality show of civilian astronaut boot camp will somehow be on par with that generated by previous Olympic Games. The comparison seems ill-conceived, especially considering that the revenue generated by NBC during the last Olympic Games was barely enough to cover the network’s expenses. A more tangible exploration of science comes in the second part of the Newscripts column, which discusses ChemKnits, a blog that features more than 40 chemistry-themed knitting charts. The charts include designs for a coffee-cup cozy emblazoned with the caffeine molecule and a wine cozy sporting resveratrol. “When deciding on what molecules to knit, I think first about the visual impact and if I can add some wit to the design,” says Rebecca Roush Brown, the creator of the website and a Ph.D. who graduated from Harvard University in 2011 after studying biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology. Interested in seeing this wit on...

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Fun With Science: Top 10 Videos Of The Year

Who says scientists are boring geeks who drone on about quantum efficiency and reaction yield? We here at the Newscripts blog LOVE science and think those geeks are rockstars. So we’ve selected an assortment of our favorite videos of the year depicting just how cool science can be. The clips were culled from 2012 blog posts as well as from the YouTube channel of Chemical & Engineering News. So sit back, relax, warm yourself by the gentle glow of that Bunsen burner, and bask in the awesomeness of science.   In at number 10, Russell Hemley and researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science have gotten so good at growing their own diamonds from methane, they can make gems as big as 10 carat! Too bad they’re using them in high-pressure experiments rather than sending the Newscripts gang free samples.   Number 9: Reality TV isn’t just for privileged housewives, the gym-tan-laundry crowd, or survivors who like to eat bugs anymore. This year, MIT released a reality Web series following undergrads trying to pass an introductory chemistry course. Oh, the intrigue! Crystallization contests, rotovap malfunctions … this is the trailer that got us pumped for the series. [Link to original post]   Number 8: Adorable pandas + poop = instant classic. It really doesn’t even matter what the rest of the video is about. Although we did slip in some biofuel science. So you’re learning something while overloading on cute.   Number 7: Although the Newscripts gang loves to yell out requests for “Free Bird” at concerts, we also think Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” is pretty clutch, too. It’s even better when played by Tesla coils. [Link to original post]   Number 6: This year, researchers at Harvard and Caltech made a polymer sheet swim like a jellyfish. Why? We’re not so sure it matters. All we know is, right now, we’re heading out to procure some rat heart cells, a silicone sheet, and a vial of fibronectin because, well, we want one.   Number 5: You didn’t think you’d make it through a 2012 countdown without a Gangnam parody, did you? Good. Because here’s biochemistry, taught Gangnam-style. [Link to original post]   In at number 4, some super-science enthusiasts this year celebrated Mole Day (Oct. 23) by making a rad music video. Any clip that involves a guy in a sombrero, a cartoon mole, and the lyrics, “Once upon a time Avogadro said ‘Hey!’/And showed us the way out of the dark/His number you must use/A molar eclipse of the heart” is a must-see in our book. [Link to original post]   Number 3: So you’ve got a...

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An America’s Next Top Model Chemistry Tongue Twister

Leave it to America’s Next Top Model to prop up stereotypes about women, science, and chemistry all in the same five minutes. The Tyra Banks produced reality TV show/marketing vehicle, now in its 17th cycle, featured a painful-to-watch segment last week that had contestants botching terms including “gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer” during a TV audition. The show’s eleven ladies were vying for a role on C.S.I., and had to memorize a script about receiving toxicology results from the lab, which included results from the “gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer”. Or the “grass chromatic meter”, as one model-wannabe put it. I will set aside the fact that most practicing scientists would call that instrument a GC-MS. What I worry about is that the segment simultaneously projects the concepts “models are stupid” and “science is hard”. It’s easy to laugh at the contestants. I did a little of that myself. But then in reading the ensuing coverage I kept seeing phrases like these: the challenge was made difficult on purpose with the use of extra lengthy, tongue-twisting medical jargon that literally only two girls could spit out. – Desiree Neall, Poptimal.com The challenge isn’t the words on the paper, but rather, the technical and scientific terms that no one on this good Earth would able to pronounce. … The impossible line they’re supposed to memorize? “Gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.”- David Yi, New York Daily News My only consolation? Two of the eleven contestants did get their lines right. Now that’s...

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