In Print: Chemist Gets High On A Unicycle
Jun21

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. 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...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Aug16

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Some sneaky chemists are swapping the fat in chocolate with fruit juice. [Futurity] Belgian doctor finds most fertile uteruses have “mathematically perfect” dimensions. Who funds this stuff? [Guardian] Cool kid news: 13-year-old homeschooler finds meteorite with homemade metal detector. [LA Times] The Gates Foundation prepares its grantees with fake poop. [NPR] This woman says the wizarding gene that explains Harry Potter's world might be "caused by an expansion of trinucleotide repeats with non-Mendelian ratios of inheritance." [iO9] Here's looking at you, Cornell: School's researchers scientifically analyze what makes memorable movie quotes memorable. [Technology Review/MIT] Awww, man. Online marketplace Etsy says its vendors can't sell human bones (skulls, skeletons, etc.) Newscripts is gonna have to find some new items for our Holiday Gift Guide....

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Amusing News Aliquots
Nov10

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news. Compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Gummy bears visit ocean depths for science. [Seattle PI] World's fastest supercomputer breaks its own record, announces that after going to Disney World, it's gonna crush Watson at Jeopardy. [PCWorld]   Want a spot in the Meat Industry Hall of Fame? You’ll have to outdo the fellow who came up with the McRib sandwich. [The Salt]   Average age when scientists do their Nobel Prize-winning work increasing. Fifty apparently IS the new 30. [Bloomberg.com]   What smells of sweat, cabbage, and beef? Why, chocolate, of course. [PBS]   Want to blast away the competition in your next snowball fight? Here’s how. [Metro]   Levi Strauss says freezing your jeans will kill the germs. Experts say otherwise. Who to believe? And how to get into frozen jeans? [myFOXchicago.com]   And, hey, we prefer corduroy anyway. Looks like Friday is going to be our day. [Guardian]...

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The Chocolate Grail
Jul24

The Chocolate Grail

While I was visiting a good friend on one very hot and humid weekend in North Carolina, she bypassed a typical lunch in favor of a giant chocolate bar. It was too large for her to eat all in one sitting, so when we stopped in a store to browse, she left the half-eaten bar unattended in the car. Big mistake. We returned an hour later to find the formerly solid candy bar melted into a half-liquid mess all over her gray leather interior. Considering that the average piece of chocolate starts to melt at 85ºF and that, when parked in direct sunlight, vehicles can quickly reach highs of over 100ºF, that poor little candy bar didn’t stand a chance. Heat 1, chocolate 0. But Swiss chocolate-maker Barry Callebaut might have stumbled upon a way to even the score: a melt-resistant treat able to withstand temperatures up to 130ºF. Called Vulcano, Barry Callebaut spokeswoman Gaby Tschofen described it as an “aerated chocolate” with a “crunch texture and a light mouth feel” that will melt in your mouth and not in your vehicle. “The Vulcano chocolate is hygroscopic,” she told C&EN. “Once our chocolate gets in touch with saliva, it starts melting.” Tschofen wouldn’t reveal how the chocolate is made, but did say a “special production step” is what increases the melting point. That answer, however, just wasn’t good enough for me. So I asked John Finley, head of the department of food science at Louisiana State University, what he thought the magic production step was. “My best guess is that they are fractionating the cocoa butter recovering a high-melting fraction,” he said in an e-mail. “The aeration of the product may be necessary to keep it from being like a brick.” David Albin, a chemical technician with Agriking in Fulton, Ill., had another take: “The spokeswoman is likely talking about salivary amylase,” he said. “The amylase will break down the starch, which apparently allows it to ‘melt’ in your mouth.” Various news outlets from Time to Marie Claire have reported on the chocolate, and ABC News goes as far as to catalog the history of previous attempts to invent a melt-proof chocolate. According to ABC News, none of the heat-proof chocolate bars have ever made it into commercial...

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