This Week on CENtral Science: Military Biofuels, Preserve it Like Beckham, and more
May31

This Week on CENtral Science: Military Biofuels, Preserve it Like Beckham, and more

Tweet of the Week: @carmendrahl @smbaxtersd I mean really, judging by the numbers, an alternative career today would be one where you get a faculty position.— Ryan G. Coleman (@rgcjk) May 31, 2013 To the network: Artful Science: How long should conservators protect David Beckham’s football? Cleantech Chemistry: It’s Actually Happening: Military biofuels grants Grand CENtral: Sarah Everts talks Artful Science at conservation meeting, Jyllian Kemsley moderated #chemsafety panel Newscripts: In Print: Mission to Mars, Molecular Fashion and Amusing News Aliquots The Watch Glass: Big Data, 1972-style and Bhopal Revisited and Chemical Genetics and Oil in the...

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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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I’ll Have The Man-Made Lava … On The Rocks
Sep11

I’ll Have The Man-Made Lava … On The Rocks

In this week’s issue of C&EN, I wrote a Newscripts column about the Lava Project going on at Syracuse University. The earth scientists who help run the program in upstate New York weren’t satisfied with studying lava by traveling to volcanoes in parts unknown. These geologists make their own lava, right on campus, in half-ton quantities by melting down crushed basalt in a high-temperature furnace. The project began, as I mention in my column, with the goal of creating a lava-flow sculpture—a giant piece of land art depicting what a person might experience in a real lava field. But it’s become much more than that, according to Jeffrey A. Karson, a Syracuse geologist and one of the leaders of the project. Academics who study lava elsewhere sometimes make their own lava on a very small scale, Karson tells me. We’re talking enough lava to fill a thimble. But lava usually flows in larger quantities than that, AND it sometimes flows to where people live, Karson says. Studying these larger flows will “help us predict how they’re going to flow, and hopefully, how to manage those flows,” he adds. One project the scientists at Syracuse have been working on is to study how lava interacts with ice. When Iceland’s volcano Grímsvötn erupted in May 2011, it famously spewed ash into the sky and disrupted flights in and out of Europe. But there were also some lava flows that occurred during the eruption, Karson says. Collaborating with Ben Edwards, a geologist at Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania, the Syracuse team have been pouring their molten lava onto ice beds and trying to reproduce some of the features that formed during that eruption. “We were able to learn quite a lot about the capability of lava to melt ice and snow, as well as the shapes lava flows take when they have interacted with ice and snow,” Karson explains. This shape-profiling might even one day come in handy when studying volcanic eruptions in space. “We can see the shape of lava flows on Mars,” Karson says. “So we might be able to remotely, just from the shape of the lava flows, predict something about the paleoclimate and distribution of ice and water on the surface of the Red Planet.” In the meantime, the researchers will keep having a blast, pouring lava in a parking lot on campus. For your viewing pleasure, I present one of a series of videos depicting the team’s lava flows. This one shows just what happens when basaltic lava is poured “on the...

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