Amusing News Aliquots
Dec06

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Where some see a stinky armpit, this Ph.D. student saw a novel method for making cheese. [Improbable Research] Latex condoms? So five minutes ago. The new hotness is electrospun nanofiber condoms. [PopSci] Bad news for those of us who have lost our sense of smell from breathing the air in the organic lab: Scientists say a strong sense of smell is key to a happy relationship. [Daily Mail] New study, completed in Turkey, shows that treating gum disease also improves erectile dysfunction. Newscripts wonders whether the researchers did a control for bad breath simply keepin’ the ladies away. [Vitals/NBCNews] A nice explainer on the perils of moonshine and drinking oneself blind. [Slate] Experiment from 1995 finds that cowboy boots impart less balance to subjects than tennis shoes. Give those researchers some more funds!...

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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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Green Banana Pasta, Just like Mama Never Used to Make
Jul23

Green Banana Pasta, Just like Mama Never Used to Make

These days it seems like everything’s turning green. Cars. Buildings. And now, thanks to a team led by University of Brasilia Ph.D. nutritionist Renata P. Zandonadi, even pasta is turning green. For her doctoral thesis, Zandonadi used unripe, green bananas to develop an alternative for individuals, such as those with the autoimmune condition celiac disease, who are allergic to the gluten normally found in pasta. The results were recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.04.002). Typically pasta is made with wheat flour (which contains gluten) and whole eggs. Zandonadi’s team, however, cooked up a pasta with green banana flour (which does not contain gluten), egg whites, water, and guar and xantham gum. According to Zandonadi’s teammate Raquel Botelho, green banana flour serves as a great replacement for wheat flour because the fruit’s resistant starch “forms a net similar to gluten” that traps water inside the pasta, ensuring a moist and elastic consistency. Unripe fruit might not sound like the most appetizing of ingredients, but the experimental pasta actually proved quite tasty. The team cooked a meal of green banana pasta for a focus group of 25 people with celiac disease as well as a meal of green banana pasta and whole-wheat pasta for another group of 50 with no gluten allergies. The team then asked the tasters to rate their experience. The diners raved about the experimental pasta, ranking it ahead of whole-wheat pasta in terms of aroma, flavor, texture, and all-around quality. Not bad for pasta that contains 98% less fat than its whole-wheat counterpart. Another benefit, says Botelho: Green banana pasta serves as a source of inulin, a polysaccharide that stimulates the development of “good,” immunity-boosting intestinal bacteria. Through their new recipe, the research team has turned a commonly overlooked fruit into a key ingredient for feeding an underserved section of the world’s population. “Green bananas are considered a subproduct of low commercial value with little industrial use,” the team’s abstract notes. Yet, “the possibility of developing gluten-free products with green banana flour can expand the product supply for people with celiac disease and contribute to a more diverse diet.” Green banana flour has already contributed to a more diverse diet for the Brazilian research team. Botelho tells Newscripts that her lab bakes cakes, cookies, and pies using the alternative pasta ingredient. Still, she contends, “the most difficult recipes to be developed without gluten are pasta and bread. That is why we wrote an article about...

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Specialty Food Chemistry at DC’s Fancy Food Show
Jun26

Specialty Food Chemistry at DC’s Fancy Food Show

Chemistry is everywhere, as we're fond of saying in the pages of C&EN. So I was excited to let my taste buds partake in the biochemistry at the Fancy Food Show, which rolled into DC this past weekend. Sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, the Show is a mecca for makers of specialty foods such as cheeses, confections, and snacks. It draws the most diverse group of attendees I've ever encountered--on the expo floor I ran into folks from nerd gift emporium ThinkGeek, agribusiness giant Cargill, and the U.S. State Department. Chew on some tidbits of science I picked up at the show, some of which are connected to past C&EN coverage. AUTHENTICATING OLIVE OIL At the booth for Daskara, an extra-virgin olive oil brand from the West Bank, I spoke about olive oil authentication with Nancy Ash, who's participated in taste panels for multiple bodies, including the California Olive Oil Council, and who consults for multiple olive oil producers, including Daskara. As Sarah Everts reported in C&EN in 2009, olive oil is big business, which has made olive oil fraud a big problem. Authentication is important for new producers to succeed in the specialty food market, but "many people feel the current standard is not strict enough and is not well-enforced," Ash says. USDA enacted new standards for grades of olive oil in 2010, but the standards are voluntary. Ash told me the American Oil Chemists' Society, a membership society for researchers studying fats, oils, and detergents, is planning a proficiency testing series for olive oil sensory panels for this fall. (Sensory panels are trained to certify olive oils submitted by producers or importers). I confirmed this information with AOCS spokesperson Emily Wickstrom, who says enrollment for the testing for professional sensory panels should open at AOCS's site this week. SPACE-AGE PACKAGING As someone who loved astronaut ice cream as a kid, I was drawn to a press release from snack company Buddy Fruits, which claimed to use the same packaging techniques as NASA for its drinkable blended fruit products. The pouch-like packaging the company uses is not new, I learned. It's made from a flexible, laminated film with a straw built into the inside of the pouch. Buddy Fruits' containers come from an Italian firm called Gualapack. That company entered the market in 1988, after reaching an agreement with Japanese company Hosokawa Yoko for production and marketing of the packages. Here's a 1988 patent for a "Beverage Container" from Hosokawa Yoko. The patent notes the container body is made from a four-layer laminated film consisting of a polyester film, aluminum foil, nylon film,...

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Amusing News Aliquots
May25

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings of this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. MIT engineers devise coating to squeeze the last drops of delicious ketchup from the bottle. Now if they could just figure out a way to get rid of that annoying watery layer that always comes out first. [Brainiac] Finally, research on why heirloom tomatoes are just better than all the others. Here comes the chemistry of volatile compounds. [Scientific American] Attention Canadians: You may soon get to buy apples that won’t go brown after they’ve been cut. [Cnews] To see the QR code on this glass, you’ll have to pour a pint of Guinness. [BoingBoing] Slate takes on baby veggies – Are they the veal of the vegetable world? [Slate] Cuttlefish are just SO unevolved. Pigments in their ink sacs haven’t changed for 160 million years. [iO9] Top 10 newly discovered species of 2011 announced. List includes a sneezing monkey, a night-blooming orchid, and a walking cactus. [Science Daily] For coverage of 2010’s list, click here:...

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Amusing News Aliquots
May10

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Putting water on cereal is weird. Now there’s science to prove it. [Discoblog] Buying your own wedding ring is for weaklings. This guy forged his from a meteorite. [io9] Roadkill, it’s no longer just good eats. It’s doing science. [Wired] Welcome to the age of social media: Hospital in Houston live tweets a brain surgery, with video and photos. Click to see the Storify-ed version. [Memorial Hermann/Storify] Mathematician reveals how he beat the roulette wheel in the 1970s with wearable computer. [New Scientist] When your parrot curses a blue streak, does it know what it’s saying?...

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