In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem
Mar25

In Print: Europe’s Got A Stink Problem

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.  This week's print Newscripts comes from Alex Scott, C&EN senior editor for Europe, who writes about the smells in his neck of the woods in "The French Stench, The English Pong, The Cheesy Norwegians." He covers the sources of a sulfurous rotten-egg smell in coastal France, an unpleasant "pong" on a British beach, and noxious goat-cheese fumes in a Norwegian tunnel. "Chemistry is happening all around us,"  Scott says. "The stories this week show just how this can happen and how even the smell of benign chemicals in the environment can stop us in our tracks. You can even make money from some smells such as was the case with the discovery of ambergris." (A Brit found some ambergris, the intestinal slurry of a sperm whale valued for perfume-making, on a beach). As for what he couldn't fit into print, Scott says he wished he could've gone into more detail about just how rotten-egg-smelling mercaptan was accidently released from a Lubrizol plant in France. But hey, he'd love to tell the blogosphere more: "Rather than being produced as a final product, the mercaptan was generated incidentally during the production of an additive for a lubricant. The additive wasn’t cooled quickly enough in a reactor, and this led to a release of mercaptan. Normally this is avoided. Lubrizol’s problem was then that its air-scrubbing equipment was unable to reduce the mercaptan to the extremely low levels at which humans can detect it, hence the release." Stay sniffin', Alex....

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Amusing News Aliquots
Jun07

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news. Got a thing for librarians? Now you can smell like a book. [Steidl] How do you weigh a dinosaur? Why, with a laser beam, of course. [Not Exactly Rocket Science] The law tries to keep up with garage chemists making analogs of THC in “a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole.” [Gizmodo] Mosquitoes + raindrops + high speed video = awesome. [Huffington Post] Here’s a job you don’t want: Developing stink bombs for the Department of Defense. [New Scientist] In honor of Ray Bradbury, here are the most beautiful covers of “Fahrenheit 451.” [Slate]  ...

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Valentine Perfumes Made By Chemists
Feb14

Valentine Perfumes Made By Chemists

In this week’s print Newscripts column, Associate Editor Linda Wang wishes readers a happy Valentine’s Day by writing a feature about a chemist who makes his own perfumes. Frederick J. Lakner first wrote in to C&EN in a Letter to the Editor about his frustrations at being unemployed. But it turns out that when Lakner isn’t patiently seeking a new job, he uses his chemistry skills to concoct fragrances for men and women. To check them out, click here. The folks at the Periodic Table of Videos have also been having “a bit of fun for Valentine’s Day,” according to their website, by trying their hands at perfumery. In this clip, they pass around a bottle, and each team member adds a special component to create the perfect fragrance. As Martyn Poliakoff explains, cheap perfumes have very few components and evaporate quickly. The more expensive ones, he says, have lots of complex ingredients layered over one another. If so, their perfume, “Mendeleev’s Dream,” is quite sophisticated, containing components such as vanillin, vodka, citronellol, cinnamaldehyde, boron trioxide, and hexachloroplatinic acid (for “a little bling”). The kicker, I think, might be the red dye 23 put in at the end, turning the solution blood red. Kids, do not apply this at home. For a man-on-the-street look at how “Mendeleev’s Dream” tests with science students at the University of Nottingham, here’s some extra...

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