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Archive → July, 2008

Chemistry Newsbytes

Clarifying the nature of glass. NY Times

Does your chicken taste funky? It could be the chlorine. Slate

All you ever wanted to know about the science of soot. Houston Chronicle

The next electronics toy: an iPod-sized microscope. New Scientist

X-ray fluorescence shows that lovely “new car smell” is becoming less toxic. CNet

A back-of-the-envelope calculation on what it takes to make a can of Raid explode. Slate

Illegal song downloads are so 2001. Now the kids are pirating McMurray’s O-Chem text. NY Times

ACS In Alaska

While on vacation in Alaska, Rudy discovered that it is, indeed, a small world after all. Read about his experience in this week’s editorial.

A few years ago, Assistant Managing Editor Susan Morrissey ran into a vacationing Elias Zerhouni, director of NIH, at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Which chemists have you run into unexpectedly while on vacation? Any other national park encounters?

Chemistry Newsbytes

The “mystery science eater” takes on some of molecular gastronomy’s tricks. Time Out NY

Does water have a memory of what it has contained? BBC

An aerosol mass spec helps scientists study carbon in the clouds. e! Science News

Some smart answers to some incredibly stupid questions for female grad students and profs. FemaleScienceProfessor

A variety of flavor molecules in mom’s milk could lead to more adventurous palates. New Scientist

Bruce Willis, we’re looking at you. Top 10 scientifically inaccurate movies. Yahoo

Our Genes Look Great Together

The evolution of dating has made, depending on your viewpoint, either a giant technological leap or a bizarre move backward. While online dating sites try to help singles find their companions based on chemistry, in the abstract sense, Swiss start-up company GenePartner wants to match you based on Chemistry, in the literal sense. The basis for finding your special someone? According to their website:

“Prof. Dr. Wedekind recruited female volunteers to smell T-shirts worn by men for three consecutive days and rate them for attractiveness. He then analyzed the particular part of DNA that codes for HLA (human leukocyte antigen) molecules and found that women preferred T-shirts from men whose HLA molecules were most different from their own. Sensing and classifying the HLA genes is something our bodies do automatically and subconsciously.”

The company claims to have found patterns of HLA genes that “attract,” by comparing the genes of couples in working relationships, as well as singles.

Their business plan is a bit convoluted. The idea is to complement online dating by including your genetic profile (courtesy of GenePartner for just $199) so that, before bothering to meet someone for a latte, you can know if you’re going to have “chemistry.” How romantic.

Amazingly, this isn’t just for singles. The company wants to test how compatible existing couples are. Hmm. Is this all leading to a new form of break-up? “Sorry baby, it’s not you, it’s your genes.”

Improbable TV

The folks over at Improbable Research (of Annals of Improbable Research

and Ig Nobels fame) have found one more way to make people laugh and then think. Improbable TV is a web-based series of short videos that highlight bits from the magazine, Ig Nobel lectures, and various other sources. Each episode (posted on YouTube) is about three minutes long and contains a mishmash of bits that may or may not be related (so far not), and that’s kind of part of the fun. Have a look at the first episode:

New episodes should appear about every two weeks. Next up: “Cuticles, and two reactions.”

Conference Surveillance

In addition to Spanish tapas and cocktails served at the ESOF conference mixer Monday night in Barcelona, I was also served something less appetizing: the news that for the past five days, unbeknown to me, a radio frequency infrared device (RFID) hidden in my name tag had been reporting my conference attendance habits to organizers. Ditto for the more than 3,500 other participants.

A radio reporter from Southern Germany showed me the RFID hidden in between the front and back sides of my name tag; he had also just discovered the strip in his own badge.

So that

was the explanation for the twin pillars at the doorway of every session room and the main building’s entrance: They were the RFID readers. Despite my otherwise enjoyable time at the conference, I suddenly felt a bit irked.

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A Halal Feast At The Chemistry Olympiad

Around midnight on the last night of the International Chemistry Olympiad, a wonderful aroma was wafting through the halls of the dorm where the students and I were staying.

I suspected that something was cooking, so I followed the scent. (Don’t ask me what I was doing still up at midnight.)

I found Ayesha Ahmed of Pakistan in the communal kitchen stirring a pot of chicken.

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Chemistry Newsbytes

Spectroscopy could render the dreaded dentist’s drill obsolete. First Science

On the rocks with a twist? Adding lime to seawater could cut atomospheric carbon dioxide. PhysOrg

An abundance of girls: CDC finds that higher PCB levels have led to lower birth rates of boys. NYTimes

Just how reliable is DNA evidence? Perhaps not as reliable as you think. LA Times

Is the ease of the Web actually narrowing scientific knowledge? Economist

Monster mapping: following dinosaur footprints with lasers. New Scientist

A lapsed chemical engineer contemplates campfire chemistry. Each Little Mystery