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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).

Green bananas: Miss Chiquita’s preferred pasta ingredient. Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Bhaskaranaidu

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. Continue reading →

Grappling with the Elements

The movie opens on an industrial wasteland. Big vats of nitric acid stand out against a gray sky, the acrid smell of nitrogen dioxide hangs in the air, and discarded circuit boards litter the desolate landscape. It looks like a scene from a sci-fi film taking place in some dystopian future. But it’s not. Rather, this image of present-day India sets the tone for British filmmaker Mike Paterson’s short documentary “Copper: Acid & Dust,”

94 Elements poster: What Dimitri Mendeleev would have hung up in his dorm room. Credit: 94 Elements

one of several films created for the ambitious 94 Elements project in which filmmakers will create a short documentary exploring each of the 94 naturally occurring elements, everything from hydrogen to plutonium. The project is an opportunity for Paterson and a host of other notable filmmakers to explore the more human side of the periodic table.

“Copper,” for instance, tells the story of a group of teenage Indian boys who, having left behind the agricultural practices of their rural state of Bihar, now mine second-hand electronic circuit boards for copper and other metals. Placing the cast-off boards inside nitric acid solutions, the boys are able to extract copper from between the boards’ epoxy resin layers and then sell the copper to factories. According to Paterson, this practice is illegal in India, due largely to the toll the extraction process takes on the environment: One of the by-products of the process is the aforementioned nitrogen dioxide.

Paterson found this juxtaposition between the agricultural and industrial practices of his film’s subjects particularly inspiring during the creation of his documentary. “The similarities between the work they were doing with the copper and the agricultural, laboring work struck me very strongly,” he tells Newscripts. “They’re farming the copper now rather than farming the land, but the unfortunate side effect is that their work is highly polluting to the land.”

Continue reading →

Rockin’ in the Tree World

A fresh crop of talent has just hit the music scene with a style unlike anything the record industry has ever experienced. Just be extra careful when holding up a Bic lighter at one of their shows.

Slices of wood are making quite the musical splash, and it’s all thanks to their show-stopping performance in German media artist Bartholomäus Traubeck’s 2011 installation “Years.” The installation features a record player built by Traubeck that translates the growth rings found on a slice of lumber into music. To unleash the melodies that have been gestating inside our timbered brethren for years, the record player uses a modified PlayStation Eye webcam—containing a customized lens that functions as a microscope—to record and analyze the strength, thickness, and growth rate of a tree’s rings. A media-generating program called vvvv then maps those characteristics to piano keys within a specific musical scale that has been determined by the wood’s overall appearance, and abracadabra, a song is born.

Traubeck tells Newscripts that he was inspired to create “Years” when he realized the “visual pun” of equating the growth rings of a tree to the grooves of a vinyl record. “I thought about the implications and the associations between the two media, wood and vinyl, and decided on trying to actually build that as a machine,” he says.

As a result of his efforts, Traubeck has created a machine that can play a variety of woods, and much like the members of a boy band, no two wood slices sound alike. Continue reading →