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Category → Chemistry in the News

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


PB&J: Usually carnivorous, these jellyfish were fed only peanut butter. Credit: Zelda Montoya and Barrett Christie / Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, Dallas via NBC

Dallas aquarium creates peanut butter and jellyfish by feeding jellyfish a steady diet of peanut butter. Rhesus monkeys eagerly await a diet of peanut butter cups. [NBC]

Governor of Colorado renames state’s tallest mountains in honor of all 53 players on the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl roster. The gesture provides the NFL with yet another opportunity to not discipline players for getting high before a game. [Denver Post

Because we need more online distractions, now you can build with Legos on your computer. [Chrome]

It turns out there are snakes in the air. “Yeah,” say nonplussed travelers. “They’re called price-gouging airline executives.” [Discovery]

The latest in army technology? Chewing gum for better dental health. Take note, Violet Beauregarde. [Army Times/USA Today]

Snowy owl gets lost in Washington, D.C., hit by bus, rushed to zoo for care. Witch at Hogwarts still awaiting her mail. [NPR] 

Research shows that sit-down restaurants often serve meals with higher fat and calorie content than fast-food restaurants. So stop complaining the next time your boyfriend takes you to Taco Bell instead of a four-star restaurant, ladies. [Yahoo]

In allergy study, 88% of kids allergic to peanuts could tolerate eating the equivalent of five peanuts after treatment regimen. So, what about the 12%? [Popular Science]

Flatulent German cows start fire. Cows blame a long night of drinking heifer weizen. [Reuters]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Credit: Photo by Lary Reeves

Credit: Lary Reeves

Spiders are capable of building statues of themselves. Which is cool, but let’s all admit that it’s a little narcissistic as well. [Wired]

Scientists show that people can detect levels of fat in food just by smell. Everyone who has ever smelled a juicy hamburger agrees. [Science Daily]

Remember those strawberry-scented fireworks that lit up London on New Year’s? Here’s a profile of their creators. [Wired]

Study finds that more than 50% of singles have difficulty discerning whether they’re on a date or not. So the next time you see a couple hanging out, think to yourself, “There’s a good chance one of those two people has no idea what’s going on.” [Time]

MIT students learn about heavy metal. And no, we’re not talking about the elements. We’re talking about the music. Lesson #1: “Always end with an explosion.” [Slice of MIT]

Japan’s space agency, JAXA, plans to trawl for space debris with a huge electrodynamic net. George Clooney fans cry that it’s too little too late.  [New Scientist]

Mystery of sloths’ tri-weekly poop pilgrimage may be more symbiotic than once thought. [National Geographic]

And when the sloths do come down to poop, someone may be combing their fur for drugs. [PLoS One]

Pot cultivator says classical music helps his crop grow better. Given that the cultivator managed a $500,000-a-year operation, the claim is certainly nothing to … Bach at. Wait, where are you going? Come back! [Fairfax New Zealand]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.


The purrr-fect book. Credit: prideandprejudiceandkitties.com

Finally, a book that explores the proper etiquette for spitting up a hair ball in public: “Pride and Prejudice and Kitties.” [Mother Nature Network]

More feline news: Looks like U.S. prisons are too posh. After all, cats looking for a comfortable home are now breaking into them. [Glens Falls Post-Star]

Think your graduate work was tough? At least you didn’t have to attach a camera to an alligator’s back. [Seriously, Science?]

Study suggests MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” might be driving down teen pregnancies. Next up, “Teens Who Don’t Do Their Homework”? [USA Today]

While the Newscripts gang was bundled up and hiding from the polar vortex, this Canadian fellow created a colored ice fort. [BoingBoing]

Did we all just assume that the flying V formation gave birds an aerodynamics push? Turns out it was just scientifically shown for the first time. [NPR]

Police arrest man for insobriety after his parrot tells police that he is drunk. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the man. He thought he had a parrot for a pet, but it turns out his pet was really a rat. [United Press International]

In the real-life Japanese version of “Good Will Hunting,” the university janitor creates a gorgeous, unsolvable maze in his spare time. [Viralnova]

Skip the plug-in night-lights, now you can buy bioluminescent house plants for all your nighttime low-light needs. [Popular Science]

When those pesky moral dilemma tests are presented in virtual reality–complete with carnage and screams–turns out people get more emotionally riled, but also more utilitarian. Sorry, best friend. [Time]



Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Bethany Halford.

Dragon dreams: Seven-year-old girl writes (and draws) to scientists asking for a dragon. Credit: Jezebel

Dragon dreams: Seven-year-old girl writes (and draws) to scientists asking for a dragon. Credit: Jezebel

Dear Scientists, a 7-year-old Australian girl named Sophie would like a dragon. Can we get on this, please? [Jezebel]

Prius owner turns his car into a generator during a power outage, now doubly smug. [UPI]

Not to be outdone, developers create portable battery that can charge a smartphone and jump start a car. [Popular Science]

Dolphins ingest pufferfish toxin and get so totally high, dude. [io9]

It was only a matter of time: Chemists publish an analysis of the chemistry in “Breaking Bad.” [Annals of Improbable Research]

Lion Whisperer brings along a GoPro camera so everyone can see what it looks like to hug a lion … from the safety and comfort of our own homes. [Huffington Post]

Beach worms could one day mend a broken heart. No, not your loneliness–like, seal up an actual tear in your heart muscles. [NPR]

Attention chemists skilled at assembling words or creating pictures: Only a few weeks left to get your entry ready for Chemistry World’s Science Communication Competition. [Chemistry World]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news.

Credit: Canadian Tire

Credit: Canadian Tire

This pickup truck carved from ice is one cool ride. [Daily Mail]

What’s the difference between smelling like jet fuel and smelling like new jet fuel? One carbon, apparently. Check out this table of organic compounds and their smells to see what compounds attract sperm and what compounds smell like a combination of goat and citrus. [James Kennedy/Monash University]

Scientists in Japan make small objects levitate and dance (with video!). What I really want to see though, is this technology transferred to the dance floor. [io9]

Fluorescent pigs? Could make for an interesting “Babe” sequel. [Stuff]

For Britain to get a high speed railway, 6,000 goats will have to die. Baa, say the goats, to obscure vellum laws. [Annals of Improbable Research]

And because it’s winter and snowing where I am, here is Derek Lowe’s cold weather chicken noodle soup—with grated hardboiled eggs! [In the Pipeline]

In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium

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 this week’s issue of C&EN.

Weather Balloon_Newscripts121613_Blog

Homeward Bound: Lyles holds AMET’s weather balloon as it prepares for one wild ride. Credit: Dahlon Lyles

Purdue University‘s Association of Mechanical & Electrical Technologists (AMET)–a hands-on STEM-oriented student organization that works on everything from robots to Rube Goldberg devices to rockets–expected the weather balloon that it launched on Nov. 16 to return to Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus. As this week’s Newscripts column describes, however, the trek back home was anything but predictable.

Takeoff of the balloon started easily enough, as this video from the balloon shows:

When the balloon reached an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, AMET lost all contact. As a result, the organization didn’t know the kinds of spectacular views their balloon was enjoying as it ascended to a height of 95,000 feet above Earth. That ascension is captured in the following videos:

Because everything that goes up must come down, the balloon soon plummeted back to Earth: Continue reading →

In Print: Mushroom Wrapping And Sound Zapping

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 this week’s issue of C&EN.

Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, has gotten a deservedly bad rap for clogging up Earth’s arteries. But an idea thought up by Eben Bayer when he was a mechanical engineering student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could give plastic packing peanuts a run for their money.

Credit: Ecovative

Food for thought: Delicately wrapped wine bottle or a couple of yeast and fungus products? Credit: Ecovative

As Senior Editor Alex Scott writes in this week’s Newscripts, Bayer devised a plan to use mycelium—tiny branching threads made by fungi—to hold together a natural, moldable packaging material. His firm, Ecovative Design, has a 40,000-sq-ft mycelium-growing facility that creates Styrofoam-shaped molds (that is, hollowed-out cavities, not fungi) for packaging delicate items.

Bayer insists that this mycelium packaging goes “head-to-head with plastic foam on cost, performance, appearance, and feel,” but Alex says he’d be interested in comparing the impacts of the two products on the marine environment and greenhouse gas emissions. And the Newscripts gang would be interested in comparing the reactions of kids when they open holiday presents wrapped in fungi.

“It does have an organic and irregular appearance,” Alex admits. “But I think once consumers learn about the environmental benefits of Ecovative’s material they would opt for it every time.”

Alex, for one, says he’d be pleased to get such an environmentally friendly wrapped package and would either put it in his compost bin or, if it was easy to crumble, use it as mulch on his flower beds. Such a green guy.

And if you read his original story carefully, you’ll notice Alex is also a punny guy. One pun that he self-edited out of print? That Bayer must have been a “fun guy” to have thought the idea up. Good one, Alex.

The next item in Alex’s column is also about how to make the world greener, this time using sound to amp up electrical output.

Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Winter wonderland: Actual photograph of an actual snowflake without actually using a microscope. Credit: Flickr user ChaoticMind75

It’s delicate work taking these splendid snowflake glamour shots. [chaoticmind] via [io9]

Camels are landing jobs during the holiday season. Joe Camel, however, is still smoking silently and waiting for the phone to ring. [Washington Post]

What’s worse than a robotic telemarketer? A robotic telemarketer that adamantly insists she’s a real person. Meet Samantha West. [Time]

Who says huffing organic solvents dulls the memory? Check out what Derek Lowe’s readers have to say about reagents they’ll never forget. [In the Pipeline]

The next time a coworker asks you how you’re doing, don’t tell them you’re sleepy. Tell them you’re suffering from “sleep inertia.” Then, when they ask you what that is, lift up your head and say in a haughty voice, “Oh, well, I guess somebody doesn’t read the New Yorker!” [New Yorker]

“When the picture on their 50-inch box television started flickering, Mike took off the back panel and found the guts throbbing with ants.”  Best to read this piece on Rasberry crazy ants with a can of Raid nearby. [New York Times]

NASA scientists say life may have once been present on a Mars lake. No word yet on how much alien waterfront property may have cost. [BBC]

Next time you’re stumbling out of a bar, take comfort in statistics that show people who drink alcohol regularly (and even too regularly) live longer than teetotalers. Just don’t smugly stumble to your car, because stats can’t save you from yourself. [Business Insider]

Forget bared teeth, growling, and beating of chests–male chameleons get ready for epic showdowns by quickly changing their bodies from bright color to bright color. [NBC Science]