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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.

Siberian researchers recover the first-ever sample of mammoth’s blood, which was preserved in ice. Credit: Semyon Grigoriev/The Siberian Times

Icy Siberian conditions preserve mammoth blood and muscle tissue. Can mammoth clones be far off? And will we be able to use them as vacuums and showers like the Flintstones did? [Siberian Times]

Study finds that diet soda harms teeth just as badly as crack cocaine does. So either diet soda is more harmful than you initially thought, or crack cocaine is less harmful. [My Fox Atlanta]

Well hello there, hydrogen. You look gorgeous. [iO9]

Marijuana stash more than 2,000 years old is discovered at a Chinese grave site. Time-travel movie starring Cheech and Chong now seems inevitable. [NBC News]

Apes may be even closer to us, or at least our children, than we thought–they, too, throw temper tantrums when their risky, emotional choices don’t pay off. [NBC News]

For all you chemists working on top floors in high rise buildings, let this be a lesson to you: Throwing your glassware out the window can be lethal. [Slate]

Time-lapse video documents what the Mars Curiosity rover has been doing for the last nine months. If the Curiosity rover was on parole, its officer would be well pleased. [Huffington Post]

Create a hand-shaped, light-responsive hydrogel, check. Ask Robin Williams if he’d be up for a remake of “Flubber,” pending. [Wired]

In Print: Toys Will Be Toys

McDonald's website leaves it up to interpretation what divides the two types of toys.

McDonald’s website leaves it up to interpretation what divides these two types of toys.

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.

As the cashier at the fast-food restaurant is finishing our order, she grabs a small plastic doll and tosses it in my kids’ meal.

“Excuse me,” my mom says testily. “You didn’t give my daughter a choice of toys.” Even at age six, I can tell my mom is using tremendous restraint to give this young woman a chance to rectify her unintentional wrongs.

The woman looks at my mom, then at me, and asks, “Well, do you want the girls’ toy or the boys’ toy?”

I don’t remember if I ended up picking the doll or the toy car on that particular occasion. But I do distinctly remember the feeling of trying to weigh the gaps in my own eclectic toy collection with the point my now-fuming mother was trying to teach both me and the young woman at the cash register. Toys are toys, and kids should be able to choose their own interests without feeling undue social, gender-specific pressure.

Boots toy signage, before customer outrage led the store to redo how they label toy sections. Credit: @SeanEGray

Boots toy signage–with science kits in the boys’ section–before customer outrage led the store to redo how they label toy sections. Credit: Twitter/@SeanEGray

Twenty years later, I call my mom and tell her about this column, and she’s outraged we’re still having this debate. As I write in Newscripts this week, the gender-specific labeling of toys came under fire in England recently. Specifically, customers and online advocacy group Let Toys Be Toys took issue with science kits and chemistry sets being designated for boys. Since the backlash, toy giant Tesco and pharmacy chain Boots have changed their girls- and boys-specific toy labeling and issued apologetic statements.

In the U.S., however, it remains fairly ubiquitous. Target has girls’ toys and boys’ toys, as does Walmart, Toys”R”Us, and Fisher-Price–where play kitchens are still considered girls’ toys and Star Wars action figures are found in the boys’ section. Some studies have suggested a hormonal basis for children’s toy preferences. On the other hand, Sweden has found support for gender-neutral toy catalogs and early-childhood education.
Biological influences aside, it makes one wonder what the STEM divide would look like if girls were allowed or even encouraged to pick up a model train, a kit for making a clock from a potato, or a play chemistry set.

Amusing News Aliquots

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

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

Forget mouse ears. The best souvenir of your Disney vacation is your face on a 7.5-inch Stormtrooper figurine (or a figurine of yourself locked in carbonite after you have to pay for said vacation). [iO9]

Super geek dad builds 7-foot tall Transformer costumes in his spare time (with video). [Geeks Are Sexy]

The Newscripts gang loves irony. Like the burglary researcher whose work keeps getting plagiarized. [Improbable Research]

Tap … tap tap tap tap … tap tap tap tappp tap … It’s “Call Me Maybe,” why can’t you get that?! My fault?! No, you’re bad at communicating! [iO9]

Secret to hearing other galaxies? Be really, really quiet. Like, turn-off-your-cellphone-and-radio quiet. [NBC News]

Malaria parasites not only make mosquitoes more harmful, but also more hungry for human blood. Great. [BBC]

Kangaroo attacks an Australian politician during his jog, which is scary but also kind of adorable. [ABC News]

Also in Australia: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a hot-air balloon in the shape of a mammal with several nipples that’s supposed to make us reflect on our place in the world called Skywhale! [The Australian]

What’s the secret to living a long, healthy life? Well, it helps if you’re a woman. [BBC]

Amusing News Aliquots

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

Astronaut demonstrates what happens when a wet towel is wrung out in space. His cabinmates remind him of their spaceship’s strict “Clean up after yourself” rule. [Huffington Post]

The Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine release an online quiz to evaluate how your knowledge of science and technology compares with others’. Beat your grandfather to the punch, and forward him the link before he sends it to you. [Pew Research Center]

Newest loot for Mexico-to-China smugglers: giant bladders from endangered fish. [Washington Post]

And you thought medical marijuana had a hard time – researchers now looking into ecstasy as a possible treatment for serious stress disorders. [USA Today]

Happy 50th issue, Nature Chemistry. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones who have goofed up and published left-handed DNA. [The Sceptical Chymist]

Turns out the “cinnamon challenge” dare isn’t as innocuous as it sounds. Some attempters have wound up with long-term breathing problems or collapsed lungs. [Time]

Supposed extraterrestrial skeleton turns out to be a mummified human. Hunt for real-life Alf continues. [Metro]

Mars rovers – so immature. [io9]


Amusing News Aliquots

Ants maximize their time on the smooth felt (white) and minimize their time on the rough felt (green) to reach their destination in the faster, albeit indirectly. Credit: Simon Tragust/NBC News

Ants maximize their time on the smooth felt (white) and minimize their time on the rough felt (green) to reach their destination in the fastest, albeit indirect, way. Credit: Simon Tragust/NBC News

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

Wonder how ants descend mere minutes into a picnic? Ants optimize routes for speed, a la Fermat’s principle of least time. [NBC News]

Ladies, looking for a fertile fella? Seems men who sport kilts “have significantly better rates of sperm quality and higher fertility.” From the Scottish Medical Journal, of course. [Improbable Research]

Researchers believe frog feet could be used to aid intestinal health.  Connoisseurs of French food say, “We’re way ahead of you.” [ScienceDaily]

Forget anxiety meds, Tylenol shown to help dampen fears of existential uncertainty or death. [Gizmodo]

Not that we would try it, but there’s some interesting chemistry behind the marijuana-infused spirit known as the Green Dragon. [PopSci]

Feeling lazy and unmotivated? Blame your lazy and unmotivated parents … preferably via the Internet, so you don’t have to get off the couch. [Huffington Post]

Dogs who have been spayed or neutered live longer than those who haven’t. Canine community reconsiders its animosity toward Bob Barker. [e! Science News]

And you thought running columns was tedious. What about studying where people stand in an elevator? [NPR]

Check out a related video: 

Continue reading →

Terrence Howard Isn’t A Doctor, He Just Plays One On TV

Terrence Howard

Playing the part: Howard smiles through the pain of being an internationally famous actor. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, most boys dream of one day becoming a chemical engineer and enjoying the endless parade of fans, money, and women that comes with it. Terrence Howard wasn’t so lucky. He had to settle for Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor instead. But don’t feel too sorry for Howard because as he mentioned during a Feb. 26 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” he actually holds a Ph.D. in applied materials and chemical engineering from South Carolina State University!

Howard turned the lemons of being left out of “Iron Man 2″ into the lemonade of earning a doctorate? It all sounds very impressive. The problem? It’s a lie. Continue reading →

In Print: Science Models

If you ever visit the Museum of Science in Boston, in a certain corner of the museum you’ll find a giant insect hovering over a toy train set. This particular display, in a section about scale and models, delights and terrifies my three-year-old. He loves the train but is scared silly by the big bug. I had this section of the museum, and the ideas of scaling up and scaling down, on my mind when putting together this week’s Newscripts column. That’s because one story focuses on a new protein model building kit and the second story is about making bite-size gummy people.

Models are a big deal in science. They help us visualize and give us tactile experiences with all sorts of different things. From grade school, I recall a giant model of the ear and ear canal. My favorite thing to do was to pull out the tiny ossicles–those smallest of human bones–from the middle ear canal and try to figure out which was which amongst the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.

Credit: ThinkGeek

Credit: ThinkGeek

In chemistry, where we can’t really see the molecules we study, models are even more important for getting across ideas such as chirality and structure. Did anyone else learn stereochemistry with toothpicks and gumdrops?

It will be interesting to see what happens with the new Tangle Proteins Building Set, from chemistry professor Marcel Jaspars, of Scotland’s University of Aberdeen, and sculptor Richard X. Zawitz.

The new set looks like it will give budding biochemists the ability to build proteins in the same way that organic students build natural products.

As for the second item in the column, I confess that I wrote about the FabCafe in Japan because I saw the pictures of their gummy people online and was absolutely taken with how cool they looked, especially the image below. It’s so Matrix-meets-Haribo.

Credit: www.fabcafe.com

Credit: www.fabcafe.com

One of the C&EN editors even told me that he thought $65 was a bargain for seeing yourself reproduced in gummy candy. I heartily agree. Too bad this was just a special event at the FabCafe. And that the FabCafe is so far away (from me anyway). I love the idea of sitting down with a cafe au lait and then trying my hand at a laser cutter. Are there any Newscripts readers who have had the good fortune to visit this spot?

Amusing News Aliquots

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

You can dance if you want to. You can leave your friends behind. Because your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, they’re not as cool as this sea lion. [Nature World News]

Sea lions are trending: This baby sea lion was removed from a San Diego-area hotel after enjoying its patio furniture. World awaits sea loin’s angry Yelp review. [Huffington Post]

Have you got a theory or a hypothesis? Check out science’s seven most abused words. [SciAm]

Cookbooks always strive to come up with recipes that are out of this world, but Amsterdam’s “Baked” cookbook has an unfair advantage. [Huffington Post]

Japanese study finds that balding men are more likely to experience heart problems than their fully maned counterparts. So it’s not all fun and games for men losing their hair. [BBC]

A trout can survive a year without food, just by changing the size of its intestinal tract – how’s that for a diet technique? [National Geographic]

What do you do when you make the world’s lightest solid material? Why, put it on flowers, of course. [Book of Joe]

And now for an anatomy magic trick: 3-D printing an exact replica of a living (and unscathed) animal’s skeleton. [Wired]

Parents who fight in front of their kids may inadvertently hinder their children’s cognitive development. “But what about passive-aggressive texts?” curious couples wonder. [LiveScience]

If your last name were Burns, what would you study? Fires, natch. [Improbable Research]

Also, check out the London IgNobel Show live webcast, coming up shortly. [Improbable Research]