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This Week on GlobCasino: #ACSNOLA picks, better beer foam, and more!

Tweet of the week:

I’m baaaaack! Many thanks to Carmen for both overlording in my absence and agreeing to co-overlord in my return. Today we’re mourning the loss of film critic Roger Ebert, but we’re also celebrating the birthday of Terra Sig owner and ubermensch, David Kroll!

To the network:

Artful Science: Gold gilding, ancient amber and a mysterious hidden sculpture: A new cultural heritage journal launches! and A brief hiatus: Onwards to Uzbekistan

Grand CENtral: C&EN Picks for ACS New Orleans #ACSNOLA

Just Another Electron Pusher: Why some women may choose not to enter STEM careers and ACS Webinar: Chemists at U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Newscripts: GZA Drops Verse (And Science) On The Schools and In Print: Chemistry Labs Sound Like Music and Four Tips for Getting the Best Beer Foam and Amusing News Aliquots

The Haystack: Liveblogging First-Time Disclosures of Drug Structures from #ACSNOLA (bookmark this link for next week)

The Safety Zone: Chemical and laboratory safety at #ACSNOLA

The Watchglass: Macromolecules at will and 1980 employment outlook and a glass bulb demonstrates critical opalescence and the state of inorganic chemistry back in ’79

A brief hiatus: Onwards to Uzbekistan

Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

My apologies for a few weeks hiatus over here at Artful Science.

Last summer I got married and we are finally off on our honeymoon to Uzbekistan (aka the honeystan) where we will explore some awesome Silk Road architecture.

Given that we’ll be looking at a lot of mosaics, I thought I’d point you to this post on the conservation of tile art and the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

See you at the end of April…

Gold gilding, ancient amber and a mysterious hidden sculpture: A new cultural heritage journal launches!

This gold gilding at the Reales Alcazares of Sevilla was added in the 19th century.

This gold gilding at the Reales Alcazares of Sevilla was added in the 19th century.

There’s beautiful gold gilding at Reales Alcazares royal palace in Seville, Spain.

Yet it turns out that the pretty gold gilding you see in the image on the left is not precisely original.

The World Heritage Site was originally built in 914 AD, and then expanded from the 14th to the 16th century.

Recently, Spanish researchers found a layer of paint lying below the gold gilding that contains lead chromate, a pigment that wasn’t used until the 19th century. So the gold lying above must have been added afterwards.

Yellow lead chromate pigment is responsible for the bright color of many old school buses, and it was even used as a colorant for yellow candy before falling out of favor because both lead and chromate are extremely toxic.

Cross section showing gold gilding on top and yellow lead chromate paint below.

Cross section showing gold gilding on top and yellow lead chromate paint below.

Spanish researchers report that the lead chromate layer was added sometime after 1818 above a deteriorated layer gold gilding, probably as part of a 19th century restoration project.

The lead chromate may have been painted on as false gold to keep up appearances before new gold gilding could be applied.

Or it’s possible that the lead chromate was painted on just before the new gold gilding: The paint may have acted as a foundation layer to help the new gold gilding adhere.

This conundrum is reported in the inaugural issue of Heritage Science

, the first peer-reviewed journal to focus entirely on cultural heritage science. (Welcome!!)

This 7th century BC amber found in an Italian tomb originally came from the Baltic area even though Italy had its own sources of amber.

This 7th century BC amber found in an Italian tomb originally came from the Baltic area even though Italy had its own sources of amber.

There’s a variety of interesting topics reported in the journal’s first edition, including a way to determine the geographical origin of amber which provides clues about early trading roots of the fossilized tree resin.

There’s also an analysis of medieval Hungarian silver coins, and several papers on the effects of pollution and humidity on cultural heritage objects, from ancient architecture to antique books.

The issue also contains a cool paper about a sculpture accidentally discovered behind a wall of St Petersburg’s Winter Palace in 2010.

The sculpture, called Fugitive Slave and made by the Russian artist Vladimir Beklemishev, was inspired by the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was initially exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and then sent to Russia before being hidden in the palace wall after the sculpture suffered heavy damage during World War Two.

The sculpture was made to look like bronze, even though it is definitely not bronze.

That’s why the scientists are keen to study its make-up: The pseudo bronze involves creative use of gypsum, iron, copper and arsenic.

But perhaps the most interesting read in the inaugural issue of Heritage Science

is the very pointed essay by journal editor Richard Brereton.

Brereton does not mince words about the devastating effect of 20th century progress on cultural heritage. He begins with his hometown of Bristol, where “post-war planners destroyed more of Bristol than [World War 2] bombs” and goes on to decry lost heritage in other parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas.

“Capitalists, aristocrats, democrats and communists were all at it in the twentieth century, destroying a heritage that had evolved very slowly for centuries. In the past there had been waves of localized destruction, for example in Rome, the Popes raided marble from the Coliseum in order to construct new churches, and in Latin America, the Spanish conquistadors organised a mass destruction of Inca, Aztec and many other cultural artefacts – for example there are only fragments of Aztec written texts available due to the enthusiastic destruction of material by priests. But the twentieth century appears unique for a mass international desecration of our global historic heritage. Most governments were dependent on some sort of political support, even tyrants have to feed their armies, and people wanted hot water in the homes and good food on the table and washing machines and televisions rather than fine paintings and important buildings.”

Here’s to reading more in Heritage Science about how 21st century science can inform efforts to conserve what’s not been destroyed in the 20th century.

C&EN Picks for ACS New Orleans #ACSNOLA

How can chemists mitigate the effects of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina? What are the latest chemistry mobile apps? And how are emulsions making a difference in medical imaging? Sessions at next week’s ACS National Meeting in New Orleans will be covering those timely topics. Watch all of our picks below. If you’ll be in New Orleans, you can also see these videos in the convention center.

Top 10 Shoutouts to Pope Francis and Chemistry – Storify


Waldorf Time Again

waldorf clock

One week before the custom pharmaceutical chemicals industry heads to DCAT Week, its annual conclave at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the Chemical Pharmaceutical Generic Association (CPA), an Italian trade group, has issued a global market overview that may be of interest.

 CPA puts the overall global market for active pharmaceutical ingredients at $113 billion in 2012, up from $91 billion in 2008, the year the global economy began to slide into recession. That comes to an annual average growth rate of 5.6%, compared to 7.2% growth between 2004 and 2008. The economic downturn is an obvious cause for the slowdown. But CPA cites some shifts in services to the pharmaceutical industry as contributing to the slowdown.

The group notes that the captive market (APIs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies for their own use) has risen faster than the merchant market (APIs sold to third parties). The captive market has grown 5.8 % to $69 billion; the merchant market has grown 5.1% to $44 billion. CPA also notes an increased demand for value-added services, specifically finished dosage formulation, on the part of drug companies. The trend toward adding finished dosage services is particularly brisk in India and Israel, according to CPA. Consolidation and contraction in the pharmaceutical industry has spurred the demand for finished dosage services.  

There are some interesting geographic market variances as well. The highest growth had been Asia over the last four years—an average annual rate of 13.9%. The lowest growth rates are in the U.S., Japan, and Europe—3.8%, 3.4%, and 2.5%. It is also noted that within the global merchant market, generic APIs are growing much faster than the APIs produced for branded pharmaceuticals. The merchant market for generic APIs has grown 7.3% annually on average since 2008 to $22.5 billion, whereas the merchant market for branded APIs has grown 3.1% to $21.5 billion.

None of these figures is particularly surprising, though it seems strange that captive API production is growing faster than the merchant market, given the closure of plants and claims of increased outsoucing at major drug companies. One senses, however, that there will be a rebound in revenue, if not in sales volume, for API suppliers over the next four years. Some sources of potential growth can be gleaned from the trends analyzed by CPA. We are well out of the recession. And the move toward value-added services—including the broadening of research services at firms such as Albany Molecular Research in the U.S. and formulation services at firms such as Siegfried in Europe—is really only getting started. And drug approvals are picking up as the pharmaceutical industry inches toward personalized medicine. The volume of APIs sold will likely not change as significantly as the value of the API-plus (chemicals and services) offered to the downsized drug companies and advancing biotechs and virtual pharmas.

The general “up” vibe at Informex in Anaheim last month will carry forward to New York this week—how much can change in so short a time? It will be interesting to get some four-years-out projections from folks at the Waldorf.

Daisies, frankincense, mint, and mercury help preserve Richard the Lionheart’s heart

This is a guest blog post from Stu Borman, a C&EN senior correspondent for science, technology & education.

The tomb of Richard I’s heart in Notre Dame of Rouen, France. Credit: walwyn—professor-moriarty.com

The tomb of Richard I’s heart in Notre Dame of Rouen, France. Credit: walwyn—professor-moriarty.com

A French-based research team recently had a rare opportunity to get to the heart—quite literally—of some 12th century European history.

Using a battery of scientific equipment, they took a closer look at how the heart of English king Richard I was preserved for posterity.

Also known as Richard the Lionheart because of his military prowess, Richard I was king of England from 1189 to 1199.

He led a Crusade to the Holy Land in 1190, but the mission failed to take Jerusalem, its main objective.

On the way back home he was imprisoned by an Austrian duke and the German emperor and then only released after payment of what was literally a king’s ransom. Continue reading →

Storify: Reaction to USA Today Investigation Revealing Reviews For Arsenic-Based Life Paper #Arseniclife

Usually, Grand CENtral is for roundups and other announcements, but I’m going to invoke overlord privilege to post a Storify summary of something I think is important.