‘A rare textile made from the silk of more than a million wild spiders goes on display today at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today. [..]
Peers came up with the idea of weaving spider silk after learning about the French missionary Jacob Paul Camboué, who worked with spiders in Madagascar during the 1880s and 1890s. Camboué built a small, hand-driven machine to extract silk from up to 24 spiders at once, without harming them. [..]
But to make a textile of any significant size, the silk experts had to drastically scale up their project. “Fourteen thousand spiders yields about an ounce of silk,” Godley said, “and the textile weighs about 2.6 pounds. The numbers are crazy.”’
‘Using an atomic-force microscope, scientists at IBM Research in Zurich have for the first time made an atomic-scale resolution image of a single molecule, the hydrocarbon pentacene.
Atomic-force microscopy works by scanning a surface with a tiny cantilever whose tip comes to a sharp nanoscale point. As it scans, the cantilever bounces up and down, and data from these movements is compiled to generate a picture of that surface. These microscopes can be used to “see” features much smaller than those visible under light microscopes, whose resolution is limited by the properties of light itself. Atomic-force microscopy literally has atom-scale resolution.
Still, until now, it hasn’t been possible to use it to look with atomic resolution at single molecules. On such a scale, the electrical properties of the molecule under investigation normally interfere with the activity of the scanning tip. Researchers at IBM Research in Zurich overcame this problem by first using the microscope tip to pick up a single molecule of carbon monoxide. This drastically improved the resolution of the microscope, which the IBM scientists used to make an image of pentacene. They arrived at carbon monoxide as a contrast-enhancing addition after trying many chemicals.’
‘The Oppau explosion occurred on September 21, 1921 when a tower silo storing 4,500 tonnes of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded at a BASF plant in Oppau, now part of Ludwigshafen, Germany, killing 500–600 people and injuring about 2,000 more.
The plant began producing ammonium sulfate in 1911, but during World War I when Germany was unable to obtain the necessary sulfur, it began to produce ammonium nitrate as well. Ammonia could be produced without overseas resources, using the Haber process.
Compared to ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate is strongly hygroscopic, so the mixture of ammonium sulfate and nitrate clogged together under the pressure of its own weight, turning it into a plaster-like substance in the 20 m high silo. The workers needed to use pickaxes to get it out, a problematic situation because they could not enter the silo and risk being buried in collapsing fertilizer.
To ease their work, small charges of dynamite were used to loosen the mixture. [..]‘
There are a few stories of Thomas Edison’s adventures. Science was extremely dodgy in the past. For example:
“I had read in a scientific paper the method of making nitroglycerine, and was so fired by the wonderful properties it was said to possess, that I determined to make some of the compound. We tested what we considered a very small quantity, but this produced such terrible and unexpected results that we became alarmed, the fact dawning upon us that we had a very large white elephant in our possession. At 6 A.M. I put the explosive into a sarsaparilla bottle, tied a string to it, wrapped it in a paper, and gently let it down into the sewer, corner of State and Washington Streets.”
‘A man who claims chemicals in his sofa caused a serious heart problem is to sue its supplier and manufacturer. [..]
Mr Green said he first suffered blisters, then breathing problems, followed by pneumonia and finally heart failure, which doctors have told him has left half his heart damaged.
“At first I just couldn’t catch my breath, I thought it was just a cold or flu, but it just escalated from there,” he said. [..]
He claims sachets of anti-mould fungicide placed under the sofa cushions to keep the leather fresh were responsible.
The sachets contained the chemical dimethyl fumarate.’
‘This is a hamburger from McDonalds that I purchased in 1996.
That was 12 years ago.
Note that it looks exactly like it did the very day I bought it.
The flecks on the bun are crumbs from the bun.
The burger is starting to crumble a bit
It has the oddest smell.’
‘Left to its own devices, TATP can decompose to oxygen or ozone and acetone. However, TATP is so unstable that it can spontaneously explode in an unpredictable and catastrophic manner.
TATP is especially dangerous because it is constrained in a ring like structure, the carbon and methane groups which are shown in gray and white in the images below do not allow for the elimination of the unstable extra oxygen atoms and the retention of the ring like structure at the same time. When the rings of TATP fall apart the rearrangement is necessarily wholesale and dramatic.
The mixing solvents like acetone and peroxides like hydrogen peroxide happens mistakenly on occasion in laboratories. On this occasional basis the inherent and dangerous instability of TATP is rediscovered inadvertently and explosively in a refluxing vessel or a when a precipitate is being dried in an oven. If you work in a laboratory, be very careful when working with peroxides.’
‘What a day. Just after I’d hit the publish button on the blog below, musing about what the big news was that the Phoenix lander was rumoured to have discovered about the ‘potential for life’ on Mars, I received a NASA email suggesting Phoenix may have actually found a chemical that might harm life.
It seems that the lander’s wet chemistry lab, part of its MECA instrument, has detected what seems to be perchlorate, a highly oxidising substance, in two soil samples it has studied.
But so far it’s been difficult to confirm the detection with another onboard instrument called TEGA. A soil sample studied by TEGA on Sunday – taken from just above a layer of ice – found no evidence of the compound. But TEGA had found that an earlier sample of soil, taken from near the surface, was “consistent with but not conclusive of the presence of perchlorate”, said principal investigator Peter Smith in a statement.’
‘Chemistry pupils have flunked O-level questions from 50 years ago, deepening fears that the subject is being dumbed down.
The teenagers were unable to answer questions from the 1960s and 1970s set by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The average mark for the 1960s questions was just 16 per cent. [..]
Even bright pupils were baffled by many of the old questions, said the RSC chief executive, Richard Pike.
He added: ‘There is no doubt that the clever pupils are as sharp as they ever were, but most are being stifled by an educational system that does not encourage more detailed problem-solving and rigorous thinking.”
‘Though the moon has many seas, scientists thought it was dry.
They were wrong.
In a study published today in Nature, researchers led by Brown University geologist Alberto Saal found evidence of water molecules in pebbles retrieved by NASA’s Apollo missions.
The findings point to the existence of water deep beneath the moon’s surface, transforming scientific understanding of our nearest neighbor’s formation and, perhaps, our own. There may also be a more immediately practical application.
“Is there water there? That’s important for lunar missions. People could get the water. They could use the hydrogen for energy,” said Saal.
[..] a high-powered imaging technique known as secondary ion mass spectrometry revealed a wealth of so-called volatile compounds, among them fluorine, chlorine, sulfur, carbon dioxide — and water.’
‘Researchers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands have developed a technique for generating atom clusters made from silver and other metals. Surprisingly enough, these so-called super atoms (clusters of 13 silver atoms, for example) behave in the same way as individual atoms and have opened up a whole new branch of chemistry. A full account can be read in the new edition of TU Delft magazine Delft Outlook.
If a silver thread is heated to around 900 degrees Celsius, it will generate vapour made up of silver atoms. The floating atoms stick to each other in groups. Small lumps of silver comprising for example 9, 13 and 55 atoms appear to be energetically stable and are therefore present in the silver mist more frequently that one might assume. Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Ott and Dr. Christian Peineke of TU Delft managed to collect these super atoms and make them suitable for more detailed chemical experiments.’
‘When asked by the Pope to demonstrate his artistic skill, 14th century Italian painter Giotto di Bondone supposedly drew a perfect circle freehand and said: “That’s more than enough.” Now, an international group of engineers and craftsmen has gone him one better and built a pair of nearly perfect spheres that are thought to be the roundest objects in the world.
The unusual balls, discussed last week at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference in France, were created as an answer to the “kilogram problem”.
The kilogram is the only remaining standard of measurement tied to a single physical object: a 120-year-old lump of platinum and iridium that sits in a vault outside of Paris, France. But the mass of this chunk of metal is slowly changing relative to the 40-odd copies kept by other countries, and no one knows why or by how much.’
‘”Flabbergasted” NASA scientists said on Thursday that Martian soil appeared to contain the requirements to support life, although more work would be needed to prove it.
Scientists working on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which has already found ice on the planet, said preliminary analysis by the lander’s instruments on a sample of soil scooped up by the spacecraft’s robotic arm had shown it to be much more alkaline than expected.
“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past present or future,” Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory on Phoenix, told journalists.
“It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. … It is very exciting for us.”‘
‘Drizzle once fell on Martian soil, according to a new geochemical analysis by Berkeley scientists, though the rain probably stopped several billion years ago.
Drawing on soil data from the five missions to Mars before the current Phoenix Lander and comparing it to information collected in Earth’s driest places, the scientists concluded that water must have fallen from above, not welled up from below, as has been thought. [..]
Amundson’s key observation is that Martian soil has a layer of sulfates sitting on top of chlorides. That’s a pattern consistent with water moving downward from the atmosphere to the regolith in places on Earth.
Though he can’t say for sure whether the precipitation on Mars fell as snow, sleet or rain, the evidence of reacting with rocks suggests that the water was liquid on the ground.’
‘I’m sitting in a fast-food restaurant outside Boston that, because of a nondisclosure agreement I had to sign, I am not allowed to name. I’m waiting to visit Apollo Diamond, a company about as secretive as a Soviet-era spy agency. Its address isn’t published. The public relations staff wouldn’t give me directions. Instead, an Apollo representative picks me up at this exurban strip mall and drives me in her black luxury car whose make I am not allowed to name along roads that I am not allowed to describe as twisty, not that they necessarily were.
“This is a virtual diamond mine,” says Apollo CEO Bryant Linares when I arrive at the company’s secret location, where diamonds are made. “If we were in Africa, we’d have barbed wire, security guards and watch towers. We can’t do that in Massachusetts.” Apollo’s directors worry about theft, corporate spies and their own safety. When Linares was at a diamond conference a few years ago, he says, a man he declines to describe slipped behind him as he was walking out of a hotel meeting room and said someone from a natural diamond company just might put a bullet in his head. “It was a scary moment,” Linares recalls.’
‘Under the gleam of blinding lamps, engulfed by banks of angrily frothing flasks, Makoto Watanabe is plotting a slimy, lurid-green revolution. He has spent his life in search of a species of algae that efficiently “sweats” crude oil, and has finally found it.
Now, exploiting the previously unrecognised power of pondlife, Professor Watanabe dreams of transforming Japan from a voracious energy importer into an oil-exporting nation to rival any member of Opec. [..]
Professor Watanabe’s vision arises from the extraordinary properties of the Botryococcus braunii algae: give the microscopic green strands enough light – and plenty of carbon dioxide – and they excrete oil. The tiny globules of oil that form on the surface of the algae can be easily harvested and then refined using the same “cracking” technologies with which the oil industry now converts crude into everything from jet fuel to plastics.’
‘A compound found in grape seed extract reduces plaque formation and resulting cognitive impairment in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, new research shows. The study appears in the June 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
Lead study author Giulio Pasinetti, MD, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues found that the grape seed extract prevents amyloid beta accumulation in cells, suggesting that it may block the formation of plaques. In Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid beta accumulates to form toxic plaques that disrupt normal brain function. [..]
Moderate consumption of red wine—approximately one glass for women and two glasses for men, according to the Food and Drug Administration—and its constituent grape compounds has reported health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular function. Pasinetti previously found that red wine reduced cognitive decline in mice genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In subsequent studies, Pasinetti and colleagues have attempted to isolate which of the nearly 5,000 molecules contained in red wine are important in disease prevention. “Our intent is to develop a highly tolerable, nontoxic, orally available treatment for the prevention and treatment of Alzeheimer’s dementia,” Pasinetti said.’
‘Climate models predicted it wouldn’t happen until the end of the century.
So Seattle researchers were stunned to discover that vast swaths of acidified sea water are already showing up along the Pacific Coast as carbon dioxide from power plants, cars and factories mixes into the ocean.
In surveys from Vancouver Island to the tip of Baja California, the scientists found the first evidence that large amounts of corrosive water are reaching the continental shelf — the shallow sea margin where most marine creatures live. In some places, including Northern California, the acidified water was as little as four miles from shore.
“What we found … was truly astonishing,” said oceanographer Richard Feely, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. “This means ocean acidification may be seriously impacting marine life on the continental shelf right now.”‘
‘A man who was poisoned March 19 while trying to use mercury to extract gold from computer parts has died and the home is so contaminated that it cannot be lived in, an emergency official said. [..]
The home is located on Winnett Road southeast of Colbert. Winnett and Melissa Lake drove themselves to the hospital after inhaling mercury vapors, according to authorities. [..]
Mercury has a chemical reaction with gold and causes it to separate, according to Dalton. Authorities believe the couple heated the mercury and accidentally inhaled it.
The home was immediately cordoned off after the incident. Dalton said he did not know how much mercury was inside the home, but the residence would have to be gutted before it could ever be used again.’
‘Bone-white stretches of salt, leached up from the lifeless soil, lay like a shroud over the high desert where a paranoid Charles Manson holed up after an orgy of murder nearly four decades ago.
Now, as then, few venture into this alkaline wilderness — gold-diggers, outlaws, loners content to live and let live.
But a determined group of outsiders recently made the trek. They were leading forensic investigators searching for new evidence of death — clues pointing to possible decades-old clandestine graves.
And the results of just-completed followup tests suggest bodies could indeed be lying beneath the parched ground. The test findings — described in detail to The Associated Press, which had accompanied the site search — conclude there are two likely clandestine grave sites at Barker Ranch, and one additional site that merits further investigation.
Next step, the ad hoc investigators urge: Dig.’
‘A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.
To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.
But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.
In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.’
‘Ethiopia’s national bank has been told to inspect all the gold in its vaults to determine its authenticity.
It follows the discovery that some of the “gold” it had bought for millions of dollars was gold-plated steel.
The first hint that something was wrong reportedly came when the Ethiopian central bank exported a consignment of gold bars to South Africa.
The South Africans sent them back, complaining that they had been sold gilded steel.
An investigation revealed that the bank had bought a consignment of fake gold from a supplier, who is now under arrest.
Other arrests followed, including business associates of the main accused; national bank officials; and chemists from the Geological Survey of Ethiopia, whose job it is to assay the bank’s purchases of gold and certify that they are real.’
‘Scientists have discovered immense oil resources in Titan, which is a moon of Saturn. The oil reserve of Titan is estimated to be several hundred times greater than that of earth. [..]
Titan has several hundreds times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the available oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, said the European Space Agency (ESA).
In Titan, the ethane and methane falls from the sky in the form of rain, forming massive lakes and seas. It is believed that complex organic molecules called tholins are responsible for Titan’s oily dunes, said the ESA.
“Titan is just enclosed in a carbon covered material. It is a giant factory of organic chemicals,” said scientist Ralph Lorenz.’
‘Infants and toddlers exposed to baby lotions, shampoos and powders carry high concentrations of hormone-altering chemicals in their bodies that might have reproductive effects, according to a new scientific study of babies born in Los Angeles and two other U.S. cities.
The research, to be published today in the medical journal Pediatrics, found that as the use of baby care products rose, so did the concentration of phthalates, which are used in many fragrances.
The lead scientist in the study, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana of the University of Washington’s Department of Pediatrics, said the findings suggested that many baby care products contain a variety of phthalates that enter children’s bodies through their skin.’
‘An extraordinary new scientific study, which for the first time documents marked improvement in Alzheimer’s disease within minutes of administration of a therapeutic molecule, has just been published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.
This new study highlights the importance of certain soluble proteins, called cytokines, in Alzheimer’s disease. The study focuses on one of these cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-alpha(TNF), a critical component of the brain’s immune system. Normally, TNF finely regulates the transmission of neural impulses in the brain. The authors hypothesized that elevated levels of TNF in Alzheimer’s disease interfere with this regulation. To reduce elevated TNF, the authors gave patients an injection of an anti-TNF therapeutic called etanercept. Excess TNF-alpha has been documented in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s.’
‘Are we running out of helium? Lee Sobotka, professor of chemistry and physics at Washington University in St. Louis, says it is being depleted so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Tex., that supplies are expected to be gone there within the next eight years.
The helium we have on earth is not readily renewable, it has been built up over billions of years from the decay of natural uranium and thorium. The decay of these elements proceeds at a super-snail’s pace.
It will impact more than balloons and kids’ voices, Sobotka says. “Helium’s use in science is extremely broad but its most important use is as a coolant. Helium is non-renewable and irreplaceable. Its properties are unique and unlike hydrocarbon fuels (natural gas or oil), there are no biosynthetic ways to make an alternative to helium. All should make better efforts to recycle it.”‘
‘Two Baylor College of Medicine researchers in Houston are working on a cocaine vaccine they hope will become the first-ever medication to treat people hooked on the drug. “For people who have a desire to stop using, the vaccine should be very useful,” said Dr. Tom Kosten, a psychiatry professor who is being assisted in the research by his wife, Therese, a psychologist and neuroscientist. “At some point, most users will give in to temptation and relapse, but those for whom the vaccine is effective won’t get high and will lose interest.” [..]
The immune system — unable to recognize cocaine and other drug molecules because they are so small — can’t make antibodies to attack them.
To help the immune system distinguish the drug, Kosten attached inactivated cocaine to the outside of inactivated cholera proteins.
In response, the immune system not only makes antibodies to the combination, which is harmless, but also recognizes the potent naked drug when it’s ingested. The antibodies bind to the cocaine and prevent it from reaching the brain, where it normally would generate the highs that are so addictive.’
Children’s chemistry sets suck these days.
(24.1meg Flash video)
see it here »
From when chemistry was more like some sort of crazy magic. Let’s all eat mercury! Hooray.
‘A physicist and his biologist son destroyed a common virus using a superfast pulsing laser, without harming healthy cells. The discovery could lead to new treatments for viruses like HIV that have no cure.
“We have demonstrated a technique of using a laser to excite vibrations on the shield of a virus and damage it, so that it’s no longer functional,” said Kong-Thon Tsen, a professor of physics at Arizona State University. “We’re testing it on HIV and hepatitis right now.” [..]
In the latest research, Tsen and his son demonstrated that their laser technique could shatter the protein shell, or capsid, of the tobacco mosaic virus, leaving behind only a harmless mucus-like mash of molecules.
The laser shattered the capsid at low energy: 40 times lower, in fact, than the energy level that harmed human T-cells. Other types of radiation, like ultraviolet light, kill microbes on produce, but would damage human cells.’