Science-Technology

Science, Archaeology, Geology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Space, Technology, new products

Earth’s little garbage people?

WASHINGTON—If you’re enjoying some tasty food today that has at least one ingredient that was farmed somewhere, you probably owe a little thanks to earthworms. How is it that these detritivores – literally dirt eaters – turn what humans find inedible into beloved compost? After the biology and physics of swallowing and “chewing”, like us it’s all chemistry for digestion. But earthworms have an extra enzyme that allows them to munch through cellulose, the ultimate fiber that makes tree bark a non-starter in human diets. Yet all this powerful chemistry means not everyone sees earthworms as the greatest creature to crawl.

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Full Story

Glowing bacteria detect buried landmines

Possible application of a system to detect buried landmines using a bacterial sensor. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Israeli researchers have revealed their high-tech answer to the global need for a safe, efficient way of clearing minefields: a remote system using lasers and bacteria to map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

The invention is bound to be sought eagerly worldwide. About half a million people around the world are survivors of mine-inflicted injuries, and each year an additional 15,000 to 20,000 more people are injured or killed by these devices. More than 100 million landmines are believed still to be buried in at least 70 countries.

Surprisingly, the methods currently used for detecting landmines are not much different from those used in World War II, and require personnel to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Full Story

The accidental discovery of LSD (video)

WASHINGTON,—Bicycle Day on April 19 honors not the two-wheeled mode of transportation, but the colorful ride taken by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman who accidentally discovered LSD 74 years ago. In search of new medicines, Hoffman was trying to stabilize lysergic acid, a derivative of a fungal compound used in a migraine medicine. He ended up synthesizing a compound called lysergic acid diethylamine, or LSD. Later, he accidentally exposed himself to it and felt dizzy with hallucinations. On April 19, 1943, he tested it on himself again and needed a lab assistant to help him home, via bicycle, leading to a memorable ride. While recreational drug abuse led to bans on psychedelics in the 1970s, new research indicates Hoffman was onto something in his search for medicines that led to LSD. The approach may now yield potential mental health treatments.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - Full Story

How to measure potentially damaging free radicals in cigarette smoke

Smoking cigarettes can lead to illness and death. Free radicals, which are atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons, in inhaled smoke are thought to be partly responsible for making smokers sick. Now researchers report in ACS’ journal Chemical Research in Toxicology a method for measuring free radicals in cigarette smoke that could help improve our understanding of the relationship between these substances and health.

By American Chemical Society - Monday, April 10, 2017 - Full Story

Analysis yields clues to chemical composition, natural aging of 100-year-old beer

Stashed away and long-forgotten, a trio of century-old bottled beers recently discovered in the Czech Republic could help scientists better understand early 20th-century brewing practices, as well as the chemical changes that occur in beer over long periods of time. A report on the well-preserved lagers appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

By American Chemical Society - Monday, April 10, 2017 - Full Story

New LG G6 worth getting hung up on

In the war of competing cell phones, LG has just fired off a new shot, and if my very short time with a preproduction sample is any indication, it’s a bullseye.

It also features a surprisingly large screen for a phone that still fits easily into my paw, a 5.7 inch QHD+ "FullVision" unit that’s colourful and very easy on the eyes.

I also love how you can wake or put the phone to sleep merely by tapping on the screen twice with your finger. That might be a very small thing - and in the grand scheme of things it probably is - but it’s a wonderful ease of use thing in a world or smart phones where there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where a manufacturer puts the buttons. In this case,  as with the last LG I reviewed, the power button is on the back, nicely out of the way but not as easy to access quickly as the double tap method.


Visiting Potterville in 4K - now with Fantastic Beasts

Potterville is a marvelous place to visit. It’s full of wonderful lives and interesting, nice people, with enough evil around them to make for good drama. And now it’s an even better place to visit on home video,  thanks to brand new 4K releases from Warner Brothers.

Potterville in this case isn’t the renamed Bedford Falls of George Bailey’s wonderful life “gift” from angel Clarence. No, this Potterville is a British place that kind of floats - via flying car or dragon,  or broomstick - between Little Whinging and Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I speak of Harry Potter, of course, the boy who lived through enough books and cinematic stories to choke a centaur.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, April 1, 2017 - Full Story

Musk misses the earmark on Mars Colonization

Elon Musk has hit back at claims that President Donald Trump’s new NASA bill will be good for his space exploration business, saying it does nothing to get SpaceX’s mission to Mars off the ground.  Musk also claims the new funding will not provide a boost to his aims of making commercial travel to Mars a reality for the public.

The S.442 funding bill, signed by President Trump, is the first of its kind to pass through Congress in six years and will help facilitate NASA’s deep space exploration projects and promote private-public partnerships, job creation, “achieving human exploration of Mars and beyond,” and legally commits NASA to draft plans that could get a “crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.”

By Megan Barth - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - Full Story

Detecting nerve agents with the touch of a finger

There’s a reason why farmers wear protective gear when applying organophosphate pesticides. The substances are nerve agents that are very effective at getting rid of unwanted bugs, but they can also make humans sick. Even more potent, related compounds—organophophate nerve agents—are deadly. Now researchers have created a “lab on a glove” sensor that could check for the presence of such substances with one swipe.

By American Chemical Society - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - Full Story

Making vanilla flavoring with less pollution

In small amounts, vanilla flavoring enhances the taste of our baked goods, desserts and ice cream. But making it synthetically, which is the most common route to keeping the ingredient affordable these days, creates a stream of wastewater that requires treatment before it can be released into surface waters. Now researchers report in ACS’ journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research a new “greener” way to make vanillin, the primary flavor compound in vanilla.

Although consumers have been demanding more “natural” foods in recent years, less than 1 percent of vanilla flavor produced globally comes from its original natural source, the vanilla orchid. The rest is synthesized from a petroleum-derived precursor called guaiacol, tree lignin and other substances such as cow feces. But the catalysts currently used in the manufacturing of vanillin are polluting and can only be used one time. So Ganapati D. Yadav and Shivaji L. Bhanawase sought an improved method to make the popular flavor compound.

The researchers created a catalyst by encapsulating copper-aluminum hydrotalcite in silica. Testing showed that it efficiently spurred the separation of vanillin from other compounds. The catalyst worked in water under ambient air pressure, and eliminated the need for a polluting step involving hydrochloric acid that current techniques require. The catalyst could also be recovered and re-used. The researchers say that their process could be economically scaled up for a more environmentally friendly approach to making commercial vanillin.—More…

By American Chemical Society - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - Full Story

Arizer offers big vape from relatively small devices

Recreational marijuana may still be illegal in Canada and elsewhere, but that hasn’t stopped modern technology from marching in and helping "heads" enjoy their poison of choice safely and more subtly than by burning it.

That’s because vapourizers don’t actually combust the herb;  instead, they heat it up to a point where it releases its "goodness" without actually setting it on fire. The result can be less marijuana consumption (vaping uses less than, say, rolling the stuff up into papers), less of that obvious marijuana smell and - perhaps most important - less chance of harmful gases from combustion going into the vaper’s lungs.

If you can believe politicians, it may be only a matter of time before the casual use of pot becomes legal in Canada. Prime Minister Just-in Two-d’oh! made legalization one of the major planks during his successful campaign to replace Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and perhaps someday he’ll make good on that promise.

Then again, he’s a politician - and a Liberal one at that - so his promises may not be worth any more than the hot air with which he exhaled them. But recent history in other jurisdictions seems to point toward the evil weed not being considered so evil anymore, so time will tell what happens here in the Great Green North. Heck, I know a guy who jokes that the stuff should be mandatory, so some "tightly wrapped" folks can "lighten up".

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - Full Story

10 ways Israel’s water expertise is helping the world

Using ingenuity to overcome its serious water challenges, Israel has become the go-to expert for a world facing an impending water crisis.

This year’s WATEC expo and conference, to be held in September in Tel Aviv, is expected to attract 10,000 stakeholders from 90 countries seeking Israeli solutions for water issues.

Israel exports $2.2 billion annually in water technology and expertise. In addition, these commodities are shared on a humanitarian basis through training courses, consultations and projects.

Keren Kayemeth L’Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) often hosts delegations from around the world – most recently, from California, Argentina and the European Policy Center – to see how Israel’s system of treatment facilities and 230 reservoirs has achieved the world’s highest ratio of wastewater reuse. —More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Full Story

Passengers is a thoughtful and better-than-expected 4K video experience

The sci-fi flick Passengers sure didn’t stick around long in theatres, but that’s good news if you’re a home video aficionado, especially since the movie has been given a welcome 4K UHD release that’s quite spectacular.

Even better, above and beyond its excellent home theatre credentials, Passengers also offers an interesting and thought-provoking story and terrific performances by lead actors Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt who play literally (well…) star crossed lovers who must cope with their own "Kobyashi Maru-type"  of no-win scenario.

It’s a shame that this movie didn’t even make back the studio’s initial investment (home video sales not counted of course) because it’s far better than the awful and pretentious sci-fi flick Arrival, which preceded it into theatres and which I really wanted to like (except that it sucked). According to IMDB, Arrival had the nerve to make a profit, too - $100,501,349 box office compared to a $47,000,000 production cost - and yet it isn’t worthy of shining Passengers’  shoes, a film which IMDB said cost $110 million but only made just over $99 megabucks.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - Full Story

How to make tomatoes taste awesome again (video)

WASHINGTON—Why are so many supermarket tomatoes tasteless and rock hard? In the 1990s, breeders developed a tomato that produces less of the hormone ethylene, so they stay hardened for shipping and then ripen in store. That delayed ripening combined with other breeding moves have made tomatoes bigger, redder and great for shipping, but also less satisfying in salad. This video shows how scientists are learning how tomatoes mature so that soon you may see and taste totally terrific tomatoes at the supermarket. Watch the latest Speaking of Chemistry video here.

 

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - Full Story

Recharge electric vehicles from under the road

As more and more electric vehicles hit urban streets across the world, better battery-recharging solutions are desperately needed to improve range, keep costs low and boost user confidence.

Oren Ezer (CEO) and Hanan Rumbak (CTO) cofounded ElectRoad in 2013 to develop their unique twist on the concept of underground electric coils that recharge vehicles as they travel on the road.

In a few months, ElectRoad’s dynamic wireless electrification system is beginning a pilot project in Tel Aviv involving a short public bus route.

“The idea of electrifying vehicles from the road is trendy right now and you can see several companies trying to do a similar concept to us, but our technology is totally different, from the coils under the asphalt to the transfer of energy to the bus,” Ezer tells ISRAEL21c.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Full Story

A bright ‘glow stick’ marker for cells

Any child who has played with a glowstick or captured a firefly understands the wonder of chemiluminescence, or chemical light. This process is already used to detect blood at crime scenes and to determine the concentrations of different components of biological samples. This week in ACS Central Science, researchers introduce a new chemiluminescent probe that is better for use in water and up to 3,000 times brighter than previous probes.

Chemiluminescent probes are among the most sensitive diagnostic tools for DNA sequencing, crime scene analysis and immunoassays. Most systems use a cocktail with one emitter molecule that detects the species of interest by giving off weak light, and another two additional ingredients — a fluorophore and a soap-like substance called a surfactant — that amplify the signal to detectable levels. However, energy is lost in the transfer process from one molecule to the other, and surfactants are not biocompatible. Doron Shabat and colleagues proposed that by tweaking the electronic structure of current probes to improve their inherent fluorescence, they could create a new single-component emission system that would work for many applications.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - Full Story

Jackfruit seeds could help ease looming cocoa bean shortage

Chocolate lovers could soon have a harder time satisfying their sweet tooth. Worldwide demand for this mouth-watering treat is outstripping the production of cocoa beans, its primary ingredient. But in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, scientists report that compounds found in jackfruit seeds produce many of the same aromas as processed cocoa beans and are a potentially cheap, abundant substitute for use in chocolate manufacturing.

Globally, farmers produce about 3.7 million tons of cocoa annually. This yield is not expected to increase significantly in the next decade, but estimates suggest that worldwide demand for these beans will grow to 4.5 million tons by 2020. To meet growing expectations, scientists are investigating alternative sources that can mimic chocolate’s distinct aroma and flavor. One of these possibilities is jackfruit, a large tropical fruit found in South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. In some countries, its sweet-smelling seeds are boiled, steamed and roasted before eating, providing a cheap source of fiber, protein and minerals. But in Brazil, the largest cocoa producer in the Americas, jackfruit seeds are considered waste. Looking to put these waste seeds to better use, Fernanda Papa Spada, Jane K. Parker, Solange Guidolin, Canniatti Brazaca and colleagues sought to determine if any of the compounds within them could be used to produce chocolate aromas.

The researchers made 27 jackfruit seed flours by acidifying or fermenting the seeds prior to drying. They roasted these flours for various times and temperatures using processes similar to those used to enhance the chocolaty flavor of cocoa beans. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, the team identified several compounds from the jackfruit flours that are associated with chocolate aromas, including 3-methylbutanal, 2,3-diethyl-5-methylprazine and 2-phenylethyl acetate. They also asked volunteers to smell the jackfruit seed flours and describe the aromas. In contrast to the acidified flours, the fermented ones were described as having more positive attributes, such as caramel, hazelnut or fruity aromas. The researchers conclude that jackfruit seeds are capable of producing chocolate aromas and are a potential replacement for the aroma of cocoa powder or chocolate.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Council of Technological and Scientific and Research Foundation (FAPESP).

More: “Optimization of Postharvest Conditions to Produce Chocolate Aroma from Jackfruit Seeds”

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

How to monitor urine in pools — by testing sweetness

Even though Olympic swimmers have admitted doing it, peeing in the pool is not a condoned practice. Urine contributes to the formation of compounds in pool water that can be harmful to people’s health. Now scientists are tackling a new way to monitor water quality: by measuring how sweet it is. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Recent studies have shown that nitrogenous compounds (e.g., urea) in urine and sweat react with chlorine to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs), including trichloramine, that can cause eye irritation and respiratory problems. Xing-Fang Li, Lindsay K. Jmaiff Blackstock and colleagues say this evidence has highlighted the need for improved understanding of pool chemistry to raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of swimming hygiene practices. To estimate how much urine — and potentially DBPs — might be in a given pool, Li’s team needed to identify what compound might consistently be present in urine. So the researchers turned to the artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium (ACE), which is marketed as Sunett and Sweet One. The sweetener, which is often used in processed foods like sodas, baked goods and even in other sweeteners, is widely consumed, chemically stable and passes right through the digestive tract and into consumers’ urine.

The researchers developed a rapid, high-throughput analytical technique to test more than 250 water samples from 31 actively used pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities, and more than 90 samples of clean tap water used to initially fill the basins. The concentration of ACE in the pools and hot tubs ranged from 30 to 7,110 nanograms per liter of water — up to 570 times more than the levels found in the tap water samples. Based on the concentrations of the sweetener, the researchers estimated that swimmers released more than 7 gallons of urine — enough to fill a medium-size trash bin — in a 110,000-gallon pool in one instance, and nearly 20 gallons in a 220,000-gallon pool (one-third the size of an Olympic-size pool) in another instance.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

More: “Sweetened Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

High tech gloves let you use your smart device without getting frostbite

Drivers and/or texters in climes where winter rears its ugly head repeatedly have an interesting new ally in their quest to operate smart devices without getting their hands cold.

Glider Gloves is a line of hand wear that promises to let you text, phone, and even operate vehicles’ LCD screens without having to remove them, a promise that - given my history of trying to use my smart stuff while wearing gloves - seemed like a product that was simply too good to be true.

So I asked them if I could try a pair - and they responded by sending me two - one from their "Urban" line and one from their "Winter" collection. They also market "ingress gloves"  which I assume are for facilitating doctors’ prostate exams when they’re performed outdoors in winter.

By Jim Bray - Friday, February 24, 2017 - Full Story

Harnessing the energy of fireworks for fuel

The world relies heavily on gasoline and other hydrocarbons to power its cars and trucks. In search of an alternative fuel type, some researchers are turning to the stuff of fireworks and explosives: metal powders. And now one team is reporting a method to produce a metal nanopowder fuel with high energy content that is stable in air and doesn’t go boom until ignited. Their study appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Hydrocarbon fuels are liquid at room temperature, are simple to store, and their energy can be used easily in cars and trucks. Metal powders, which can contain large amounts of energy, have long been used as a fuel in explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics. It might seem counterintuitive to develop them as a fuel for vehicles, but some researchers have proposed to do just that. A major challenge is that high-energy metal nanopowder fuels tend to be unstable and ignite on contact with air. Albert Epshteyn and colleagues wanted to find a way to harness and control them, producing a fuel with both high energy content and good air stability.

The researchers developed a method using an ultrasound-mediated chemical process to combine the metals titanium, aluminum and boron with a sprinkle of hydrogen in a mixed-metal nanopowder fuel. The resulting material was both more stable and had a higher energy content than the standard nano-aluminum fuels. With an energy density of at least 89 kilojoules/milliliter, which is significantly superior to hydrocarbons’ 33 kilojoules/milliliter, this new titanium-aluminum-boron nanopowder packs a big punch in a small package.—More…

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - Full Story