Navigating the Language of Chemicals (Introduction)

A simple Google search for a product or service usually unleashes a flood of sources both denouncing and celebrating it. The chatter accompanying food, health, or beauty products/procedures is often intimately tied to the science of chemistry. Unfortunately, most consumers have only a minimal or nonexistent background in chemistry, so wading through the mess of propaganda can prove near impossible. Continue reading

Posted in Brazilian Blowout, Chemistry Basics | 13 Comments

Blinged-Out Fat Blob Nanotrucks for Targeted Drug Delivery

Targeted drug delivery is a popular area of research that melds together the disciplines of chemistry, medicine, and materials. The basic idea is to develop ways to give a person a dose of medicineorally, intravenously, etc. and somehow get that medicine to go to exactly the part of the body that needs it most – and preferably nowhere else. An article recently published in JACSJournal of the American Chemical Society describes a clever method of antibiotic delivery that involves fat blobs, gold particles, and their interaction with the toxins released by infectious bacteria. Continue reading

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That’s what kids used to do for fun?

In stark contrast to the Bieber-obsessed Wii-playing youth of today (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), here is a direct quote from an article written in the 1920’s:

“More and more the students are learning science out of school. . . . now we have kids talking about electron streams and metric wave lengths as they skate along the streets.” Continue reading

Posted in Education, Fun Stuff | 17 Comments

Blood Vessel Growth Inhibitors Mediate Negative Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Doctors and researchers have observed an improvement in the survival rate of cancer patients when they are given a combination of a chemotherapeutic drug (cancer-killing drug) and an antiangiogenic drug (a drug that inhibits the growth of new blood vessels). This combination treatment seems to give patients a better chance of surviving than just chemo alone. It has not been clear why antiangiogenic drugs help patients undergoing chemotherapy, but cancer researchers have recently published a study in PNASProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that sheds some light on the matter. Continue reading

Posted in Biology, Medicine | 5 Comments

Through the Looking Glass

Someday in the distant future, I hope to be able to explain my own research project to my parents without making up lies about how I’m curing cancer. Perhaps if they understand my chemistry a bit, they won’t feel the need to bring a novel to read during my thesis defenseshould they be able to come, of course, no pressure : ), assuming I ever get to that point. Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Chemistry Basics | 18 Comments

A Scientific Limit to (Male) Sexiness

natural selection male attractiveness peacockFor most animal species, males must compete with one another to win the attention of a female. This competition can involve active sparring – for example, bighorn sheep will sometimes clash heads over a lady sheep. For other animals, such as the peacock, the competition is more about attractiveness than about fighting ability. Good looks can help for human males too, though sometimes all it takes is a display of better-than-average grammatical skills. Continue reading

Posted in Biology, Genetics | 8 Comments

Brazilian Blowout’s New Formula, sans Methylene Glycol

It’s been a while since we heard news about Brazilian Blowout, the controversial hair straightening treatment that brings up the philosophical question “What does it mean to be formaldehyde?”

methylene glycol formaldehyde brazilian blowout zero

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Posted in Brazilian Blowout, Chemistry | 99 Comments

Can’t Read Minds? Blame The Testosterone.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve is merely an adage, but most people do display their emotions – even if unintentionally – on their faces. Women tend to be better than men at reading other people’s subtle facial cues, especially cues from the eyes. Because of the gender difference in cognitive empathy – the ability to notice and correctly interpret body language – psychobiologistsscientists that study psychology from a biological perspective, or vice versa have hypothesized that testosteronea sex hormone present in much higher levels in males versus females levels could play a role in “mind reading” ability, or lack thereof. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Now THAT’s Hot: A salsa-inspired post

For the Super Bowl this year, I made one my favorite recipes – fresh salsa. Someone with timei.e., not me on their hands could write an entire textbook chapter about the chemistry of salsa, but here’s a little Cliff Notes version. Warning: it’s not all appetizing, especially if you’re a cilantrophobe. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Organic Chemistry Lessons, Courtesy of Hippo et al.

Animal secretions (gross) often contain organiccarbon-based molecules that perform clever functions.  Here are a few examples, accompanied by morsels of chemistry facts. Continue reading

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Grow That Big Brain You’ve Always Dreamed Of, With Just 3x Per Week

get a bigger brain with exercise hippocampusWhether you’re young or post-young, there’s no time like the present to get into an exercise routine. Besides helping with weight loss and improving cardiovascular fitness, more and more evidence suggests that aerobic exercise can delay – and even reverse – brain aging. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Stuff, Running Etc. | 2 Comments

Periodic Table of the Stock Market

periodic table of stock marketWhile researching investment choices for my new I’m-trying-to-be-a-responsible-adult Roth IRA, I eventually grew impatient with analyst predictions and just started searching for interesting ticker symbols. Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Fun Stuff | 8 Comments

Study Suggests New HIV Therapy

Human bodies are naturally equipped with elaborate defense mechanisms to squelch intruding microorganisms. But some viruses, like HIV, are able to slip under the immune system radar and set up permanent residence in a human host. Exactly how this feat is accomplished is not known for certain, but a better understanding of virus war tactics is key to developing effective medical treatments. Continue reading

Posted in Viruses | 3 Comments

Salting the Roads – More Complicated Than It Sounds

I grew up in a HOT climate (below), where we didn’t have to deal with the kind of weather that we have right now in most of the country. Back home, occasional road signs near overpasses nonchalantly suggest that “Ice Forms on Bridge First” – as if something more cautionary like “Watch for Ice” would be too sensational and presumptuous. Continue reading

Posted in Chemicals Among Us, Chemistry, Current Events | 1 Comment

An Amoeba Is More Fiscally Responsible than Most Americans

Social Amoeba Farmers Dictyostelium discoideiumA new study reveals that even amoebaethis is the plural of amoeba, as if the word needed more vowels – those squishy little single-celled organisms – know how to save up for a rainy day. Scientists at Rice University have discovered that some members of a certain amoeba speciesDictyostelium discoideum like to save up food for when times get tough. Continue reading

Posted in Biology | 3 Comments

Pandemic Disorder Threatens Public Health*

chemophobia fear of chemicalsA widespread disorder affecting a staggering number of citizens in developed countries, including the U.S., has recently been brought into the spotlight. Continue reading

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My Beverage Tastes Better Because I’m a Chemist

Ginger Tea Flavor MoleculesI bought some ginger tea a little while back, but it turned out a little disappointing. Despite steeping the tea for longer than the prescribed 5–10 minutes, I could barely detect any of the characteristic spicy flavor that I was expecting. Continue reading

Posted in Amateur Research, Chemistry | 14 Comments

Performance Anxiety? Try Writing About It.

Choking under pressure can happen to the best of us. Students with test anxiety often perform below their abilities, and baseball pitchers can let nervesor jinxes ruin a perfect game. Continue reading

Posted in Education, Psychology Stuff | 1 Comment

If Earth’s Spin Speeds Up We’ll All Get Fat and Uninhibited

circadian rhythm internal clock emotions weight gain obesity sleepAlmost all plants and animals have an internal “clock” – called a circadian clock – that synchronizes our biological rhythms with Earth’s cycle of day and night. Conveniently, our biological clocks are best at synchronizing to a 24 hour day, the length of time it takes for the Earth to rotate. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Stuff, Happiness, Physiology | 8 Comments

If James Cameron Did Chemistry

Chemistry has a lot of smart researchers, but no names or faces that the Average Joe would recognize.  The field needs a hero but, as Chembark points out, what chemist has the time to be a spokesperson?  Research in the lab is notoriously time-consuming. Continue reading

Posted in Chemistry, Fun Stuff | 9 Comments