Archaeology, Chemistry, News

Bronze Age Priestess Traveled Huge Distances

Image via Wikipedia.

In 1921, archaeologists found the remains of a Bronze Age priestess, dubbed the Egtved Girl. Now, a new study reveals that the priestess, who was found in Denmark, likely traveled hundreds of kilometers and was born somewhere in Germany. The Egtved Girl was, according to all clues, an extraordinary person. She only lived to be 16-18. She was slim, 160 cm tall

Chemistry, Health & Medicine, News

Scientists describe method to create morphine at home

"I'll have a morphine ale, please". Image via Serious Eats.

Scientists have managed how to create morphine using a kit like the ones used to make beer at home. They used genetically modified yeast to perform the complicated process of turning sugar into morphine, and while they believe this can have huge medical significance, they also express concerns about “homebrewed” drugs.

Biology, Chemistry, News

Isotopes inside salmon ear tell a fishy story

A cross-section of a salmon otolith, also known as a fish ear stone or fish ear bone.  Scientists measured Strontium ratios and identified the waters in which the fish lived for its entire life. The new fish-tracking method may help pinpoint critical habitats for fish threatened by climate change, industrial development and overfishing. Credit: Sean Brennan, University of WashingtonRead more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-05-chemical-tags-ear-bones-track.html#jCp

According to a new study, just like tree rings carry with them hints about previous dry or rainy years, bones in fish carry with them a specific signature which records the chemical composition of the waters they used to live in. Most vertebrates, especially fish, have what is called an ‘otolith’ – a specific bony structure inside the inner ear. The

Animals, Chemistry, News

Spiders weave graphene-infused silk: the strongest of both worlds

spider silk

Graphene – the one atom thick sheet of carbon arranged in a hexagon lattice – is the strongest material known to man, and spider silk is one of the strongest found in nature, second only to limpet teeth. Heck, why not combine the two? Sounds silly, but it surprisingly worked when Nicola Pugno of the University of Trento, Italy sprayed spiders with both graphene particles and carbon nanotubes. The spiders weaved silk infused with the materials, and in some cases the silk was 3.5 times stronger than its natural counterpart. The resulting fiber is tougher than “synthetic polymeric high performance fibers (e.g. Kevlar49) and even the current toughest knotted fibers,” according to the paper published in Materials Science, which obviously entails a lot of real-life applications, industrial or otherwise.

Biology, Chemistry, News

The Bombardier Beetle Packs a Hot Machine Gun

CHARLES HEDGCOCK, © WENDY MOORE

Many beetles have defense mechanisms which involves foul chemicals squirting from their abdomens, but bombardier beetles have taken it to the next level. Researchers from MIT, the University of Arizona, and Brookhaven National Laboratory wanted to see how it works, so they studied the bombardier beetle and figured it out. The research is published in Science.

Chemistry, News, Nutrition

Simple way of cooking rice could halve its calories

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I know, the title sounds like one of those scams that promise you’ll lose weight – but this is all science all the way. Researchers in Sri Lanka have found a simple way of cooking the rice that not only reduces calories by half, but also provides other health benefits. The key addition is coconut oil.

Chemistry, News

Sandwiching water between graphene makes square ice crystals at room temperature

In square ice (left) water molecules are locked at a right angle. This looks nothing like the familiar hexagonal ice (right).

In a most unexpected find, the same University of Manchester team that isolated graphene for the first time in 2003 found that water flattens into square crystals – a never encountered lattice configuration – when squeezed between two layers of graphene. The square ice qualifies as a new crystalline phase of ice, joining 17 others previously discovered. The finding could potentially improve filtration, distillation and desalination processes.

Chemistry, News

This 3D printer for small molecules might change organic chemistry forever

molecule printer

At his lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Martin Burke laid the foundation for what he simply calls “The Machine” – an automated small molecule synthesizer that’s set to change the way chemists assemble chemicals forever. It’s like a 3D printer, only for molecules. Starting with some basic chemicals, which Burke and colleagues separate into blocks, the machine assembles all sorts of molecules in a modular fashion, like pinning Lego bricks. Hours and hours of toiling in the lab might now be dedicated to more important business, and molecules yet to be synthesized can now be attempted. These small molecules hold tremendous potential in medicine, but technology is also sure to exploit the machine – anything from LEDs to solar cells.

Chemistry, News

Why Van Gogh’s paintings are fading to white

Left: Van Gogh painting “Wheat Stack under a Cloudy Sky” (Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands). The paint sample area is indicated by a white circle. Upper right: Detail of the painting in the sample area, lower right: Detail of the paint sample (picture: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)

Belgian scientists have revealed a refined explanation for the chemical process that’s currently degrading Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings, which are losing their bright red. Like other old paintings, van Gogh’s works are losing their saturated hue because of the interaction between red led and light. Using sophisticated X-ray crystallographic methods, the researchers identified a key carbon mineral called plumbonacrite in one of his paintings, which explains the process even better.

Archaeology, Chemistry

Scientists taste 170 year old shipwrecked beer

beer4

Scientists in Finland have been keeping themselves busy testing two different beers… for science, of course. These are not just your average beers though – they’re almost two centuries old, recovered by divers exploring a 1840s shipwreck in the Baltic Sea back in 2010.