Scientists are reporting the development of a new, ultra-light form of 'frozen smoke',  the world's lightest solid material, and the new kind has amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area. The new "multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel" could be used in sensors to detect pollutants and toxic substances, chemical reactors, and electronics components. 

Will your new year start with a BANG?

Well, it might, if you bring it in with this molecule.  This is trinitramide, a compound newly synthesized at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden.  It has the formula N(NO2)3, and as such is the newest nitrogen oxide to be discovered.

Because of environmental problems with huge piles of plastic garbage, biodegradable plastics are still widely studied. Personally,  I thought this was a relatively easy problem to solve because of today’s advancements in chemistry and technology.

[note: I struggled with what category to put this in, perhaps there should be a new one called Complexity?]

One of the paradigms in complex adaptive systems thinking that has great explanatory power is the idea that there are distinct systems organized hierarchically in various levels of complexity. So, for instance, you can look at atoms as being a system at one level of organization, on top of which sits the next level of atomically bonded compounds (aka molecules), on top of which sits the next level of molecular reactions (e.g. chains of enzyme reactions), and so on. It’s well-understood that within a given level, the individual elements (i.e.

One of my son’s favorite before-bed books is a Bert and Ernie number called “Bert’s Hall of Great Inventions.” ( On each page poor Bert exalts in another human invention, only to be answered by Ernie that his animal friends came up with it first. The point of the book is very much true of science and human innovation in general, which is that we have and continue to rip-off nature to inspire some of our best work. It seems that we have done it again. At least this time, animals also may benefit.
Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki have won 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for  developing new, more efficient ways of linking carbon atoms together to build the complex molecules that are improving our everyday lives - palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.

Basically, it allows researchers to make chemicals easier.   Carbon-based (you called it 'organic' in college) chemistry is the basis of life and has allowed man to explain parts of the world using natural laws but also provided  a stable foundation for functional molecules, which led to revolutionary materials like plastics.
Researchers have made environmentally-friendlier bricks that are also stronger than traditional ones.   That is a big win for everyone.

Untreated clay was one of the earliest building materials to be used by humankind. The oldest examples of this can be found in houses in the Near East dating from between 11,000 and 12,000 years ago, while earthy material mixed with plants and pebbles to make them stronger has also been found in certain archaeological deposits from 1,400BC  in Sardinia, Italy.
I always wondered why research findings funded by tax dollars are freely available to pharma companies to make big bucks.

It is a vicious cycle. It starts from taxpayer funding research projects that culminate in publishing papers. And It ends in pharmaceutical companies selling products/drugs designed based on same research findings. Unfortunately, the general public pays for both, and my question is, why should they?

A company, when using research findings from a publicly funded project, should pay for it.
This whole week there are write-ups all over the internet about something called dry water. Ben CarterWell, originally the idea was patented in 1968, so its not out of the blue.

But there is a new use to it. Tiny water droplets are coated with water repelling silica (abundant in beach sand) to make it dry.

That way each drop is distinct particle and can not recombine with other droplets to form liquid. It is more than 90% water yet in the form of dry powder!
I am something of a historical repository for my family.   So I have some cool stuff from way back, like a photograph of my great-great-great grandfather, and then also more recent items, like one of my mother's 'ration' books (coupons still attached!) from World War 2 and a wax record my grandfather made for her at a USO(1) before he left to occupy Japan at the war's conclusion.