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.

Recently Scientists have figured that Malagasy spiders spin world’s toughest 
biological material (link to the full article given below). There was another article on the secret of oysters sticking together (link is below). Silk, wool from sheep camel etc, are routinely used,  we know. Why am I writing about spider webs and oyster shells? You might be surprised.

Citric toilet

Citric toilet

Sep 04 2010 | 1 comment(s)

One of the things that I learnt from my father, who was a chemical engineer, is that halide ions are aggressive towards metals, and steels in particular.  Now bleaches contain a lot of chloride ions, and I have just looked at the bottle of limescale remover in our toilet and it contains hydrochloric acid.  It is not advised for use with stainless steel.  Since DIY toilet seats often come with steel or brass hinges, this implies trouble around the corner.

Now my favourite de-ruster is citric acid, which can remove both rust and limescale without attacking the steel.  So I was gratified just now to come across the following scenario for iron-citrate complexes in Science Codex:
Phosphorus is a critical ingredient in fertilizers, pesticides, detergents and various industrial and household chemicals but once phosphorus is mined from rocks, getting it into products is hazardous and expensive, so chemists have been trying to streamline the process for decades.
A video posted on A Blog Around the Clock a few days ago discusses the mechanisms behind hydrogen bonding. The first half of the video is visually basic -- simple diagrams to illustrate the points in the narrator's lesson -- and includes things like different colors for different atoms, and star shapes that appear where a bond forms.