Chemistry

Caribou Coffee, founded in 1992, says nationwide surveys show that the number one complaint of coffee-drinkers is the way it stains. Be it coffee rings to drips on white dress shirts to stains on teeth, a cup of coffee can start your day off right or ruin it right away. 

So they responded with a proprietary new coffee blend that has removed the color while, they say, retaining all the flavor. They say this entirely colorless, stain-free beverage is the result of an innovation in bean cultivation techniques and processing.
If there is a pleasant, chemically-induced but culturally acceptable pastime, someone at U.C. Davis is probably studying it. They have one of my favorite beer scholars, Prof. Charles Bamforth, and are even setting up a coffee science group. Their nutrition department has been generously funded by Mars candy company and, no surprise, a whole 'science of chocolate' panel appeared at an AAAS meeting as a result. 

The popular TV series "CSI" may be fiction but real-life crime scene investigators and forensic scientists have been collecting and analyze evidence to determine what happened at crime scenes almost as long as there have been crime scenes.

There is evidence during the Qin dynasty that the Chinese used handprints as evidence in crimes as far back as 2,200 years ago and by the 1860s the process for lifting fingerprints from evidence was developed. As guns became more common, gunpowder residue became a way to know if a weapon was fired.


Sausage experts know that the key to perfect meat is simmering in beer first - and in Science 2.0's definitive article on outdoor cooking, The Science Of Grilling, we learned that beer has multiple uses in cuisine, and an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry adds to this important body of work, noting that a beer marinade helps reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats.


Some people insist that Big Oil is in control of energy because so many products, from plastic to rubber, use it. It's just the opposite, people came up with so many uses because it was there. To claim otherwise is like blaming toasters for the invention of electricity.

Peak Oil is now 20 years behind schedule but eventually doomsday prophets will be right.  For that reason, researchers are investigating possibilities for using renewable raw materials to replace oil. One well-known example of this is biodiesel, which comes not from oil sources, but from fields of yellow-flowering rape. Isobutene, a basic chemical used in the chemical industry to produce fuels, solvents, elastomers or even anti-knock agents in fuel, could be produced from sugar.


If you, like me, want to enjoy some science with your kids and not feel pushy about it, National Geographic has a terrific program coming out this evening. My kids can't get enough of None Of The Above which debuts at 9 PM tonight.

Host Tim Shaw gets right to it and kids like that. He has the two episodes we saw moving at full-speed.

The premise is simple; Tim presents a fun or clever twist on a seemingly intuitive experiment and asks people what they think will happen. He even provides them with the answer, in the form of multiple choice responses - but watch out for those choice "D: None Of The Above" picks that give the show its name. 
The Walking Dead season finale is coming soon and nothing goes with zombie television like brains. In beer.

No, really. Dock Street in Philadelphia is introducing a Walking Dead beer, called "Walker", I suppose, to avoid the inevitable lawsuit. It's the brain child (their pun, not mine) of head brewer Justin Low and sales rep Sasha Certo-Ware and is billed as an American Pale Stout brewed with wheat, oats, flaked barley, organic cranberry, and Smoked Goat Brains.

I didn't even know there was such as thing as an American Pale Stout, much less that goat brains added a certain smokiness to beer. In olden days, 'stout' just meant it was more alcohol but today stout is thick and dark.

Fuel produced from various animal fats is similar to biodiesel manufactured using ethanol from corn. But if the price of animal fat rose sharply, no one would really notice, since no one really eats animal fat.

And it isn't just limited to chicken, pork or beef fat , they can use alligator too. Why would they do that? Science! The report at the latest meeting of the American Chemical Society follows up on an earlier study on the potential use of gator fat as a source of biodiesel fuel. It's cool research, but there is obviously a limited amount of alligator fat lying around.


Does BPA make you fat?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently banned from baby bottles so the search is on for alternatives. 

Lignin, the compound that gives wood its
strength, from waste in paper manufacturing could be ready for the market within five years, according to a paper at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

There is no evidence of harm due to BPA despite 50 years of common use but some critics allege  it mimics the hormone estrogen and that it might be unsafe for young children and pregnant women in ways as yet undiscovered. Parents scared by the precautionary principle and the Dr. Oz show are not replacing it with a completely unknown alternative no matter how 'green' it claims to be, but alternatives are worthwhile research.