Chemistry

ine making (and drinking) has long been more art than science, a subjective experience. But that is changing. In the future, you will be able to find a type of wine you like and have it consistently - all determined by science.

Unlocking the chemical processes that create a wine's aroma is the objective of scientists who recently sequenced the genome of the high-value Tannat grape, from which "the most healthy of red wines" are fermented. 

Tannat is the "national grape" of Uruguay, South America's 4th-largest wine producer with 21,000 acres of vineyards. More than a third of the grapes grown are Tannat, from which the country's signature wines are produced. 


How do you find a new element, like the recently discovered superheavy chemical element 115?

Elements beyond atomic number 104 are referred to as superheavy elements and are produced at accelerator laboratories and generally decay after a short time. Initial reports about an element with atomic number 115 were released from a research center in Russia in 2004 but their indirect evidence was insufficient for an official discovery.


An international team at the GSI research facility in Germany have confirmed the existence of a new element with atomic number 115, verifying earlier measurements performed by research groups in Russia.


Manganese, the second-most common metal in the earth's crust, rapidly changes between oxidation states while reacting with other elements in the environment. It is an element critical to many life processes and helps plants produce oxygen during photosynthesis. 

Manganese is present in the environment in three forms — manganese(II), manganese(III) and manganese(IV) — the difference related to the oxidation state, or number of electrons present. When elements lose or gain an electron, the oxidation state changes in a "redox reaction," like when iron turns into rust by losing electrons to oxygen in air.

When it comes to what's for dinner – or breakfast and lunch for that matter - too many people suffer from chemophobia, an irrational fear of chemicals that pose no risk to our health.

Chemistry Professor Gordon Gribble argues that low doses of chemicals in modern food are inherent, typically harmless and often highly beneficial. He says most people don't know they are routinely exposed to a host of compounds in non-toxic concentrations in what they eat and drink each day.

Even the air we breathe, whether in big cities or the countryside, is full of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals, including wine "aroma," flower "bouquet," perfume "fragrance," bakery "smell" and "garbage "stench."


A young child buried in the medieval town of Ribe in Denmark 800 years ago had an unpleasant life even before that - because the child had been given a large dose of mercury in an attempt to cure a severe, ongoing illness. 

A new methodology developed by chemist Kaare Lund Rasmussen from University of Southern Denmark and colleagues can reveal an unprecedented amount of details about the time even shortly before a person's death. Mercury is of particular interest for the archaeologists as many cultures in different part of the world have been in contact with the rare (and toxic) element.


Soylent is getting ready to feed people - I will spare you a joke about the 1973 dystopian film "Soylent Green", inspired by Harry Harrison's "Make Room! Make Room!", since you already made it in your head.(1)
Last week, a study published in the journal Human Reproduction reported that bisphenol-A (BPA), a compound widely used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, altered maturation of human oocytes in vitro
Pizza may be symptomatic of many First World problems: 50% of Europe is overweight or obese and there is concern about hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke or certain cancers linked to nutrition.

So what do European politicians do? They set out to fund pizza science so that it still tastes great but is less likely to kill you instead of, you know, eating less pizza. 

Don't get me wrong, I love capitalism. I have zero problem with Sugar Frosted Chocolate Bombs on Saturday morning cartoons or some guy from "The Sopranos" telling me women will like me more if I pour tequila from a bottle cap, and I have no problem with someone selling a healthier pizza.  It just seems like there is an easier solution.

Over 2,000 years ago, gold- and silversmiths developed a variety of techniques, including using mercury like a glue to apply thin films of metals to statues and other objects.

They developed thin-film coating technology that is unrivaled by today's process for producing DVDs, solar cells, electronic devices and other products and used it on jewels, statues, amulets and more common objects. Workmen over 2000 years ago managed to make precious metal coatings as thin and adherent as possible, which not only saved expensive metals but improved resistance to wear caused from continued use and circulation.

Understanding these sophisticated metal-plating techniques from ancient times could help preserve priceless artistic and other treasures from the past.