Chemistry

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.


Vibrations in chemical bonds can be used to predict chemical reactions. That means chemists could design better catalysts to speed reactions that make medicines, industrial products and new materials.


Beer drinkers know that hops are what gives the drink its bitterness and aroma. Recently, scientists reported that the part of hops that isn't used for making beer contains healthful antioxidants and could be used to battle cavities and gum disease.

A new identified some of the substances that could be responsible for these healthful effects. 


Synthetic spider silk of fantastical, superhero strength is finally speeding toward commercial reality.

The material, which is five times stronger than steel, could be used in products from bulletproof vests to medical implants, according to an article in Chemical&Engineering News (C&EN).


Analysis of the wood from three 17th century shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea, the Ghost wreck, the Crown and the Sword, showed high concentrations of sulfur and iron using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning.

Scientists from the same team have previously reported large amounts of sulfur and iron accumulation in the warship Vasa. In that study, the scientists found an outbreak of acidity and sulphate salts on the surface of the hull and other wooden objects.


A number of people are concerned about BPA in plastics but that is far less warranted than concern about plastics themselves. 

In 1967's "The Graduate", the following conversation took place between an older man and the young protagonist:

McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. 
Benjamin: Yes, sir. 
McGuire: Are you listening? 
Benjamin: Yes, I am. 
McGuire: Plastics.