The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors

by C. Rose Kennedy figures by Kaitlyn Choi What’s in a Flavor? The word “flavor” pervades our daily vocabulary, evoking associations of rich or vivid experiences beyond the experience of eating. Even in the literal context, the Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) describes flavor as “the entire range of sensations that we perceive when we eat a food or drink a beverage. Flavor encompasses a substance’s … Continue reading The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors

Plastic bottles

Public Opinion Forces Companies to Seek Safer Replacements for Safe (and Essential) Chemical

Consumer pressure – not scientific evidence – has prompted companies like Nalgene, General Mills, and Campbell’s to remove a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) from their merchandise.  BPA is primarily used to make plastics that are found in many everyday products, such as water bottles, medical devices, toys, and liners for food cans.  As a result, BPA is ubiquitous in modern life and many people … Continue reading Public Opinion Forces Companies to Seek Safer Replacements for Safe (and Essential) Chemical

Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment

Presented by Hannah Horowitz Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. For thousands of years, humans have altered mercury cycling in the environment by introducing massive amounts of mercury to surface water, soils, and air, through mining and burning coal. Once in the surface environment, mercury can threaten human and wildlife health, is transported globally through the air, and continues to have an impact for hundreds of … Continue reading Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment

Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

Scientists at Zhejiang University have recently published an improved method for removing arsenic from drinking water, which relies on chemically modifying the shells of a type of algae, called diatoms, to make the shells efficient “sponges” for soaking up arsenic. Modified diatom shells are unique in that they can be widely manipulated for applications in fields as diverse as medicine and materials science. Despite their … Continue reading Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

A step towards the primordial soup

How did life originate? This puzzle has been studied by scientists for hundreds of years. Authors of a new paper in Nature have made significant progress towards solving this enigma by using cyanide as a starting material. While cyanide may be poisonous to us, mixing it with a specific chemical solution and heat seems to give rise to many of the molecules of life. A … Continue reading A step towards the primordial soup

The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution

Presented by Jordan Wilkerson Whether we are in China or here in the United States, the air in major cities is infamous for its unpleasant haze and resulting health problems. There are many ways in which an unhealthy mixture of chemicals can make it into the atmosphere where humans live and breathe. This lecture will discuss some of the most famous of these pollutants, what … Continue reading The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution

Crystallized Relief

Image by Don W. Pottle This is an image of crystals of aspirin with caffeine.   An Excedrin tablet was crushed in water and allowed to dissolve.   Drops of the solution were placed on a glass microscope slide and allowed to dry.  Examining and photographing the resulting crystals using a  60X oil immersion lens and DIC  (Differential Interference Contrast) filters produced these spindle-like images.  The spindles … Continue reading Crystallized Relief