Science Connections

Horseradish Wins Herb of the Year Despite Volatile Chemistry: What do historians, horticulturalists, foodies, and chemists have in common? Horseradish, Herb of the Year 2011! Horseradish, or Armoracia rusticana, is best known as a spicy condiment for meat and seafood dishes, but its chemical properties extend beyond the kitchen to the laboratory and doctor's office. Today, this bitter herb continues to have significant historical and cultural importance in the Jewish Passover Seders. [April 21, 2011]

Life Down to the Last 1 x 10-18 Seconds: We wear watches, communicate through cell phones and computers, and use GPS while driving, walking, and flying. Atomic clocks help make this possible. Today’s atomic clocks can keep time to within a second every 3.7 billion years, as well as demonstrate Einstein’s theory of relativity and detect changes in gravity, even if only to prove our hair ages faster than our toenails. [February 9, 2011] 

Celebrate International Year of Chemistry 2011!: On February 1, the United States launches its own celebration of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) in Philadelphia with a gathering of prominent industry and academic leaders to discuss solutions to increasing global demands for energy, safe food and water, and improving human health. [January 28, 2011]

Snowflakes Are as Unique as CAS Registry Number: Chemists are able to induce weather using the same methods as Mother Nature. This includes snow, a staple of the winter season. The first artificial snow crystal was produced in 1936, but it took an additional decade before the first artificial snowfall took place. Read more about snow crystal formation and how advancements in artificial snowmaking keep skiers and snowboarders happy. [December 20, 2010]

Invisibility Cloaks Aren't Just for Harry Potter: Harry Potter may be the most topical employer of invisibility, but science fiction is fast becoming reality with advances in cloaking and transformation optics. Metamaterials make the invisible a reality by diverting light around an object through electric and magnetic interactions. While full-sized cloaks may not be available for purchase in the near future, they will be more fitting than the copper wire versions, which are so last decade. [December 1, 2010] 

Water's Disappearing Act: With the consistency of powdered sugar, dry water has gained recent attention as a green possibility for reducing global warming and saving energy. In addition to cosmetic preparations, dry water replaces stirring in chemical reactions, stores and absorbs gas, and could one day be used to recover natural gases from the ocean floor. [November 1, 2010] 

Carbon Bond Formations Win 2010 Nobel Prize with Award-Winning Research Documented in CAS Databases: Organic chemists can synthesize novel carbon-carbon bonded structures thanks in part to three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on October 6, 2010 for "palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis". Their Nobel Prize winning research can be found in the CAS databases, from the winners' first synthesis reaction to the thousands of reactions based on the same chemistry. [October 8, 2010]

Diamonds are a Driver's Best Friend: One of the hardest organic substances on earth, diamonds can cut, grind, and drill through cement. Their chemical resistance, durability, and strength make diamonds useful in many industrial applications such as reducing tire/pavement noise and increasing road safety. [September 22, 2010] 

Cancer in the Red: The health benefits of tomatoes are supported in a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, in which Schwartz and researchers identify and quantify lycopene and derivatives in human plasma and food items. As an antioxidant, lycopene protects cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Lycopene inhibits cancer by interfering with the proteins and enzymes necessary for regulating cell growth and promotes coordinated communication between adjacent cells. [August 30, 2010] 

The Not-So-Mad Hatter: Occupational Hazards of Mercury: The Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is often referred to as the Mad Hatter, a characterization associated with the occupational hazards of mercury exposure present among 19th-century hatters. Hatters also experienced tremors from using mercury nitrate in a process known as carroting. It remains unclear whether the Hatter was mad or just attended a mad tea party, but the phrase "mad as a hatter" was in use 30 years prior to the publication of Carroll's novel. [July 21, 2010]

Genes, Law, and the Race to Patent: DNA sequence mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes impose a lifetime risk of cancer in women. In an unprecedented ruling, seven U.S. patents claiming gene sequence and methodology of BRCA1 and BRCA2 were invalidated. While it is too soon to speculate on the how the outcome of the BRCA genes will impact future patents, patent law struggles to keep up with the pace of technological advances in cloning and sequencing. [June 21, 2010]

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