At Chemistry Blog, Nick Uhlig explores the chemistry of William Gibson's classic novel Neuromancer.
Apart from inventing the term “cyberspace” and predicting virtual reality long before it became commonplace, Neuromancer also contains some interesting tidbits of chemistry. Being a chemist myself, specifically one in the pharma industry, these little nuggets of scientific prose jump out at me, and quite pleasantly Gibson (for the most part) does a good job of using them appropriately. I wanted to examine the pharmaceutical elements of the book, which are almost entirely used by Case and Peter Riviera, its two biggest junkies.
Only the finest Brazilian Dex for me.
Photo: Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Artist: James Warhola Read the rest
YouTuber NileRed was curious about how lactose-free milk is made, so he did a little research and came up with this helpful explainer. Read the rest
I found out about Shit Ghost from this Reddit thread: "My seemingly normal project manager abruptly quit his nice paying job a couple years ago for unknown reasons. I facebooked him today out of curiosity to discover he is now dresses up in costume as a character he calls "Shit Ghost" and makes really obscure music and art."
Here's more about Shit Ghost:
The anonymous weirdo known as Shit Ghost has been tweaking Seattle audiences for a couple years now, performing in a white Spandex mask, white turtleneck and Archie McPhee costume glasses while stretching time—and his vocals—like saltwater taffy in ten-minute-long, ambient rock excursions. Like his on-stage persona, Shit Ghost’s music is both soothing and discomforting, gentle and gently maddening. You won’t notice you’re being lulled into a dissociative fever dream until you’re already there, and by then it’s too late, and you’re fine with it.
I just had a vision of a bored, deskbound copro-eidolic entity upping and shouting to its colleagues, "That's it! I'm becoming a project manager!" and floating angrily off. Read the rest
Anil Dash's third law holds that "Three things never work: Voice chat, printers and projectors." But Joshua Rothman's long, fascinating, even poetic profile of the Xerox engineers who work on paper-path process improvements is such a bit of hard-science whimsy that it almost makes me forgive every hour I've spent swearing over jammed paper.
Read the rest
Oil of wintergreen makes for lovely glowsticks, but the secret ingredient is the solvent used to create chemiluminescence. Read the rest
Lead sponge, like other metal sponges, is a phenomenon where a metal reacts with a solution to create a soft sponge-like material, as YouTuber NileRed found out by accident. Read the rest
Salvia divinorum is a plant that is legal in most of the USA and the world, a uniquely powerful psychedelic whose effects are as short-lived (5-10 minutes from first onset to the end of the experience) as they are profound (users generally need to have a "sitter" nearby because they lose control over their bodies and perceptions).
Read the rest
If you've ever observed "wine legs," the rivulets that form when you swirl wine in a glass, you've seen the Marangoni effect. Watch how scientists are using this effect to create tiny motors that emit no pollutants. Read the rest
People who suffer from chronic itching say it's more unbearable than pain. I'll never forget a 2008 story called The Itch in The New Yorker. It's about a woman whose scalped itched so much that "She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain."
Chemical and Engineering News reports that a compound in the popular psychedelic plant Salvia divinorum was found to contain a compound that is found to provide itch relief to mice.
Salvinorin A, a hallucinogen produced by the Mexican plant Salvia divinorum, holds promise for treating itch and pain because it activates the κ-opioid receptor while avoiding the μ-opioid receptor, a sister receptor that’s been associated with opioid abuse. Chemists have tried to synthesize salvinorin A so that they could alter the structure to sidestep the compound’s psychoactive effects while preserving its analgesic properties. But salvinorin A’s scaffold has been challenging to recreate.
Now, a team of scientists at the California and Florida branches of Scripps Research Institute, as well as at the University of Southern California, report a 10-step total synthesis of 20-norsalvinorin A (ChemRxiv 2017, DOI: 10.26434/chemrxiv.5318188). The compound differs from salvinorin A by a single methyl group and binds to the κ -opioid receptor with an affinity similar to that of the natural product. When given to mice, it also provides itch relief. Read the rest
is a dead-easy web-based Periodic Table to click around, showing all the stats and the history of each element. The only thing missing are illustrations of each one! [via Reddit
] Read the rest
Activated charcoal makes for some cool-looking chow, like the superblack soft-serve at LA's Little Damage, and you might think that since activated charcoal is given to people with acute poisoning, it's safe to eat.
Read the rest
One of the weirdest places in Antarctica is Blood Falls, a five-story cascade of blood-red liquid pouring from Taylor Glacier. Researchers finally traced its source: a saltwater lake millions of years old trapped under the glacier.
Read the rest
Precipitation3 is the latest in the wonderfully shot and edited series by Beauty of Science, "an educational brand that produces inspiring content for K-12 STEM education and science outreach." Read the rest
Frog tongue mechanism has been well-documented, but only recently have scientists started looking at the remarkable combo of tongue softness and frog spit's chemical makeup. Read the rest
The element Livermorium (element 116, named after Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) was created in 2000. It's in the same column of the periodic table as sulfur and it is speculated that it might be the smelliest of all elements, but since it has a half life of "tens of milliseconds," no one has been able to make the hydrogen compound of it and given it a proper sniff. Also, it's radioactive. Read the rest
Deuterium is a hydrogen atom with a neutron in it. Heavy water is made from molecules of two deuterium atoms and one oxygen atom. Because of the extra neutrons, it weighs about 10% more than regular water. In this video, Cody of Cody's Lab taste tests heavy water. Interestingly, it's sweet. Read the rest
The trippy and magical world of chemistry is beautifully brought to life in Chemical Poetry, a macrophotographic contemplation of chemistry in extreme closeup. Read the rest