The astounding science and engineering of printer jams

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

Watch how to make homemade glow sticks

Oil of wintergreen makes for lovely glowsticks, but the secret ingredient is the solvent used to create chemiluminescence. Read the rest

Watch how a lab mistake leads to creating lead sponge

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

Scientist who synthesized the active ingredient in the powerful psychedelic salvia also broke ground on open access publishing

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

Miniature motors powered by spinning drops of liquid

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

Powerful hallucinogen could bring relief to chronic itching

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.

Snip: 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

Simple interactive Periodic Table on the web

Periodic Stats 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

No matter how cool superblack activated charcoal food looks, it's a bad idea

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

Antarctica's Blood Falls mapped and analyzed a century after discovery

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.

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Gorgeous microscopic footage of chemical reactions

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 saliva is even stranger than scientists expected

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

Livermorium - the smelliest element

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

Drinking heavy water

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

Chemical reactions with macro photography

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

Atomic Chemistry Set - cool Kickstarter project

The Atomic Chemistry Set is a "modern chemistry set - 47 chemicals, glassware, lab apparatus, and insane chemical reactions." It looks great! Read the rest

Watch the bang as man skips sodium across river

A favorite demonstration in high school science classes of yesteryear, dropping sodium into water is spectacularly explosive. In this video, a fellow attempts to skip a pound of sodium across a river.

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Lest we forget the corrosive strength of sulfuric acid

Ancient alchemists referred to H2SO4 as "oil of vitriol."

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