Plants that glow could illuminate tomorrow's buildings

MIT researchers who developed light-emitting plants are now exploring how the glowing greenery could be integrated into future building designs. In their proof-of-concept demonstration, the scientist packaged luciferase, the enzyme that enables fireflies to glow, into nanoparticles that were then suspended in solution. The plants were immersed in the solution and, through high pressure, the nanoparticles entered tiny pores in the plants' leaves. The plants maintained their glow for several hours and they've since increased the duration. Now, project lead Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering, is collaborating with MIT architecture professor Sheila Kennedy on possible future applications of the green technology. From MIT News:

“If we treat the development of the plant as we would just another light bulb, that’s the wrong way to go,” Strano (says)....

The team is evaluating a new component to the nanobiotic plants that they call light capacitor particles. The capacitor, in the form of infused nanoparticles in the plant, stores spikes in light generation and “bleeds them out over time,” Strano explains. “Normally the light created in the biochemical reaction can be bright but fades quickly over time. Capacitive particles extend the duration of the generated plant light from hours to potentially days and weeks...."

As the nanobionic plant technology has advanced, the team is also envisioning how people might interact with the plants as part of everyday life. The architectural possibilities of their light-emitting plant will be on display within a new installation, “Plant Properties, a Future Urban Development,” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York opening May 10.

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Japanese chemistry professor busted for teaching students to make Molly

Tatsunori Iwamura, 61, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Japan's Matsuyama University, was busted for teaching his students how to make MDMA (aka Molly/Ecstasy) and 5F-QUPIC, a cannabinoid agonist. At some point, Iwamura had a license to manufacture illegal drugs for academic purposes but it had expired. From The Guardian:

Local drug enforcement authorities believe 11 students produced the drug (MDMA) under Iwamura’s instruction. Four students, along with an assistant professor, have also been referred to prosecutors, Kyodo said.

The university said it would discipline Iwamura and the assistant professor once the investigation had ended.

“We sincerely apologise for causing serious concern to students and their parents,” said Tatsuya Mizogami, the university’s president, according to Kyodo.

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The Forbes Pigment Collection

How do you know for sure if your carefully-recreated 18th-century paint would fool pass muster as art dealers a legitimate recreation long enough to get away with it? of the authentic originals? Tom Scott visits the Forbes Pigment Collection.

The Forbes Pigment Collection at the Harvard Art Museums is a collection of pigments, binders, and other art materials for researchers to use as standards: so they can tell originals from restorations from forgeries. It's not open to the public, because it's a working research library -- and because some of the pigments in there are rare, historic, or really shouldn't be handled by anyone untrained.

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A teenage science geek's quest to collect every element on the periodic table

In the 1960s, when Scientific American copy editor Michael J. Battaglia was 15, he had a chemical romance with the periodic table. In fact, Battaglia was so fascinated by the basic substances of our universe that he tried to collect 'em all (at least the 104 elements that science knew about at the time.) From Scientific American:

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How to mix oil and water without adding another ingredient

Oil and water don't normally mix, unless you emulsify it with something, like soap, egg yolk, or mustard. But there is a way to mix oil and water without using an emulsifier, and in this video, the Action Lab Man shows how to do it. The secret is to remove the dissolved air from water by using a vacuum chamber. This means you can use degassed water alone to remove grease from clothes. Read the rest

What is dubnium and why is it interesting?

Before I watched this video and you had asked me if dubnium was a real element or not, I would have had to guess. Read the rest

Watch this soothing and sumptuous video of brightly-colored substances interacting

Artist and designer Rus Khasanov (previously) has created a bright and highly-detailed montage of colors colliding. What really sets this apart is the beautiful music by Dmitry Evgrafov. Read the rest

Under a microscope, a riotous rush of color and texture

The Miniglobelet series by Beauty of Science shows all the wondrous math and physics occuring at the micrscopic level as crystals form, chemicals combine, and new forms take shape. Read the rest

Squirting superglue into a borax solution causes quite a reaction

Kids are going crazy making slime with borax and what-not after watching YouTube, but these household chemicals can have seriously powerful reactions that need to be done cautiously. Read the rest

Watch what happens when gallium gets put on this aluminum racket

YouTuber DaveHax had some gallium lying around, so he wanted to see the chemical reaction when it was applied to an aluminum tennis racket. Read the rest

Watch how to make photochromic figurines

YouTuber NileRed mixed up a batch of DNBP, a photochromic compound that changes color in sunlight. Then he moulded it into a bear and put it out in the sun, with fascinating results. Read the rest

The chemistry of Neuromancer

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

Watch how to make lactose-free milk

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

Styrofoam heads dissolved in acetone in music video

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

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

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