Golden Anniversary for Chemistry News

Reactive Reports, the chemistry Webzine from science writer 雷竞技官网 and software company ACD/Labs, celebrate its fiftieth issue this month. The Webzine grew from discussions between ACD/Labs VP and Chief Science Officer Antony Williams and 雷竞技官网 and were aimed at finding a way to bring the best chemistry news to a growing Web audience.

The first issue was published in September 1999 and covered issues that are as topical today as they were then – novel anticancer drugs from natural products, how to improve battery life to cut energy costs, and nanotechnology for building the next generation of electronics.

Reactive Reports has picked up several prestigious awards in its almost seven-year history including being a finalist in the Pirelli Awards for the innovative use of multimedia in science, a Scientific American sci-tech Web award, and a Scout Report Selection.

The Webzine’s growing archive now contains more than 200 chemistry news items as well a humor section, reviews of 150 chemistry Websites, and a links section to point readers to other useful chemistry resources.

With Issue 50, Reactive Reports changes course slightly, gone are the Star Picks and in their place we present a new profile section featuring a different chemical innovator each month. This month it’s chemical Web pioneer Peter Murray-Rust of the University of Cambridge who has much to say about open source issues and how chemists can make the most of new technology.

We also have the usual round-up of chemistry news and a news feature on Chmoogle the chemical search engine.

We hope the new format of Reactive Reports will make the next 50 issues even more educational and stimulating for our readers. Get a sneak preview of Issue 50 and check our reactions now!

Seeing Red

If you ever wondered what happened to RedNova then you need look no further, it signed the deedpoll and changed its name to RedOrbit, which has a much more esoteric but newsy I reckon. Anyway, it’s still got the great content, breaking world news in almost every field, and some fantastic images. The Discovery of the Day is an absolute treat. Today it was an Idea LED Maple Clock, which looks like a wooden brick with red LEDs, but makes a total change from all that brushed aluminium effect and translucent plastic that seems to be the order of the day for gadgets (iPods excepted, of course).

Nice to see their Quiz Me feature has a chemical question! Elemental, my dear Doctor…

Kissing Tips

Interesting piece of research turned up in a recent PubMed search about the benefits of kissing on allergic response and how kissing can reduce prick test response to house dust mite and cedar pollen in susceptible individuals. It’s not new and subsequent work has shown that people with food allergies who kiss someone who has eaten foodstuffs to which they’re allergic can suffer nasty consequences. Still, it gives us a chance to show a Rodin sculpture on sciencebase (next month, I’ll drag out my mistletoe photographs, if someone adds a comment to this item to remind me)

Flight of the humble bee

By combining videos of free-flying honeybees with information from robotic models, researchers have come up with a sweet solution to explain the aerodynamics of bee flight.

Most flying insects beat their wings in large strokes to help them fly. But certain types of bee have to be different.

Michael Dickinson and colleagues demonstrated that honeybees fly using much shorter strokes (approximately degrees) and beat them faster than is to be expected based on the size of the bee. Aside from exploiting the effects of the wings rapidly changing at the start of each stroke, it also means that the bees’ buzz is of a much higher frequency than it should be.

By using a high-frequency, low-amplitude stroke, honeybees can gain a much wider range of aerodynamic power than other insects, which comes in handy when they’re loaded up with pollen.

Not exactly a story for the onset of winter here, but it got me buzzing (Hah!)

Beyond Einstein

As Einstein Year draws to a close, CERN celebrates the big man with an epic 12-hour live webcast looking at relativity and beyond. Sciencebase contributor Michael Marshall is helping with the publicity and tells us the webcast offers a unique chance to chat with scientists and find out how a century-old bright idea has changed the world in which we live.

1st December: 12h00-00h00 Central Eur Time

Treating Drug Addiction

There is not much in the plant world that people have not sniffed, snorted, smoked, rubbed in, injected or attempted to get inside their bodies in other ways in the hope of eliciting someone kind of magical response. The well-known plants that gave a positive result in the primitive tests – the coca plant, poppies, marijuana, tobacco, betel trees, coffee beans – have since grown infamous leaving the air heavy with their tragic scent in so many places. Find out about the plant that itself could be used in the fight against drug addiction.

Bird Flu Test

Researchers at McMaster University, Toronto, have developed a simple diagnostic that can spot all the major human respiratory viruses, including SARS.

The press release announcing this finding includes in the list of “major” viruses – H5N1 (bird flu), but H5N1 is yet to become a “major” human virus having only killed a few dozen people in the forty-odd years since it emerged! This contrasts sharply with the more common influenza type A viruses to which humans have been exposed for centuries that have killed thousands upon thousands.

Obviously, the writer of the press release wants to get the item into the media, hence the mention of H5N1 and SARS, and, admittedly, the diagnostic, which is still undergoing clinical evaluation, will be able to spot those viruses. There is enough disinformation regarding avian influenza as it is. It seems that almost any piece of viral research is likely to have some PR exploitable link to H5N1 these days, but there are two sides to every story and a lot of researchers have stated already that should H5n1 ever mutate into a human transmissable form it will lose its lethality without doubt. After all, it doesn’t kill wild birds, just that pampered stock we breed to eat.

Newborn Bonding

Compared with children raised by biological parents, children who were raised in foreign orphanages before adoption by American families apparently have altered levels of social-bonding hormones, researchers report.

Researchers are interested in how infants’ social experiences can affect brain organization. Seth Pollak and colleagues studied children adopted into American families after being raised from birth in foreign orphanages, where they often failed to receive standard emotional and physical contact from caregivers.

The researchers compared these children with a control group of American children raised by their families. Two hormones were of interest to the researchers: oxytocin and arginine vasopressin, both of which are associated with stress regulation and social bonding, and whose levels rise after socially pleasant experiences such as comforting touches.

Compared with the control group, children raised in orphanages showed lower baseline levels of vasopressin. Also, oxytocin levels of family-raised children increased after playful social contact with their mothers, but orphanage-raised children did not display the same response. The results suggest that a failure to receive typical care as a child can disrupt normal development of these hormonal systems, which can then interfere with the calming and comforting effects that typically emerge between children and their caregivers.

Amazing what a little interpersonal chemistry can do, isn’t it?

SOURCE: PNAS Press Release

Monster black hole

SciScoop member “barakn” commented on a recent posting about the massive black hole that astronomers claim to have found. As ever, there are two sides to a story and, as barakn points out, conflicting research has now been published that suggests it would have taken three galaxies colliding to eject such a large black hole, so it is perhaps more likely that what at first looked like such an astronomical object is in fact a common or garden quasar…