Nano Safe

How toxic are nanomaterials? A group of scientists from US and Korea has shown that nanostructured composite microspheres can be easily prepared using ultrasound in a non-toxic manner. These microspheres were created to act as drug carriers, in particular to deliver a potent Alzheimer’s Disease drug which is in clinical trials. Before drug delivery, however, the scientists had to show that their carrier was not itself toxic to cells.

“With increasing concerns that synthetic nanomaterials may be highly toxic on all-levels of life and harmful to the environment, it would be good practice if researchers can report toxicology data along with their synthesis,” team member Yoo-Hun Suh of Seoul University told us.

You can read my full story on this and more at spectroscopyNOW, in advance of July 1 publication.

Alkali Metals and Water

Alkali Metals water

You’ve probably seen one of those tedious science videos where they drop a tiny nugget of lithium or sodium into a toughened glass bowl half full of water and watch the metal fizz and splutter.

Exciting, huh?

They might even have gone so far as to add an even smaller nugget of potassium, which in the most exciting moment might smash the bowl with its violence.

However, you may also have noticed that there are some other alkali metals below potassium in the Periodic Table. And, you might know that if an element is below another in the PT it is generally more reactive. So, step in the Brainiac team to show you what dropping a nugget of rubidium into a bathtub of water will do, it’s like pulling the pin on a hand grenade and lobbing that into the tub!

But, thankfully they don’t even stop there, going one step further with caesium, almost the most violent element in terms of reactivity with water. Check out their video here to find out just how violent. And, remember, this is one best left to the experts rather than attempted for your science fair projects! here to find out just how violent. And, remember, this is one best left to the experts rather than attempted for your science fair project. But, then again, who told the Brainiacs they were experts?

ChemWeb update

This week, in my news round-up on ChemWeb, we discover a chilly reminder of water’s bizarre behavior that could make cryopreservation science fact rather than fiction, a new understanding of the underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease, and discover that Swiss chemists have peered into their crystal ball to find new materials and explain some old ones. Also in this week’s news, simultaneous sensing for sensitive science and a way to clean up the infernal combustion.

Beer vs Wine

Beer or Wine? The choice is yours!Beer is better for you than wine, apparently. Beer contains valuable B vitamins, such as B12, folic acid and niacin, as well as antioxidants, such as polyphenols and ferulic acid. Which makes it the healthier choice, contrary to popular opinion. her also contains soluble fibre, which is good for digestion. Even the “active” ingredient in alcohol, whether from beer or wine, allegedly helps keep arteries clear of blockages.

So, who is making this startling claim?

Apparently, none other than the chairman of the food science department at the University of California at Davis, Charles Bamforth.

Interestingly, Bamforth is UCB’s Anheuser-Busch endowed professor and author of the book Beer: Health and Nutrition. ‘People say red wine is key to that,’ Bamforth says, ‘But beer, if you looked at it holistically, is healthier than wine. But it is not perceived that way.’

Anheuser-Busch? Isn’t that the company that makes Bud?

Even more intriguingly, the site announces that you have to be over 21 to enter its site and you have to tap in your birthday before you can….like teens aren’t going to just put 01-01-50 or something similar. By the way, it’s tough if you were born in 1900 – no Bud fest for you!

Seat of Female Libido Revealed

Over on Digg, there’s news that the organ in the brain responsible for female sexual response has been found. As one might expect, there are lots of sexist comments posting very early and at an alarming rate from the members: Female Libido

The actual news item in question can be found here, written by my good friend at New Scientist, Andy Coghlan.

Keeping the lead in your pipes

The European Union has been messing with the organs in churches across the land. It wanted to extract all the lead from these instruments, but vergers, vicars and other clergymen starting with a “V” thought the EU wasn’t just extracting the Pb it was taking the P.

The UK’s Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) announced today that Pipe organs are outside the scope of an incoming EU Directive which restricts the use of hazardous substances including lead in machinery and appliances with an electrical component. DTI Minister Malcolm Wicks said today that the so-called RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive
which will come into force on July 1 this year, was a serious cause for concern
among pipe organ builders because these historic instruments often contain
a small electric fan to give the lead pipes a good blow rather than relying on the organist pumping them up as was traditionally the case.

Is that enough blatant innuendo for one day, if not you can stick it in your pipe and smoke it!

Britain unprepared for flu pandemic shock

Reuters is reporting that general practitioner Steve Hajioff warns that the UK’s preparations for a bird flu pandemic are inadequate.

The UK is on high alert for bird flu following the dead swan incident in Scotland and is stockpiling vaccine. Hajioff, however, suggests that the impact on infrastructure of an avian influenza epidemic would be like a thousand 9/11’s. “In the present day, you are talking about five million people across Europe and hundreds of thousands in the UK. It’s like 1,000 September 11ths all at once,” he said.

The insensitivity of such a phrase aside, Hajioff went on to tell BBC radio: “I’m a GP and I can prepare my surgery, but if the electricity company that supplies my power has not prepared, then I am not going to be able to treat patients.”

What worries me, is whether or not Dr Hajioff is qualified to offer a new thread to the scare-mongering surrounding bird flu in this way. Maybe he is. His website tells us he “is a broadcaster, a healthcare informatics consultant, a public health physician, and a writer.” It goes on to say that he has a particular interest in international health systems, communicable disease control and electronic data security.” Interestingly(?), “For fun, he paints, skis, cooks and drives his MG. He is also a keen MIDI musician.”

And, seeing as the reporting on his offering to BBC Radio suggests he didn’t actually tell the audience anything that isn’t fairly obvious then perhaps he is qualified after all.

Just for the record, despite the continued scaremongering for almost every H5N1 is yet to mutate into a human transmissable form and the evidence points to the likelihood that such a mutant would have less virulence among humans than H5N1 has among birds.

We’ll see.

Scientific Rock Band

Regular readers may have noticed I’m in a list-making mood these last few days, with the NMR acronyms feature and “what scientists are known for” posts…well over on The Island of Doubt, fellow science writer James Hrynyshyn is discussing the issue of the scientific ethic in rock and mentions the likes of Talking Heads, Rush, and Thomas Dolby as being hot on science.

Well, it got me thinking about actual artist names that betray a hint of the technophile or the science-minded among the muso crowd, so here’s a short list…in no particular order:

Chemical Brothers (chem)
We are Scientists (gen)
Cure (med)
EMF (tech)
X-ray Spex (tech)
AC/DC (tech)
Spock’s Beard (sci-fi)
Bio-Com (bio)
Medicine Head (med)
Television (tech)
10cc (bio)
UFO (sci-fi)
TLC (chem)
Atomic Kitten (phys/bio)
Atomic Rooster (phys/bio)
Transister (tech)
Quantum Jump (phys)
William Orbit (astro)
Oxide and Neutrino (chem/phys)
Suzanne Vega (astro)
Quake (geo)
Tenth Planet (astro)
Mercury Rev (chem/astro)
Electronic (tech)
Quartz (geo)
Electric Light Orchestra (tech)
Neil Diamond (geo)
Multi Purpose Chemical (chem)
The Dead Science (formerly The Sweet Science) (gen)
Electric Soft Parade (tech)
Death Comet Crew (astro)
Nuclear Rabbit (phys)
Electric Prunes (tech)
The Mars Volta (astro)
Radiohead (tech)
Van Der Graaf Generator (tech)
My Chemical Romance (chem)
Chemical People (chem)
Electric Six (tech)
Mind Science of the Mind (gen)
Flux Information Sciences (info)
Skin (derma)
Scientist (gen)
Eat Static (tech)
Echo and the Bunnymen (audio)

Noesy Spectroscopists

Who says chemists don’t have a sense of humour, if you haven’t already seen Paul May’s Silly Molecules site check that out right now, but in the meantime some genuine acronyms from the world of spectroscopy

Insensitive Nuclei Enhanced by Polarization Transfer (INEPT)

Combined Rotation And Multiple Pulse Spectroscopy (CRAMPS)

HOmonucleaR ROtary Resonance (HORROR)

Nuclear Overhauser Effect SpectroscopY (NOESY)

COrrelation SpectroscopY (COSY)

Slice Interleaved Depth Resolved Surface Coil Spectroscopy (SLITDRESS)

Proton Enhanced Nuclear Induction Spectroscopy (P…you got it), which is often hyphenated with the next technique in the style of separations scientists who couple HPLC with ESI/MS and LC with DAD. Do I have to spell it out? We’d have P-V or V-P for that matter, depending on which technique came first.

Variably Adjusted Gamma Inhibiting Nuclear Association Spectroscopy (Okay, I made that one up, but I’m sure a spectroscopists somewhere is working on something similar), Hyphenated 2D versions of either this or the previous proton technique would be P-P and V-V.

There are many others including, CYCLOPS, HOHAHA, ROESY, SECSY, PASADENA, EXORCYCLE, DANTE, TOSS, INADEQUATE, ENDOR, FOCSY, HERPECS, DEPT, feel free to use the acronym search tool to validate the more suspect ones if you don’t trust me. Enter the acronym or abbreviation of interest in the yellow box on the right of that page and hit the GO button next to the phrase “Science Acronyms”.