Tag: chemistry

Better fiddling through chemistry

The mystery of a Stradivarius’s extraordinary sound has been solved, and it all comes down to the chemicals used to treat the wood, probably to ward off worms. The unique acoustical results were most likely a happy accident.

There’s no metal in a metallic smell

The distinctive smell you get from a pocketful of change held in your hand or a bunch of keys doesn’t come from the metal at all: it comes from you.

Photo of the Day: Argon Gas

It’s everywhere! More photos here.

Not just lemon juice

Two Michigan State University researchers have unlocked the secret invisible-ink formula used by the former East Germany secret police, the Stasi: The Stasi’s technique of transferring top-secret messages worked like a piece of carbon paper. An agent would place a piece of paper impregnated with the chemical cerium oxalate between two pieces of plain paper. …

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This sounds very promising:

From Scientific American: Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a new, carbon-neutral way to convert vegetable-based fuels to syngas, a breakthrough that could allow producers to power hydrogen fuel cells or create a replacement for America’s dwindling supplies of natural gas, all without relying on fossil fuels. Read the rest. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)

“Musseling” in on the glue industry

Since all of my science columns are online, I frequently get questions out of the blue about past column topics. This week, for example, I received an e-mail from a mother whose nine-year-old had decided to do a third-grade science project on glue. They’d found my column on the topic from a decade ago, and …

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A new way to paint cars

  We bought a new car a little over a year ago, and while choosing what make of car to purchase naturally took weeks of research and consideration, it took us almost as long again just to decide on what colour of car we wanted. (We settled on “platinum green.”) Painting an automobile involves many …

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Scientific stain removal

I like to write about the latest discoveries in cosmology and particle physics. But not all scientific research is focused on these frontiers. Some of it is aimed as close as–well, that spot of mustard on your pants. Textile experts at Cornell University have published a pamphlet  with detailed, laboratory-tested instructions on how to remove …

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The science of stink

We all have our favorite smells, which remind us of our favorite things. The smell of baking bread may make you think of Grandma’s house. The scent of lilacs may remind you of warm summer evenings. Then there our are less-favorite smells, like the smell of an outhouse on a hot day, or the smell …

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Food coatings

Most people prefer shiny apples to dull ones, crisp French fries to soggy ones, and fresh nuts to stale ones. Enter food coatings. Some are visible and some are invisible, but they’re on much of the food you buy, keeping it fresh-tasting and -looking longer. It’s not easy. After all, the coating has to be …

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The first time I saw a Teflon-covered pan, when I was four or five, I thought it was magic. Now that I cook, I’m even more impressed by non-stick surfaces. Teflon was discovered by accident by Roy J. Plunkett, 27, a DuPont scientist who was trying to develop a new chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) for use as …

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Christmas chemistry

The Physics of Christmas is a very good book by Roger Highland. But there’s more science to Christmas than just physics; there’s chemistry, too. Consider those popular Christmas spices, ginger and cinnamon. Ginger has been used for thousands of years. Greek bakers were making gingerbread more than four thousand years ago (though probably not in the …

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