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Showing posts from December, 2015

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: SANTA'S SLEIGH

Today's final post in the series will be on the science behind Santa's sleigh. Scientists at the North Carolina State University have analyzed and researched how Santa is using the latest scientific resources and technologies on his sleigh (that aren't scientifically available to us yet) to deliver everyone's Christmas presents.




To deliver all the presents on time Santa's sleigh has to be a million times more advanced than any modern form of air transportation. The truss of the sleigh, including the runners, are made of a honeycombed titanium alloy that is very lightweight and 10 to 20 times stronger than anything that exists or that's being worked on in labs today. But it doesn't just stop there.... 


The truss can also morph, changing its shape slightly to improve its aerodynamics – allowing it to cut through the air more efficiently. The runners on the sleigh, for example, are a little bit flexible; this allows the runners to be tucked in to be more aerody…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: EGGNOG

It's the day before Christmas eve, so Christmas preparations are well under way. Who will be making homemade eggnog this holiday season? And will you be "spiking" it? If you will, beware of the risk of salmonella in raw eggs. 



With a statistic of 1/20000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella bacteria drinking homemade eggnog can be a bit of a hefty risk. Scientists at Rockefeller University conducted an experiment on eggnog and spiked eggnog (with alcohol added to it = 20 percent rum and bourbon) to compare the bacteria found in homemade alcoholic eggnog with those found in store-bought nonalcoholic eggnog. After culturing samples of both solutions and incubating them for 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius (body temperature), The researchers found that while the store-bought product was brimming with a variety of bacteria, the homemade version was completely sterile.

“The bacteria we observed in the grocery-store product are likely harmless normal bacteria that are found in all…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CANDY CANES

Today's post is based around candy canes - but not candy canes exactly, more like Christmas sweets including licorice. Scientists have found that a novel molecule extracted from licorice root has the ability to stop some cancers immediately, according to a collaborative research study conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 




Mohamed Rafi, assistant professor in the department of food science at Rutgers' Cook College, discovered the new molecule, ß-hydroxy-DHP (BHP), in common dietary supplements made from licorice root, a natural remedy with curative powers which have gone down in history. Rafi tested the compound in the laboratory on tissues taken from prostate and breast cancer tumors.
The small and very specific molecule BHP belongs to a class of organic chemicals known as polyphenols that include potential anticancer compounds found in green tea and wine; its main target is cancer cells. It works by deactivating a protein associated with tumor cells known t…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: WALNUTS

Today's post will be on walnuts. Walnuts also constitute a part of the Christmas platter and they're also good for you. Most of the health benefits of walnuts are known already but scientists have found one more to add to the list: lowering of diabetes and heart disease risk in "at-risk" patients. 


The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Official Publication of the American College of Nutrition, and a publication from Routledge.

For the study, a sample of 46 adults aged 30-75 were selected. Participants had a Body Mass Index larger than 25, and a waist circumference exceeding 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. They were also required to be non-smokers, and all exhibited one or more additional risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The group was randomly assigned to two 8-week sequences of either a walnut-enriched ad libitum diet or an ad libitum diet without walnuts. T…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: BAUBLES

Every year baubles get more innovative from your typical gold and sliver baubles to solar system themed baubles and finally gold and silver nano-baubles.



The nano-baubles produced by researchers, in Mexico and the US, are about 100 million times smaller than the typical baubles which are used to decorate Christmas trees.

The research was published December 2010 issue of the International Journal of Nanoparticles, where the scientists reported the formation of various sliver, gold and bimetallic nanoparticles which are only 25 nanometres in diameter. 

They utilized vitamin C (a.k.a ascorbic acid) and a soap like antiseptic which is usually used in high-end cosmetics. The reaction of silver nitrate and the gold compound chloroauric acid under these conditions led to successive reduction of the metals and the formation of different silver, gold and bimetallic nanoparticles. The precise structures of the nanoparticles were revealed using a high-resolution elemental mapping technique. The…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CITRUS FRUITS

Citrus fruits (including oranges, clementines, satsumas, lemons and limes) are best in season around Christmas time. But citrus fruits are not only delicious but they've also been proven to lower women's stroke risk, especially oranges and grapefruit, may lower ischemic stroke risk. 



The research published in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association looked at how consuming flavones subclasses affects the risk of stroke. Flavonoids are a class of compounds present in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine. Women who ate high amounts of the flavonoids had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least amount.

Within their experiment, the flavanones came mainly from oranges and orange juice (82 percent) and grapefruit and grapefruit juice (14 percent). However, researchers recommended that consumers increase their citrus fruit intake, rather than juice, due to the high sugar content of commercial fruit juices.

The National …

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CRANBERRIES

Working through the Christmas platter, today's post will be on cranberries. Scientists have been researching the antibiotic properties of cranberries. Particularly, they are shedding light on the biological mechanisms by which cranberries may have protective properties against urinary tract and other infections.





In 2011, a study was published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology, where theytested proanthocyanidins (a.k.a PACs), a group of flavonoids which are found in cranberries. These molecules are thought to give cranberry juice its infection-fighting properties and prevent precursors of bacterial infections. But the scientific report actually showed that cranberry juice, itself, is far better at preventing biofilm formation, which is the precursor of infection, than PACs alone. Camesano's lab explores the mechanisms that the virulent form of E. coli bacteria, the primary cause of most urinary tract infections (UTIs) in people, uses to form biofilms. This strain of E…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: BRUSSELS SPROUTS

With Christmas being next week everyone will be buying their groceries for Christmas dinner, and Brussels sprouts are bound to be on some of your shopping lists - but they may not be your kids favourite veggies and here's why...



Scientists have published new research in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience. They've compared how domestic cats and humans perceive bitterness in food at a molecular level, and could explain why cats and children are sometimes such picky eaters. It's thought that the ability to detect bitter chemicals is thought to have evolved because of its utility in avoiding toxic compounds often found in plants.  Cats are carnivores by nature so they don't consume a lot of plant-derived products; domestic cats, though, still come across bitter flavours in foods and medicines. 
The researchers at AFB International and Integral Molecular studied the behavior of two different cat bitter taste receptors in cell-based experiments, investigating their respon…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: FRANKINCENSE

Yesterday's post looked at Myrrh as a form of herbal remedy for high cholesterol levels in the body. Today's post moves onto frankincense which has also been found to have useful properties. Cardiff university (Wales, UK) scientists have been researching the potential benefits of frankincense to help relieve and alleviate the symptoms of arthritis (this research was published in 2011).
Scientists at Cardiff university have devised a treatment using a rare form of frankincense, Boswellia frereana, which inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules which helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes the condition. The scientists commented on their results saying: "Having done this we are now able to further characterize the chemical entity and compare its success against other anti-inflammatory drugs used for treating the condition." The hunt for new drugs to cure the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a pr…

12 DAYS CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: MYRRH

The fragrant myrrh of the Christmas story is the topic of today's Christmas post. Research published in 2009 has shown that myrrh may have cholesterol-lowering properties. The journal published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health discusses the hypocholesterolemic effects of myrrh and other plant products.
Myrrh already has been known to have many health benefits including antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.  And this new research has shown that there are potential cholesterol-lowering effects.  Previously myrrh has been used in a wide range of traditional remedies over the centuries as a mouthwash, for treating sore throats, bronchial congestion, as well as an antiseptic astringent, for soothing cuts and burns, and it was historically known to calm emotions.  Working with lab rodents, Nadia Al-Amoudi tested various blends of plant materials, including Myrrh, on laboratory rodents with high cholesterol. She fed the animals various combinat…

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: CHOCOLATE

Chocolate is an all year round necessity (I know for me it is) and also in Christmas, with chocolate advent calendars, chocolate coins etc... so that's the topic for today's post.  A study has shown that chocolate can increase brain characteristics of attention and significantly affect blood pressure levels. Over the years, chocolate has been known as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, in the long run, but chocolate also contains some powerful stimulants. Researchers wanted to investigate if people who consume chocolate would see an immediate stimulant effect -preventing the sleepy feeling you get in the afternoon (whether at school or work).



Stevens and his team tested their theory on with 122 participants between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. The researchers examined the EEG levels and blood pressure effects of consuming a 60 percent cacao confection compared with five control conditions.

The research, published in the journal Neu…

12 Days of Christmas Countdown: Diamonds

‘Tis the season to be jolly and also the season of many engagements (which means lots of diamond rings). Diamonds are the topic for today’s post in which scientists have found that diamonds may not be as rare as they’re thought to be (don’t get too excited, though, that doesn’t mean cheaper diamonds – yet!).


Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have published a new report in the journal Nature Communications which “[constitutes] a new quantitative theory of diamond formation”. The number of diamonds that are mined near the Earth’s surface depends on relatively rare volcanic magma eruptions that raise them from the depths where they form. The diamonds being studied here are ones that you can’t see with the naked eye; they’re only a few microns (1 micron= 1 x10-6 metres) across.
Sverjensky and Huang found that diamonds can be formed in the movement of fluid by the oxidation of methane or the chemical reduction of carbon dioxide. Oxidation results in a higher oxidation state, or a gain o…

12 Days of Christmas Countdown: Christmas Tree Needles

I've just recently started a new job which took up most of my thinking space, I didn't really think about any Christmassy posts on my blogs.  So come December, Compound Interest started his Christmas 2015 advent calendar which is amazing and a really great way to integrate Christmas into chemistry (go check it out now!) and it also encouraged me to start my own mini-Christmas series.

So, I'm starting a countdown till Christmas. For the 12 days till Christmas, I will be choosing something related to Christmas and providing a little interesting scientific story on each Christmas-related thing.



The first post in the countdown is on how scientists have found  a way to keep Christmas tree needles from falling off. Researchers at Université Laval, in collaboration with Nova Scotia Agricultural College, have discovered what causes Christmas tree needles to drop off, and how to double the lifespan of Christmas trees in homes. The authors reported their findings in a previous issue…

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes Just by Losing Weight

Its not easy living with type 2 diabetes and regulating your own blood sugar levels, through diet and exercise. Around 9% of the worlds population live with type 2 diabetes, with 80% coming from poor background and developing countries and it is now being found in young adults and children, after it was renowned for being as an "adult-onset" disease.


Type 2 diabetes causes too much glucose in the blood due to the pancreas not producing enough insulin -- a hormone which breaks down glucose into energy in the cells -- together with insulin resistance, a condition in which the body responds poorly to insulin.
The scientific team at Newcastle university found that by reducing the fat accumulating in the pancreas, even only one gram of fat, via weight loss can reverse diabetes. 
Via bariatric surgery
In the clinical trials, 18 people with Type 2 diabetes and 9 people who did not have diabetes were measured for weight, fat levels in the pancreas and insulin response before and after…

One Paragraph on Personal Blood Sugar Responses | One Paragraph Science

A new study conducted by the Weitzmann Institute of Science has shown that personal reactions to food in individuals blood sugar levels are highly individual. The researchers monitored 800 people for a week (that's over 46,000 meals!). "We chose to focus on blood sugar because elevated levels are a major risk factor for diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. The huge differences that we found in the rise of blood sugar levels among different people who consumed identical meals highlights why personalised eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice."Prof Eran Segal and Prof. Eran Elinav commented on their research in Cell journal. Blood sugar, if abnormally high, is a risk for diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Personalised  eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy and on track with their blood sugar and medication; compared to universal dietary advice. The scientists created/designed an algorithm f…

One Paragraph on Biological Heart Pacemakers | One Paragraph Science

Patients with heart problems sometimes experience issues with regulating their heart beat and often require artificial pacemakers. but the problem with artificial pacemakers is that they aren't that great anymore and have to be checked and replaced periodically. A review article published on November 20 in Trends in Molecular Medicine highlights the promise and limitations of new methods based on stem cell and reprogramming technologies to generate biological pacemakers that might one day replace electronic pacemakers. Biological pacemakers, which are composed of electrically active cells, can functionally integrate with the heart and could provide natural heart rhythm regulation without the need for indwelling hardware. One way to work with stem cells; scientists can coax the stem cells into becoming cells found in the SAN (Sino-Atrial Node). The second way to work with stem cells; by directly programming supporting cells, already present in the heart - for example, fibroblasts …