Badass Historical Chemists: Alice Hamilton Versus Absolutely Everyone

Alice Hamilton was one of those people who used science to shape morality. Basic concepts like sanitation, worker safety, and proper chemical disposal exist because she proved there was no other choice. She was also one of the first to speak out about the growing threat of Nazi Germany.

Source: Badass Historical Chemists: Alice Hamilton Versus Absolutely Everyone

On the FBI watch list well into her nineties. That’s impressive!

Badass Historical Chemists: The Woman Behind Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier is deservedly considered one of the great chemists in history. We might not know of his experiments if it weren’t for his wife. She became a remarkable, if unconventional, chemist herself and had one of the weirder lives in history.

Source: Badass Historical Chemists: The Woman Behind Antoine Lavoisier

Pretty incredible how far science has come in 250 years, such a short span of time compared to the entirety of human history. We went from not even know what oxygen is to using it to fling stuff into space.

Cooking Garlic the “Wrong” Way Can Make It Turn Blue

People who cook garlic have sometimes been alarmed to see their garlic turn green, blue, or turquoise as it cooked. What the hell happened? Bacterial infestation? Poison added by assassins? Actually, it was just chemistry.

Source: Cooking Garlic the “Wrong” Way Can Make It Turn Blue

Only time I’d be cooking garlic is to make garlic confit (vegan if you use olive oil).  Otherwise, I’ve followed the findings of how garlic is prepared to add garlic at the very end to get better flavour.  Don’t forget that stainless steel can get rid of the garlic smell (but I like it).

This Is How Bleached Flour Changes The Taste of Your Cakes

You’ve seen labels advertising “unbleached” flour. Few labels announce that their flour is “bleached,” but that’s exactly what happens to most white flour. It’s not just about the color, though—it’s an actual chemical change. Here’s how it works and why your cakes just wouldn’t taste the same without it.

Source: This Is How Bleached Flour Changes The Taste of Your Cakes

Baking is easy to get wrong because it is really just particularly finicky applied organic chemistry.  Cooking is an art. Baking, a science.

What Makes Water Wet?

Donning his regular work attire—jeans and a Hawaiian shirt—Richard Saykally tells me in four words the answer to a question I had often pondered in the shower: Why is water wet?

Source: Ingenious: Richard Saykally

Just the phrase “strong tetrahedral hydrogen bonding” may not mean much to you. It starts to mean a little more though when you think not just about how it fits together, but also the ways in which water’s tetrahedral hydrogen bonds are unusual.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

…A chemist by training with a doctoral degree in food science, Behnke became Pillsbury’s chief technical officer in 1979 and was instrumental in creating a long line of hit products, including microwaveable popcorn. He deeply admired Pillsbury but in recent years had grown troubled by pictures of obese children suffering from diabetes and the earliest signs of hypertension and heart disease. In the months leading up to the C.E.O. meeting, he was engaged in conversation with a group of food-science experts who were painting an increasingly grim picture of the public’s ability to cope with the industry’s formulations — from the body’s fragile controls on overeating to the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier still. It was time, he and a handful of others felt, to warn the C.E.O.’s that their companies may have gone too far in creating and marketing products that posed the greatest health concerns.

Source: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

It’s an incredibly long read about the various ways the food industry worked to make products more appealing.  The “vanishing caloric deficit” is said to be present in Coca-cola, that you can drink lots without feeling full.  That’s besides the desire to have more…

The Benefits of Fiber (And How to Know You’re Getting Enough)

Years ago I remember lamenting (and writing somewhere) that I was fairly sick of reading research papers on how eating more fiber was good for people, how it was time for nutritional science to move into relatively more interesting things than a topic that had literally been beaten to death.

Thankfully, soon thereafter leptin was discovered and nutritional researchers could start looking at things more interesting than why eating high-fiber vegetables were good for you (a nutritional tidbit that I file under the ‘Grandma was right’ category).

Even so, there is still some confusion regarding fiber out in the world of nutrition regarding fiber.  And boring or not, it’s a topic worth clearing up.  So today I want to take a fairly comprehensive look at dietary fiber, what it is, what it does in the body, how it impacts on things like body composition (and health to a lesser degree) and finish by looking at some (admittedly vague recommendations).

Source: Fiber – It’s Natures Broom

Fibre can be your friend if you want to avoid hemorrhoids. Bananas, rice, dried plums (prunes) 4 lyfe!

Too much of a good thing is… not so good. Don’t try increase your fiber intake too fast (too furious?), unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. You’ve been warned.

Why Are Chemists Willing To Risk Their Lives To Make “Satan’s Kimchi”?

A few days ago I wrote about sodium azide, a nasty chemical that has been put to a nice use. As usual, io9 commenters one-upped me by bringing up dioxygen difluoride — also known as Satan’s Kimchi, or FOOF. Learn all about the chemical that requires you risk life and limb just to synthesize it.

Dioxygen difluoride is made up of two fluorine atoms and two oxygen atoms – earning it the nickname FOOF. It sounds simple, but fluorine isn’t an easy chemical to work with under any circumstances, and it can’t be forced into this particular combination without a 700 degree heating block.

Source: Why Are Chemists Willing To Risk Their Lives To Make “Satan’s Kimchi”?

No actual kimchi (how much vitamin K?).  The article only mentions that the nickname came from the blog “Things I Won’t Work With“.  I think someone deserves:

How Chemistry Transforms Crackers Into Apple Pie

Mock-apple pie filling is made, primarily, of crackers. There are no apples in it. Still, most people who taste it swear that they are eating real apple pie. What is the chemistry that tricks our senses?

If you want to make mock apple pie, here’s what you need.

Source: How Chemistry Transforms Crackers Into Apple Pie

World War II British cookbooks are a treasure trove of ‘mock’ foods. Rationing was utterly brutal from 1939 right through until the early 1950s, so imported things like sugar and fresh fruit were pretty much out of the question. So you get stuff like apricot tart with no apricots but using up grated carrots, almond essence and plum jam; mock banana from boiled mashed parsnip with a few drops of synthetic banana essence, or mock cream whipped up from margarine (regularly derived from whale oil), water, sugar and a touch of synthetic vanilla (from wood pulp).

Dying Your Hair May Not Be as Safe as You Think

The basic chemistry of hair dyes has changed little over the last century, but what do we know about the risks of colouring our hair, and why do we do it?

Every two months Barclay Cunningham goes through a process that begins with taking an antihistamine tablet. After a few hours, she smears a thick layer of antihistamine cream across her forehead, around her ears and over her neck. Finally, she shields the area with ripped-up plastic carrier bags.  All this so she can dye her hair.

It didn’t start out this bad. Cunningham coloured her hair for a decade without any problems. Then, one day, she noticed that the skin on her ears was inflamed after she’d dyed her hair. She fashioned plastic bag earmuffs and carried on colouring. But the allergic reaction persisted, so her precautions became more elaborate. Now if she dyes her hair without these measures, she gets an itchy, blistery, pus-filled rash that lasts for weeks.

Source: Why Dying Your Hair May Not Be as Safe as You Think

I have always been startled by how many people I know eat organic vegetables, drink only from glass, use only vinegar to clean their houses… and dye/colour their hair.