It’s Raining What?

As a youngster growing up in England, I often heard the expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Well, it is surprising what falls from the sky! There are many authentic reports of frogs, crabs, snails, fish and even maggots coming down with the rain. In 1990, a Japanese sailing boat was sunk by a falling…

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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Remember the little rhyme from childhood, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.  How I wonder what you are”?  Well, many stars do twinkle because their brightness changes with time. For example, a star called Algol in the constellation Perseus periodically fades to half its normal brightness.  This cycle occurs about every three days.  Algol stays dim for…

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Francis Collins

Dr. Francis Collins is the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. He obtained a PhD in physical chemistry and a medical degree specializing in internal medicine. Dr. Collins pursued further research and studies in human genetics at Yale University. This academic blend has enabled him to become a pre-eminent researcher in the field…

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Chemical Evolution – An Unlikely Story

One of the explanations put forward to explain the origin of life is the Chemical Evolution theory. In essence, it suggests that basic chemicals underwent a transition to form living cells. In order to understand that the steps proposed for chemical evolution make a very unlikely story, consider the following analogy. This explanation is of…

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Life Was More Than Science For Einstein

In 2006, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem released fourteen hundred personal letters of the famous physicist, Albert Einstein.  They shed no light on how he developed his important relativity equations, but they do illuminate the life of Einstein, the man.  In a 1921 letter to his second wife, Elsa, Einstein said, “Soon I will be…

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The Pain of Being a Redhead

Pain evokes different responses in different people.  We are still trying to understand fundamental questions about which systems in the brain modulate pain perception.  We’re also seeking to understand why different cultural and ethnic groups, react to pain in different ways. One interesting new finding is that people with red hair are more susceptible to…

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Choosing Your Hair Colour Through Chemistry

Many of the cosmetics we use involve interesting chemistry. For example, one popular product sold to darken grey hair uses a substance called lead acetate. The lead reacts slowly with protein in the hair, converting the sulphur it contains to black lead sulphide. Since this reaction takes place slowly, this product darkens hair gradually after…

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Clinging in the Kitchen

We often cover our leftover food with a clear plastic wrap. It’s made from a large molecule called vinylidine chloride. It’s ability to cling to containers depends partly on it’s elasticity. It’s elastic because vinylidine chloride consists of long chains of carbon atoms, which are coiled and kinked like fibres in a piece of wool….

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Explosives

  An important application of chemical energy is the use of explosives.  Any substance that undergoes a very rapid chemical reaction which has a strong heat-liberating quality, or that produces a large volume of gases from a solid or a liquid, is potentially an explosive.The destructive power of an explosion is due to the shock…

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Why Do I Get Hiccups?

The other day I got an attack of hiccups. My grandmother’s cure was to blow into a paper bag. She didn’t know anything about neurological reflexes or phrenic and vagus nerves, which carry the hiccup messages, but her old folk remedy seemed to work. It probably did so by taking advantage of the body’s response…

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