Midsummer Alchemist

Midsummer alchemistFirst online in The Alchemist, this week, is an award for pioneering work in mass spectrometry and the study of molecules colliding with surfaces.

A way to create the thinnest polyethylene plastic bag ever has been devised by a team in Germany, while Australian researchers are hoping to defeat HIV by thickening the protective keratin layer of the penis using the female hormone estrogen. The Alchemist also learns that the Brits are turning to waste oil from that wondrous delicacy Fish & Chips to power up their cars.

Also in this week’s issue, Japanese chemists have synthesized what at first site looks to be a hexavalent carbon compound. Finally, with the long summer months stretching ahead of those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, The Alchemist cracks open a tinny and discovers that researchers in Venezuela have uncovered the secret to making beer last longer – add a little poison.

Grab all leads in my Alchemist column on Chemweb.com

Also live this week, the latest Intute Spotlight, covering rule-breaking quantum mechanics, exploiting pathological proteins in polymer science, and size does matter (on a planetary scale). Switch on the Spotlight. You may also like to check out the recent scientific discoveries archive on Sciencebase.


8 thoughts on “Midsummer Alchemist

  1. Hugh, thanks for the additional info. Yes, that last sentence is very important – “He doesn’t actually have any evidence from the field”. It’s all very well proving a mechanism in the Petri dish…

  2. Yes, it is the skin of the inner foreskin (the mucosa) that Short wants to keratinise, and he has suggested that circumcision reduces HIV by 80% (I don’t know where he gets that figure from, the much touted figure is 60%, a Relative Risk Reduction, from 2.5% to 1.2%, an absolute reduction of 1.8% – much smaller where HIV is less prevalent) and that oestrogen could mop up the remaining 20%. He doesn’t actually have any evidence from the field.

  3. Thanks for the additional (perhaps, much needed) background on this. It does sound like a rather odd way to think about disease prevention, but I don’t think his concept of keratinising the skin has anything to do with being circumcised or not, does it?

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