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Watery Typo Leads to Salvation

Water salvation, photo by David Bradley

In the realm of physical chemistry (or is it chemical physics?) there was almost theological interest in this week’s Alchemist. Having written about water glass and how low-temperature studies of aqueous phase changes are helping scientists to explain this anomalous and yet ubiquitous material it was a simple spellcheck-induced typo that drew the most interest from The Alchemist’s email newsletter readers.

Wave after wave (pardon the pun) of correspondents got in touch almost as soon as the newsletter was dispatched to point out that I, Uberpedant Taskmaster General had been hoist by my own petard. In describing water’s fascinating properties I described its ability to interact act at a fundamental level with many other materials as being related to its “powerful salvation properties”. Like I said, my petard was well and truly hoist. Of course, some would say it was a baptism of fire to describe water thus, but that would be nothing but hot air with an earthy stench. Thus having shoehorned allusions to all four classical elements into that last sentence, I stand before you hands up and head bowed, seeking solvation!

Meanwhile, back with the chemistry news. I also report in The Alchemist on a new approach to engineering goats to produce medicinal milk which has been devised in Pennsylvania. The research could be good news for people with diabetes. Then there’s the finding that a well-known anticancer compound also used as an antiparasitic drug could turn out to be an even better multitasker operating as it does as an effective antiviral against HIV.

Also this week, a multitude of awards from the National Academy of Sciences for diverse chemical discoveries. You can read the list of winners on the Chemweb site, together with links to the juicy bits on how much money they got, in other words.

Finally, in the legendary world of organic synthesis a wartime effort to synthesize quinine may have been vindicated while Canadian chemists have constructed nanoscopic gas cylinders from barium organotrisulfonate that come with temperature-controlled valves for trapping hydrogen and carbon dioxide. And, speaking of which, I have a hopefully typo-free but far more controversial item on the whole issue of carbon footprints, climate change now live on the Sciencebase blog.

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