Drug Supplies: Track Marks

MOST of the world’s supply of cocaine comes from just three South American countries: Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Much of it is headed for the United States and Europe. Law-enforcement officials from America patrol international waters in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific, hoping to seize cocaine shipments before they reach their intended destinations. When they succeed in nabbing any smugglers, contraband samples are sent to chemists to help determine the source. Read the rest at The Economist.

Hormesis: Is the ‘Low-Dose Effect’ Real?

This article was originally posted on ACSH.

When presented with quantum entanglement, Albert Einstein derided it as “spooky action at a distance.” When meteorologist Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift, he was mocked. And when internist Barry Marshall’s suggestion that ulcers were caused by a bacterium was dismissed by the biomedical community, he swallowed a flask-full of the stuff to prove his point.

What these three completely unrelated topics – quantum entanglement, continental drift, and ulcers as an infectious disease – have in common are two striking features: (1) they sounded completely nuts at the time; and (2) they are demonstrably and undeniably true. Continue reading

New Sponge Absorbs, Releases Oil on Demand

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

As long as the global economy relies on oil, oil spills are a constant hazard. Devising innovative and efficient ways to clean up the messes is, therefore, a top environmental priority. Now, a team of Korean researchers has designed a “nano-sponge” that absorbs and desorbs oil on demand. And, unlike many other materials used to clean up oil spills, their invention is reusable. The researchers published the details in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

Hair Test for Marijuana Proves Nothing

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

There are few things that pot enthusiasts dread more than the unannounced drug test. A positive test for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can result in the loss of a job or child custody. But new research by a team of German scientists suggests that detecting THC in a hair sample doesn’t prove cannabis consumption. Continue reading

The Primordial Soup Was Edible

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Back in 2005, when I was a first-year microbiology graduate student, I enrolled in a course on bacterial physiology. One of our guest lecturers, Dr. Franklin Harold, was an esteemed researcher in bioenergetics, a field that examines how cells derive and utilize energy. One evening, outside of class, I happened upon Dr. Harold at a seminar, and I asked him a question: “What is your opinion on origin of life research?”

He responded, “It has been an abject failure.” Continue reading

What the Gases You Emit Say About You

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

You emit gas. The most obvious and offensive comes from your posterior, but that’s not the only gas you emit. Your body is constantly oozing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — small molecules that easily enter a gaseous state due to their high vapor pressure — in breath, sweat, urine, feces, and even saliva. VOCs are responsible, for instance, for the similar aromas that emanate from dairy farms and men’s restrooms. Continue reading

New Glasses Change Color on Demand

This article was originally posted at RealClearScience.

Those of us who wear glasses have long been familiar with Transitions lenses, a type of lens that darkens in sunlight but is clear while indoors. The technology relies on a chemical phenomenon known asphotochromism, in which molecules absorb a certain wavelength of light and change shape (that is,isomerize) in response. In the case of photochromic glasses, the lenses usually respond to UV light. That is why the lenses darken when exposed to the sun (which produces UV radiation), while they remain clear under artificial lights (which do not produce much UV light). Continue reading