Thursday, 4 March 2010

Free Radicals Feb 2010

The best of the past month in my RSS feed:


"Very Cool Chemistry" at ACS Chemical & Engineering news: ultra-low temperature chemical reactions dominated by quantum mechanics.

A gorgeous article on "Crystals in Light" at Accounts of Chemical Research.

Mismatched DNA base pairs may have a detectable magnetic signature, at JCP. I wonder, do any of the cell's DNA repair systems operate on this principle, or is it electronic?

A nifty molecular syringe for metal ions.

A fairly pure solution of left-handed molecules is jumbled into a mix of left and right mechanically using ultrasound, rather than chemistry.

Maintaining spins for memory for a quantum computer, and maintaining alignment of molecules with laser pulses.

A silicon analogue of a substituted benzene with some kind of aromaticity. And it's green!

Watching guanine structures swap back and forth under an electron microscope.

Not one but two papers on how the water networks surrounding molecules control reactivity.

Collapsing bubbles create incredible temperatures and unique reaction conditions.

Paper titles don't get much more descriptive than "Water Freezes Differently on Positively and Negatively Charged Surfaces of Pyroelectric Materials".

Make Magazine has some neat links in its story on microfluidics using thread; the article itself is here. It turns out that hairspray is useful in making micro-electrodes, too.

Imagine hydrogen peroxide, but instead of hydrogen, you've got fluorine. That's dioxygen difluoride, which is about as insane as it sounds.

A new paper on non-thermal chemical effects from microwaves, a few months after it seemed pretty much settled that they didn't exist. (Original paper.)

The formation of large crystals involves an intermediate step in which nano-crystals aggregate and order over surprisingly long distances in solution.

A copper complex goes for a bumpy ride over a hot surface, providing some insights into how the hot surface controls chemistry on the way.


New Scientist goes for the pop-culture jugular with "The real Avatar: ocean bacteria act as 'superorganism'", also at C&EN and the original paper at Nature. Undersea bacteria use electron transfer to share energy around their colony.

Childhood stress may echo long into adulthood, according to a mouse study in the Journal of Neuroscience

Wonky address labels may have a role to play in the degenerative effects of prions, thanks to Nature for making sense of this one. Over in Science it turns out that prions may evolve by a darwinian mechanism.

SCIAM discuss recent research proposing that arsenic's tumour-causing ability is due to meddling with the ubiquitous hedgehog gene.

Here's an RNA that binds to a protein that normally acts on DNA, to inhibit its activity.

Aetiology's guest blogger Zainab Khan on the "hygiene hypothesis" that hyper-cleanliness may lead to allergies and other conditions. Also, a treatment for peanut allergies might be on the cards.

Individuals in the same plant species diversify to partition up the environment and use resources .

Earthworms cheese it when a mole's on the loose (video).


I was surprised to discover that there's a nuclear exchange interaction, which can be neglected using a Hartree product wavefunction in a similar way to neglecting the exchange interaction in electrons.

Nature asks: does the LHC have serious inherent engineering flaws?

Active galaxies perhaps aren't as important in the production of high-energy cosmic rays as was previously thought.

The effects of general relativity tested with a wonderfully elegant tabletop experiment.


Philip Ball presents the "Wisdom of the fool's choice", on automatic recommendation systems such as and Amazon.

How could scientists cope without Google? Nature addresses this in the context of China and Google's recent spat.

Roger Ebert is getting a synthetic version of his own voice thanks to an Edinburgh-based company. I didn't realise until after I'd heard the results that I've never actually heard his voice before. The Roger Ebert I know is entirely prose. CereProc has some interviews on its own site, and for context there's Esquire's recent piece on Ebert and his own thoughts.


"'Dubious' university research should be scrapped" and "Claims of 'dubious research' could deter vital academic investment" from the Scotsman. A St. Andrews philosophy professor's worry that teaching quality has taken a back seat to staff's pet projects triggers a debate on the direction of post-crunch university funding. I'm attending a keynote on the research-teaching relationship this month, so expect a full post.

"Textbooks That Professors Can Rewrite Digitally" at the New York Times. Macmillan proposes lecturer-editable electronic textbooks.

Politics and society

"Concessions over science advice principles" at Nature: government drops proposed requirement that scientific advisors must meet them in the middle on politically-sensitive issues.

Turkey's GMO-control rules, which Nature dub "An absurd law", may fail to accommodate research.

An attempt to study avalance effects with tranquillised pigs is abandoned after public outcry.

A model Mars mission falls down as participants fail to read their own manuals. I'll be having fun digging through the logs here.

A simple model partitions the United States into regions controlled by different fast-food joints. Note how different the map is when McDonalds's rivals are treated as seperate, competing entities, and when they're treated as an anti-McD coalition. McDonalds may be everywhere, but alternatives are easy to find.