hot gum!

October 17, 2007 at 4:36 pm | | help me, open thread, science and the public, science@home

Who wants to help me?

Here’s an email my PI received. First of all, it’s pretty cute that some high-school student is emailing professors at Stanford for some help. Secondly, it’s even cuter that the profs actually read the email!


My name is [redacted] and I’m a highschool student who is currently doing an Honors Chemistry project. My idea that I’m experimenting with is that I’m going to try to determine if there is a temperature change or a chemical change that affects the feeling of the mouth when gum is chewed. I was actually doing quite well with my ideas, but now I’m kind of stuck, so I was wondering if somebody in the chemistry department could e-mail me back or possibly help me.

My idea that I was going with is that I wanted to first start out and (using a mouth thermometer) get a starting temperature of a person’s mouth before chewing gum. Then, I wanted to pick a brand of gum in both mint and cinnamon flavors and seperately measure if there is an increasing or decreasing temperature change. My hypothesis is that there will not be a significant change at all, so that’s where the chemistry part comes in. I wanted to then somehow test saliva samples or something with the different chemicals of gum to determine which ingredient creates the “feeling” that the mouth is hot or cold. Except I really have no idea how to go about doing that.

Do you think someone could give me some ideas within the next day or so and let me know/point me in the right direction on how I should go about doing this experiment? That would be amazing, thank you!

My first thought was to look at two flavors of the same brand of gum, find the ingredients that are different, buy those (food-grade) chemicals, and taste them! But most gums just list “natural and artificial flavoring” in the ingredients, so that wouldn’t work. Separating the different ingredients in the gum is a possibility, but probably too difficult.

Another option is to guess the flavors the manufacturers used for cinnamon and mint (an educated guess, but doing some research about flavorings). I bet they use menthol for the mint. I don’t know what they use for the spicy cinnamon, but I know that capsaicin is the chemical that makes chili peppers taste “hot” (by interfering with the pain receptors in your mouth). You could use capsaicin and menthol on saliva samples and measure changes in the temperature or whatever. These would be good estimates of the chemicals they use as flavoring in gum.

Other thoughts? Would there be a very simple way of separating the flavor ingredient without a column or TLC plates? Maybe a paper towel? Or maybe the student could just dissolve the gum in warm water and use the solution of all the ingredients.

But I don’t know what they would measure in the saliva sample (gross!) that could relate to taste.

ACS insider?

October 12, 2007 at 8:36 am | | news, open thread, science community

Did everyone get this email?

Subject: Time to Reform the American Chemical Society
From: Madeleine Jacobs <>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2007 17:24:22 -0700 (PDT)
To: [redacted]


I’ve been an ACS employee for many, many years, but I’ve grown concerned with the direction of the organization. I’m sending this email to alert you that ACS has grown increasingly corporate in its structure and focus. Management is much more concerned with getting bonuses and growing their salaries rather than doing what is best for membership. For instance, Madeleine Jacobs is now pulling in almost $1 million in salary and bonuses… That’s almost 3X what Alan Leshner makes over at AAAS, and almost double what Drew Gilpin Faust makes to lead Harvard.

I think Madeleine is smart, but I’m not quite sure if she’s in the same category as Dr. Faust. She doesn’t even have a PhD!

What really concerns me is a move by ACS management to undermine the open-access movement. Rudy Baum has been leading the fight with several humorous editorials—one in which he referred to open-access in the pages of C&EN as “socialized science.” ACS has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership money to hire a company to lobby against open-access.

What troubles me the most is when ACS management decided to hire Dezenhall Resources to fight open-access. Nature got hold of some internal ACS emails written by Brian Crawford that discussed how Dezenhall could help us undermine open-access. Dezenhall later created a group called Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM), which has this silly argument that open-access means “no more peer-review.”

If you’re wondering why ACS is fighting this, it’s because people like Rudy Baum, Brian Crawford and other ACS managers receive bonuses based on how much money the publishing division generates. Hurt the publishing revenue; you hurt their bonuses.

I’m hoping that sending out this email will get people to force ACS executives to become more transparent in how they act and spend membership money. Not to mention their crazy need for fatter salaries.

It’s time for some change. If you want to check out the sources for this information, there is a wiki site that has all the articles and documents outlining what I’ve just written.

You can find it here:

Those of us inside ACS know that it’s time for things to change. But management won’t alter their behavior. The money is just too good.

ACS Insider

Strange. Did this “ACS insider” send the email to all ACS members?

What do people think about this? I’m not surprised that ACS is working to fight the open-access movement, because it threatens their business (or their business model). Whether it’s appropriate for ACS to spend member fees to fight that fight is a different matter, I suppose.

I do agree that exorbitant pay rates for the top executives is a problem, and an indicator of larger issues within the organization.

All in all, it’s hard for me to care that much: My student membership fees are relatively small and I don’t have to pay for journals (although I know they are expensive for the library). And the ACS conference is well run.

What do other people think?

funny author combination

August 9, 2007 at 6:19 pm | | literature, open thread

J. Biol. Chem. 1956, 219, 245-256.


Other submissions?

in cellulo?

July 30, 2007 at 10:27 am | | help me, literature, open thread

What do you call experiments done in a live cell? Some call it in vivo, but that seems to make more sense for in an entire organism (and some of the cellular work is done in single cells of more complex organisms, such as CHO cells). But it definitely should be differentiated from in vitro experiments, because you’re dealing with life!

How about in cellulo? Sounds sorta weird to me.

Is there an accepted term, even an archaic one? Does anyone have a preferred term?

UPDATE: Andrea in the comments suggest that the correct Latin for would be in cellulis.

deconvoluting deconvolving

June 6, 2007 at 10:13 pm | | everyday science, journal club, literature, nerd, open thread

We were discussing some grammar at Chemical Physics Journal Club this week: which is the (more) correct sentence?

1. It is important to deconvolute the fluorescence lifetime from the instrument-response function.

2. It is important to deconvolve the fluorescence lifetime from the instrument-response function.

I think sentence 2 is better. To me, “convolve” is to (usu. mathematically) roll together multiple things, while “convolute” means to make complex: you can convolve two mathematical functions or signals, and you can convolute a sentence. (Unfortunately, the noun form of each is “convolution.”)

I don’t think the official Webster or Wikipedia definitions agree with me, or clear up the mess (it’s so convoluted!), but my argument makes so much sense in my head that I can’t give it up. I get annoyed when scientific papers state they “deconvoluted” something, unless they mean that they made something less complicated.

I suppose convolving is a type of convoluting.

Other thoughts, here?


April 9, 2007 at 5:11 pm | | blogs, news, open thread

I just realized that we all missed this blog’s birthday: March 23, 2007. We’re over a year old! Any suggestions of what to change for the coming year (if we make it that long)? I was thinking of starting an Ask EDS category, where people can ask us p-chem or how-the-world-works questions and we can try to answer them. Maybe…

open thread

February 21, 2007 at 6:38 pm | | open thread

I’m too busy to post anything right now, so I’ll open it up to you. Please leave random thoughts, experiences, links, news, brainstorms, research hurdles, etc. in the comments!

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