April 18, 2012
By David Freeman
“This is crazy stuff. Interested read. It doesn’t come from some weird alien source – but a serious scientist and a report from the Huffington Post.” –KTRN
Imagine an alien world ruled by “advanced dinosaurs” as smart as humans—maybe even smarter.
Science fiction? Not necessarily, says the author of a provocative new study whose title–“Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids”—gives no hint of any worrisome extraterrestrial implications.
Published in the March 25 issue of the “Journal of the American Chemical Society,” the study addresses the chemistry of amino acids here on Earth. But study author Dr. Ronald Breslow, a professor of chemistry at Columbia University in New York City, said in a written statement the work suggests that if life forms do exist on other planets, they “could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs.”
It’s long been known that certain molecules, including DNA and amino acids, exist in two mirror-image forms—a phenomenon known as chirality. And with few exceptions, the amino acids that make up the proteins in life on Earth exist only in the L (left-handed) form. The question is how did this “homochirality” come to be?
Some scientists have speculated that the amino acids that predominate on Earth came to our planet via meteorites four billion years ago. And if that’s what happened on Earth, Dr. Breslow said in the statement, it’s possible that life that might exist on other planets could be based on D amino acids.
April 29, 2010
by Nicole Nelson
Everything you love about potato chips comes down to the combination of three basic flavors: potatoes, oil and salt. But as health concerns about sodium continue to rise, food manufacturers are scrambling to figure out how to reduce it — without sacrificing taste.
Research and development executives at PepsiCo, the company that owns Frito-Lay, think they have the answer. And it’s a solution only a chemist could love: They’re going to change the basic shape of salt.
A quick high-school science class recap: Salt molecules are basic cubes, which means it takes each crystal awhile to break down in your mouth when you’re chomping on chips.
“Early on in our research, it became apparent that the majority of salt on a snack doesn’t even have time to dissolve in your saliva because you swallow it so rapidly,” Mehmood Khan, senior vice president, chief scientific officer and a former Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, said during a recent PepsiCo investor presentation.
A Wall Street Journal piece reported only about 20 percent of the salt on a potato chip dissolves on the tongue, while the remaining 80 percent is swallowed without contributing to taste. The solution? Use crystal chemistry to re-jigger the shape of salt to create more surface area. That way, no un-tasted salt ends up in your digestive system. PepsiCo thinks it can cut up to 25 percent of the sodium in their chips using this technique.
If messing with nature makes you a little nervous (remember Olestra?), you can breathe easier knowing that Brits have been consuming a similarly altered salt for three years with no reported problems. And you have some time to get used to the idea — chips using this technology aren’t expected on shelves for at least a year.