Chemicals and Environment

Gatorade needs a better marketing team.

This past Saturday, during a commercial break for college football, Gatorade ran a very curious advertisement. The ad contained a diagram of an organic molecule that, if it actually existed, would probably be dangerous. You certainly wouldn't be drinking it.

Below is a screenshot of the ad. There are multiple problems with the molecule, as noted by the numbers superimposed over the image.

Organic Chemistry for Marketing Majors

Problem #1. Whoever drew this molecule doesn't know the first thing about organic chemistry. This molecule cannot exist. The middle of the molecule...

I've written recently about nitrogen-infused coffee (and also beer) and why the chemistry of adding nitrogen makes sense. (See: Nitro-Coffee: Good Science Or Nitrogenous Waste?). The following, helium-infused beer makes far less sense, but good luck not laughing during the four minutes of the video.

The screwballs in the following YouTube video are apparently astounded that when they try the same experiment five times that they get the same result every time. 

The video starts with beer critics about to drink helium beer. At first, they are skeptical. Will drinking helium beer make them sound like little girls when they speak the way a helium balloon does? Aren't we all...

Junk epidemiological studies are rather like pigeons in New York—an omnipresent nuisance that you learn to live with and ignore and hope they don't make too much of a mess. It's too bad that CNN didn't have the judgment to do this. Instead, the network took what is just about the worst study to ever fly the coop and not only ran with it but also sensationalized it by using both children's health and the September 11th terrorist attacks as manipulative hooks. Shameless. 

The study, which (somehow) managed to make its way into a journal {Environment International) is a textbook example of "epidemiology by darts,"—throw enough meaningless data at a giant target and you're bound to hit...

Worried about North Korea tossing nukes around? Ebola? Killer hurricanes? Did you buy Knicks season tickets? While all of these are dreadful in different ways, you might as well forget about them and every other threat around. They are irrelevant. We are already doomed. Because someone put a fleece jacket in the dryer. 

Hope you fleece wearers are happy now. Adapted from Pixabay

A seriously flipped out story in The Guardian...

The death penalty has become a controversial topic in the United States*. A large number of U.S. and European companies do not want their products used in lethal injections, which has sent state governments scrambling for alternatives. Oklahoma has recently administered pentobarbital, a drug normally used to euthanize animals, in its lethal cocktails.

An upcoming execution in the State of Nevada will pioneer yet another chemical: Fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that has played a substantial role in the surge of...

With the catastrophic flooding that has devastated much of Houston, the very last thing the city needs is an additional problem. Especially a chemical explosion indirectly caused by the flood. But the city may be facing just that, and it's all because of the spontaneous decomposition of a class of compounds called organic peroxides (See below). 

Organic peroxides are an unstable class of compounds which need to be kept cold. But power outages in the city have made refrigeration impossible in many places. One of these places is the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Arkema is one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, and they make plenty of peroxides. ...

Let's take a poll: Are pesticides used in organic farming?

I mean, how could they possibly be? Isn't that the point of paying a whole lot of money for organic produce so Whole Foods dilettantes can safely enjoy their kale without all those yucky chemicals on it? (1)

This question provides a splendid opportunity to start the week with some...

Monday Myths! (2)

Where to start? There are SO many out there. Here are three...

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow was spotted at the Harvard Club
  2. The Knicks will make the playoffs in our lifetime...

Fads come and go. And come and go again. (Repeat until comatose). So it should come as no surprise that we have another, especially one involving food, which is a superb spawning ground for fads, such as kale (1). It sounds rather stupid: Coffee with nitrogen bubbles. But it's quite popular. Perhaps enough so that it will get its own show on the Food Network—something that we non-cooking bachelors tend to avoid like a roaring case of salmonella. But does the chemistry hold up? Let's take a look.

Let's set preciousness of bubbly coffee aside for a moment. Is there any reason why it might make sense to actually put nitrogen in food or drinks. Possibly so, but first, you will need to sit through... the dreaded chemistry lesson

...

There are three basic facts about death: (1) We all have to die. (2) All young deaths are tragic deaths. (3) Some of us die in ways that are more interesting than others, and those deaths often make their way into case reports. This story involves all three.

The CDC reports that a 29-year-old man in Wisconsin, along with 13 cattle, died from manure gas. Three more cattle were euthanized. The gas emanated from a manure basin that covered 60,400 square feet and was 15 feet deep. Because it was nearly full, the total volume of manure was 906,000 cubic feet (about 6.8 million gallons). The young man was mixing the manure prior to having it spread on fields as fertilizer.

His death was originally ruled as suffocation from methane. Methane, which is odorless and non-toxic,...

When Erin Brockovich, an environmental activist, shook down Pacific Gas & Electric for $333 million for allegedly poisoning a community with hexavalent chromium and causing cancer and all sorts of other health problems, Julia Roberts portrayed the protagonist in a sensationalized blockbuster movie. It is unlikely, however, that Hollywood will be filming a sequel.

Why? Because not only was Ms. Brockovich wrong, but the State of California has now partially repudiated what she fought for.

Erin Brockovich, Junk Scientist

We've known for a long time that Ms. Brockovich used junk science to score a jackpot settlement. She used a common rhetorical trick, known as the Texas...