chem

Killin’ anything that moves 1-2, 1-2, 1-2

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The vast majority of life on Earth depends, either directly or indirectly, on photosynthesis for its energy. And photosynthesis depends on an enzyme called RuBisCO, which uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build sugars. So, by extension, RuBisCO may be the most important catalyst on the planet.

Unfortunately, RuBisCO is, well, terrible at its job. It might not be obvious based on the plant growth around us, but the enzyme is not especially efficient at catalyzing the carbon dioxide reaction. And, worse still, it often uses oxygen instead. This produces a useless byproduct that, if allowed to build up, will eventually shut down photosynthesis entirely. It’s estimated that crops such as wheat and rice lose anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their growth potential due to this byproduct.

While plants have evolved ways of dealing with this byproduct, they’re not especially efficient. So a group of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana decided to step in and engineer a better way. The result? In field tests, the engineered plants grew up to 40 percent more mass than ones that relied on the normal pathways.

{ Ars Technica | Continue reading }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970 }

from Greek phero ‘to bear’ and hormone ‘impetus’

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Have you ever found someone particularly sexy without knowing why? It could be that you are lured in by their pheromones, invisible chemical signals that can subtly alter a person’s mood, mindset, or behavior. According to new research published last week in Current Biology, men and women give off different signals, but you subconsciously only respond to the gender you find attractive. And when you smell these pheromones, the object of your affection instantly appears even sexier in your mind.

{ Popular Science | Continue reading }

The magnets of our midst being foisted upon by a plethorace of parachutes

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At the beginning, Walter pursues synthesis using pseudoephedrine. This is used in the real world, as well as in Breaking Bad by many meth cooks. However, by applying his knowledge of chemistry, his experimental abilities, and a half-way professional lab set-up, Walter is able to achieve much better results.

The base substance, pseudoephedrine is a plant-based phenyl ethylamine alkaloid and is used commercially in treatments for nasal and sinus congestion and can be extracted from these treatments. Due to the restrictions on sale, an extensive procurement network is required, which generally means involving a large number of drug addicts, in order to secure the necessary quantities. As the drug addicts can really only acquire the smallest of quantities each time by this “smurfing”, which involves either getting prescriptions for it or stealing it, the availability of this base substance is always a critical factor.

{ Chemistry Views | Continue reading }