Sunday, January 18, 2009

Natasha,Got Milk? Because Yes the Studies Are Right; Milk Actually is Good For Your Bones!

This excerpt, explains how Calcium, or Ca2+, is a vital mineral to the human body. Around 99% of calcium can be found in the bones of the human body. Your body needs an alternate source of calcium, or else the calcium in your bones will be depleted, which may lead to osteoporosis. Much of this has to do with the type of food eaten, although it also may be because of not enough Vitamin D. Usually postmenopausal women are more likely to get osteoporosis (meaning bones thin out so they are more susceptible to rupture), so they are aided by “estrogen hormone replacement therapy,” or are just told by a professional to exercise and intake more calcium. Adolescents need 1200 milligrams of RDA calcium daily. Milk acts as a great source, because it also has Vitamin D to aid in the absorption of the calcium. Although vegetables too also have calcium, such as dark green leafy ones, but unfortunately are harder for the body to intake the calcium because of the oxalic acid present in the vegetables. Along with calcium, magnesium is also an important mineral that the body needs, for the configuration of bones and some enzymes. Male and female adults need magnesium, where males need .35 gram, and females need .28. Along with eating certain vegetables and nuts, a type of water that has much calcium and magnesium ions is can be drunk. This water is called “hard” water, and is much more sufficient in magnesium than “soft” water.

This excerpt was pretty easy to understand, so I don’t really have any difficult concepts.

This article was interesting, especially for me as a vegetarian, because I took a class called vegetarianisms, where we actually discussed whether it would be healthy to be a vegan. The articles I read were actually contrary to this, in that they discussed how you can still get a healthy amount of calcium from only vegetables (and maybe multivitamins). So it is interesting for me to see different viewpoints and explanations on the same topic. I actually do drink milk, because I am not vegan although I do not drink it that often (I prefer soy or rice milk). Another concept that this article made me think about, was how in the media, there are always advertisements showing famous celebrities with milk mustaches. I would always wonder whether milk actually does have calcium to help your bones. I thought that maybe it might have been something made up by the milk industry, because they want more money, so they would just pay a celebrity to advertise with the milk. The only thing that really bothers me with milk though, is the fact that we humans are the only animals/beings that still drink milk after our teeth have grown in our mouths. Is milk meant for us adult animal/beings? Also, is it really healthy to drink milk, even though Vitamin D and other nutrients that were not naturally in it were added to it? Oh yes, and also, I actually have heard of “hard” water, but did not know that it is actually good for you, so that surprised me as well.

So maybe more people should drink milk, to get their daily calcium, especially women susceptible to osteoporosis. Although what I would really like to see, are more tests run to see the difference between people who drink milk and those who do not. I would also like to see more research on other possible calcium sources for vegans.

Baird, Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. Second Edition. Calcium and Magnesium Are Important For Bones And Teeth. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York. 2006.

Jennifer, Is your health is in danger of Carbon Monoxide?

The topic in section 2.15 of chapter 2 in Chemistry in Your Life by Colin Baird informs the reader of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide. It explains in detail to what extent Carbon Monoxide is dangerous to our health and how the different levels of concentration trigger our immune system. Although it may take some time for the human body to have any symptoms from short-term exposure to Carbon Monoxide, it does not necessarily mean that the body will not be affected eventually. The reason why it may take some time to have any symptoms of carbon Monoxide is because it “takes time for the Carbon Monoxide in the air to gradually enter the bloodstream.” Some of the first symptoms that one may feel when experiencing poisoning of Carbon Monoxide at several hundred ppm, would be drowsiness and then headache. Many times people do not feel that these symptoms are related to the exposure of Carbon Monoxide that they are being exposed to, so they just ignore them.

To explain the reason why Carbon Monoxide is a health hazard one must understand we need sufficient transport of oxygen molecules. The Carbon Monoxide interferes with the transportation of these molecules “from our lungs thorough our bloodstream to the various cells in our body.” It becomes a more serious problem when the Carbon Monoxide binds itself better with Oxygen, and this reduces the number of hemoglobin molecules that are able to actually carry out oxygen to our cells. When this happens our heart needs to work harder and faster in order to be able to supply the cells with the oxygen they need to continue to function correctly, when we are exposed to Carbon Monoxide.

A concept that I was not aware of before reading this article was the fact that smoking and even being around smokers can mean we are being exposed to CO. I also was not aware of how it was that second hand smoke was more harmful than the person smoking. The reason why this happens is because it goes thorough less complete combustion than to the person that is actually smoking it.

I believe that the people who choose to smoke should be considerate of others and take into consideration that the smoke of tobacco is a very disturbing smell for non smokers. Learning this information has made me be more conscious of being around people who smoke a lot. Because it used to just be the smell that was unpleasant but understanding what that smoke can do to my health over a long period of time will help me keep my oxygen level high in my bloodstream.

A good way to deal with this would be by making more people aware of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, and how it can be prevented. Another thing that should be developed would be a safer way to remove Carbon Monoxide from the bloodstream, other than the one that already exists today. 30% of people who are treated for Carbon Monoxide suffer brain damage during the treatment.

Baird,Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. 2 ed. Carbon Monoxide GAs Can Severely damage Your Health. New York: W.H Freeman & Comp, 2006.

Jeffrey, The Secret of Scent

Many of us take for granted the sense of smell. We know we can smell things, but we don’t really know why and we don’t really care. However, our sense of smell plays a much more intricate part of our life than we may like to believe. Let’s examine how this sense works. If you were to ask someone to smell something, they would most likely put their nose close to the object or bring the object close to their nose and breathe in the air around it. I don’t think you’re going to see anyone shove the object in their nose or inhale liquid through their nostrils. Yet, one still stands to wonder, how does the nose receive scent? The nose has receptors located in the nasal passage just below the eyes. These receptors are in fact, large molecules themselves, and they receive the gaseous molecules you inhale. Specifically, we have over a thousand different odor receptors in our nose. Each one corresponds to a certain size and characteristic of a gaseous molecule. When we inhale these molecules, the receptors receive them and send an electric signal to the brain. The brain then interprets this signal as smell. Flowers have many different gaseous molecules and they stimulate various odor receptors. However, the gaseous molecules must be able to dissolve in water or at least be somewhat soluble. This is because the odor receptors, themselves, have a thin water membrane surrounding them. If the molecule is unable to dissolve at all in water, then it is practically impossible for our noses to receive its smell. These odor receptors also play a big part in our emotions, memory, sexual, and maternal behavior. We connect specific scents to different memories or feelings and when we smell them, these memories come flooding back. Today, scientists are experimenting on the sense of smell and how pheromones are linked to our choice of a sexual partner. Scientists have found that dogs have a much larger number of odor receptors in their nose. This explains why they are used in missing persons’ cases, drug busts, and searching for explosives.

Unknown Terms:

Solubility- A substance’s ability to be dissolved in a given amount of solvent.

Pheromones- A chemical secreted by an animal that influences the behavior or development of others of the same species.

This is a really interesting article. It is not every day you wonder what’s really going on when you smell that cup of coffee or fresh cut grass. Many people only focus on our senses of sight and hearing, imagining how terrible it would be to lose them. It would be just as terrible to lose your sense of smell and it actually is quite possible. Think about your favorite food and what it would be like if you could see it before you and you could taste it, but you couldn’t smell it. Imagine all of your favorite scents and what would happen if one day you woke up and they were gone. It would be very hard to live without it. I also found the part about pheromones very interesting. I have always been fascinated by this topic. The thought that our sense of smell plays a part in our choice of a partner is really interesting. Scientists are finding that pheromones may be linked to genetics. They haven’t found any conclusive evidence yet, but it is possible. Martha McClintock, a researcher at the University of Chicago, found a link between a chemical given off by women that caused synchronization of menstrual periods. She was living in an all female dormitory and many of the girls came in with scattered menstrual cycles, but as the year went on they found that their cycles were coming at the same time. I find that astonishing. To think that their pheromones are powerful enough to affect each other’s menstrual cycles. We have so much more to learn in this field and I’m anxious to see what kind of research we will find in the near future.


Colin Baird, 2.5 We smell substances by responding to evaporated molecules, Chemistry in Your Life, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, 2006

Maya Pines, Pheromones and Mammals, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), 2008

Katherine, Essential Elements: Zinc and Iron

Iron, as a trace mineral, and zinc, as a metal, are both vital elements to a functioning human body. Both elements are essential components in a healthy diet, although iron tends to be more important for younger women; they lose iron in the blood loss that accompanies their monthly cycle, and therefore are more likely to be iron-deficient. As a result, some suffer from iron deficiency anemia, in which they experience weakness, fatique, and an inability to concentrate. In addition, iron is necessary for a healthy, functioning body in that it is a part of hemoglobin, the substance that transports oxygen from your lungs to your cells. Fortunately, many foods contain iron, including fish, raisins, whole-grain cereals, meat, and dark-green leafy vegetables. Iron-deficiency can also be corrected by taking iron supplements. In contrast to young women, some men suffer from an iron excess, which although is slowly eliminated from the body, in larger doses it can be dangerous, as too high a dose could seriously damage the pancreas and the liver.

Zinc is also necessary for a healthy body, and specifically for its use in the body's enzymes. Zinc can also be found in food such as shellfish, meat, and dairy products.

Unfamiliar Terms:

iron deficiency anemia: occurs when iron-deficiency is particularly severe and hemoglobin cannot form, which hinders the ability of a person to perform physical labor, while also resulting in the stunting of growth and learning in children.

enzyme: a protein that speeds up a chemical reaction in a living organism.

Reaction: This article to illustrated the importance of both eating healthily and knowing and being informed about bodily processes, and especially those that affect people in differing ways. I didn't know that women on their menstrual cycles lose iron in the process! To me, this seems like very important information to know, as it can hinder both mental and physical activities, and can be dangerous if left uncorrected. I think that the overall media portrayal of women's periods being "unspeakable" or even "gross" perhaps contributes to the fact that some women are anemic or iron-deficient, in that women might not know everything about their bodies and how they relate to their overall health.

Baird, Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. W. H. Freedman and Company: New York, 2006.

"Enzyme" Jan 14 2009.

"Iron deficiency anemia." eMedicine. Jan 14 2009.

Vanessa, Body of Steel!

This article discusses the effects that a few metals have on the human body. One Example is the metal nickel. Humans are extremely sensitive to nickel, even in the smallest doses. An example is when someone gets a piercing they often develop a rash around the piercing. This is caused by the stainless steel or gold jewelry left in the hole. These types of jewelry often contain a small amount of nickel and cause rashes. Once people are exposed to this nickel, they will continue to be sensitive to any nickel they come in contact with. Although nickel has a negative effect on the body other metals are helpful in treating diseases. Examples of these types of metals are gold, silver, and copper. Copper is used to help try to cure heart disease and silver is sometimes believed to kill bacteria however, these treatments are not always approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are not commonly accepted by the medical community.

Nickel: According to Yahoo Education “A silvery, hard, ductile, ferromagnetic metallic element used in alloys, in corrosion-resistant surfaces and batteries, and for electroplating.”

This article was very interesting to me because I prone to crazy rashes. Almost every time I wear stainless steel jewelry or even gold jewelry I break out in a rash. This rash then usually spreads and I become very itchy. For years I just thought I had sensitive skin and when I perspired I figured it just reacted with the metals. Now I know that it is because many people are sensitive to nickel. Now I know that I am not alone when I get a random rash on my wrists or neck. The most interesting part of the article however, was the fact that the FDA doesn’t approve these types of metal uses as treatment. There must be some reason why they don’t approve of these metals and I don’t think I am going to try them until I hear otherwise.

Colin Baird. “Metals have effects on the human body”, Chemistry In Your Life. 2nd ed. 2006. 20.

Yahoo Education. Jan 14, 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Branwen, Study Ties Columbus to the Spread of Syphilis

In this New York Times article, Jia-Rui Chong reports on a new study which suggests that that Christopher Columbus and his crew may be to blame for the spread of the sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, from the New World to the Old World. Researches came to this conclusion after discovering that the strain of the Treponema pallidum bacterium which causes syphilis was most closely related to bacteria they collected from a secluded tribe in the South American nation of Guyana. Due to this tribe’s seclusion, researchers believe the bacteria they collected from there is very similar to the bacteria which would have been found in the America’s during Columbus’ 1492 voyage. They point to this as proof that Columbus and members of his crew must have brought this strain of the bacteria with them from the New World back to the Old World. However, several experts are skeptical of these findings. They claim that the results of the study are not sufficient enough to prove that Columbus and his crew members transported syphilis from the New World to the Old World. Several experts argue that it is still possible that syphilis in Europe evolved from local strains. Simon Mays also points out that evidence has been uncovered which suggests that syphilis existed in the Old World long before Columbus traveled to the New World. Even Kristen Harper, the lead author of the study, seemed to suggest that she did not believe her study proved without a doubt that Columbus had brought syphilis to the Old World, stating “We decided to present this evidence because it is very suggestive…The controversy is not going to stop here (Harper, as qtd in Chong).”

I found this article to be interesting. Columbus’ reputation has certainly gone downhill in the last few years and if this study is correct, it doesn’t look like it will be improving anytime soon. However, I believe it will take a little bit more evidence before the results of this study can be touted as true. Additionally, as several of the experts who criticize the study point out, the researches seem to have overlooked or ignored certain evidence that would prove contrary to their findings. Nevertheless, it is an interesting theory and with time hopefully the truth will come out.

Chong, Jia-Rui. "Study ties Columbus to spread of syphilis." LA Times 15 Jan. 2008: A13.

Casey, Altered Mice See Full Color Range

Neuroscientists have been successful in genetically engineering mice to see the full spectrum of colors. Because most mammals, excluding some primates, only have two-visual receptors they perceive the world in shades of blue, yellows and grays. However, now that scientists have been about to insert DNA into the genome of the mice, the mice can have been able to differentiate between colors. This result came as a surprise to neuroscientists that speculated that it would take generations for the mice to adapt to the new sight.

A few terms that may be confusing in this article are photoreceptor and genome. Photoreceptors are cells found in the retina of the eye that gather photons from the field of sight and transmit information to the brain regarding what light is being seen. In the experiment the scientists changed the mice’s DNA so that a certain type of photoreceptor would be produced. With the addition of photoreceptors that could recognize long-wavelength light to the mice’s retina they were then able to begin to recognize different colors.

This second term is a little bit more difficult to explain. The genome is the complete genetic make-up of one set of chromosomes (remembering back to high school bio will remind us that human’s have two sets of chromosomes). DNA codes the information of the genome. When trying to imagine just what the scientists did to the mice try to remember the scene in Jurassic Park where the process by which they created dinosaurs is explained. Just how a strand of dinosaur DNA was placed into the genome of a frog, in our story a strand of long-wavelength DNA was placed into the genome of the mice.

Although I doubt giving the mice the ability to see colors will lead to a T-Rex running around downtown L.A., it is interesting to think of the same ethical questions raised in the movie. Genetic engineering has always received attention for seemingly coming close to “playing God.” I suppose in some aspects it is. Who is to say that things should be different than how they were created by nature?

Scientists have used this procedure to cure monkeys of color-blindness and hope soon to be able to apply the treatment to humans. Any genetic engineering on humans is sure to garner intense criticism from various groups around the world. I think we can all remember the big commotion that was caused just by the cloning of a sheep.

Maugh II, Thomas H. "Altered mice see full color range." LA Times 24 Mar. 2007: A8.

Joani, Food Safety or Special Interests?

This article is discussing the potential FDA laboratory closure plan that will close a little more than half of the laboratories used to patrol and test imported and potentially distributed food. This proposal has been under extreme inquiry due to the increase of food problems in the U.S., which include the peanut butter contamination issue caused by salmonella. Opponents of the closures claim that The Food and Drug Administration will be unable to successfully patrol the food imports due to the inability to produce necessary resources and authority. Further investigation revealed that the existing laboratories lacked enough workers to patrol adequately and even found that only a measly 1% of the imports were inspected. The article mentions that these closures will also hinder the knowledge capacity that is necessary to prevent any more significant emergencies. Proponents of the closures state that it is necessary to close these laboratories so that they can introduce the FDA structures into the 21st century. They claimed I will allow them to increase the technology by using more robotics which will, in turn, allow specialists to test food at their specific locations. Aside from this seemingly positive proposal, it still is argued that closing these sites would decrease to amount of food testing agents. They also fear an increase in the sneaky techniques of the foreign food importers, who often ship directly to cities who do not have testing sites. Closures aside, many agree that the FDA needs a budget increase that rises above to proposal President Bush offered.

It is very apparent to me that aside from the self-destructive closure plan, the main issue is the incapability of the current laboratories and testers to successfully do their job. Whether this is accounted by the lack of funds or authority, it is obviously an issue. In the article it stated that at one site in San Francisco, inspectors had 30 seconds to decide whether or not a shipment of freight needed to be more closely examined. That is not even enough time to tell what kind of food the freight is even carrying, let alone enough time to make a crucial inspection decision. The issue of economics seems to play a very significant role in the proper inspection of the food imports. The article also claimed that the FDA allows “questionable products to be shipped to importers, who then pay a private laboratory to test the product”. These “private” investigators aren’t even approved by the FDA. The private financial interests behind this scheme seem to be a bigger issue than closing the already inadequate laboratories. The most significant problem here is that instead of focusing on safety issues, they are more concerned about money. This is very ironic when tomatoes and peanut butter products are being pulled off of the shelves after outbreaks of salmonella and E.coli are reported. I think a big reason this closure plan is receiving such scrutiny is because the FDA has not been able to control the imports, so closing the existing testing sites creates a destructive image of food testing to come.

Lauer, Claudia. "FDA closure plan raises concerns about food safety." LA Times 18 July 2007: P. A14.

James, Oil Paintings, Then and Now

Before the 19th century painting was a much more arduous task then it already is. Aside from the task of painting the picture itself, creating the colors in the painting and varnishing the painting were obstacles that the artist had to overcome. Today artists use paints that are already mixed and contained in aluminum tubing, to keep the paints from drying and losing the desired color. The way in which artists used to have their colors ready was to have their apprentice mix ingredients from, organic and inorganic pigments, mineral stabilizers, oils, and varnish. The apprentice would do this by grinding the paints together on glass, stone or marble. After the task of mixing the colors the job of varnishing the paintings was next. Today paints are mixed with chemicals to keep their color and be protected through time. Artists of old resorted to many different forms of varnish to protect their works. The Mediterranean’s used paints called encaustics, which was a varnish of beeswax or they would mix oxides of iron, copper, magnesium into the paints.

Tempera paints were created by putting egg yolks as varnish. Vegetable oil and olive oils were used as varnish, but were not completely effective as drying time was much slower than the tempera paints. Many mediums were used to varnish, such as lead added to paints, and tree derived oils, but it is with the discovery of linseed oil in the 15th century, by the artist Jan Van Eyck that would start the standard for oil based paints as a thickener and varnish.

Today most all paints are produced in factories, and are chemically engineered to have a reliable wetness time and viscosity. These paints are chemically enhanced by the adding of elements and minerals. Aluminum hydrate, is used in blues and greens, cadmium is still highly sought after for its bright colors it produces. Cobalt, lead, zinc, and titanium, are all used as thickeners, and color additives.

1.) An Oxide is a chemical compound, with at least one oxygen atom and at least one other element.

2.) Aluminum hydrate:Gelatinous precipitate formed when a small amount of alkali solution is added to a solution of an aluminium salt.

It seems today’s painters have great luxury in being able to concentrate primarily on their paintings, were as in the past artists were artists and chemists worrying constantly on weather their chemical make ups were in the right proportions to give them the desired effect. I don’t think that knowing what I now know about paintings and how the paints were created I have greater respect for older paintings than I can ever now have for a modern painting. Although the bulk of paintings I have seen in my life have been very old, and my distaste for modern abstract has always made me a bigger fan of the old renaissance and before art work, I can now chalk up another reason as to why I very much like and now respect the art of old a little bit more than anything that I have already seen, although I hope that I will one day be proven wrong by some sort of modern “masterpiece”.

The article did say that some people use white lead to prime their canvases and that it is still very possible to create your colors, and to paint in the old style. So I would now very much like to see this form redone by someone or even try my hand at it at some later time.

Rick Mullin- "Oil Paint", September 24, 2007. Pg. 106.

Paige, Lead Poisoning in Toys

In Mary Beckman’s article “A Hazardous Playmate,” she discusses the recent recall of millions of toys that contain unacceptable levels of lead. She explains that while the levels of lead have actually decreased in the last thirty years, this toxic metal continues to come out of toys and into the mouths of many babies and young children. This problem is very dangerous because lead has the potential to damage the brain and also can lead to acute lead poisoning. These problems are caused by lead’s interference with the body’s biochemistry. Lead causes anemia by replacing the iron in the hemoglobin, which is a red blood cell protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Lead can also interfere with the neurons that are responsible for a child’s learning and memory, this can damage brain cells and affect intelligence. However, Beckman points out that lead does leave the body over time. There are three ways to help a child who has lead-contaminated blood, the first is to remove them from the source. Second, eating a diet high in calcium, zinc and iron can displace the lead. Finally, drugs can be taken which grab the lead and pull it into the urine. While it is not sure whether or not lead leads to a permanent loss in intelligence, it is important to make sure that toys and other products do not contain harmful levels of lead, which have previously been banned by the government.

Unfamiliar terms

• Neurons: a cell, which transmits nerve impulses and is the basic functional unit of the nervous system

• Lead encephalopathy: occurs at high levels of lead poisoning when children become drowsy and difficult to rouse

Upon reading this article I was at first concerned for the young children that I know who may have played with the toys that were recalled. After reading Beckman’s entire article I started thinking; I wonder how much lead I came across as a child? Or even what about today? Beckman calls lead poisoning a “silent problem” because symptoms do not become apparent until it is too late. While I can’t remember a time when I had the symptoms described for lead poisoning or lead encephalopathy, I wonder what the level of lead in my blood was as a child as well as today. Beckman also says that some researchers believe that lead poisoning in children hinders certain abilities to learn and can even drop IQ points. I wonder, if this information is true, how many IQ points might I have lost due to my favorite toys as a child? It seems silly, but might I be better at math had I not played with my My Size Barbie and Wedding Day Midge so often? Or, could I possibly have gotten into Harvard or Yale had I not played with my Polly Pockets? My thoughts are that I would have turned out just the same. However, this information did make me think about such possibilities. I can only hope that from now on, companies like Mattel and Fisher-Price will look more closely into the making of their toys in case the population really has been losing IQ points.

Because today’s scientists know so much more about the problems lead proposes, I feel that we are better able to keep lead level low in the American population. Beckman already discusses three ways with which to help children who have already been exposed, however, if consumers and corporations read Beckman’s article, they can see that it is as simple as monitoring what goes into the toys that will decrease this danger.

Beckman, Mary. A Hazardous Playmate. Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2004. F3.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome to our Blog space

This site is for the spring 2009 Chem 106 Science and Society class to discuss new concepts and issues in science and express our views. We are in beautiful southern California at the University of Redlands.