An unexpected application of the presumption of innocence—toward chemicals in drinking water—means that the regulatory system in the United States does not touch substances in our water until they have been proven to be harmful. The trouble with this is that it can take decades to detect the presence of chemicals in water, and even longer to tease out their effects.
The most elegant solutions to even the most knotty problems are often those devised by nature. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project (UBS) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) have been developing one of nature’s solutions into a workable remover of contaminants such as nitrates, nitrites, phosphorus, and even heavy metals from slow-moving waters such as lakes and ponds: a small, unassuming aquatic plant called duckweed.
Sailing the seven seas was never without peril, but thanks to shipworms, which are actually a type of clam, it was often downright fatal to sailors. These pests would bore their way through the wooden bodies of ships, rendering them useless in water. Ancient mariners eventually found ways to combat them, though, and by the 18th century the state of the art shield against them was copper-clad wood.
This was no accident; copper doesn’t just keep the soft-bodied clams out of wood...
One of the consequences of modern life is urbanized water. As we congregate in cities, the water that flows away as runoff, even after wastewater treatment, is typically rife with a toxic cocktail of chemicals. New research from the Universities of Portsmouth and Barcelona now reveals that these toxic chemicals transform the way that many aquatic animals feed and swim — even when they are present in surprisingly low concentrations.
Researchers have discovered that quantum indistinguishability necessarily plays a significant role in some chemical processes. This changes the way scientists will view chemistry, and will influence isotope fractionation and enzymatic catalysis.
Chemists conducted the first site-specific surgery on a nanoparticle, affording it 10 times more photoluminescence, a property useful in many applications. They hope to generalize this technique so that any nanoparticle property could be enhanced.
To reduce deforestation and other negative environmental impacts from paper production, researchers have developed UV light printable paper. It can be rewritten upon more than 80 times, and erased when heated to 120°C. The light printing paper uses a thin coating of nanoparticles. The color-changing chemistry of the nanoparticles, which are applied to the paper, ensure that the writing is visible until it is erased with heat. The UV light paper retains the feel of conventional paper, and is otherwise the same to use.
Two major issues facing the world today are finding clean, affordable energy and disposing of waste in ways that don’t cause harm to the environment. Climate change is making the clean, affordable, sustainable fuel problem more pertinent every day. A new study in Nature Energy has some suggestions on both scores, showing how natural light can be used to convert biomass into hydrogen.
Scientists have discovered that a version of the Krebs cycle, the heart of the cellular metabolic network, can take place without the cellular proteins known as enzymes. Since the Krebs cycle does not require cellular proteins to occur, researchers now believe that metabolism may predate life. In fact, spontaneous chemical reactions may have served as the foundation for life on Earth.
Scientists from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) are hoping to help 18 terminally ill patients relieve their anxiety, depression, and fear in the next year during extended psychotherapy sessions enhanced by MDMA (ecstasy). The Marin County-based double-blind trial will see subjects test either full doses of MDMA (125 milligrams) or active placebo doses (30 milligrams).