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Volume 90 Issue 44 | p. 48 | Newscripts
Issue Date: October 29, 2012

Cookin’ With Chemistry, Art Meets Science, Cows On A Sugar High

Department: Newscripts
Keywords: cookbook, kitchen chemistry, chemistry club, cattle farming, corn, Emptyful, science art
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Fund-raiser: Science-filled cookbook.
Credit: Alan Henry
This is a photo of the ACS ChemClub cookbook cover.
 
Fund-raiser: Science-filled cookbook.
Credit: Alan Henry

Would you like to learn how to make “apple” pie without using apples? Or “bake” cookies without an oven?

American Chemical Society-supported chemistry clubs from 22 high schools around the U.S. have compiled a cookbook of their favorite entrées, side dishes, baked goods, desserts, and beverages. The book not only offers recipes, it also reveals the chemistry behind making each dish.

The instructions for preparing guacamole, for example, are followed by an explanation of why cutting onions can make people cry. The answer lies in syn-propane­thial-S-oxide, a compound that forms when an enzyme from the onion is exposed to air, which happens during chopping. When the irritant hits the eye, it stimulates lachrymal glands there, causing tears.

Aspiring chefs also learn tricks to minimize their tears, for instance, by cooling the onion prior to chopping to reduce the volatility of the compound or by wearing safety goggles while slicing the vegetable.

In addition, the cookbook contains a section on food-based activities, such as how to calculate the speed of light by melting marshmallows in the microwave and how to determine the percentage of water in popcorn. “The ACS ChemClub Cookbook” is available for $15 from the ACS Store (www.acs.org/store). All proceeds go to the chemistry clubs to support their activities.

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“Emptyful”: Flask-shaped sculpture provides wonderment in Winnipeg.
Credit: Gerry Kopelow
This is a photo of a giant flask-shaped sculpture in Winnipeg.
 
“Emptyful”: Flask-shaped sculpture provides wonderment in Winnipeg.
Credit: Gerry Kopelow

Chemists visiting Millennium Library Plaza in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will now be greeted by a giant Erlenmeyer-flask-shaped sculpture. The installation, unveiled in August, features LEDs that change colors and illuminate water and fog spewing from the sculpture.

Made of stainless steel, the public art project stands approximately 35 feet tall and is named “Emptyful,” suggesting both containment and openness. “It’s in an area of Winnipeg that’s undergoing some transformation, and the city is very much trying to bring people back into its center,” says the sculpture’s designer, Bill Pechet.

Like the ever-changing weather of Winnipeg, the sculpture changes its look as it responds to its environment. “Even the dew point really affects the fog,” Pechet says. “When it’s slightly cooler and less windy, the fog hovers around the site, and it can billow out and fill the area.”

The flask shape represents the research agenda of the Millennium Library. “We were trying to make an object that would reference the idea of research and fuse the idea of science and art together,” Pechet says. “The shape is meant to encourage people to think about the role of knowledge in the world, and of experimentation and how critical it is.”


The severe drought that has dried up many parts of the U.S. has led to an unexpected treat for cows. Given the rising price of corn, some cattle farmers are instead feeding cows less expensive sugar replacements: chocolate bars, gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, and even powdered hot chocolate mix, according to an Oct. 10 article posted on CNN.com. This practice has been going on for decades, but it’s caught on more this year as farmers look to cut costs, says Ki Fanning, a livestock nutritionist at Great Plains Livestock Consulting.

According to the article, corn goes for about $315 per ton, but ice cream sprinkles can be had for as little as $160 per ton. The cows don’t seem to mind, and it’s cost-effective for the farmers.

What’s more, the alternative feed doesn’t seem to have any ill effects on the cows, and in fact, the sugar helps to fatten beef cattle. So the next time you pass a farm, you might see cows bouncing off their pens, in the midst of a sugar high.

 

Linda Wang wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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