If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.




Panda pregnant, Floating Ivory is no accident, More on free-balloon flights, Gay-Lussac, the berry man

by K. M. REESE
July 5, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 27


Panda pregnant

U.S.-born panda Hua Mei has become pregnant by natural means since arriving in China in February, according to the official China news agency, Xinhua, Beijing. Hua Mei (meaning China-America) is four years old. She was born in the San Diego Zoo in California to pandas on loan from China. Hua Mei is due in September at her current residence, the Wolong Giant Panda Protection Center in southwestern China.

Chinese veterinarians, according to the China news agency, suspected that Hua Mei knew relatively little about reproduction after living only in captivity. Therefore, they showed her videos of mating pandas to prepare her for a series of "blind dates."

China has gone out of its way to protect the giant panda, the nation's unofficial mascot. China's panda population apparently has risen, but the animal remains endangered because of heavy logging of its habitats. Also, groups of pandas live far from each other, which makes breeding difficult.

China said recently that the number of pandas in the wild in China has jumped more than 40%, to 1,590. The World Wildlife Fund cautioned, however, that the jump may be due to more reliable surveying methods and is not necessarily the result of a real rise in panda population.

Floating Ivory is no accident

Somebody, not clearly identified, sent in a Yahoo News story from the Associated Press indicating that the buoyancy of Ivory soap in water is no accident. The AP writer is John Nolan.

Procter & Gamble, the story says, has used Ivory's buoyancy in marketing since the soap hit the market about 125 years ago. The soap floats because P&G whips air into it. The company has long claimed that originally that was a production mistake. Company archivist Ed Rider, however, says he has learned that a P&G chemist, James N. Gamble, knew how to make soap float. He was the son of company cofounder James Gamble. Archivist Rider says he found a notebook entry of 1863 in which the younger Gamble wrote: "I made floating soap today. I think we'll make all of our stock that way." Thus the earliest P&G ads for Ivory stressed the soap's floatability, along with its utility as a cleanser and its claim to be "99 and 44/100ths percent pure."

P&G discloses these data in a new book on the history of the company, whose other familiar products include Tide and Crest. The book, called "Rising Tide," is due in bookstores on July 8. Also in July, the company will introduce a soap bar called Ivory Aloe. It's green and, naturally, it floats.

  More on free-balloon flights

Howard Wilk writes from Philadelphia about Benjamin Franklin's witnessing early manned free-balloon flights (C&EN, June 21, page 56). Franklin, then stationed in Paris, was asked, "What good is this discovery that they make so much noise about it?" Franklin replied, "What good is a newborn baby?"

In January 1785, Wilk goes on, Jean-Pierre F. Blanchard and John Jeffries ballooned across the English Channel to France and gave Franklin a letter. This, says Wilk, "was the first air mail."

  Gay-Lussac, the berry man

Norman fine writes from Sewell, N.J., that it is interesting to know that Joseph L. Gay-Lussac, chemist and pioneer balloonist (C&EN, June 21, page 56), "also earned a niche in the botanical literature." His name, Fine says, is commemorated in the genus Gaylussacia (the huckleberry) of the family Ericaceae.

Fine explains that the blueberry, the commercial berry, is in the same family as the huckleberry but differs from it "in certain technical features of the inflorescence." You can tell the difference in that the huckleberry has exactly 10 large seeds that get stuck in the teeth, whereas the blueberry has many tiny, impalpable seeds.

Some people claim that the huckleberry has superior flavor, and they are willing to pick the seeds from their teeth. Another disadvantage of huckleberries, Fine adds, is that you have to go out in the woods and gather your own.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.