Thursday, February 28, 2008

Answers Research Journal?

First, I want to say I went to the Answers Research Journal website with a totally open mind. While I am not overly religious, I don't necessarily believe that science is at odds with religion. As an undergraduate I took a excellent class (I forget the name, it was something along the lines of "Great Issues in Science") and was first introduced to the writings of Paul Davies, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Jay Gould. My favorite two "textbooks" from the class were "The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World," and "Origins: Cosmos, Earth and Mankind." If you are at all interested in science and/or religion and how the two subjects can come to terms with each other, I highly recommend these books as a place to start.

Anyways, when my husband sent me a link to ARJ last week, I was intrigued. It seems as if the journal is an offshoot of the website According to their website, "
ARJ is a professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." At first I had high hopes (I mean, it is "peer-reviewed and everything, that must count for something, right?) and was really hoping for some cool science or interesting theories on how (Christian) religion and science can really go hand in hand. Andrew Snelling, the editor, certainly has the scientific credentials (a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Sydney) necessary for making informed scientific decisions.

So what did I find? Well, I only looked at the current issue, but I wasn't very impressed. Of the five articles, two were written by scientists from "Answers in Genesis" and one was written by a guy whose only credentials are his (home?) address. Two are also written in the first person (which in my opinion just doesn't work for scientific publications), and sound like sermons rather than peer-reviewed scientific research. I do have to admit, the article on Louis Pasteur is pretty interesting, and while I would classify this article on granite formation as opinion rather than research, it was entertaining (I hesitate to say informative) as well. Although I had high hopes and an open mind, I was really left a little disappointed at the end of it all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Face Research

This is not chemistry related, but I thought it was too cool to pass up. The Face Research Laboratory is run by Lisa DeBruine and Ben Jones, two experimental psychologists currently working at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. I think the face average is the coolest part of the website, but you can participate in one of their many studies here.

Nature Chemistry

Today over at the Sceptical Chymist, Stuart Cantrill revealed a preview of the Nature Chemistry website. The journal is set to open in April 2009. I must say I'm quite pleased with the color choice--the beautiful blue/violet color reminds me of the natural product analogs that one of my labmates is busy synthesizing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cheddar anyone?

Why in the world would someone want to calculate the heat capacity of cheese? While I do enjoy a nice creamy Brie, fresh mozzarella (especially with tomatoes and fresh basil), and maybe once in a great while a strong stinky cheese (reminiscent of Limburger) that I tasted on the Azores, calculating the heat capacity of each individual cheese seems to be taking it a little far, doesn't it?

Apparently not. In order to design the perfect cooling systems for the food industry, it is important to know the heat capacity of the food you are dealing with. For cheese it seems like moisture content is key in heat capacity calculations. Formulas to calculate heat capacity for cheese tend to be more accurate for those cheeses with higher water content (soft cheeses). Who would have known?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Traditional Chinese Medicines as Modern Drugs?

Earlier today I read an article entitled "How many traditional Chinese medicine components have been recognized by modern western medicine?..." in ChemMedChem. Actually, the title is what attracted me to this article. I've always been interested in alternative and/or natural medicine (maybe that comes with being a vegetarian?*), and really try to avoid taking unnecessary medicines (other than the occasional necessities like ibuprofen and when I was really sick this summer, I ended up taking hydrocodone and paracetamol--a.k.a. vicodin--followed by trimethobenzamide, both of which I resisted initially). In my kitchen I also have a tea for just about any ailment--lemon balm (melissenblaetter in German) tea will cure just about anything. While I've never actually tried any traditional Chinese medicines, a comparison of the components found in these traditionally used herbs and minerals seemed like it might be an interesting read.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for more than 4000 years and currently there are over 10,000 chemical components that have been extracted from almost 5,000 traditionally used Chinese herbs/minteals/animals found in the database of traditional Chinese medicines. Compared to Western medicine, this is pretty amazing. Synthetic drugs have only been around for about 100 years, and in one comprehensive medicinal chemistry database you can find about 8000 different molecules that have been approved for use as approved drugs. About 50% of these approved drugs are actually derived from natural products, so a logical conclusion is that there might be some striking similarities between the chemical components of traditional Chinese medicines and modern Western drugs.

According to the Zhang group, there are 327 compounds found in both the traditional Chinese and Western drug databases, and approximately 900 chemicals that are structurally similar (>85% similarity) between the two. Not surprisingly, more than a hundred of the traditionally used Chinese remedies display the same pharmacological effects as their corresponding Western drug. The pharmacological effects of many of the natural herbs were recorded in ancient Chinese texts dating back to the Eastern Han dynasty (~25 AD to 220 AD). For instance, among the 12 chemical components of the herb Coptidis rhizoma (used to treat gastric conditions in traditional Chinese remedies) are berberine, columbamine, coptisine, jatrorrhizine and palmatine. Today calystigine/palmatine is known as an antibiotic, and a structurally similar compound called berberine is believed to be an inhibitor of Helicobacter pylori.

The article also stresses the potential that traditional Chinese medicines could have in drug discovery efforts, in particular in finding multicomponent therapeutics that combine two or more active ingredients into one single dose to hit several targets at once. The herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine can easily have over 50 chemical components. Although each single component might not be active, in combination they might be able to potentiate the effects of other chemical components, or they might work in combination to produce unexpected results. Additionally, traditional Chinese medicines are often prescribed in combinations. Would it be possible to combine the well established formulae of traditional Chinese medicines with Western medicine to produce combinations of drugs with lower risks of adverse drug-drug interactions? Now that we know traditional Chinese medicine has somewhat of a scientific basis, hopefully more work will be completed in this area. Acupuncture has already gained acceptance in many Western societies, so maybe this is the wave of the future.

*My cat on the other hand, certainly isn't a vegetarian. In addition to lounging in the sun on his new window seat, he enjoys his dinner of duck and peas very much.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sciencedebate 2008

I haven't checked out the entire website yet, but this seems like a good idea. While there are certainly other important issues, why not encourage a presidential debate on science and technology? Several thousand scientifically minded individuals and organizations have already signed, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Sigma Xi, Roald Hoffmann (Nobel Laureate), Robert Grubbs (Nobel Laureate), Richard Schrock (Nobel Laureate), Peter Agre (Nobel Laureate), Phillip Campbell (editor of Nature), and Rudy Baum (editor of Chemical and Engineering News).

(thanks to Mirth)