What is ambergris?

Ambergris (ambergrease or grey amber) is a waxy, inflammable solid with a dull grey colour formed as a biliary secretion in the gut of sperm whales. It is thought to act as a protective lubricant so that squid beaks and other hard, sharp ojects the whale may swallow don’t pierce its intestine. Its main use […]

Antioxidant backlash redux

According to Henry Scowcroft of Cancer Research UK writing in The Guardian: “Large studies have repeatedly shown that, with the possible exception of vitamin D, antioxidant supplements have negligible positive effect on healthy people, at least in terms of important things such as preventing people getting cancer or dying prematurely. And some supplements – notably […]

A chemical decathlon

Fish oil fights weight loss due to chemotherapy – A new analysis has found that supplementing the diet with fish oil may prevent muscle and weight loss that commonly occurs in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that fish oil […]

10 chemical hits: Slinn Pickings

The lock shapes the key – Proteins normally recognize each other by their specific 3-D structure. If the key fits in the lock, a reaction can take place. However there are reactions at the onset of which the key does not really have a shape. Chemists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and the Max Planck […]

Too much Festivus cheer?

Too much Festivus cheer? Evergreen hangover advice – Acetaldehyde is the toxic byproduct made by the liver when you drink alcohol, too much in your bloodstream the "morning after, the night before" and you will have a hangover. According to my friend Dr John Emsley at the RSC, honey on toast is the chemist's answer […]

Arty with a Capital F and the Myth of Absinthe

I’ve got a bottle of absinthe, at the back of a shelf in our store-cupboard. Unopened this bottle of green uber-liquor languishes untested awaiting an appropriate occasion when a drink containing 70 percent alcohol (140 proof) is required. It’ll probably be the day our cat dies… Anyway, while my bottle languishes, new research suggests that […]