Friday, April 18, 2014

2013 Mountain West College Bowl Competition

via Schmid College


Schmid College of Science and Technology wrote a great article on last week's College Bowl competition. It includes a timeline of Chapman University's participation in the competition since 2007. We've come very close to winning the national title in past years so here's to winning the 2014 competition! Read the article here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Food for Thought: Gas, Cows and Global Warming

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the long hiatus from posts, I hope you're all pushing through the semester! We're past the halfway point! Today I bring to you information on greenhouse gases.....in the form of methane produced by livestock! It sounds humorous, but according to the FAO, the amount of methane produced by livestock in 2011 accounted for 39%  of total greenhouse gas emissions stemming from agriculture.

While the suggestion to reduce the amount of meat consumption sounds like an easy fix, this change could have negative consequences as some developing countries rely on agriculture as a source of income. As an alternative, it is recommended that research be focused on increasing efficiency of land use,  reducing the amount of fertilizers utilized and recycling manure. These changes could potentially improve conditions by increasing yield with less land, providing fewer nitrogen sources for soil microbes to convert into nitrous oxide and using the manure as a fuel source instead of being broken down to form nitrous oxide.

If you would like to read more details on this subject, here is the NPR article with an additional link to the FAO report.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/04/11/301794415/gassy-cows-are-warming-the-planet-and-theyre-here-to-stay

Good luck on midterms!
- Charles

Monday, March 10, 2014

Food for Thought: Gut Bacteria!

Hey everyone!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm still transitioning into our time leap forward thanks to daylight savings! In any case, the semester is moving along and it's almost the middle of March! Today I bring you information about your gut bacteria! Exciting, I know, but please try and contain your bowel movements.

Picture from NPR article, see link below
As many of you might know, it has been suggested that probiotics may confer health benefits due to a number of various reasons, but today I want to discuss an article I read from NPR. Harvard University has been examining the effect of a diet high in meat and dairy. It turns out, the microflora in the gut changes within two days of a high protein and dairy diet, but this alteration has the potential to cause intestinal and inflammation diseases in mice.

As the types of micrboes in the gut began to shift, so did their expression of genes. Bilophila organisms began to dominate the gut as they love their bile (or rather ours!). This is important since there is an increase in bile production when a diet is rich in fats from meat and dairy. Though the Bilophila are assisting us, increased numbers have been associated with the promotion of inflammation.

Just another reason to consume a well balanced diet!
Have a great week everyone!

And as always, if you would like to see the full article, here is the link:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/10/250007042/chowing-down-on-meat-and-dairy-alters-gut-bacteria-a-lot-and-quickly

- Charles Quinto

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Food for Thought: Honeybees Decline

Hey everyone,

Hope the spring semester is going well! It's been a while but here is a post I've been meaning to write for a few weeks so here it is! It seems these days as if more and more articles, posts, and documentaries are spreading the word on the declining honeybee population. For those who do not know, here are a few important facts about honeybees taken from the Natural Resources Defense Council:
  • Since 1990, >25% of managed populations have disappeared in the U.S.
  • Bees are pollinators which assist in spreading pollen and seeds
  • Pollination is important for >30% of the world's crops and as high as 90% of wild plants
  • Hone bees are important for producing food crop
While it is still widely thought that the reduced populations were due to residual pesticides, recent studies suggest there may be another suspect, tobacco ringworm virus. While it is still unknown whether the virus contributes or is responsible for the decline what has been observed are the following:
  • The virus initially remained in the gut or salivary glands, but recently has been found throughout the entire bodies of the bees
  • The virus is also found in a parasite (varroa mite) that infects the bees
  • Tobacco ringworm in addition to the black queen cell virus, deformed wing bee virus and Israel acute paralysis virus were found at higher concentrations prior to colony collapse in studies completed by the U.S. and China
More information can be read here (recommended): http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf



- Charles Quinto

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Food for Thought: Flavor Pairing

Hey Everyone,

Spring semester is right around the corner! Ever wonder why sometimes one spice tastes like another or why absurd sounding combinations end up tasting amazing? It may have to due to shared flavor compounds!
A paper was written discussing the hypothesis that ingredients sharing flavor compounds taste better together than those with different compounds. For example, though it may not sound appealing to consider eating white chocolate and caviar, both contain trimethylamine and additional flavors. What was also interesting was analysis of cuisines by region show that North American and Western European dishes gravitate towards the use of ingredients with similar flavor compounds. East Asian and Southern European dishes on the other hand, avoid the use of similarly flavored ingredients.

To entice you into reading the entire paper take a look at these flavor networks!




The entire paper can be read here:
http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/full/srep00196.html

Enjoy!

- Charles

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Doesn't the United States Use the Metric System?

via xkcd


This has happened to me more than once: We're in the chemistry/biology/genetics lab weighing out chemicals or pipetting reagents when someone says (half jokingly), "Why is all of this in grams and liters?? This is America!"

Well, little Timmy, this is why:

American colonists in the 1700's inherited and used the British Imperial System, which was a chaotic system of weights and measurements, while France developed and refined the metric system. In 1790 Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was supportive of a decimal-based metric system, but feared that the US wouldn't be able to verify the metric unit of length without sending a costly delegation to France.

International tension also stifled US relations with France. Although France supported the American colonies in the Revolutionary War, the ratification of the Jay Treaty, which basically made France the third wheel in the American-British relationship, changed their opinion of the colonies. France became so hostile that in 1798, it ignored the US when inviting foreign dignitaries to Paris to learn about the metric system (ie. the US was not invited to the metric system party).

In 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams was happy with the US Customary System and declared it sufficient, requiring no changes. Meanwhile, the metric system was gaining popularity overseas and by the end of the Civil War in 1865 most of Europe had adopted the system. Recognizing this, President Andrew Johnson in 1866 signed into law that the US "employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings, or court proceedings."

In 1875 France decided to throw another metric system party and the US was invited this time. The Treaty of the Meter was signed by 17 nations, and the standards of measurement were set and everything was good to go. So after all of this drama why still hasn't the US transitioned yet? Because, little Timmy, Congress made the conversion voluntary. In 1971 the US Bureau of Standards published a report called "A Metric America" that recommended the US transition to the metric system within 10 years. Congress agreed, but made the switch voluntary and the excitement to go metric faded. International economics forced many companies to use both the metric system and the US Customary System, but for the most part, the US remains the only industrialized nation that hasn't adopted the metric system.

Changing gallons to liters and inches to meters is not as easy as it sounds. NASA has estimated that converting their charts, drawings, and documentation to the metric system would cost not only thousands of hours of work, but also $370 million. Even on a smaller scale change would be difficult. Every single sign on freeways and highways will have to be replaced with those that reflect speeds in kilometers per hour and we'll have to start thinking about whether $1.99/kg of potatoes is a good deal or not. I don't know about you, but I have no idea how many pounds are in a kilogram and I would need to bring a calculator every time I go to the store.

Alas, if only the transition were made mandatory Americans wouldn't have to learn two languages of measurement.

All information via How Stuff Works

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spice Rack!

Happy holidays everyone!

I hope you're enjoying your break after Fall semester. I stumbled this product a few weeks ago and I had to share! Feel more like a scientist in your kitchen while having easy access to all your spices!





- Charles Quinto