Molecules/Matter & Energy

Marijuana loses its high, plus soy tape, gritty bubbles and more in this week’s news

Medical marijuana without the high Researchers have found a way to quash the high produced by THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Though sought after by recreational users, that dopey sensation is an unwanted side effect for many people who use marijuana for medical effects such as increased appetite or relief from pain and seizures. In addition to hitting the pleasure-inducing cellular baseball mitts known as cannabinoid receptors, THC hits another mitt that normally catches the chemical messenger known as glycine. Modifying THC so it hits only the glycine receptors could provide a means for delivering dopey-free relief, researchers report online April 3 in Nature Chemical Biology . — Rachel Ehrenberg Sticky soy Soy tape may not have the same panache as Scotch Tape. But branding aside, tape made from soybean oil appears to be comparable or even better than the sticky tape with the household name. Scientists from Kansas State University in Manhattan created an adhesive tape from soybean oil that is totally see-through, has excellent stickiness and peel strength and is thermally stable at a range of temperatures. In addition to ordinary tasks such as labeling and packaging, the soy-based tape could work well in flexible electronics displays, semiconductors and solar cells, and also might stick in medical and pharmaceutical applications such as skin-wound treatments, the research team reports in an upcoming Biomacromolecules . — Rachel Ehrenberg Scratch-and-stitch polymer A new kind of rubbery material heals itself when exposed to light, repairing nicks and cuts. Unlike other self-healing polymers, this one can fix the same spot over and over again. That’s because previous materials contained small quantities of added compounds that break apart to stitch up scratches. But the new stuff disassembles when illuminated, flows into a crack and reassembles. It completely regains its original composition and strength, researchers in the United States and Switzerland report. As described in the April 21 Nature , the material can heal even while being stretched. — Devin Powell The gritty side of bubbles You won’t taste the grit, but the bubbles in a foamy beer behave much like sand in a dune. Though bubbles are soft and sand is hard, both flow in similar ways and clump together like cars in a traffic jam. Theorists had predicted this behavior, even though bubbles slide past each other smoothly and hard grains feel more friction. Thanks to a device that created foam, rolled it up an inclined plane and photographed it, researchers in France were finally able to experimentally verify the comparison. Their results are reported in the April 8 Physical Review Letters . — Devin Powell

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