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  • News in Brief

    Life on Earth may have begun as dividing droplets

    NEW ORLEANS — In a primordial soup on ancient Earth, droplets of chemicals may have paved the way for the first cells. Shape-shifting droplets split, grow and split again in new computer simulations. The result indicates that simple chemical blobs can exhibit replication, one of the most basic properties of life, physicist Rabea Seyboldt of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex...

    03/21/2017 - 07:00 Biophysics, Chemistry
  • Feature

    New, greener catalysts are built for speed

    Platinum, one of the rarest and most expensive metals on Earth, may soon find itself out of a job. Known for its allure in engagement rings, platinum is also treasured for its ability to jump-start chemical reactions. It’s an excellent catalyst, able to turn standoffish molecules into fast friends. But Earth’s supply of the metal is limited, so scientists are trying to coax materials that aren...

    02/21/2017 - 09:00 Chemistry, Materials, Sustainability
  • News in Brief

    New imaging technique catches DNA ‘blinking’ on

    BOSTON — A new imaging technique takes advantage of DNA’s natural ability to “blink” in response to stimulating light.  The new approach will allow unprecedented views of genetic material and other cellular players. It’s the first method to resolve features smaller than 10 nanometers in unmodified, live cells, biomedical engineer Vadim Backman said February 17 at the annual meeting of the...

    02/19/2017 - 10:39 Cells, Chemistry, Biophysics
  • News

    Helium’s inertness defied by high-pressure compound

    Helium — the recluse of the periodic table — is reluctant to react with other elements. But squeeze the element hard enough, and it will form a chemical compound with sodium, scientists report.

    Helium, a noble gas, is one of the periodic table’s least reactive elements. Originally, the noble gases were believed incapable of forming any chemical compounds at all. But after scientists...

    02/17/2017 - 09:00 Chemistry
  • News

    Fleeting dead zones can muck with seafloor life for decades

    Short bouts of suffocating conditions can desolate swaths of seafloor for decades, new research suggests. That devastation could spread in the future, as rising temperatures and agricultural runoff enlarge oxygen-poor dead zones in the world’s oceans.

    Monitoring sections of the Black Sea, researchers discovered that even days-long periods of low oxygen drove out animals and altered...

    02/10/2017 - 15:06 Oceans, Ecosystems, Chemistry
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers respond to antibiotics, carbon bonds and more

    Power struggle

    Ninety percent of people who believe that they are allergic to penicillin are not, Emily DeMarco reported in “Most penicillin allergies are off base” (SN: 12/24/16 & 1/7/17, p. 5). A recent study found that testing for penicillin allergies reduced by 34 percent the use of vancomycin, described in the story as “a powerful, last-resort antibiotic.”

    Reader Robin Colgrove...

    02/08/2017 - 12:42 Health, Chemistry
  • News

    Oxygen flooded Earth’s atmosphere earlier than thought

    The breath of oxygen that enabled the emergence of complex life kicked off around 100 million years earlier than previously thought, new dating suggests.

    Previous studies pegged the first appearance of relatively abundant oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, known as the Great Oxidation Event, or GOE, at a little over 2.3 billion years ago. New dating of ancient volcanic outpourings, however,...

    02/06/2017 - 15:45 Earth, Evolution, Chemistry
  • News

    LSD’s grip on brain protein could explain drug’s long-lasting effects

    Locked inside a human brain protein, the hallucinogenic drug LSD takes an extra-long trip.

    New X-ray crystallography images reveal how an LSD molecule gets trapped within a protein that senses serotonin, a key chemical messenger in the brain. The protein, called a serotonin receptor, belongs to a family of proteins involved in everything from perception to mood.

    The work is the...

    01/31/2017 - 14:00 Chemistry
  • News

    Chemists strike gold, solve mystery about precious metal’s properties

    Gold’s glimmer is not the only reason the element is so captivating. For decades, scientists have puzzled over why theoretical predictions of gold’s properties don’t match up with experiments. Now, highly detailed calculations have erased the discrepancy, according to a paper published in the Jan. 13 Physical Review Letters.

    At issue was the energy required to remove an electron from a...

    01/23/2017 - 07:00 Physics, Chemistry
  • News

    New molecular knot is most complex yet

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    One hundred and ninety-two atoms have tied the knot.

    Chains of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, woven together in a triple braid, form the most complex molecular knot ever described, chemists from the University of Manchester in England report in the Jan. 13 Science.

    Learning how to tie such knots could one day help researchers weave molecular...

    01/12/2017 - 14:00 Chemistry, Materials