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Category: Science

Distillations #166 – Alchemy After Dark

From the Distillations website:

Alchemists are known for equally dreamy and practical pursuits—trying to turn base metals into gold and achieve immortality while also conducting the experiments that would lay the groundwork for modern chemistry. But it turns out the alchemists had another trick up their sleeves: speaking the language of love—and lust. In this episode we sit down with historian Joel Klein to find out why so many alchemy texts are rife with blush-inducing romantic and sexual metaphors. Then CHF’s James Voelkel recites some of our favorite steamy passages.

 

Image from Symbola Aureae Mensae, by Michael Maier, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Also available in CHF’s collections. 

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Life in 2030 – Smart Fibers

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My latest feature for IEEE Spectrum Radio is about the future of textiles – clothes that can keep you healthy, that charge your cell phone, and that never get dirty; fabrics that can change color, can keep you warm or cool depending on the weather, and can deliver medicines through your skin throughout the day. This is some seriously fascinating stuff. You can hear the full one-hour documentary about Life in 2030 on PRX, or just my piece below. Plus there’s this fancy landing page on the IEEE website.

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Distillations #165 – In Good Taste

From the Distillations website:

Little known fact: we have taste buds all over our bodies, not just our tongues. Another surprise? Our taste buds might play a role in more than just our processing of taste. On today’s show producer Mary Harris visits the Monell Chemical Senses Center and Beverly Tepper‘s Sensory Evaluation Lab at Rutgers University to find out if she is one of the lucky few whose super-taster status affords them better health. Then we welcome Nadia Berenstein to the studio to discuss her research on the early days of synthetic flavor development. She reveals how a cadre of early flavorists changed our very perception of familiar flavors like pineapple.

1950s ad from the Givaudan Flavorist. Image courtesy of the Society of Flavor Chemists Library at Monell Chemical Senses Center.

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Distillations #164 – Bones

On this episode of Distillations, sound artist extraordinaire Diane Hope shares a story about an innovative technology that could provide early detection of osteoporosis. Then, a conversation with Mütter Museum curator Anna Dhody about a famous skeleton in their collection. It belongs to Harry Eastlack, who suffered from a rare and devastating disorder known as stone man syndrome, which causes the body’s connective tissue to turn into bone when damaged. A similar problem has been affecting modern military troops.

 

Image of the skeleton of Harry Eastlack, whose disease-ravaged bones are on display at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum. Image courtesy of Evi Numen, 2011, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

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Distillations #163 – A Day in the Life: Night

In this third and final episode of Distillations Day in the Life series, we explore the chemistry of night. First, we have one more visit with biochemist Joe Rucker to investigate how common sleep aids help to remedy insomnia. Then producer Louisa Jonas shares how a two-week stay under Alaska’s midnight sun helped her understand her night owl tendencies.

Image of the midnight sun by Louisa Jonas.

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