How the Ju|’hoan Make Poison Arrows

When I was a child, my grandmother taught me how to make arrows from the softwood of a poplar, a tree that was abundant in the woods that we could step into from my backyard. Later in adolescence, biased from the movies that I watched,  I perceived arrows to be "primitive". It is another case... Continue Reading →

Why Only Five Platonic Solids in Our Geo-Bio-Chemical World?

The DNA-surrounding capsid of the cold virus and the atomic arrangement of  a certain allotrope of  boron consists of  20 triangles arranged in a three dimensional shape known as a icosahedron. If you form a three-dimensional structure with 8 triangles, you get an octahedron. An example is the molecular structure of the electrical insulator and... Continue Reading →

Zebra Finches At a STEM Conference

In the spring of 2016, I attended a STEM conference. Expanding the acronym as science, technology, engineering and math doesn’t shed too much light on the intentions and philosophy of STEM.  The premise is that math, science and technology subjects should not be taught in isolation; there should be more integration and emphasis on applications.... Continue Reading →

Diacetyl and the Aroma of Butter

Some textbooks mistakenly attribute butter's aroma solely to diacetyl, a compound with a pair of ketone groups. Diacetyl does indeed have a buttery smell, but gas chromatography olfactometry reveals a more complete profile of the smell of butter. Complimenting diacetyl in sour cream butter are a pair of other key compounds, also formed by lactic acid-... Continue Reading →

Fun With Shapes and Numbers

In the diagram below, in between two circles, each with a radius of 1 meter, three smaller circles are squeezed in, centred at C1 , C2 and C3. If you imagine it was possible to continue drawing and squeezing in more circles until you had a billion of them, how much space would be left between... Continue Reading →

Life at the End of Quantum Tunnels

Recently a biochemistry student told me that her classmates looked like they had seen a ghost when their professor seemingly took a left turn from a lecture on cellular respiration and started to discuss quantum tunnelling. But this 90-year discovery keeps surfacing in different contexts, reminding us that without the tunnelling effect, there would be... Continue Reading →

Why Elephants are Special

As Kenyan conservationist Daphne Sheldrick mentions in a BBC Witness Interview, the poaching of elephants persists due to poverty in Africa and demand for tusks from eastern Asia. And although any poaching is shameful, that of elephants is especially poignant because they are highly social and intelligent mammals. And being tuned in to chemical compounds I have to point out... Continue Reading →

Where is the Derivation, Dude?

All over the internet and even in underpasses, as photographed above, we are seeing more of science's and mathematics' iconic formulas advertised as never before.  On the surface they seem comforting to aficionados, but are they really making the public more likely to delve into the fields? Anyone can use a hammer, so to a... Continue Reading →

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