"We all feel a profound connection with the natural world. E O Wilson called this sensation biophilia: ‘the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’. That sense of connection brings great emotional satisfaction. It can decrease levels of anger, anxiety and pain. It has undoubtedly helped our species to survive, since we are fundamentally dependent on our surrounding environment and ecosystem. But lately biophilia has spawned an extreme variant: chemophobia, a reflexive rejection of modern synthetic chemicals."
It has become conventional wisdom among chemists that “chemophobia” is the root of many people’s trepidation about chemicals. Framing the issue as an irrational fear may not be the best way to improve chemicals’ public image, however.[more inside]
How Chris McCandless Died: An update to ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer [Medium] The debate over what killed Chris McCandless, and the related question of whether he is worthy of admiration, has been smoldering and occasionally flaring for more than two decades now. Shortly after the first edition of Into the Wild was published in January 1996, University of Alaska chemists Edward Treadwell and Thomas Clausen shot down my theory that the cause of McCandless’s death was a toxic alkaloid contained in the seeds of the Eskimo potato plant, Hedysarum alpine, also known as wild potato. When Treadwell and Clausen completed chemical analyses of the Eskimo potato seeds I’d sent them, they found no trace of any poisonous compounds. “I tore that plant apart,” Dr. Clausen explained to Men’s Journal in 2007. “There were no toxins. No alkaloids. I’d eat it myself.” [more inside]
Loaded with Lead. America has an estimated 10,000 gun ranges and 40 million annual recreational shooters. But when guns are fired with lead-based ammunition, they spread a toxin: lead vapor and dust. A year-long Seattle Times investigation shows that due to poor ventilation and contact with lead-coated surfaces, thousands of workers, shooters and their family members have been contaminated and been made sick at shooting ranges nationwide. Reckless range owners/operators, unenforced regulations as well as a lack of oversight and inspections are to blame. [more inside]
How New World Wine Resurrects Old Religion
I used to be a regular at a wine bar in San Clemente, a beach town in California where my wife and I lived when we were first married. The ‘Tuscan’ decor of the place was a little too vivid for my taste, but the wine was priced right and the owner was a great conversationalist. He would tell us stories from behind the bar about his travels to vineyards in Chile and New Zealand, and he had a charming populist streak. When people got too pretentious about the wine, he would roll his eyes and say: ‘Relax, it’s just a beverage.’ He was wrong about that, of course. Since its invention more than 8,000 years ago, wine has always been more than just a beverage.
Dr. Justin O. Schmidt likes insects of the persuasive sort, the ones that bite, sting or squirt venom in your eyes. In the course of his entomological studies all over the world, he has met the defenses of about 150 different insects, and he has rated them, creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. On the low end: sweat bees, whose sting is "light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm." On the high end: Bullet ants, whose venomous bites cause "pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel." And it can last for hours, leaving you "quivering and still screaming from these peristaltic waves" [of pain]. [more inside]
Invasion of the Jellyfish The box jellyfish [AKA Sea Wasp] is so packed with venom that the briefest of touches can bring agonising death within 180 seconds. And if comes under sustained attack it responds by sending its compatriots into a super-breeding frenzy in which millions of replacements are created. The really bad news is that the box jellyfish and another equally poisonous species, Irukandji, are on the move. Scientists are warning that their populations are exploding and will pose a monumental problem unless they are stopped. First aid for stings.
Following the results of a report into the foul constituents of many laptop computers, Greenpeace have decided that the sincerest form of flattery may get results. Imitating the main brand, they call on image-conscious Apple and its dedicated fanbase to push for a better product and a better world: "I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green."
Feel like doing a little spring cleaning? Remember that horrid olestra stuff that gave you "leakage"? Or didn't, because you stuck to the fatty doritos because of the diarrhea stories? Apparently there's some evidence that it clears a series of toxins, including dioxin, from the bloodstream. Would've come in handy for Yushenko. Via Number One Hit Song.