Flavouring fruity booze with a stinky gas [patent]

August 8th, 2019

If you’re trying to make an alcoholic drink with the flavour of passion fruit and grapefruit, an obvious method would be to ferment passion fruit and grapefruit juices. But that’s not the only way. You could, for example, get hold of a fermenting New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc as a base, and then bubble hydrogen sulfide (H2S) though it. If you’re not familiar with hydrogen sulfide [that’s hydrogen sulphide in the UK] here’s what Wikipedia’s entry says about it:

“Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula H2S. It is a colorless chalcogen hydride gas with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs. It is very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable.”

A less-than-ideal chemical, you might think, to use in flavouring alcoholic drinks. Nevertheless, a 2014 US patent from the drinks makers Pernod-Ricard suggests that bubbling H2S though a fermenting grape juice / wine – particularly Sauvingnon Blanc from New Zealand – might be a good way of producing a drink with the flavour of passion fruit and grapefruit.

“It is an object of the present invention to provide a useful alternative for producing an alcoholic beverage having a fruity flavor, in particular being reminiscent of grapefruit and passion fruit, which is easily carried out and which provides a better control of the level of the aromas in the obtained alcoholic beverage than other known methods of producing alcoholic beverages.”

“The inventors have surprisingly found, that due to the bubbling of a gas stream containing hydrogen sulfide into grape juice, the volatile thiol content of 3MH and 3MHA in the finished wine had been increased, in some cases tripled, in relation to the volatile thiol content of wine derived from the same grapes obtained by standard methods without bubbling.”

See: Method of producing an alcoholic beverage having a fruity flavor, 9758752 Sep. 12 2017

Note: The image depicts an historic ‘stink bomb’ – which were sometimes based on H2S in solution.

PhD Fellowship in Meal Detection by Analysis of Bowel Sounds

August 7th, 2019

On March 14, 2019, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) posted this ad:

PhD Fellowship in Meal Detection by Analysis of Bowel Sounds

We have a vacancy for a PhD fellowship within analysis of bowel sounds for meal detection in diabetes patients at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics (ITK), Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The position is affiliated with the Artificial Pancreas Trondheim (APT) research group….

Job description—This PhD project aims to analyse recorded sounds from the upper body (mostly targeted at the intestines/bowel) in order to detect meals in patients with diabetes….

Applicants are required to justify their candidacy by explicitly explaining their personal motivation and academic aptitude for pursuing a doctoral degree within this research field.

The time for this has, however, passed. The ad now bears the advisory: “This job is no longer available.”

(Thanks to John Culvenor for bringing this to our attention.)

 

Prize-winning underwear that traps bad smells

August 7th, 2019

A quick video visit with the winner of the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for biology:

 

 

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (14): Nicole Sharp hating math class

August 6th, 2019

Here’s Nicole Sharp talking about what happened when she hated math class when she was a child. What happened excited Nicole in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Nicole created and runs FYFD, the most popular fluid dynamics web site in this part of the universe.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

Should researchers refrain from eating their research subjects? [study]

August 5th, 2019

If you are a researcher studying, say, concrete bridge structures, or microprocessors, then you probably wouldn’t have to be overly concerned about potential criticism from peers regarding the possibility that you might eat your research subjects. But this is not the case for all academic fields. Take for example, ‘Animal Studies’.

A 2018 paper published in the Animal Studies Journal (ASJ) asks : Should We Eat Our Research Subjects? Advocacy and Animal Studies , ASJ, 7(1), pp.180-205.

“The decision by Animal Studies scholars whether or not to eat their research subjects is, as our survey shows, an indicator of the extent to which Animal Studies scholars are willing to fundamentally challenge established norms, and whether they wish to stringently advance the wellbeing of nonhuman animals.

It is clear that the majority of Animal Studies scholars surveyed believe that the field has an important role to play in advocating for animals. Most of the respondents base their research on a personal interest in and commitment to animal wellbeing and for scholars who identify as vegan this also comes with an added prior commitment to animal advocacy, that in turn appears to shape their expectations for what the field should aim to achieve. However the data also shows that there remains a reluctance by many Animal Studies academics to fully engage with the consequences of human exceptionalism, which is demonstrated by the large number of respondents who still eat meat and other animal products. “

Bonus Assignment [optional] Can you suggest any other academic fields where eating the research subjects might be a contentious issue?

Research research by Martin Gardiner

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