March 2011 Entries

Happy Birthday Harry Houdini!

March 24, 1876 was a historic day both in the world of science and the world of entertainment. That’s when a man who would become a legend in both entered this world. Born as Erich Weiss, he would make his mark as Harry Houdini. I’m into magic and I’m into science, so I’m obviously a fan. But I have another reason to be interested in the most famous magician of all time. Harry Houdini’s name will forever be linked with McGill University! [To read more click on Title.]

Yikes! There Are Hormones in My Bottled Water!

For scientists and physicians, the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. Journal articles are at our fingertips and information about virtually any subject is just a few keystrokes away. But not all of the available information is reliable. A frightening amount of pseudo-scientific drivel permeates the web and spreads like wildfire when attached to emails. Either we are warned about some nasty chemical that is unraveling the very fabric of society, or [To read more click on Title.]

From Storax to Polystyrene

Most chemists will not have heard of storax, yet it plays an important role in chemical history. It isn’t a specific compound, it is a resin produced by a number of tropical trees of the family Styracaceae in response to an injury to their bark. It has a long history of use in perfumes because of its lingering fragrance and its ability to slow the evaporation of other compounds that contribute to the overall scent. This “fixative” effect allows a perfume to... [To read more click on Title.]