Carbon Neutral

Carbon In, Carbon Out What does it mean when an energy source is carbon neutral? Does using it still emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? What are some examples of carbon neutral sources of energy? Are all renewable sources carbon neutral? You’ve already learned about molten-salt reactors as a possible new source of energy. In this post, we’ll take a look at some new developments in the renewable energy sector. Biomass Biomass is a by-product of the agricultural industry. Let’s say you are a corn farmer and you’ve just harvested your crop. Selling the kernels is how you make money,…

not lagers

The Lager Story

The German Lager Compared to the Belgians, German beers are rather monotonous. Instead of using ale yeast, lager yeast (a more chilled out yeast) is used in the brewing process. There are two historical events to thank for all this: a beer purity law and a duke. The law was called the Reinheitsgebot and it said that beer could only be made from barley, water, and hops. As for the duke, well, he really liked predictable beer flavors, so he insisted people only brew between September 29th and April 23rd. Lagering If you’re a baker, you’ll know that keeping ingredients…

the lambic

The Lambic: Belgian Microbe Magic

Cantillon Tucked away in a small alley in Brussels, there’s a brewery that still practices open fermentation. Hundreds of yeast and bacteria in the air (the “open” part) are responsible for brewing (the “fermentation” part) a very special kind of beer called the lambic. Unlike other breweries you may have visited, this one has no sterile steel tanks, no shiny floors, and no smell of disinfecting compounds. Spiderwebs cover the barrels, the ceiling, and all the other nooks and crannies. The arachnids are well fed by gnats and fruit flies swarming around the barrels of fermenting beer. Bungholes ooze with…

Vocal Cords and Fry

Violin, Vocal Cords There’s a theory that the violin was made to sound like the human voice. As a violin player, I can attest to the degree of precision one needs in order to coax out that sound. So what makes the human voice so special? Why, the muscles of the vocal cords! With practice, humans can make some pretty incredible sounds, from falsettos to vocal fry to whistle notes. Larynx Anatomy There are a total of 6 muscles that open and close when you breathe and talk. They control pitch, tone, volume, and air flow. Since they all have…

sugar alcohols

Sugar Alcohols

=O to -OH While there are many types of sugar substitutes out there, this post will focus on the sugar alcohols. First, what are sugar alcohols? Molecularly, sugar alcohols are sugars (glucose, fructose, etc.) that have their double-bonded oxygen hydrogenated. If you can’t picture that, it’s okay, here’s what it looks like: =O becomes -OHNow, this may not seem like a significant change to us, but it makes quite a difference in the sweetness and the fermentability of the sugar. Sugar alcohols are less sweet and the bacteria in your mouth are incapable of fermenting them; plus, they also don’t…

Chlamydomonas

One to(o) Many

Multicellular Evolution Theory Recently, a study showed that Chlamydomonas were capable for multicellular “evolution” when under predatory pressure. Basically, scientists set loose some hungry Paramecia into Chlamydomonas territory and things got stressful. I wanted to write a post about this because 1) you’ve seen videos and pictures of these microorganisms before and 2) it’s important to straighten out some misunderstandings about the results. Strength in Numbers Under the threat of predation, Chlamydomonas, usually flagellated and single-celled, will begin to form multicellular structures. Even after the threat was removed, they remained “multicellular”, though I prefer to call them “advanced colonies”. There…

amoeba

The Root Cause

The Rhizosphere Around the roots of plants, there is a tiny world called the rhizosphere. While it may be small, it is not insignificant. In fact, the rhizosphere plays an important role in cycling carbon and nitrogen between bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and the plant roots themselves. The easiest way to see the rhizosphere is by collecting water that drips out the bottom of a flower pot. You don’t need anything more than about 100x magnification to see all the players (except the bacteria). Rhizosphere Players How does this little ecosystem work? Let’s start with the bacteria. Plants will release precious…

molten-salt reactor

Molten-Salt Reactors

Written by Philippe WerrieEdited for Oralgrooves.com by Evie The Other Nuclear Reactor While proponents tout the carbon free nature of the nuclear reactor, ecologists condemn them for their risk and the nuclear waste they produce. Did you know that while there are hundreds of active nuclear power plants in the world, most of them use the same basic design? There’s actually a lot of potential ways to design a nuclear reactor. In this post, I want to introduce you to the molten-salt reactor. Components An actual nuclear power plant is a complicated machine but its basic mechanism is easy to…

castrato

Castrato

Silent Ladies Biology is all around us, seeping deep into history and art. In the castrato, we see the manipulation of hormones to fulfill a certain artistic need. Pope Paul I had banned women from singing in public based on the 1 Corinthians verse that says, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says”. Why Castrato The other voices that could sing the soprano parts were those of young boys or men who sang with their falsettos. Both of these options had their disadvantages. Young boys’…