Final Chemistry Essay — By Emory Nolte

Cancer, though natural, is one of the leading killers in our world today. In fact, this disease, medically known as malignant neoplasia, is the cause of 15 percent of all deaths in the world at large. However, the most recent and pressing cancer research has suggested that, after decades of painstaking research, they may have the start of a cure.

Researchers have proven, in a recent clinical study, that doses of a genetically modified measles virus can be used to drastically reduce the number of malignant cancerous cells in the patient. In fact, the patients experienced full remission from their disease. The virus usually targets healthy cells in order to spread itself further into the body. However, genetically mutated versions of these viruses can be “coded” to attack malignant cancerous cells instead. For their experiment, the researchers created a strand of the measles viurus which targeted cells with a large amount of the protein CD46, the same protein found in the myeloma cells which they were targeting. Once the virus was administered, they found that the tumors shrank and the patients cancer had gone into remission.

Dr. Stephen Russell, the lead researcher for this revolutionary project, stated, “It is a breakthrough. We believe it could become a single shot cure”. It was a breakthrough not only in using viruses to treat cancerous tumors, but also cancer research as a whole. Hopefully, given time and continued research, this may become a real an accessible cure for myeloma, and eventually other forms of cancer as well.


Powering the Future Through Nuclear Fusion — By Noah Rickolt

One of the greatest successes of the 20th century was developing the ability to split the atom – a process called Nuclear Fission. This process takes advantage of the significant amount of energy stored within the nucleus of the atom. Used both constructively and destructively, this awesome, newfound source of energy has been used widely for two general purposes: to generate electricity and for defensive systems. Nuclear Fusion is, in a sense, the big brother of nuclear fission because it requires much more energy to initiate, but proceeds to produce far more energy once a chain reaction has begun. Instead of prying apart the nucleus of a heavy atom like Uranium or Plutonium, fusion smashes together two small atoms – generally hydrogen, the lightest element.

However, smashing two atoms together hard enough to overcome the natural repulsive forces takes an immense amount of heat and pressure, especially if one intends to create a chain reaction in which the process becomes self-sustainable. The temperature required for atoms to fuse is on the order of one hundred million Kelvin, and the nuclei must be within 10-15 meters of each other.1 The only naturally occurring fusion takes place within the cores of stars, where the huge magnetic forces of such massive bodies create circumstances conducive to nuclear fusion. According to information available on the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) website,, which was most recently updated in February, 2014, “Fusion power offers the prospect of an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, but it also presents so far insurmountable scientific and engineering challenges.” – a statement that, for now, broadly encompasses the potential for exploiting fusion energy. Nuclear fusion is the ideal form of energy production because hydrogen, which fuses into helium, is readily available, unlike uranium and plutonium. In addition, the helium produced is not radioactive, avoiding the production of radioactive nuclear waste. In conclusion, nuclear fusion is attractive to scientists because the ingredients are readily available, it creates an incredible amount of energy, and is completely clean. The problem lies in creating the conditions necessary for it to occur.

Although science has not produced a viable model for the use of fusion to produce electricity, it has long since weaponized this powerful source of energy. To accomplish this, scientists developed the thermonuclear bomb (colloquially named “hydrogen” bomb). Such a bomb uses the next most energetic reaction currently available – nuclear fission – to create the environment necessary for hydrogen atoms (the core of the bomb) to fuse into helium and emit energy. Such weapons have been proven by both the United States and Russia to be astronomically energetic and effective. The scale on which these weapons have released energy proves, beyond doubt, the potential of nuclear fusion.

With the recent push to implement more efficient and environmentally friendly energy resources, nuclear fusion research has jumped into the mix of ideas for ways to power the future. Although a self-sustaining, controlled reaction has yet to be achieved, fusion has occurred in small scale experiments where the conditions for fusion are created using highly concentrated lasers beams. There exist numerous reasons to put nuclear fusion into use, and while the challenges of doing so are steep, the twentieth century has proven that the twenty-first century has nothing if not the potential to create a solution to this intriguing problem. After all, we still have eighty-five years to make it happen.

Bio Ethics: Xenotransplantation — By Jay Lee

The advancement in technology is gradually enabling us to incorporate science more into our lives. Our perpetual interest in extension of living and promotion of health has led biology to become a rising field of science in 21st century. We are observing unprecedented growth of our capabilities to cure serious diseases and to lengthen lives of people. In these steps, transplantation has contributed in accomplishing that goal. Ever since the first organ transplantation succeeded in 1905, it has saved numerous lives [of people through replacing dysfunctional parts of their bodies with functional ones]. The practice itself has become gradually sophisticated, to a point where xenotransplantation, cross-species transplantation, is no longer considered impossible today: A genetically engineered pig heart which was transplanted into a baboon has survived more than a year without being rejected, producing a hope that animal parts could one day provide limitless sources of organs.[1] Accordingly, not so long after today would we be able to replace the supply of organ donors with pigs and monkeys, so that 120,000 Americans eagerly awaiting for donors do not have to physically and mentally suffer.

In spite of this encouraging news, a moral question may arise as the boundary between humans and animals becomes blurred. Xenosis, a case in which contagion of undiscovered diseases move onto human species, has been hotly discussed by doctors, scientists and philosophers, as it appears to be the largest concern against the practice of cross-species transplantation. “Xenotransplantation’s danger on public health has received centre-stage attention in the light of discoveries relating to the initiating factors of the AIDS epidemic…”[2] Along with this particular example, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad cow disease) and swine influenza are also few examples of diseases endemic to non-human animals, yet have caused world-wide panic on humanity. Accordingly, Xenosis forces us to question whether the society should be willing to risk the lives of its members for few individuals, desperate to gamble for extension of their lives. This societal moral dilemma ultimately forces debate on utilitarianism: should humanity respect the happiness and hope of recipients through allowing them to receive organs that may contain deadly pathogens capable of affecting uncountable lives? Obviously, it is impossible to measure the probabilities of any consequent scenarios, so we cannot employ numerical value to argue for or against xenotransplantation. Of course, the continuing scientific discovery may confirm innocuousness of the practice, but the probability of disaster will always remain existent regardless of assurance from scientific communities.


Still, I do not want to dismiss the accomplishment of our scientific advancement. Let us examine how capably we solve problems that were untouchable generations ago, and how this capability is still broadening to fight more problems; the recent success of xenotransplantations is an achievement that we should welcome and be proud. However, we must not get carried too far away by our discoveries and neglect questions that have to be answered. It is our obligation to stay conscious of possibly neglected danger from our accomplishments. Many scientific innovations, at their births, received suspicions and challenges for their probabilities of causing negative external impact, but also have benefited humanity through gradual time. In coming years, I believe that biotech, most especially xenotransplantation, must go through the same censorship process, until it is proven safe and beneficial to mankind.

[1] Knapton, Sarah. ‘Pig Hearts Could Be Transplanted Into Humans After Baboon Success – Telegraph’. N. p., 2014. Web. 19 May. 2014.

[2] Sherlock, Richard, and John D Morrey. Ethical Issues In Biotechnology. 1st ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. Print.

Ooho — By Sangwon Shim

LaFerrari is the fastest and the first hybrid supercar in Ferrari’s historywhilst decreasing fuel consumption by 40 percent.[1]Boeing 787 Dreamliner, similarly, is a long-range, mid-sized, twin-engine jet airliner that is 20 percent more fuel efficient than its predecessor,Boeing 767.[2]These two modern engineeringmasterpieces show the dramatic change in the paradigm of the upcoming technological focus of the tech industry: maximizing mechanical capacity as well as maximizing the energy efficiency and producing more eco-friendly products.

In addition to the introduction of the hybrid supercar, Ferrari began to not only downsize but also to produce turbo engines. This may be disappointing news for car fanatics that are obsessed with beautiful roar crafted by a twelvecylinder naturally aspirated engine instead of relatively quiet turbo engines. Yet, the bright side of this trend is that the Earth’s pollution rate will definitely be curbed through these innovations.

Contrary to the public belief that environmentally conscious engineering innovations are costly and consequently can only be done by huge multinational corporations,a design student Rodrigo García González recently created an edible Ooho water bottle or pouch that goes after one of the world’s most troubling environment threats: plastic pollution.[3]

If Ooho were fully utilized, Ooho would solely replace the 50 billion plastic bottles that Americans consume annually.[4] Besides, 1.5 million barrels of crude oils will be saved from replacing plastic bottles to edible water pouches.[5]

On top of conserving limited natural resources, Ooho will dramatically reduce the number of wasted bottles floating and consequently polluting the ocean. According to a report by the United Nations, there are roughly over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic trash for every square mile.[6] Millions of international governmental budgets are allocated to clean these international trashes. Therefore, Ooho is more than an innovative way of containing fluids, but a panacea for reducing the pollution level in this planet and saving both natural resources and governmental budgets that can be allocated in different humanitarian aids and policies.

This incredible technology unfortunately cannot yet completely replace plastic bottles due the container’s fragility. When González and his friends find the last piece of this big puzzle, the world indeed would sure become a different place.

In the end, González’s invention and account shed new light on the current environment-friendly technology trend: small conceptual shift is as effective and powerful as multi-million dollar projects. In other words, why shouldn’t we try to begin our green-technology movement from our daily-used items such as plastic bottles?


[1] wikipedia

[2] wikipedia








The Meaning of Science — By Victor Arriaza

To those who prefer the arts, philosophy or perhaps the intrigue of literature, science can seem like a trivial pastime. Its focuses only on determining laws or creating abstract theories that have no use or purpose in life. These people fail to see the function or impact on their lives that is gained from the study of quasars, primordial star nurseries or even neighboring galaxies. Realistically, they are right, in that, these objects and locations are all extremely far away, likely to never be reached, even by the next hundred generations of humans in any foreseeable future. As a human race we spend billions, if not trillions yearly to build and launch the newest telescope, construct a larger, more powerful particle accelerator or launch satellites out into space that will never come back. The questions the opposition asks are important ones, “Why do we need these things? Is this money well spent? What does humanity get out of this?” however, I believe the answer to these questions is simple. We do not strive to merely survive as this would be a shallow existence. As a species we are not content with simply eating, drinking and dying. We seek an ever changing, ever shifting purpose in life. A purpose which elevates and makes us feel like our lives meant something; that we did more than eat, drink and die.

For artists, philosophers and English teachers all share this passion and have interpreted their purpose as the following; they study the the human mind in relation to the universe it lives in. This is certainly a worthy and admirable purpose and I seek not to tarnish it, but instead to show the purpose that science, and particularly physics, champions. For physics also seeks to understand our home, the universe, however it does it in a way that is fundamentally different. This science seeks to find both mathematical answers and provable theories that help to answer questions about our beginning, the size of our universe and more. This is different from the understanding of our universe that philosophers, spiritual leaders, novelists etc. try to create as they do not have any concrete, irrefutable way of proving their points. They rely on essays, anecdotes, the work of their brethren and thought experiments rather than real ones and factual data. For these reasons, while the work they do can be helpful, it cannot be compared to the work of astrophysicists studying the singularities found at the center of black holes or the work of particle physicists at CERN.

Another way of looking at the usefulness of the two manners of understanding is to look at what they create. Those of the non-scientific nature write. They offer their thoughts and perceptions of reality through this easily accessible mode of communication. However, their contributions are still only thoughts and perceptions. In contrast, the work of scientists can be synthesized into creating new technology in addition to producing sound theories and papers. It is a noble and no less daunting task to seek to understand the universe by inexact means, but should we want to really expand our knowledge and gain a better understanding we need science.

Consider the (eternal) lobster — by Nathan Dan

All life, after a certain period of time, dies and goes back to the earth. Since the beginning of humanity, mortality has been an ongoing concern and question. Although humans live slightly longer than their neighbors in nature, they are not an exception to death. Finding no tangible solution, our ancestors turned to superstitions and religions, building pyramids for afterlives and going to church on Sundays.

All living things have a chemical cap called a telomere in their DNA. These telomere act to prevent DNA from fraying during chromosome replication. However, each time it does this, the telomere gets shorter. For humans, after 50 or so divisions, the telomere becomes too short to function and it fails to protect the destruction of the chromosome as well as the cell’s death. When the telomerase gets depleted throughout the body, life becomes old, unable to renew itself. But there is an organism that works quite differently. An organism found in the waters, both deep and shallow, and also on forks and plates around the world.

Many people already know that lobsters are an undeniable delicacy but they are unaware of their incredible longevity. Due to a certain gene called telomerase, lobsters have the ability to repair their telomere and prevent it from running out. In other words, the cells are immune from death by cell decay. As a result, lobsters do not have a limit to their size. Telomerase allows them to keep shedding their skins, to keep growing bigger. What is even more interesting is that their metabolism or sexual desire does not wane over time; in fact, it only seems to increase.

When humans discovered a 140 year old, 20 lb lobster, along with the exceptional ability to repair itself, scientists rushed to link it to human immortality. For the first time in history, humans believed that they had a chance to escape death. They utilized the gene in all fields of research, cancer, skin rejuvenation lotion, daily supplements. Almost as many lobsters died in the lab as in boiling pots. So did this provide the answer?

The truth is there have been very little improvement in this search. Though research is still ongoing, people could not find the link to telomerase and metabolic diseases in human. Just as evolution had distinctively gifted humans with intelligence, it has gifted telomerase to lobsters. And in truth, despite their potential to live forever, lobsters rarely live over 20 years. As they get bigger, their constantly growing appetite and sexual desire becomes uncontrollable and extremely energy dependent. Shedding skin also requires a vast amount of energy, and the more skin they have to shed, the more energy they require. The truth is, the lobsters that survive predation die from energy depletion, which is in some way, not so different from death by age.

Why “Math Class is Tough” for American Girls

In July of 1992, Barbie found her voice. The latest incarnation of Mattel’s iconic doll came programmed with 4 phrases, randomly selected from over 170 different options. With all of those possibilities, what did Barbie have to say? Mostly… vapid drivel. “Let’s go shopping!” “Will we ever have enough clothes?” and “Do you have a crush on anyone?” were all among Teen Talk Barbie’s slogans. None, however, caused as much of an uproar as Barbie’s complaint that “Math class is tough!” Feminists cried foul. The idea that girls can’t excel in math class was and still is considered an outdated and sexist stereotype. After all, this is the 21st century, and women can excel in math just as easily as men. But if that’s the case, why do so many women, Barbie included, shy away from STEM fields?

As of 2010, fewer than 10%. A 2011 report found that only 1 in 7 engineers is female. Women receive only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science, despite receiving 60% of degrees overall, and Women hold only 27% of computer science jobs and less than 25% of jobs in all STEM fields despite making up half of the work force. In the United States, boys on average outscore girls in every single math or science AP test. Looking at these disparities, it may begin to seem like Barbie was on to something. Is math class really just “tougher” for women?

At the core of the question is the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture; that is, do women face a predisposition for poor performance in STEM fields, or has societal conditioning led them to believe that STEM fields are a strictly masculine pursuit? Proponents of nature believe that the former holds true – that the gender gap in STEM is a result of the physical differences hardwired into our brains.

Regardless of whether one accepts that explanation, the differences in male and female cognition are undeniable. It’s a well established fact within the scientific community that there are structural differences in the brains of each gender, and that male brains tend to lend themselves more towards spacial awareness, and females’ towards verbal skills. These differences, scientists believe, are ingrained even prior to our birth. Hormones, it seems, play a key role in shaping a fetus’s developing brain, and different levels of testosterone will lead to either more or less masculine cognitive traits. If the “nature” hypothesis is correct, then math and science simply require girls to think in a way that runs counter to their nature, which leads to their weaker performance.

Only, the evidence doesn’t support that claim. Young girls actually outperform boys across the boards in school, including math and science classes all throughout grade school. The trend of boys outperforming girls occurs only in high school, but we know that cognitive differences begin at birth, and not at puberty. Even if mathematic or scientific thinking doesn’t come as naturally to young girls, the disparity in aptitude hasn’t formed enough of a hindrance to prevent academic success. Furthermore, the gender differences found in brain structure don’t actually tell for certain that females are naturally worse at math.

So if nature isn’t holding women back, what is? More and more evidence is accumulating to support the notion that an aversion to math is more a product of a girl’s “nurture,” or a combination of her upbringing and societal pressures. For evidence of this phenomenon, we simply have to search outside our borders. In countries other than the United States, based on the Program for International Student Assessment, the gender gap significantly decreases. In science in particular, there is no measurable gender gap internationally. Furthermore, in a number of nations, including Finland, Greece, and Poland, girls actually outperform boys in both math and science. All this evidence suggests that cultural cues such as a lack of female role models and gender stereotyping are more influential than any hardwired cognitive difference. Cultural cues, in the form of, say, a doll marketed as a role model and an ideal, whining that math is just too hard.

Mattel swiftly apologized for the incident and soon Teen Talk Barbie went from 170 preprogrammed phrases to 169. The dolls weren’t recalled, but free replacements were offered to anyone with a doll that uttered the offending phrase. Amends were made, people moved on, and Barbie maintained her monopoly over the fashion doll market. The Teen Talk Barbie fiasco was over 20 years ago now. Judging by the numbers, though, we haven’t made much progress. Still, the collective outcry against Barbie’s gaffe can serve as inspiration that change remains possible. There’s a wealth of untapped talent in the female workforce – brilliant minds that could drive innovation across the all STEM fields – and we can access it, but to do so, we must affirm our girls. We can teach them that even when “math class is tough,” they’re tougher.


What Are We Shoving Into Our Body?

According to a poll taken by the Wall Street Journal in 2004, an average person consumed 23.3 pounds of ice cream, 11.7 pounds of chocolate, 24.7 pounds of total confectioneries and 134 pounds of flour in only one year.1 Hard to believe at first, but this list summarizes in an extent, the exemplar of the amount of processed foods constituting the modern diet. In fact, “Everywhere modern processed foods go, chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease soon follow.”2 To meet the growing demands of the consumer’s appetites, companies began to add food additives and preservatives to maintain the “freshness” of these products. Among many food additives used in soda and other beverages, there has been much controversy in the implementation and addition of brominated vegetable oil, which may lead to detrimental health effects.

As could be guessed by the name itself, brominated vegetable oil is more or less a form of vegetable oil combined chemically with bromine. The vegetable oil is obtained through pressing vegetables and the commercial bromine is obtained from treating brines (solution of sodium chloride in water) with chlorine.3 Bromine is specifically used for this process mainly because of its heavy weight. This factor makes it more convenient to increase the density of the oil.

Brominated vegetable oil is used in many sodas in order to make the cloudy and hazy appearances and to mix the citrus flavor into the beverages. Despite its artificiality, brominated vegetable oil is not banned by the FDA. However, this soda chemical does include some cloudy health history. “The FDA limit for brominated oil in sodas is based on outdated data from the 1970s, so scientists say the chemical deserves a fresh look.”4 But how exactly does it affect our body?

There is a possibility that brominated vegetable oil has the same effects as brominated flame retardants, which slows down chemical reactions that cause fire: “Research in animals as well as some human studies have found links to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.”5

So how do we avoid these artificial chemicals from accumulating into our bodies? Avoid them. But as with any other aspects of life, this act might be more easier said than done. The bombarding temptations of processed foods and beverages in our lives will continue on. In the end, it all brews down to the choices that we as individuals make on whether to choose between an apple-flavored soda or a freshly garden-picked apple.

Chemistry and its Literary Depictions

Chemistry as a science developed from alchemy and phlogiston theory – both are terms are now obsolete. Lavoisier is usually claimed to be the father of modern chemistry; his revolution of chemistry was not only scientific but also literary/linguistic. When he proposed a change of approach from qualitative to quantitative, he pushed alchemy out of its mystical and philosophical realms and into the hard sciences – alchemy was no more, it was chemistry. If a modern chemist read “chemical treatises” before Lavoisier’s intervention, they would find them incomprehensible. Therefore, literature and language have been important defining factors in the inception of chemistry.

The literary representations of chemistry can be divided into two periods: the literary representation during the nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

During the nineteenth century, the English Romantics describe chemistry as “the striving after unity of principle, through all the diversity of forms… it was poetry” For example, Humphrey Davy’s work (an English chemist and poet – you can find more about him here) influenced the creation of Frankenstein; Keats’ use of “poetic” words such as “ethereal” had an extra layer of scientific meaning from Davy’s work. In Elective Affinities, Goethe uses metathesis as a metaphor for human relationships – a comfortable couple is torn apart when one (or both) is more strongly attracted to another party – with a lengthy discussion on metathesis, which he describes in both abstract and specific terms. While literary depictions didn’t focus on up-to-date chemical theories, authors showed increasing awareness of the prominence of modern chemistry in nineteenth century science and society.

During the twentieth century, chemistry became less interesting, a trend ascribed to the absence of “grand themes”: chemistry is perceived to have become more about technology than about asking deep questions. Many of its literary depictions focus not on chemistry but on its consequences. Crime fiction and detective stories gained popularity, and with them, chemistry was relegated to explaining complicated and almost-supernatural murders.

With the introduction of gas warfare during WWI, the negative image of chemistry was perpetuated. A common theme started to arise – cautionary tales about environmental degradation and adverse health effects, all the way up to global-scale catastrophic events.

Three recent authors have brought up chemistry in a positive light. Primo Levi (chemist and Auschwitz survivor) reconnects chemistry and life with his essay “Carbon” in the The Periodic Table. Roald Hoffman writes about chemistry and its use of creativity rather than artificiality. Carl Djerassi writes about the scientific profession and its culture rather than science itself.

The shifts in focus that chemistry has had in literary depictions tell us about the past – they illuminate the cultural perception of its role in society, but they also help us think critically about the way chemistry can be used and perceived in the future.



Chemistry + Aesthetics

Aesthetics is a compelling lens for thinking about the philosophical aspect of the human and its attempt to understand the world through chemistry.

Roald Hoffman wrote “Thoughts on Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry”, an essay that discusses visualization and the inherent desire to find beauty. He says, “Beauty is built out of individual pleasure around an object or idea. It may be personal, but gains in strength when it is shared with others…The components of the aesthetic transaction are the object or idea, the human being who created it, and the one who contemplates it, the two linked in separate, yet intense, pleasurable contemplation”. While beauty might be considered an individual concept (“beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”), it is also collective since it gains and expands its meaning when shared with others.

In chemistry, aesthetics is a way to satisfy the human desires for beauty and rationality, “The human beings who are drawn to chemistry…construct compounds and meaning. And imbue the substances, and the little pictograms we draw of them, with intimations of beauty…Because building a pleasurable rationale for hard labor is a psychological necessity. And because we naturally seek beauty, as we seek good”. According to Hoffman, aesthetics (the beauty, symmetry and architecture of molecules) is necessary for us to make sense of transformations and fulfill our need to find beauty, meaning and understanding.

Hoffman’s essay was jointly published with the virtual exhibition “Chemistry in Art”, an exercise to promote dialogue between disciplines by using the visual arts. The following artists’ statements are just some of the many featured in the exhibit:

Blair G. Bradshaw – “The ability of the periodic table to represent such complicated ideas in such simple form soon became the focus of my attention. There is no simpler vocabulary for such a rich language. I continue to try to explore the complexity and depth of such simple graphic representation by altering and distorting it artistically”

David Clark – “his museum doesn’t explain but shows us the difficulties for art and science in the transition from the modernist world to our own. The mouse is a particular figure here; both the mouse that has lent itself to psychology experiments and the computer mouse that evokes an entire virtual world that is devoid of the chemical senses”

Cheryl Safren – “The images shown here were rendered without the use of any paint. Instead, dynamic chemical reactions on sheet metal form the basis of my process. Changing color through reaction, crystallization, fusing, and solidification are a few of the ways chemistry informs this work. ”

As seen through the works of these artists and their joint publication with Hoffman’s essay, at the crossroads between aesthetics and chemistry lies the latter’s power to create, challenge and complicate our idea of meaning and reality.