And this year’s Oscar goes to .   .    .   chemistry.

On that wonderful night in LA, the red carpet is full of celebrities and fans all eager to hear who wins the gold statue.  However, the Oscar statue isn’t pure gold. That would be extremely expensive.  The Oscar is actually a bronze statue that is coated with gold.

So how does the Oscar become, well, an Oscar?

To understand we have to think about frog’s legs.

In the late 1700s, Luigi Galvani, who was a professor of anatomy in Italy, was dissecting frogs using a metal scalpel and a copper clamp. He noticed something: The frog’s legs twitched like they were alive! He repeated this a couple of times and they twitched every time.

He found something amazing and called it animal electricity. That is the animal had some supernatural life force inside of it. Galvani wrote up his results and all of Europe embraced this idea.

But, on the other side of Italy was a physics professor named Alessandro Volta. He believed in Galvani’s idea at first, but began to think it was the two different metals that caused the legs to twitch. Volta recalled an earlier experiment by another scientist who had put his tongue between two different coins, and it created a terrible taste. Ends up, that  the two metals next each other in a liquid (saliva, in this case) started a chemical reaction.

So with this old experiment in the back of his mind, Volta made sandwiches of two different metals and put them in a jar full of saltwater. Then, he connected wires from this stack of metals to the frog’s legs. They twitched.

What Volta showed is that two different metals together make electricity. He made a battery.

In a battery, electricity flows from one metal to the other.

But what does this have to do with the Oscars?

Well, in order for electricity to flow in a battery in one direction, there has to be metal flowing in the opposite direction.  If you were to look at the metal under the microscope you would see that a metal coating is starting to form.

So to make an Oscar this coating process is taken to a much bigger level.  The bronze statue is put in a huge chemical tank that has microscopic gold floating in a liquid. Electricity is attached to the statue and the gold particles become attracted to the statue and start to coat it. After a really long time in the tank, the statute becomes the beautiful icon we know today.

So, if you enjoy the Oscars, and many do, you really have frog’s legs to thank.

References:

Luigi Galvani: Bern Dibner

How the Oscar Got a Facelift this Year

How Frog Legs Helped Make the Oscars Possible (Video)

When it comes to communicating, some things never change.

The african drum. Many would say it was an musical instrument. It is. But, it is much more than that. African drums were a way of communicating over vast distances in ancient Africa.

If there was a herd coming or an enemy was approaching, drummers would send messages through their drums to neighboring villages.  The messages would be repeated again and again and to send the message further.

It ends up that modern technology does something similarly. Messages in your telephone are repeated so that the volume isn’t loss and this allows messages to be sent over long distances.

But the most mind-blowing stuff that the ancient Nubians discovered is that if you drum a message near the banks of the Nile, the message can be sent over the surface of the water without losing volume. Scientists would say there is a a lossless channel at the interface between the water and air.  That means you could whisper something and someone across the Nile nearly 2 miles away could hear it.

Today, we seek such an ability with optical fibers. The challenged is to send a message without it losing volume and without the need for lots of repeaters.  It seems the some of the issues of the past are still present today. Showing that there really isn’t anything new under the (African) sun.

When the voice in the commercial says “chocolate melts in your mouth and not in your hands,” well they aren’t joking. Scientifically, it is true. Chocolate melts around 92 degrees Fahrenheit, while your mouth is 98.6 degrees. (Your hands are only 60 degrees.)

Chocolate comes from a seed housed in football-shaped pods, which sprout from a tree called Theobroma cacao. This name literally means food from the gods. This tree grows along the Equator in places like Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador.

Chocolate is an old food. Montezuma, the ancient Aztec emperor, drank 50 jars of a chocolaty drink to increase his vitality and virility. But, what he drank was very different from the hot cocoa we drink today.

It takes many many steps to make modern chocolate. First, when chocolate farmers open the fruit, the seeds do not look appetizing, that is because the cocoa beans are surrounded by a white gooey mash. “It looks pretty disgusting,” said Gail Ambrosius, a chocolatier based in Madison, Wisconsin. But if you were to taste these beans, you’ll be surprised. “It tastes just amazing. Kind of like honeydew, melon, apricot, peaches. It is just delicious, ” she said.

Once the cocoa beans are taken out, then the transformation begins. The beans are tossed in a large box to ferment, which generates lots of heat—especially after about a week. After that the cocoa beans are laid out on a black tarp to dry. And sorted to remove any stones that might be there. Then, the beans are roasted. “It teases out the final flavor of the beans,” said Ambrosius. The cocoa beans are then crushed and at this point they are called cocoa nibs. And with heat and pressure, you get a drippy melted chocolate, which is called cocoa liquor.

After all of that, a decision has to be made: Are you making a dark chocolate, a milk chocolate, or cocoa powder?

So then you do the math.

“If you’re making a 70 percent chocolate and you’re making a thousand pounds total, you would put 700 pounds of the liquor in your machine and 300 pounds of sugar. So there you get the 70 percent chocolate,” said Ambrosius.

Interestingly, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the healthier the chocolate is. Some studies suggest dark chocolate raises the good cholesterol—and lowers the bad.

But remember, chocolate has lots of sugar—as much as soda. So eat a little bit and savor all the tasty chemistry in your mouth.

Here is what happens when your brain is shaken or stirred.

 

Taken from Newton’s Football:

What exactly is a concussion? Robert Cantu, co-director of Boston

University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy

and one of the world’s leading experts on head injuries, describes a

concussion as “an alteration in brain function induced by biomechanical

forces.” Those biomechanical forces include sudden acceleration

and then deceleration of the head, which can cause the brain

to crash into the inside of the skull or be twisted or strained in such

a way that certain symptoms result. Those symptoms may include,

but are not limited to, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and

noise, dizziness, amnesia, drowsiness, the inability to concentrate,

and fatigue. Some minor concussions resolve within minutes, while

in severe cases a post-concussion syndrome can last for years.

In general, the skull does a good job of protecting the brain

against the dangers that an early human might have encountered,

like a fall onto soft ground or getting hit with a small stick. Of

course, the skull—and the brain it’s protecting—fares less well

against modern dangers like bullets and motorcycle crashes. Or a

270-pound middle linebacker running at full speed and driving the

point of his helmet into your chin.

 

Learn more about the science behind football here:

 

Newton's Football