Could the 'methanol economy' help power the post-fossil fuel era?

Could a simple molecule known as methanol become a key energy source for the post-fossil fuel era? 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner George Olah, Ph.D., and Surya Prakash, Ph.D., think so. Olah and Prakash recently won a $1 million prize from the Israeli government for their research on a promising alternative fuel concept, known as the "methanol economy." In our latest video, Surya Prakash gives us a rundown of the potentials that the methanol economy bolsters, and shows us why this concept offers such a promising future.
 
Another intriguing potential of methanol is its use as a storable fuel source. In this bonus video, Prakash demonstrates how his team's "direct oxidation fuel cell" prototype can use methanol to produce electricity.


 

5 Tips for a Better Thanksgiving through Chemistry

Thanksgiving is a holiday packed with cherished family traditions. But there's always room to experiment, right? Our latest video features five tips for a better Thanksgiving through chemistry. Check out the video to see the secret of turkey brining explained, the best way to make seitan - a.k.a. mock duck or "wheat meat" - or to find out whether cranberries are packed with more antioxidants in their raw form or as a canned sauce.
 


 

The Chemistry of Fear

With Halloween just a few days away, millions are flocking to horror films and haunted houses for their annual dose of terror. Our latest video uncovers the chemistry behind the spine-tingling sense of fear. 
Video by Kirk Zamieroski
 
"Fear is the expectation or the anticipation of possible harm... We know that the body is highly sensitive to the possibility of threat, so there are multiple pathways that bring that fear information into the brain," explains Abigail Marsh, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University. Marsh's research focuses on the neuroscience of fear and empathy in psychopaths, among other topics. In the video, she highlights the key brain chemicals and hormones involved in fear and the accompanying fight or flight response.
 
Marsh explains that the amygdala, an evolutionarily ancient part of the human brain, is the most important structure in the fear response. In this bonus video, Marsh tells the story of "SM," a woman without a functional amygdala who is - quite literally - fearless.
Video by Janali Thompson
 


 

The Chemistry of Natural Dyes

 
We visited the Brooklyn Textile Arts Center to get the low-down on the chemistry of natural dyes. Watch our latest video to find out how turmeric, cabbage and even beetles can be used as natural sources of color to transform that boring white t-shirt into a landscape of vibrant hues.


 

Getting the Chemistry Right on Breaking Bad

This Sunday, millions will watch the hotly anticipated conclusion of Breaking Bad, which tells the story of chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-overlord Walter White. We're celebrating the chemistry behind this acclaimed show with a new episode featuring Donna Nelson, Ph.D., a scientific consultant for the series. 
 
 
"For those of us who are educated in science, whenever we see science presented inaccurately, it's like fingernails on the blackboard! It just drives us crazy, and we can't stay immersed in the show," says Nelson, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Oklahoma.
 
In the video, Nelson details how she works with the show's creator Vince Gilligan and its writers to keep the scientific content accurate. This includes providing the chemical structures Walter White draws on his blackboard and calculating exactly how much methamphetamine could be produced from a 30-gallon drum of methylamine. For more, check out this bonus clip from our interview with Donna:
 
Produced by the American Chemical Society
Video by Elaine Seward
 


 

How does vision work? - Everyday Chemistry

Vision -- how does it work? Find out in this excellent Everyday Chemistry video from Chad Jones. "In this video, I address the myth that eating carrots improves night-vision, explain some of the history surrounding that myth, and then explain the chemical processes behind how we actually see (and the actual connection to carrots)," says Chad.
 
 
Video by Chad Jones - Graduate Student, Brigham Young University, Department of Chemistry
 


 

The Fresh Bread of Bel-Air - Everyday Chemistry

If you like fresh-baked bread and 90s rap, we've got an Everyday Chemistry video for you. "The video is a rap parody and we've written lyrics to describe the difference between baking soda and baking powder," says Tien Nguyen, who produced the video. "Baking soda just has sodium bicarbonate, which is a base. So to produce carbon dioxide, a gas that makes your baked goods rise and neutralize the bitterness of the base, you need to add the right amount of an acidic ingredient (like vinegar or lemon juice). Or you can use baking powder, which already contains an acidic component that can react once you add liquids or heat it in the oven."
 
 


 

Fun facts about household items - Everyday Chemistry

What do chocolate, pain reliever and bleach have in common? You can learn some fun facts about all of them in this great Everyday Chemistry video, which got second place in the competition. The video was produced by high school student Kayla Briët, who not only filmed and edited the piece, but also wrote the original music!
 
 
Check out more of Kayla's videos at youtube.com/kaylabriet.
 


 

What to do if your dog gets skunked - Everyday Chemistry

The Bytesize team were floored by the response to the Everyday Chemistry contest last month. We received 32 great videos from all over the world, and all this week we'll be running our favorite clips from the competition.

The top spot went to a video on what to do if your dog gets "skunked." The video was produced by Sally B. Mitchell, a chemistry teacher from East Syracuse Minoa High School in Syracuse, NY. It turns out that tomato juice is not the best way to de-skunk your dog -- watch the video to find out more!
 

Each day this week, we will be posting another Everyday Chemistry video, so check back with us here and on our YouTube channel!

 
 

The Colorful Chemistry of Lobster Shells

 
August is Maine Lobster Month, signaling prime lobster season in the Northeast. To celebrate, we investigated the chemistry behind these crustaceans' many colored shells to find out why lobsters -- whether they are brown, blue or even two-toned -- turn bright red when you cook them.
 
In the video, we visit Boston's New England Aquarium, where we talked to Dr. Michael Tlusty, the Aquarium's Director of Research. His lab grows different colored lobsters in an effort to understand shell disease, which weakens lobsters' shells. Between 2010 and 2012, the prevalence of lobster shell disease increased fivefold. While Maine lobsters are still largely unaffected, researchers like Tlusty are working hard to get to the bottom of the disease before it spreads further.
 


 


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