If you’ve ever tried your hand at jam-making, you’ll know that it’s something of a tricky process. A number of factors need to be just right to achieve a perfectly set jam – and chemistry can help explain why. There are three key chemical entities that go into jam-making: sugar, pectin, and acids. Here, we’ll look at each in turn, and how they help jam achieve its eventual consistency.
Raspberries, like all fruits, contain a complex mix of organic compounds. Unlike many fruits, however, raspberries have the less common distinction of lending their name to the compound that is a major contributor to their aroma – and one of the compounds that contributes to their flavour has also been detected in the centre of our galaxy. So, does the centre of the galaxy taste faintly of raspberries?
The proteins that make up living organisms are huge molecules, but they’re composed of tinier building blocks, known as amino acids. There are over 500 amino acids found in nature, yet, of these, the human genetic code only directly codes for 20. Every protein in your body is made up of some linked combination of these amino acids – this graphic shows the structure of each, as well as giving a little information on the notation used to represent them.
With autumn looming on the horizon, the leaves on some trees have already begun the transition towards the vibrant hues of autumn. Whilst this change may outwardly seem like a simple one, the many vivid colours are a result of a range of chemical compounds, a selection of which are detailed here.
When we’re suffering from a bacterial infection, a trip to the doctors to be prescribed antibiotics is commonplace. However, there are a wide range of antibiotics available, and they vary both in their usage and their mechanism of action. This graphic summarises the major classes, and also gives a brief insight into the manner in which they combat bacterial infections; we’ll also consider each of the groups in turn, as well as bacterial resistance to each.
Tooth decay, also commonly referred to as dental caries, is the result of acidic conditions in the mouth, due to bacterial activity. These conditions lead to the outer layers of the teeth slowly being dissolved, which can eventually lead to holes in the teeth (cavities) in serious cases. To combat this, xylitol gum has been suggested as a potential preventative measure – but is this backed up by scientific research?
Benzene is a hugely important compound in organic chemistry. It consists of six carbon atoms joined together in a ring, with a hydrogen atom bonded to each carbon; by replacing one or more of these hydrogens with a functional group, a large number of different compounds can be formed. This graphic looks at a selection of the most common simple derivatives which can be obtained in this manner.
Insect venoms are complicated. Really complicated. You could be forgiven for thinking that it must be a relatively simple company of chemicals that makes up the painful sensation of a bee or wasp sting, but in fact a hugely complex mixture of all sorts of compounds – proteins, peptides, enzymes, and other smaller molecules – go into a small amount of venom. The range of compounds is far too vast to detail every single one – but we can examine some of the major constituents in bee, wasp, hornet and ant venom.
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG for short, has long been the villain of the food supplement world. In the UK, Chinese takeaways proudly display ‘No MSG’ signs beside their counters, and many websites will purport to tell you ‘the truth about MSG’. Numerous studies have been carried out examining the effects of MSG, but with all the conflicting information, it can be hard for consumers to know who to believe. Read More
Honey is something of an oddity, in that, unlike most foods, it doesn’t spoil over time. In fact, the oldest known sample of honey, found in an Ancient Egyptian tomb and dated to approximately 3000 years ago, was still perfectly edible. What is it, then, that gives honey this unusual property?