Ambergris: A Perfume Ingredient with an Unusual Origin

ambergris

Ambergris is a valuable substance that originates in a sperm whale’s digestive system. (Photo credit: Michael Freeman/Corbis)

When a “strange and mysterious” object washed ashore on a public beach in Wellington, New Zealand, rumors began to spread that it was ambergris. Soon after, fortune hunters arrived and tore the mysterious substance apart with shovels, collecting pieces in plastic bags. [Read more…]

Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes

New research indicates that your love (or hate) for cilantro depends on your genes. (Photo credit: Marnie Burkhart/Fancy/Alamy Images)

When it comes to the taste of cilantro in a spicy bowl of soup or wrapped up in a burrito, where do you stand? Do you find its taste refreshing? Or does it seem like you’re eating a mouthful of soap? This seemingly-benign herb elicits a love-hate relationship for many people. New research indicates that your genes may dictate your initial reaction to the flavor of this green herb.

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The Science Behind an Airplane Meal’s Lackluster Flavor

airplane food

Don’t blame the airplane food — it’s your senses (or lack thereof) that make it taste so bland. (Photo credit: Alex Segre/Alamy)

Airline meals have long been maligned for their bland flavor and strange textures. It turns out that at least some of the blame lies in an airline passengers sense of taste. [Read more…]

Yes, We Have No Bananas – The Demise of the Cavendish

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love a variety called the Cavendish is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world.(Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

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Scientists Trigger Artificial Photosynthesis

blue LEDs

Researchers have developed a method to trigger photosynthesis using synthetic materials and blue light. (Photo credit: Mifid/Shutterstock)

Researchers have successfully triggered artificial photosynthesis in a synthetic material, producing both clean air and energy at the same time. This process may one day be used to in the development of technology that simultaneously reduces greenhouse gases and produces clean energy.  [Read more…]

52 Environmental Things to Do for Earth Day (and Every Day)

planet Earth

April 22 marks the 46th annual celebration of Earth Day. (Photo credit: Digital Vision/Getty Images)

April 22 marks the 47th annual Earth Day celebration. Earth Day was originally established by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to bring environmental issues to the forefront of the national agenda. Until then, there were little to no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment.

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Promising New Drug Prevents Spread of Melanoma

dermatologist checking moles

Researchers have discovered a chemical compounds that prevents the spread of melanoma by up to 90 percent. (Photo credit: JPC-PROD/Shutterstock)

According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, every hour of every day one American dies from melanoma–that’s approximately 10,000 people per year. [Read more…]

Getting to Know the Groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil and his handler. (Photo credit: Corbis)

On February 2nd, all eyes turn to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Local lore has it that this groundhog can predict the following six weeks of weather. If he sees his shadow, then six more weeks of winter are in order. If he does not see his shadow, then an early spring is on the way.

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How Do Trees Survive the Long, Dark Winter?

winter trees

Like other living organisms that inhabit cold climates, the main issue a tree must contend with in cold conditions is the prevention ice crystal formation within its cells. (Photo credit: Corbis)

Leafless tree branches set against a snowy backdrop set a rather bleak scene. However, while it may appear lifeless, deciduous trees have several strategies to survive the cold and dark conditions of winter. [Read more…]

A Long Winter’s Nap No More

hibernating bear

Many bears hibernate during the long, cold, and dark winter months. (Photo credit: Ralph A. Clevenger/Corbis)

When temperatures get colder and the days get shorter, many mammals settle into a period of hibernation. But what effect will climate change — and the associated changes in weather patterns — have on this annual behavior? [Read more…]