Connor Zwick, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, cuts a profile for a smartphone game that he hopes will revolutionise mobile gaming, in San FranciscoConnor Zwick, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, cuts a profile for a smartphone game that he hopes will revolutionise mobile gaming, in San Francisco Photo: The New York Times

Eden Full should be back at Princeton by now. She should be hustling to class, hitting the books, acing tests. In short, she should be climbing that old-school ladder towards a coveted spot among America’s future elite.

She isn’t doing any of that. Instead, Full, as bright and poised and ambitious as the next ivy-leaguer, has done something extraordinary for a Princetonian. She has dropped out.

It wasn’t the exorbitant cost of college. (In total, about $55,000 a year.) She says she simply received a better offer — and, perhaps, a shot at a better education.

Christopher Olah, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with a 3D printer and printed objects he designed, in Toronto.Christopher Olah, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with a 3D printer and printed objects he designed, in Toronto. Photo: The New York Times

Full, 20, is part of one of the most unusual experiments in higher education today. It rewards smart, young people for not going to college and, instead, diving into the “real world” of science, technology and business.

The idea isn’t nuts. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out, and they did OK — to put it mildly.

Their kind of success is rare, degree or no degree. Gates and Jobs changed the world. Full wants to as well, and she’s in a hurry. She has built a low-cost solar panel and is starting to test it in Africa.

An undated handout photo of Laura Deming, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, at age 6, with her grandmother, who inspired her work on anti-aging technology, and younger brother.An undated handout photo of Laura Deming, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, at age 6, with her grandmother, who inspired her work on anti-aging technology, and younger brother. Photo: Family photo via The New York Ti

“I was antsy to get out into the world and execute on my ideas,” she says.

At a time when the value of a college degree is being called into question, and when job prospects for many new graduates are grimmer than they’ve been in years, perhaps it’s no surprise to see a not-back-to-school movement spring up. What is surprising is where it’s springing up and who’s behind it.

The push, which is luring a handful of select students away from the likes of Princeton, Harvard and MIT, is the brainchild of Peter H. Thiel, 44, a billionaire and freethinker with a remarkable record in Silicon Valley.

Eden Full, 20, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with her rotating solar panel, which she calls the SunSaluter, near her home in Oakland, California.Eden Full, 20, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with her rotating solar panel, which she calls the SunSaluter, near her home in Oakland, California. Photo: The New York Times

In 1998, during the dot-com boom, Thiel gambled on a company that eventually became PayPal, the giant of online payments. More recently, he got in early on a little startup called Facebook.

Since 2010, he has been bankrolling people under 20 who want to find the next big thing — provided that they don’t look for it in a college classroom. His offer is this: $US50,000 ($47,000) a year for two years, few questions asked. Just no college, unless a class is helpful for your Thiel project.

A cool hundred grand, no strings attached? Unsurprisingly, it is harder to get a Thiel Fellowship than it is to get into Princeton. Thiel (Stanford ’89, Stanford law ’92) has grabbed headlines with his outlandish offer. Less has been said about the handful of plucky people who have actually managed to snag one of his fellowships in the hope of becoming the next Gates or Jobs. The first Thiel fellows are now in their second year of the program. Twenty new fellows were selected this US summer.

Applications for 2013 are not yet being accepted; the due date will be posted in fall at Candidates must be under 20 when they apply.

The final step is typical of Silicon Valley: applicants get two-and-a-half minutes to pitch their ideas to would-be mentors, most of them successful entrepreneurs.

A recent CNBC documentary about the fellowship, “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow”, showed the range of those pitches. One young woman proposed a novel curriculum for students overseas and apologised for being flustered at the podium. Another ignored the instructions and spoke from the middle of the stage, TED-style. Then they and the others waited for would-be mentors in the audience to ask more questions.

Over the past two years, 44 Thiel fellows have been chosen after layers of reviews by 15 to 20 people. They don’t exactly represent a cross-section of the nation. Most of these young people are white or Asian, and men. Only four are women. Applications have come in from 42 countries, from Bhutan to Ethiopia to Guatemala, but only six fellows have been selected from outside the United States — four from Canada, one from Britain and one from Russia. A quarter of applicants apply directly from high school or home schooling.

Full was studying mechanical engineering at Princeton when she applied, hoping to develop a hardy, low-cost solar panel that follows the sun’s path. She calls it the SunSaluter. She is starting to test the latest iteration in Kirindi, Uganda, and Karagwe, Tanzania.

She left Princeton after her sophomore year, and she says the learning curve has been steep.

“I spent the first year of the fellowship learning a lot about the solar industry, what it takes to get a product to market, what I’m good at,” she says. “The timing was perfect.”

But testing the SunSaluter in Kenya, as she did earlier, offered unexpected lessons. Local children played with it, trying to unscrew the bolts. And Full, who is Asian-Canadian, was an object of fascination in villages.

“In the real world,” she says, “you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She has had to learn to depend on the cooperation of strangers — no small feat for a woman who is used to talking fast and moving faster.

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is you have to be pretty flexible,” she says. “Some days, I just want to go back to college.”

Full is friends with another Thiel fellow, Laura Deming, 18. Deming is clearly brilliant. When she was 12, her family moved to San Francisco from New Zealand so she could work with Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist who studies ageing. When Deming was 14, the family moved again, this time to the Boston area, so she could study at MIT.

“Families of Olympic-calibre athletes make these kinds of sacrifices all the time,” says Tabitha Deming, Laura’s mother. “When we lived nearby in Boston, we were lucky to see her once a month. She never came home for weekends.”

John Deming, Laura’s father, graduated from Brandeis University at the age of 35 but disdains formal education at every level. His daughter was home-schooled.

“I can’t think of a worse environment than school if you want your kids to learn how to make decisions, manage risk and take responsibility for their choices,” Deming, an investor, wrote in an email. “Rather than sending them to school, turn your kids loose on the world. Introduce them to the rigours of reality, the most important of which is earning your own way.”

He added, “I detest American so-called ‘education’.”

His daughter’s quest to slow ageing was spurred by her maternal grandmother, Bertie Deming, 85, who began having neuromuscular problems a decade ago. Laura, a first-year fellow, now spends her days combing medical journals, seeking researchers who are worth venture-capital funding.

“I’m looking for therapies that target ageing damage and slow or reverse it,” she says. “I’ve already spent six years on this stuff. So far I’ve found only a few companies — two or three I’m really bullish on.”

She, too, has tasted failure.

“The venture capitalists I met out here were sceptical at first,” she says. “People say ‘no’ all the time. I had a lot of bad rejection at the start. It took a couple of months to get them to understand that while early-stage research isn’t profitable, it can be later if you structure the company very well.”

But thanks to the Thiel Fellowship, access to some of the nation’s most successful businesspeople is quick and easy.

“I made a list of the 50 people I wanted to meet, and I’ve met almost all of them,” she says. “It’s really the connections you have and the people you know. I’ve had really positive feedback and got some really large amounts of money.”

Her father calls her Little Miss Relentless. Not all parents are initially so enthusiastic, however.

Another Thiel fellow, Noor Siddiqui, 18, is the daughter of parents who were born in Pakistan.

“This is shocking for my parents,” she says. “It’s not the safest road. I had to apply in secret.”

But she has postponed college — she was accepted to Brown University, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, among others — to try to help impoverished workers in developing countries connect with North American businesses. Her parents now know about the fellowship and are supportive.

Frances Zomer, who runs her own accounting firm in Toronto, wasn’t thrilled when her son, Christopher Olah, 19, decided to leave the University of Toronto, a top-ranked Canadian school. He had already spent a year there studying maths.

“The hardest part was him not going back to school,” Zomer says. “The door had closed.”

Now Olah divides his time between his mother’s home in Toronto and a so-called hacker hostel, for aspiring tech entrepreneurs, in the Bay Area — and Zomer has changed her mind completely.

“This is stuff you don’t learn in a classroom. He’s blogging, he’s teaching, he’s writing software,” she says. “I think it’s brilliant. I know so many people who’ve got a Bachelor of Arts and have nothing to show for it.”

But what if Silicon Valley doesn’t work out?

“Failure has crossed my mind,” Zomer says. “There are three possibilities. He’s extremely successful and he stays. He’s not successful and he stays. He can always come home. It’s his life.”

Dylan Field, 20, had already interned for Flipboard, the app for browsing news and social media, when he won a Thiel Fellowship. He left Brown to work on a browser-based photo application — a sort of no-cost, easy-to-use, amateur-friendly competitor to Photoshop, which is designed for, and largely sold to, professional users.

When it comes to regular folks, “most of our creative tools are broken right now”, Field says. “If I have an idea without the tools to bring it to reality, that’s a moral wrong. Our tools need to be improved and made accessible. I think that market is huge.”

He has become close friends with Olah, who is writing software to enable three-dimensional printing.

Olah, who volunteers much of his time when in Toronto, is unusual in this group of innovators, many of whom are intensely driven to market their creations.

“I’m not starting a company right now,” he says. “I want to make awesome tools available to other people.”

Connor Zwick, 19, left Harvard to work a game application for smartphones — he calls it the “coco controller” — that he hopes will “revolutionise mobile gaming”. For him, as for several other fellows, the Thiel Fellowship’s gifts of time, money and access seem almost an afterthought.

If fellows focus all their energy on the fellowship and not their own work, “you’re doing something wrong”, he says. “You’ve lost focus. The benefit is the validation for our ideas. The money is nice, but I already have enough income from my projects that I don’t need it.”

Some people question Thiel’s blunt dismissal of the college experience, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, says that the fellowships are nice but their message is destructive.

“These very unusual and talented kids are in a very high-powered learning environment,” Carnevale says. “They’re enormously privileged people who’ve been allowed to develop all their horsepower with no constraints. I think it makes you an odd duck.”

A college education remains essential for people from less privileged backgrounds, says Carmen Wong Ulrich, co-founder of Alta Wealth Management, a three-woman investment firm in New York City.

“Many African-Americans and Asians can’t even afford to ask the question, ‘Is college worth it?’ ”

Ulrich, born in Harlem, grew up in a family of six. She and her mother worked as waitresses. Today, she mentors young Latinos.

“We’re not all starting from the same starting line,” she says. “While I certainly support some of Mr. Thiel’s ideas, his kids are miles ahead of too many others. Go to Silicon Valley? Start your own business? Many of us are the first in our family to even attend college.”

Carnevale says of the program: “It’s a lab experiment. We’ll see.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Children in the developed world have a lot of choice when it comes to scientific toys. In fact, there are whole stores devoted to selling things like robotics kits, ant farms, and simple microscopes. In the developing world, however, such fancy toys are relatively scarce. So, what’s an adult to do if they want to get the local children interested in the sciences? Well, in the case of Arvind Gupta, he show the kids how to make scientific toys from throwaways.

Gupta’s story began in the 70s, when he was an engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology. While he was there, he took it upon himself to teach the children of the mess staff, who couldn’t afford a formal education.

Upon graduation, he went on to work at Tata Motors, where he helped to build trucks. After five years of doing so, however, it was clear that it wasn’t the career for him. In 1978, he took a one-year leave from his job, and took part in the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Program. “The objective was to make science fun and exciting for village children using simple, low-cost materials available in their environment,” he told us. “This experience had a profound impact on me. I found it was much more satisfying than making trucks.”

Gupta proceeded to dedicatee his life to designing toys that demonstrate scientific principles, that children can build for themselves out of cheap or free parts. He’s written numerous instructional books on the subject, starting with 1986’s Matchstick Models and other Science Experiments, which has been reprinted in 12 languages.

Today, he is part of the four-person team that runs the Children’s Science Centre, at India’s Pune University. Together, they have designed approximately 800 trash-based educational toys … so far. Instructions and explanations for all of the toys are available copyright-free through their Toys-from-Trash website, as are all of their books, and over 250 linked YouTube videos.

“Every day over 50,000 children and teachers across the world watch these videos,” said Gupta. “Thousands of books are downloaded every day and this fills our hearts with hope and joy. We feel privileged to be able to share our work with at least some children across the entire world.”

Out of all of the toys, there are a few that have proven particularly popular. One of those is Matchstick Mecanno, in which little bits of rubber bicycle valve tube and matchsticks are used to make 2D and 3D shapes. Other favorites include the Simple Electric Motor and the Levitating Pencil, in which ring magnets are used to keep a spinning pencil floating in the air.

One of his young students, a girl named Hamsa Padmanabhan, found the pencil toy particularly fascinating. “She wrote a 12-page scientific paper on it, which won the second Intel International Award of US$2,500. Today a minor planet is named after Hamsa,” he told us. “Another girl, Durga Jetty, made the Bottle Turbine which won her 0.6 million Indian Rupees! This is indeed quite a feat.”

Needless to say, however, Arvind isn’t in it for the money, nor for the chance to become famous. Instead, he simply wishes to nurture a quality that he believes all children possess.

“Every child is born a scientist,” he said. “We kill this innate curiosity by rote learning and boring state texts. If we just remove some of the authoritarian structures in schools, children will naturally gravitate to science – simply because science is fun and exciting.”

An example of one of the instructional videos can be seen below.

Source: Toys-from-Trash

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Time travel, God’s particle

and Higgs singlet:

how messages might be sent

to the past or future

Stephanie Gardiner

March 22, 2011 – 5:01PM

Workers walk past a giant photograph of a part of the Large Hadron Collider.
Workers walk past a giant photograph of a part of the Large Hadron Collider. Photo: Getty Images/ Sean Gallup

Scientists believe they are one step closer to creating time travel.

American physicists from Vanderbilt University believe they may be able to use the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest atom smasher buried underground near Geneva, to send a type of matter called the Higgs singlet into the past.

But they’re unsure if the Higgs singlet actually exists and whether the machine can produce it, according to a report by Live Science.

The Higgs singlet is related to another hypothesised particle called the Higgs boson, dubbed “God’s particle” because it is associated with giving other particles mass, which the 27-kilometre long atom smasher may produce.

If the Higgs boson is created, the Higgs singlet may also appear, scientists say.

The Higgs singlet may be able to jump through space and time, travel through a hidden dimension, and then re-enter our dimension forwards or backwards in time, physicists Professor Thomas Weiler and graduate fellow Chui Man Ho believe.

“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Professor Weiler said in a statement on research website

“Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example.

“However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”

The singlet, a highly technical term to describe the particle that doesn’t interact with matter in the usual way, and boson are both named after theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.

The researcher’s study is based on M theory, or “the theory of everything”, which attempts to unite the cause of all matter.

But it’s much too early to start thinking like Back to the Future’sMarty McFly.

University of Sydney Associate Professor of Physics Kevin Varvell said the study was highly speculative, something the researchers themselves admit.

“From my reading of the paper, these guys themselves aren’t going crazy over the idea of time travel,” Professor Varvell said.

“They explicitly say we’re not talking about time travel for humans, they’re talking about potentially one might be able to send information through the production of these particles.

“But they’re also saying that’s very, very highly speculative as well.

He said it’s one of many ideas that proposes using the collider and it is serious scientific work.

“But, again, I think we need to find the Higgs boson or something like it, before we can entertain other new particles being produced in association with it.”

The Large Hadron Collider, which cost more than $4 billion to build, has attracted plenty of controversy.

Before it started working, some feared it would create black holes and its operation was delayed several times due to a string of technical problems, including a liquid helium leak in 2008.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Be careful microwaving water!!!

The Scenario: A man decided to have a quick cup of coffee. He places a cup of water in a microwave oven to heat it up (something he has done numerous times before). When the timer shut the oven off, he removed the cup from the oven. As he was about to add the coffee granules to the hot water, he noticed the water did not appear to
be boiling, but suddenly the water “blew up” into his face scalding him.
Why did this happen?

The water actually became “superheated.” Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at normal atmospheric pressure but in a microwave oven it can be superheated without tell tale bubbles appearing. If a litre of water is superheated by only 1 degree, it is in an unstable state and can suddenly produce about 3 litres of steam while quickly returning to boiling point.
The following conditions promote this potentially dangerous event:- Using a container with a very smooth surface, such as an unscratched glass or glazed container; heating for too long; or quickly adding a substance such as coffee granules or even a spoon. Even a jarring action can cause it to “explode.”
How to avoid it:
• The best advice is not to heat water in a microwave oven. Use an electric jug or kettle or a saucepan on a stove.
• Before putting the water into the oven, insert a non-metal object with a surface that is not smooth. (e.g. a wooden stirrer).
• Use a container, the surface of which is at least a little scratched or not new.
• Do not heat for longer than the recommended time for the quantity of water used.
• Tap the outside of the container with a solid object while it is still in the microwave oven.
An explanation:

In a microwave oven, the water is usually hotter than the container, whereas parts of a kettle or saucepan are usually hotter than the water. Further, the surfaces of some containers used in microwave ovens may be very smooth, almost at a molecular scale, whereas this is not true for kettles or saucepans.
Microwave ovens heat the water directly: the microwaves pass through the container and the water, and the water itself absorbs energy from them. The container absorbs little energy directly. In a kettle or saucepan, the container itself (saucepan) or a heating element (some kettles) is hotter than the water. The hottest points cause a small amount of local superheating, boiling is initiated here, and this then stirs the water.

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

Tracking Device Fits on the Head of a

Pin: Mini-Gyroscopes to Guide

Smartphones and Medical Equipment

Science (Oct. 8, 2010) — University of Illinois chemistry professor Alexander Scheeline wants to see high school students using their cell phones in class. Not for texting or surfing the Web, but as an analytical chemistry instrument.

Scheeline developed a method using a few basic, inexpensive supplies and a digital camera to build a spectrometer, an important basic chemistry instrument. Spectrophotometry is one of the most widely used means for identifying and quantifying materials in both physical and biological sciences.

“If we want to measure the amount of protein in meat, or water in grain, or iron in blood, it’s done by spectrophotometry,” Scheeline said.

Many schools have a very limited budget for instruments and supplies, making spectrometers cost-prohibitive for science classrooms. Even when a device is available, students fail to learn the analytical chemistry principles inherent in the instrument because most commercially available devices are enclosed boxes. Students simply insert samples and record the numbers the box outputs without learning the context or thinking critically about the process.

“Science is basically about using your senses to see things — it’s just that we’ve got so much technology that now it’s all hidden,” Scheeline said.

“The student gets the impression that a measurement is something that goes on inside a box and it’s completely inaccessible, not understandable — the purview of expert engineers,” he said. “That’s not what you want them to learn. In order to get across the idea, ‘I can do it, and I can see it, and I can understand it,’ they’ve go to build the instrument themselves. ”

So Scheeline set out to build a basic spectrometer that was not only simple and inexpensive but also open so that students could see its workings and play with its components, encouraging critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. It wouldn’t have to be the most sensitive or accurate instrument — in fact, he hoped that obvious shortcomings of the device would reinforce students’ understanding of its workings.

“If you’re trying to teach someone an instrument’s limitations, it’s a lot easier to teach them when they’re blatant than when they’re subtle. Everything goes wrong out in the open,” he said.

In a spectrometer, white light shines through a sample solution. The solution absorbs certain wavelengths of light. A diffraction grating then spreads the light into its color spectrum like a prism. Analyzing that spectrum can tell chemists about the properties of the sample.

For a light source, Scheeline used a single light-emitting diode (LED) powered by a 3-volt battery, the kind used in key fobs to remotely unlock a car. Diffraction gratings and cuvettes, the small, clear repositories to hold sample solutions, are readily available from scientific supply companies for a few cents each. The entire setup cost less than $3. The limiting factor seemed to be in the light sensor, or photodetector, to capture the spectrum for analysis.

“All of a sudden this light bulb went off in my head: a photodetector that everybody already has! Almost everybody has a cell phone, and almost all phones have a camera,” Scheeline said. “I realized, if you can get the picture into the computer, it’s only software that keeps you from building a cheap spectrophotometer.”

To remove that obstacle, he wrote a software program to analyze spectra captured in JPEG photo files and made it freely accessible online, along with its source code and instructions to students and teachers for assembling and using the cell-phone spectrometer. It can be accessed through the Analytical Sciences Digital Library.

Scheeline has used his cell-phone spectrometers in several classroom settings. His first classroom trial was with students in Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of a 2009 exchange teaching program Scheeline and several other U. of I. chemistry professors participated in. Although the students had no prior instrumentation experience, they greeted the cell-phone spectrometers with enthusiasm.

In the United States, Scheeline used cell-phone spectrometers in an Atlanta high school science program in the summers of 2009 and 2010. By the end of the 45-minute class, Scheeline was delighted to find students grasping chemistry concepts that seemed to elude students in similar programs using only textbooks. For example, one student inquired about the camera’s sensitivity to light in the room and how that might affect its ability to read the spectrum.

“And I said, ‘You’ve discovered a problem inherent in all spectrometers: stray light.’ I have been struggling ever since I started teaching to get across to university students the concept of stray light and what a problem it is, and here was a high school kid who picked it right up because it was in front of her face!” Scheeline said.

Scheeline has also shared his low-cost instrument with those most likely to benefit: high school teachers. Teachers participating in the U. of I. EnLiST program, a two-week summer workshop for high school chemistry and physics teachers in Illinois, built and played with cell-phone spectrometers during the 2009 and 2010 sessions. Those teachers now bring their experience — and assembly instructions — to their classrooms.

Scheeline wrote a detailed account of the cell-phone spectrometer and its potential for chemistry education in an article published in the journal Applied Spectroscopy. He hopes that the free availability of the educational modules and software source code will inspire programmers to develop smart-phone applications so that the analyses can be performed in-phone, eliminating the need to transfer photo files to a computer and turning cell phones into invaluable classroom tools.

“The potential is here to make analytical chemistry a subject for the masses rather than something that is only done by specialists,” Scheeline said. “There’s no doubt that getting the cost of equipment down to the point where more people can afford them in the education system is a boon for everybody.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Engineers, entrepreneurs, and students worldwide are
invited to submit team or individual entries.
Win $20,000


This is it! Only one week left to enter the

2010"Create the Future" Design Contest and compete for

$20,000 USD, other great prizes, and global recognition.

Submit your innovative product ideas by

next Wednesday, June 30. There is no cost to enter.

Visit for complete details.

Engineers, entrepreneurs, and students worldwide are

invited to submit team or individual entries in six

categories: Consumer Products;




4...Safety & Security

5...Sustainable Technologies


In addition
to the $20,000 grand prize competition,

first prize winners in each of the six categories

will get an HP workstation. The 10 most popular entries,

as voted on by site registrants, will wina 3D mouse.

All qualified entrants will be included in

a T-shirt drawing, and the Top 100 entries overall,

as determined by an industry panel of judges,

will receive a certificate of achievement suitable for


Best of all, winning entries will benefit from publicity

to business leaders and executives who could help bring

the idea to market.

Hurry! The entry deadline is June 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm ET.

Click here to get started:




Tech Briefs Media Group

Prize Sponsors:



Please share this e-mail with colleagues so they too can enter and win.

Good luck and thanks,

Joe Pramberger


NASA Tech Briefs Media Group

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha



A mineral for hungry people? Apatite is a phosphate mineral with the composition Ca5[PO4]3(OH,F,Cl). It has been used extensively as a phosphorus fertilizer and is still mined for that purpose today. The mineral called “asparagus stone” is a appropriately a type of green apatite. Ironically, apatite is the mineral that makes up the teeth in all vertebrate animals as well as their bones.

The gem material makes a great faceted stone.


Thanks to ‘Sparkly’ Sally Ewen for suggesting this molecule and to Sean and to Kay Dekker for some info about it.

Apatite - click for 3D structure

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 18th October 2009


Angelic Acid


Angelic acid isn’t very angelic at all – it’s a defence substance for certain beetles. It gets its name from the Swedish plant Garden Angelica (Archangelica officinalis) from whose roots it was first obtained in the 1840s. Its proper name is (Z)-2-methyl-2-butenoic acid. The other isomer (E) goes by the equally silly name of tiglic acid (from the plant Croton tiglium, the source of croton oil) and is also a beetle defence substance.

Thanks to Andrew Walden for suggesting these molecules and to Florian Raab and Bo Ohlson for providing some of the information about them.

Angelic acid - click for 3D structure
Tiglic acid - click for 3D structure

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 18th October 2009


Fukiic Acid

Fuki is the Japanese word for the butterbur flower, and Fukiic acid is the hydrolysis product from this plant, Petasites japonicus. Interestingly, further oxidation of this produces the wonderfully named Fukinolic acid. (I wonder if fukanolic is anything like alcoholic…) Anyway, since the conjugate base of fukinolic acid is fukinolate, it’s probably about time we stopped!

Thanks to Anton Sherwood for info on fukiic acid, and to Andrew Reinders for suggesting fukinolate.

Fukiic acid - click for 3D structure

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th Oct 2009



for science photography






The new sceintist $10,000 Eureka  prize for science photography recognizes and rewards outstanding science photography.

The definition of ‘science’, for the purpose of this prize,is a comprehensive one. It includes all asp[ects of science [such as nature, technology, health] as well as work that addresses the social or economical aspects of science.


Entries are invited from both amateur and professional photographers aged 18 years or over.

Enter now and view past entries >

Sourced and Published by Henry Sapiecha 23rd May 2009