Archive for: November, 2012

12 villages by the New Year

Nov 24 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

There is no reason measles should kill 380 people - mostly children - each day.  We've got a vaccine, the Red Cross, and a way to make next year a healthier year.  Through the Red Cross you can buy....

      • vaccinations for 25 children: $25
      • vaccinations for 50 children: $50
      • vaccinations for 100 children: $100
      • vaccinations for 500 children: $500
      • vaccinations for a village: $1000

  The goal of this year's #VaxDrive is 12 Villages by the New Year.  At $1 a vaccination, that's 12,000 vaccinations.  That would take 480 people buying $25 bundles or 240 people buying $50 bundle or 120 people buying $120 bundles or a few high rollers buying the biggest bundles.  A family or office pool, a few less mochaccinos, skipping a dinner out... we can easily hit the target of 12 villages by the New Year.

 Click here: Thirty-seven Red Cross #vaxdrive

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Nervine settled everybody's nerves by sedating everyone

Nov 24 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Image 1


Out-of-control libido or drug habit?  Take Nervine.  Nervous, excitable, wakeful, or restless?  Take Nervine.  Over-the-counter Nervine wasn't a wonder drug, just a cocktail of the oldest class of sedatives - inorganic bromides.

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Nervine contained the most commonly used bromides - sodium bromide (NaBr), potassium bromide (KBr), and ammonium bromide (NH4Br).  These particular bromides were once so popular that only aspirin sold better.  The use of bromides to treat "nerves" was so prevalent that 'bromide' entered the lexicon of common speech.  Instead of "calm down", people were instructed to "take a bromide".  Instead of calling someone a 'bore', the term 'bromide' was a used to denote "a commonplace or tiresome person".

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Bromides may owe their sedative effect to a family connection.  The element bromine is in the same chemical family as the element chlorine – the halogens.  Being a chemical family, chlorine and bromine have similar properties.  Both form single, negatively charged ions (monovalent anions) via oxidation-reduction reactions - chloride (Cl-) and bromide (Br-).

Chloride is found in nearly all of our cells, having its own set cell membrane-crossing highways (chlorine channel).  The regulated flow of chloride (as hydrated chloride) across neuron membranes is key to communication between neurons.  Being family and all, bromide (as hydrated bromide) can travel along chloride's highways.  But hydrated bromide is a teeny bit smaller than hydrated chloride, allowing hydrated bromide to get into cells faster than hydrated chloride.  A flood of anions, such as bromide or chloride, into a neuron makes it more negative than it would be at rest, a state called 'hyperpolarization'.  It's hard for other neutrons to stimulate - talk to - hyperpolarized neurons.  Less neuron stimulation can translate to a feeling of calm.

A temporary calm that came with a price beyond the one listed on the price tag.  Turns out, the level of bromide needed to sedate was pretty close to bromine's toxicity level.  Plus, people were using products like Nervine a too regularly to "settle their nerves".   When bromides were the most popular, bromine toxicity ("bromism") cases were at a high.

The classic symptoms of bromism include alteration in central nervous system functioning with headache, irritability, fatigue, slurred speech, ataxia, emotional instability, tremor and hallucinations all being reported.

[Horowitz, B. (1997)]

There were even reports of bromide-induced coma, dubbed 'The Bromide Sleep'.  Taking advantage of the swapability of chloride and bromide, bromism was often treated by loading a person with saline (sodium chloride solution).

Bromism, along with the development of safer sedatives, lead to the disappearance of  Nervine and similar products from American shelves by 1975.

If seems too outlandish that bromides were available at local shops, just remember that cocaine and heroin were once too.


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Image 1 is from Retronaut.

Image 2 is from Britannica Blog

Image 3 is from Polite Dissent

Image 4 is a screen capture of  Eli Lilly & Company's 1920 Handbook of pharmacy and therapeutics


Note 1: The depressant ethanol pre-dates bromides, but ethanol wasn't designed to be a sedative.

Note 2: Bromides were also commonly used to treat epilepsy and a great deal of what is known about bromide's biochemistry is due to epilepsy research.

Note 3: The action of neurons and the various parts of neurons was simplified.



Akabas, MH (2005) Chloride Channels. eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester.

Brandenberger, H. (1997) Hypnotics and Sedatives Not Belonging to the Classes of Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines. Brandenberger, H. and Maes, R. (Ed.) Analytical Toxicology: For Clinical, Forensic, and Pharmaceutical Chemists (339-422). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter

Horowitz, B. (1997) Bromism from excessive cola consumptionJ Toxicol Clin Toxicol, 35(3):315-20.

Lee, S. and Rasaiah, J. (1996) Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Ion Mobility. 2. Alkali Metal and Halide Ions Using the SPC/E Model for Water at 25 °C J. Phys. Chem., 100, 1420-1425

Macleod, N. (1900) The Bromide Sleep: A New Departure in the Treatment of Acute Mania.  Br Med J., 1(2038): 134–136.

Macleod, N. (1899) Cure of Morphine, Chloral, and Cocaine Habits by Sodium Bromide.  Br Med J., 1(1998): 896–898.

Sangster, B., et al. (1983) The influence of sodium bromide in man: a study in human volunteers with special emphasis on the endocrine and the central nervous system. Food Chem Toxicol, 21(4):409-19

Sarapuk, J., et al. (1998) The role of counterions in the interaction of bifunctional surface active compounds with model membranes. Biochem Mol Biol Int., 44(6): 1105-10.

Schwarcz, J. Once Upon A Time. Schwarcz, J. The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life (203-256). Toronto:ECW Press

Scott, Medical Time Capsule: Bromide. Retrieved November 23, 2012 from

Sourkes, T. (1991) Early clinical neurochemistry of CNS-active drugs. Bromides. Mol Chem Neuropathol., 14(2):131-42.

Suzuki, S., et al. (1994) Bromide, in the therapeutic concentration, enhances GABA-activated currents in cultured neurons of rat cerebral cortex. Epilepsy Res., 19(2):89-97.

van Geldetern, et al. (1993) The no-effect level of sodium bromide in healthy volunteersHum Exp Toxicol, 12(1):9-14.

van Leeuwen, F. and Sangster, B. (1987) The toxicology of bromide ionCrit Rev Toxicol, 8(3):189-213.

Wild, C., Dr. Mile's Nervine.  Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

Zwicky, A. Dr. Mile's Nervine. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from


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The perfect gift for the ungrateful bastard in your life!

Nov 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

You know the type.  Buy them a gift and they always find a problem with it.  These people are known as 'ungrateful bastards' and they are a pain in the ass to shop for.  Well, have I got the perfect gift for the ungrateful bastards in your life!  Measles vaccinations for kids!

Picture it, a gift exchange, this holiday season.  You hand that ungrateful bastard a card that says the following...

According to the Red Cross, measles still kills an estimated 380 people each day worldwide, mostly children.  In your honor, a donation has been made to Red Cross to provide 25 children the measles vaccine.

There is simply NO WAY an ungrateful bastard can complain about this gift without sounding like a complete and total monster.  Perfect!

Don't delay, get the perfect gift for that ungrateful bastard today!

Click here: Thirty-seven Red Cross #vaxdrive




Image from Funny Sign

This post appeared last year at the JAYFK

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Best Black Friday deal: vaccinate a kid for $1

Nov 22 2012 Published by under Uncategorized



That is how many people die each day of measles.  Most of those 380 are children.  All of these deaths are preventable.  What does it cost? One dollar.  ONE DOLLAR.  You won't find a better Black Friday deal.  You won't find an easier way to safe a life.  Plus, unlike that other Black Friday shopping you might have planned, you don't have to leave the comfort of your own home.

How do you do it?  The Red Cross has made it ridiculously easy!  A pull-down menu let's you select 25, 50, 100, 500, or a village worth's of vaccinations and a few clicks later, you're buying vaccines online from the Red Cross.

  • vaccinations for 25 children: $25
  • vaccinations for 50 children: $50
  • vaccinations for 100 children: $100
  • vaccinations for 500 children: $500
  • vaccinations for a village: $1000

CLICK HERE --> Thirty-seven Red Cross #vaxdrive

This will be the best money you'll spend Black Friday.  That is a 100% guarantee.

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Black People Don't...get sunburn (NOT)

Nov 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Kayne West's song 'Clique', which features Jay-Z and Big Sean, is a great song.  Unfortunately, this song contains a science myth.


Lyric of interest from 'Clique'. Screen capture from


Kayne West, who voices the science myth lyric, is not too black to burn from sunrays.  Allow my fellow science blogger @DNLee5 and I to explain...


@DNLee5's arm (left) and my arm (right)


@DNLee5 and I are both black, but @DNLee5 has more melanin in her skin cells than I do and has darker skin.  We both can get sunburns.

Sunburn results when the amount of exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment, melanin, to protect the skin.

[Sunburn from MedlinePlus of the National Institute of Health]

Because @DNLee5 has more melanin in her skin than I do, she may be able to tolerate a longer exposure to the sun longer than I can.  While a kid, I once suffered a sunburn so severe it was classified as a second degree burn requiring medical treatment.  @DNLee5, who recently returned from field research in Tanzania, has this to say:

Being darker means I may not burn as quickly as @DrRubidium, who has lighter skin, but my skin definitely does feel and react to the heat.  If unprotected (via clothing or sun block), my skin tone will deepen with continued exposure.  But more immediately it get warm, and hold heat.  At times I have gotten heat rash.  I'm still fighting off a heat rash from Africa.  The problem with my darker skin and extended sun exposure is that I will not likely get the tell-tale signs of heat burn - the redness. Maybe that is why people think Black folks don't get sun burn, because we rarely see it, except in folks with fairer skin tones.  But it does and can happen.

Unless Kayne West is taking the recommended precautions, he too can get a sunburn.

The persistent myth that black people don't get sunburns gave rise to the myth that black people don't get skin cancer.

African Americans may not be as careful with their sun safety habits as their white counterparts, believing that the melanin in their darker skin is protecting them from skin cancer. While skin cancer is less common in people with darker skin, people of color are at some risk for the disease. Unfortunately, African Americans are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there is less chance for a cure.

[African Americans Can Get Skin Cancer: This Summer, Protect Yourself from the  National Cancer Institute]

It's important to note that there isn't just one type of skin cancer.  Plus, skin cancer can develop on skin not typically exposed to sun.

There are several types of skin cancer.  The two most common types are non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer) and melanoma.  Basal cell skin cancer grows slowly.  It usually occurs on areas of the skin that have been in the sun, and it is most common on the face.  Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body.  Squamous cell skin cancer also occurs on parts of the skin that have been in the sun, but it also may be in places that are not in the sun.  Squamous cell cancer sometimes spreads to lymph nodes and organs inside the body.  Melanoma occurs much less frequently than basal cell and squamous cell cancer, but it is the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer.

Among African Americans, squamous cell cancer is the most common form of skin cancer. Although squamous cell cancer is generally curable, it may be more serious when it occurs in African Americans than when it appears in whites. And although melanoma is much less common in African Americans than in whites, when it does occur in African Americans it is particularly deadly. This disease usually begins as an abnormal mole. In whites, melanomas often develop on the trunk and legs, but in African Americans, melanomas are most often found under the nails, on the palms of hands, and on the soles of the feet.

[African Americans Can Get Skin Cancer: This Summer, Protect Yourself from the  National Cancer Institute; emphasis added]

Black people get sunburns.  Black people get skin cancer.  No one is "too black" for either.




Note: Kayne West may simply be communicating  that he's too bad-ass to get a sunburn.  He may well be a bad-ass, but unless he's taking the proper precautions, he can still get a sunburn.



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Dear @TheHill: Let's start a blog called 'Capitol Science' [UPDATED]

Nov 19 2012 Published by under Uncategorized


There are at least 3 good reasons why The Hill should start a blog called 'Capitol Science':

  1. The Hill doesn't have general science policy blog.  Sure, The Hill has E2-Wire (Energy & Environment) and Healthwatch (you guessed it), but not a general science policy blog.  This actually leaves a lot of science uncovered.
  2. Think about all the wacky things said this year by certain members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation!  If all 'Capitol Science' did was report on the shenanigans of committee members, this blog would NEVER run out of posts.
  3. There are lots of science writers and scientists-that-write who could contribute to this blog.  Like myself, just in case you were wondering...

UPDATE: I did not hear back from The Hill, but was encouraged to start my own damn 'Capitol Science' blog.  Who is with me (See #3)?!  Leave a comment!


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I had a brown lady emergency, so I broke out my White Male Ally

Nov 15 2012 Published by under Uncategorized


I had to activate one of my White Male Allies to help me with a side-eyes provoking situation at work. This makes me...

  1. glad I have allies
  2. mad I'm in a situation that forces me to ask a White Male Ally for help
  3. mystified how easily the White Male Ally fixes the whole damn thing

UPDATE:  Being a bit anxious about the situation, I checked-in with White Male Ally.  He said, "I wouldn't worry about it" and intimated that the situation is UNDER CONTROL.

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Chemistry is everywhere. Even in divorce.

Nov 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

In the @McSweeney's article Let’s Illustrate This Important Chemistry Concept Through a Word Problem About My Failing Marriage, author Mark Rooke asks...

On our wedding day 7.2 years ago, I gave my ex-wife a gold ring that weighed 3.66 grams. If the ring now weighs 3.49 grams, and she spent eight days on average every year of our marriage having tantric sex with her yoga instructor while I was working overtime, coaching our twin daughters’ soccer team, and generally bending over backwards to create a nurturing home for my family, how many atoms of gold were smeared across her yoga mat over the course of our marriage?

As Rooke points out, this calculation is easily done using the information provided (i.e. loss of gold is 3.66 g - 3.49 g = 0.17 g), the  atomic weight of gold (Au), and Avogadro's number.



Rooke ends his post by asking  readers...

 If I’ve consumed 12 liters of 1.5 molar single-malt scotch after the papers were finally filed, how many atoms of alcohol have I consumed over the course of this divorce?


If we assume that Rooke consumed 12 L of a 1.5 M ethanol (drinking alcohol) solution, this calculation is straightforward.  Recall that molar = moles/L.  [Note: Rooke is actually asking us to determine the number of ethanol molecules.]



Let's take this further.  Rooke consumed a single-malt concoction, rather than a straight single-malt.  Let's look at straight single-malt...



Rooke likely diluted his single-malt with water...



To get 12L of his 1.5 M single-malt concoction, Rooke diluted 2.4 L of single-malt with 9.6 L of water.  If 750 mL bottles were purchased, that's over 3 bottles of single-malt.  Dilution isn't a bad idea, especially considering (1) the cost of price of single-malt scotch  (Laphroaig 10 Year is $60 a bottle, their 18 year cask strength is $84, and their 25 year cask strength is $450) and (2) the alcohol content of a single-malt scotch.



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