April 2011



Simon Cotton tries not to breathe in too much as he uncovers the link between the delicious aroma of truffles, the stink of rotten cabbage and what attracts seals and seabirds to their food in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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25 April 2011: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below…

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PHARMACEUTICAL: Pfizer stock falls

A clinical trial assessing Pfizer’s oral drug tofacitinib as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has suffered a set-back in the form of four deaths. As a result, Pfizer shares have dropped almost four per cent.

According to Pfizer, investigators have confirmed that only one of the deaths was actually related to the drug with the patient suffering respiratory failure.

Other RA therapies on the market have also been linked to a higher risk of heart failure. So these deaths may not be a big set-back for tofacitinib, and it still may be approved for use. Indeed Pfizer is hoping that the success of tofacitinib will help overcome the loss of sales from generic competition to its top earner Lipitor. (more…)

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Chernobyl nuclear plant 25 years on

On 26 April 1986, the number four reactor at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union, exploded.

25 years on, with Japan struggling to avert a potential nuclear disaster, Ukraine is marking the anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident with a commemoration ceremony to remember those that lost their lives trying to control the situation in the immediate aftermath.

The Chernobyl explosion sent a plume of radiation across Europe and released about 400 times more radiation than the US atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Radioactive deposits were found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere and even now there is still a 30 km exclusion zone around the plant. Areas of the UK are still affected by the disaster: farms face post-Chernobyl controls due to soil contaminated by radioactive caesium and strontium.

According to the World Health Organisation for the 600,000 people exposed to the highest levels of radiation, 4,000 more cancer deaths than average are expected. (more…)

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If DNA was a celebrity, it would be A-list. But Brian Clegg wonders what kind of celebrity it really is in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast.

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The Easter bunny came early to the Chemistry World offices this week. I arrived yesterday to find a Cadbury’s creme egg perched on my computer keyboard (so that was breakfast sorted) but munching away got me thinking about my tasty seasonal confectionery.

creme egg

Present from the CW Easter bunny

Last year, our friends at the University of Nottingham posted up a video all about the fun they had with creme eggs. Rewatching the video while licking out the centre of my egg, I started thinking about how they got that yummy goo into the middle.

I suspected that invertase was involved to make a solid sugar mixture, which over time becomes more liquid-like inside the chocolate shell, but it’s not on the ingredients list. Instead it seems that liquid fondant is used and the whole egg is made by taking advantage of the different densities of liquid chocolate and the sugary fondant goo. The denser fondant displaces the chocolate, pushing it into the mould – so liquid densities make my creme egg as well as layered cocktails. (more…)

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CHEMICAL: BP a year after the disaster

It’s been a year since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and a lot has happened. BP is arguably a shadow of its former self, its reputation severely damaged. The BP share price is down by about a third compared with one year ago. The company has reported losses running into billions of US dollars as a result of fines and clean up costs. And the names at the top have changed. (more…)

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18 April 2011: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below…

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CHEMICAL: Unilever and P&G fined for price fixing

The European Commission (EC) has fined Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever, two giants in the consumer products area, €315 million (£278 million) for price fixing of laundry detergents. Unilever will pay €104 million, and P&G €211 million. Henkel was also in the cartel, which lasted at least three years, but Henkel has escaped financial penalties by blowing the whistle on the other two. (more…)

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What gives certain foods their rich, savoury flavours? And is monosodium glutamate (MSG) really bad for you? Find out as Phillip broadwith develops a taste for umami in this week’s Chemistry in its element podcast

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