Chemists Find What Makes Coffee Bitter (In a study led by Captain Obvious)
Jeanna BrynerLiveScience Staff WriterLiveScience.com Tue Aug 21, 2:00 PM ET
Chemists have figured out why dark-roasted coffees are so bitter, a finding that could lead to a smoother cup of java. Using chemical analyses and follow-up taste tests by humans trained to detect coffee bitterness, the scientists discovered the compounds that make coffee bitter and also how they form. "Everybody thinks that caffeine is the main bitter compound in coffee, but that's definitely not the case," said study leader Thomas Hofmann, a professor of food chemistry and molecular sensory science at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Just 15 percent of coffee's bitter taste comes from caffeine, said Hofmann, who presented his findings today at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. Hofmann and his colleagues found two classes of compounds give coffee the bulk of its bitterness. Both pungent perpetrators are antioxidants found in roasted coffee beans, not in the green (raw) beans. "Roasting is the key factor driving bitter taste in coffee beans. So the stronger you roast the coffee, the more harsh it tends to get," Hofmann said. He added that prolonged roasting leads to the formation of the most intense bitter compounds found in dark roasts. How the beans are brewed also affects bitterness, the scientists found. The high pressures and temperatures used for brewing espresso-type coffees produce the highest levels of bitter compounds. "Now that we've clarified how the bitter compounds are formed, we're trying to find ways to reduce them," Hofmann said.
Have these people never eaten burnt food? Charred things are bitter? Can I have a big 'DUH!' for this crowd?
Bones Could Yield Dodo DNA (Wait until Hollywood hears this...)
Andrea ThompsonLiveScience Staff WriterLiveScience.com Fri Aug 17, 10:10 AM ET
A newly discovered dodo skeleton has raised hopes for extracting some of the legendary extinct bird’s DNA. The dodo, a flightless bird related to pigeons and doves, once thrived on the small island of Mauritius, located off the coast of Africa to the east of Madagascar. Dodos, Raphus cucullatus, stood about three feet tall and laid their eggs on the ground, which made them easy targets for predators such as rats and pigs introduced to the island by European explorers. Humans also destroyed the dodos' habitat. The dodo became extinct in the late 1600s, just 80 years after the arrival of explorers.
Late last year, biologists looking for cave cockroaches accidentally discovered a dodo skeleton in the highlands of Mauritius. Nicknamed "Fred" after one of its discoverers, the skeleton's bones were badly decomposed and fragile, but there is still a good chance of extracting some dodo DNA because of the stable temperature and dry to slightly humid environment (keys to DNA preservation) of the cave. (Scientists think Fred ended up in the bottom of the cave because he sought shelter from a violent cyclone but fell down in a deep hole and could not climb out.) Dodo DNA would be of great scientific value because scientists know very little about the genetics of the dodo. Also, it would allow scientists to figure how long the skeleton was lying in the cave.
Do we really need to preserve the DNA of a creature that fell in a hole looking for shelter and whose name is synonymous for those lacking a certain intelligence? Then again if your job is to tramp through dank caves looking for cockroaches I guess a dodo would be more exciting. I think Mel Brooks or the Monty Python gang could make a great movie or sketch out of this...'Jurassic Dodo' anyone?
Underwear's historic role... in Western learning
LONDON (AFP) - Underwear underpins the spread of Western culture, with discarded underpants ranking alongside the invention of printing in the spread of literacy, according to a medieval historian. Delegates at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, northern England, were told that social migration from rural to urban areas in the 13th century brought with it changes in attire. Whereas rough and ready peasants thought little of wearing nothing under their smocks, the practice became frowned upon in the burgeoning towns and cities, leading to a run on undergarments. And when the underwear was worn out, it provided a steady supply of material used by papermakers to make books.
"The development of literacy was certainly helped by the introduction of paper, which was made from rags," Marco Mostert, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and one of the conference organisers, said this week. "These rags came from discarded clothes, which cost much less than the very expensive parchment which was previously used for books. "In the 13th century, so it is thought, as more people moved into urban centres, the use of underwear increased -- which caused an increase in the number of rags available for paper-making." The invention of the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century is generally credited with spreading learning. But Mostert said that although literacy did not become widespread until the 19th century, it was more common in the Middle Ages than many believe because of cheap paper made from rags.
Well, lucky for western civilization the upper classes didn't have a fondness for thongs. There never would have been enough material for printing. I must say it also makes me wonder if someone had this bright idea while reading in the bathroom....
UPDATE: In other news, Kfarmer won the caption contest for the bunny picture. I'll let you know what prize she picks.