Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Weird News Wednesday

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.

19 comments:

airplanejayne said...

dodo was obviously a forerunner to Paris Hilton.

Flash said...

When i was a kid, I remember my uncle would use his old, ripped up tighty-whities to buff and wax his car. I always found it weird.

So now I can paint on them huh???


Hmmmm...

Charles said...

I love coffee, and I like to read and write about it. The darker the roast, the better I like it. There's some interesting reading upon following those links. Now down to brass tacks.
"discarded underpants ranking alongside the invention of printing" smells correct to me. Rank that is.
"when the underwear was worn out, it provided a steady supply of material used by papermakers to make books" explains why some books are more shitty than others.

And I confess, I was the anonymous with all the captions, but I didn't want my name associated with them, since so many were off color.

Jim said...

I usually just describe bitter, crappy coffee as tasting "Starbucky."

XO

lime said...

apj, we have found the missing link!

flash, a whole new artistic medium you never dreamed of huh?

charles, i apologize if i offended you with my statement about not being bothered to check who anonymous was. i've had a couple other anonymous people who were troublemakers hiding behind anonymity. it's been crazy busy around here and i assumed it was one of them again but never bothered to check due to my crazy schedule.

jim, LOL. i am sure they appreciate the word of mouth advertising.

lecram said...

DOH... is right... though this post also had Dodo in it. Then there is the bathroom reference. Add it all up and you get Doh, dodo, doo. I suddenly feel a song coming on. Cheers!

Charles said...

No need for apologies from you, I should be the one apologizing. I didn't even think along those lines, and there was nothing wrong with your logic. I'm going to resist actually apologizing, I hope that you don't mind, it was more a misunderstanding than trying to hurt anyone on either of our parts. I usually try not to be crass but some of the things that came to mind just weren't something I actually wanted my name on. I suppose I could have made up a name and used it.

lime said...

lecram, a sequel to frogway perhaps? or a short film for intro at least like the squirrel with ice age?

charles, no worries. thanks for working together to help us both understand. i've got a fairly earth sense of humor so no need to worry there.

snowelf said...

Wow...that is some seriously humorous news of the weird!! I agree--I'd love to see a parody on the Dodo thing. How funny would that be!

And I'm kind of glad paper comes from trees now.

--snow

Pauline said...

People actually get paid for doing these kinds of weird studies... now that is weird!

S said...

Well shoot, I ought to have just recycled all my granny panties, bound them up, made them into a book.....

lime said...

pauline, there is all sortss of money to be had for bizarre studies

s, yes but it is hard to read when printed on bright orange:P

lime said...

snow, yes and we wipe our hind ends with it too...see the circle here?

rose_michelle said...

So let me get this straight, finding out why burnt cooffe taste bad, studying the genetic make up of a bird who doesn't watch where his is going on people reading stories on panties are deemed newsworthy. Maybe my profession as a journalist isn't really all that "spectacular." Are these strories really worth the boxer shorts they are written on? Now if you can find a way to make burnt chocolate taste better, a bird trained to mine chocolate and maybe a book printed on chocolate, maybe we'd have a smarter society (or at least a less hungry one!)

Jocelyn said...

Dearling: do you maybe have just the teensiest bit too much free time this week?

I love these articles, but how long did you spend finding them?

And now I, seriously, am going to the library (where I will be treated poorly by the librarian, as you don't work there) this afternoon and get a book on the history of underwear. Fascinating.

lime said...

rose michelle, you are a gneius,,,get to work on that will you?

jocelyn, my librairan aspirations have allowed me to develop efficient methods for finding such ridiculous news. i spent very little time actually. would youliek me to recommend some underwear realted reading slections as well?

Cooper said...

I'm on Pauline's train. Studying the bitterness in coffee?? Where can I get a government funded job studying the creaminess of ice cream (even though Alton Brown has already explained it..but don't tell anyone)

Underware? What's that?

Dan said...

LOL!! Three very commentaries Michelle.

In regards to the underwear one, I wonder if this is from where the habit of calling something a "rag" as a derogatory judgment came ... as in calling the NY Times a 'rag" if one doesn't agree with it politically.

lime said...

cooper, i dunno but it's a job i wouldn't mind having.

dan, no wonder i feel dirty after reading the local newspaper....