Beets for Baby? If So, You Might Want to Read This

Chemistry, Food
When I was a young child, my mom fed me a variety of foods. And that is great! Kids today are asked what they would like to eat, rather than being told this is what we are eating tonight... Well, I was served, among whatever else Mom gave me, beets. Delicious beets. Beets are tender, sweet, and if served as they were served to me, buttery and salty. A really marvelous food. Well, the next day, Mom called the Doctor in a panic... "Doctor," she cried, "my baby has blood in his stool!" The Doctor's Response: Beets "What did he eat yesterday?" Well, you get the point. I'd been given some of these delicious red orbs to eat. So if you choose to feed your little child beets, just remember…
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What Is Asparagusic Acid? Its Metabolites? A Funny Story

Chemistry, People
Many enjoy hot asparagus, whether as a cream soup, or a simple steamed, sautéed, or even raw vegetable. Since I am a chemist, I find it of interest from that perspective as well. Yes, I realize the reader almost certainly has already deduced asparagusic acid is named for this grass-related vegetable. Background But let me give a little background before I get into asparagus and asparagusic acid, and why I write concerning them. When I was the age for it, I attended Drexel Institute of Technology1 in Philadelphia, PA. Drexel offered the benefit of a cooperative work assignment each year to provide job-related experience plus a small income to help cover the cost of college. My first assignment provided an additional perquisite: a government car for transportation to Trenton, NJ.…
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Why Dogs Pee on Tires

[caption id="attachment_6570" align="alignright" width="480"] Where are the tires? Where, huh? Where![/caption] It's a given. Dogs pee on tires. Unfortunately, the public guess as to the reason for the action has been accepted as a given. This is probably due to the assumption that a dog pees on tires for the same reason or reasons it pees on trees or on fire hydrants. But there is a common bumper sticker that discusses our tendency to assume. Common Sense Isn't Always Right No, I’m not convinced such a weak conclusion is totally accurate. I think there’s more to it. On approaching a tree, a male dog is nonchalant – whereas they demonstrate real zeal when they spy an automobile tire. You can be sure a dog is more than willing to travel…
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Why Urine is Yellow

[caption id="attachment_3172" align="alignright" width="366"] A urine sample.[/caption] Admit it. You've always wondered why. Why is urine yellow? What chemical or chemicals are involved? Consider the primary red blood cell component, “heme.” Heme & Porphyrin Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers, 2007, informs us heme is “an iron compound of protoporphyrin which constitutes the pigment portion or protein-free part of the hemoglobin molecule.” Heme is the colorful portion (red) of our blood. Notice, in particular, the partial word in the definition, porphyrin. Recycling & Trash Red blood cells become old and need to be replaced. What happens to the old red blood cells? They are, first, consumed by macrophages in the blood. For the person who has his or her body intact, much of this occurs within the spleen. It also…
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Mad Hatters, Felt, and Mercury

Chemistry, History
[caption id="attachment_2497" align="alignright" width="440"] Harry S. Truman Felt Fedora Hat - Image: National Park Service[/caption] Associated with the hat making business, how do felt and mercury produce mad hatters? Felt hats have been produced from small animal pelts since about the 14th century. During the 19th century, fur was removed from the skin using camel urine. Some hatters used their own urine, instead. The active ingredient in urine was nitrogen-rich urea. Why Urine? Those who used their own urine and were being treated for syphillis produced superior felt! This was due to the mercurous chloride (HgCl) they'd taken as medicine. Urine was replaced by orange-colored mercuric nitrate Hg(NO₃)₂. [caption id="attachment_19437" align="alignright" width="240"] Tertiary syphilis. A horrible disease, generally avoidable.[/caption] Mad Hatters The vats of solution and the drying process generated…
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