Tag Archives: science

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Extractin’ the capsaicin

The young Canadian behind the NileRed Youtube channel loves chemistry, even more than most of us who spent years studying it.   Likewise Nurdrage, who may or may not be NileRed’s alter ego.  I have no idea how they get access to fume hoods, chemicals, rotary evaporators, and other bits of expensive labware.  And I similarly have no idea what would happen to any American who tried to have a home lab capable of such things.  Let us not forget the young man who got arrested just for bringing his science fair project to class.

Here’s how to extract the heat from chilies with a dandy introduction to the Soxhlet extractor.

Youtube Channel: NileRed

Giants of the Earth: Bethe, Dyson, and Knuth – oh, my!

The Web of Stories project finds legends of many disciplines and lets them speak at length about their lives and careers.   For years, one could only watch these on the project website and embed up to five videos.  This was an unfortunate limitation since these interviews are broken into well over a hundred short segments.  Now, WoS has uploaded a large fraction of its library to its Youtube channel with embeddable playlists.  Here are three leading lights of the past century, two of whom are still vigorous well into this one: Physicist Hans Bethe, polymath Freeman Dyson, and computer scientist Donald Knuth.  The breadth of their accomplishments and their constancy over decades is astonishing, their modesty likewise even though none  have anything to be modest about.

Youtube Channel: Web of Stories

Private Screening: Bell Labs predicts the future

I saw this film in 1992 or 1993 at a screening for employees while finishing my postdoc at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. I spent a little over two years there, living in lovely Chatham Township and spending Saturdays enjoying Manhattan. The lab I sat in held the original carbon dioxide laser, nearly thirty years old at the time, and still working. The transistor was invented a couple of doors away, the people who invented Unix were at the other end of a long corridor, and a few future Nobel laureates had their labs in-between. I am still amazed that I got that position and wistful that I didn’t do more with the opportunity.

There was a Q&A session with the speaker who introduced the film and who was participating in the work that underpinned this eerily accurate vision of an always-on, always-connected world. I asked if there was enough (data) bandwidth to support even a small fraction of this. It was the era of low-speed dialup modems and the Internet was limited to universities and academically-oriented labs. His answer, “I guess there will have to be.” A few forward-thinkers had the smarts to set about building that infrastructure, bit by bit. I lacked the foresight to invest even a small amount in any of them.

And so, everyday, off to work I go.

Via the AT&T Tech Channel