Mar 24, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY—For books, it's a long, slow journey to yellowing and crumbling. That's because acidic chemicals in most kinds of modern paper slowly break down the cellulose fibers of which books are made. After old books become yellow and start crumbling at the edges, they eventually turn into dust, after several decades.
The Library of Congress and other institutions have long deacidified books to preserve them. But commercially available technologies such as the one the Library of Congress uses change the feel of paper and make it slippery, Piero Baglioni of the University of Florence said here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. That effect is due to the fluorine-based chemicals—think Teflon, another fluorine-based compound—used to mix deacidification particles with water. “The paper feels different to the touch” after this kind of treatment, Baglioni says.
Mar 12, 2009 | 5
Naked mole rats—hairless, sausagelike rodents that live in burrows beneath the arid soils of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia—have a remarkable ability to resist aging. Scientists are getting closer to understanding why these animals grow old with such grace, and they hope their findings will lead to therapies for staving off age-related ailments.
With a maximum lifespan of about 30 years, the naked mole rat outlives all other rodents by a long shot. It lives about 10 times longer than the similar-size lab mouse and does not show the normal signs of aging such as dementia, menopause, and bone density loss until it's near death (humans start losing bone density in their 30s), says Rochelle Buffenstein, a physiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio who has spent the past three decades studying the rodents (and admits to having 1,000 of the bald critters living in her lab). What's more, she adds, "We have never seen a single instance of cancer in the lab or in the zoos [where these animals are monitored]."
Dec 24, 2008 | 6
In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Brad Pitt movie that will be released tomorrow, a boy is born an old man. As he grows old in years, his body becomes younger.
If the film, based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, isn’t pretending to be realistic, it does strike at the oldest of human fantasies – one scientists and charlatans have tried to fulfill for all of recorded history: the ability to reverse the aging process.
“Aging results from the accumulation of dysfunctional molecules that, after reproductive maturation, exceed the capacity for their repair,” Len Hayflick, an anatomy professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells ScientificAmerican.com. "If the protagonist is born with the molecular and cellular errors that define aging, then the repair processes are similarly dysfunctional. To assume that the aged individual is becoming younger the damaged repair processes must mysteriously become more efficient — which doesn't happen in reality."
Nov 13, 2008 | 4
Bleach is the king of microbe killers, but before now no one knew quite why. Researchers report today in the journal Cell that bleach – like heat – kills bacteria by making proteins fall apart.
A team of molecular biologists from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor found that hypochlorous acid (bleach's active ingredient) unravels protein chains, which then clump together in a useless mess much the way proteins do when exposed to heat or fever in the body.
Understanding how bleach works could lead to new ways to fight disease. The human body naturally makes its own hypochlorous acid to fend off microbial attackers, but a surplus has been associated with age-related diseases such as arthritis, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
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Conventional washing machines cause excessive damage and wrinkling to clothes primarily during the water removal step. With the introduc
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