In Case You Missed It… Assorted Oddities from Around the Web

Scientists Create Man-Made DNA

Chemical biologists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, announced the creation of man-made DNA last week. Prior to their work, all DNA contained only the four nucleotide bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). But the Scripps researchers created two additional molecules, denoting them as X and Y. The artificial nucleotides were inserted into e-coli bacteria which then reproduced normally and passed along the new genetic units.

“This is the first experimental demonstration that life can exist with information that’s not coded the way nature does (it),” said Floyd Romesberg, an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps. The announcement was the culmination of a 15-year project, and was accompanied by an article published Wednesday in science journal, Nature.

The work raises the possibility of creating new medicines that have more than the four natural nucleotides, of life engineered with none of them, or of life with no DNA at all. Ethical debates regarding the emerging field of synthetic biology are expected.

DIY Edible Water Bubbles and Other Round Food

Inhabitat – a weblog showcasing innovations in sustainability – presented an ingenious alternative to wasteful water bottles this week, posting a video and step-by-step instructions for making gelatinous water bubbles by using spherification.

Introduced in 2003 by chef  Ferran Adrià, spherification is a molecular gastronomy technique in which a gel membrane forms around a calcium-infused liquid when that liquid is submerged in a bath of sodium alginate. The video shows how it can be done at home with water and other commonly available ingredients.

Serious spherification cooks can find a spherification course and molecular gastronomy kits at The site also lists other spherification recipes and techniques for making edible foams, films, ashes, crystal bread, and flavored snows.

And You Thought it Was Because You Were Bored

We yawn when we’re sleepy, bored, or because we see someone else yawn. Some people yawn when they’re stressed. But why? It’s long been believed we yawn to increase the oxygen supply to the brain. However, a study published this week in Physiology & Behavior concludes yawning serves a different purpose: It cools our brains.

Led by psychologists Jorg Massen of the University of Vienna, and Andrew Gallup of the State University of New York College at Oneonta, researchers took their cues from previous studies showing increased brain temperatures precede yawns and equivalent decreases follow them. From this, they postulated we should yawn predominantly within an optimal range of temperatures.  The study, conducted during both winter and summer months on subjects in Vienna, Austria, and Tucson, AZ, finds that range to center around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Farenheit).

Massen concludes that as a brain-cooling mechanism, yawning is not functional when ambient temperatures are close to that of the body, and may even have harmful consequences when it’s freezing outside.

Should the Devil Sell Prada?

According to an article scheduled for publication this October in the Journal of Consumer Research, you’re more likely to buy expensive goods in an environment where snobby sales staffers make you feel not well off enough to do so.

Based on the results of four online surveys, article authors Morgan Ward of Southern Methodist University and Darren Dahl of the Sauder School of Business made the following conclusions about the role of rejection in the buying experience:

1. Rejection makes people want to buy luxury goods, but has little effect on consumers of more affordable brands.
2. Rejection is stronger when salespeople convincingly embody luxury brands.
3. Rejection works better on buyers who have a strong desire for a particular luxury brand.
4. Rejection works best in the short term, but may alienate customers in the long run.

Says Dahl, “Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work.”

PoliticusUSA Staff

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