Valentine's Treat: Sweetharts

For me, the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories folks hit a sweet spot, as it were. Pure geekery, and they even do food projects. I have one of their Peggy 2.0 boards on my wall at work, and it's fantastic. For today, they've shown us how to make a larger, tastier version of the hearts with the messages on them. Instead of being a barely-edible candy, it's a tasty cookie. You can customize your own messages and generally bring a little more excitement to a controversial holiday. sweetharts.jpg

Use Electricity to Turn Cheap Wine into Decent Wine

New Scientist has an article entitled "How to make cheap wine taste like a fine vintage." They note that there are many who have claimed to create a magical process to turn base vinegar into liquid gold, but most of them have been fakes. In this case, there seems to be someone who has traded in magic for science. It looks to be something of an old-fashioned technique, as far as science fiction might go, though perhaps classical is a better term. Apparently a chemist from South China University of Technology in Guangzhou named Xin An Zeng came up with the technique, adapting it from a technique from the '80s for treating food. One of the interesting things about the technique is that it's been peer reviewed. Also, it's been subjected to blind taste tests. Also, it's been around for 10 years. I think it's just now being talked about because it wasn't published in a peer review journal until 2008. If I were more of a wine person, I'd plunk down the $31.50 to buy the article and see if I could recreate the setup that makes bad wine tasty. However, I am not, so I'll leave it for some wine geek to recreate. If you see a diy version, please let me know. I do love electricity mixing with food.

Fractal Foods

Fractals are constructs that, when you look closely at them, contain tiny copies of themselves. There are fractals all over nature, and there was a period in the early nineties, around the time of the first Jurassic Park, that fractals and chaos theory were intensely popular. The most popular mathematical fractal, the Mandelbrot set, was featured on t-shirts and posters everywhere, and how quickly your computer could generate one was the Big Nerd equivalent of how quickly your car could go from 0 to 60 MPH.* Note that the audio to the video contains not only a naughty word or two, but extreme geekery in the form of a Jonathan Coulton song. In the world of living creatures, fractals aren't quite as popular. If you met a bear that was a fractal bear, he'd probably look like this:
mandelbear.jpg
and that'd just be weird, right? Vegetables are a little different though; at least a few of them are. People talk about onions having layers like that's something interesting, but the broccoli relatives are the ones that you want to watch out for. If you've ever cut up a broccoli or cauliflower, you've probably noticed that the little stalks are much like the larger bits, at least up until a point. The best representation of a fractal that I've seen in nature is broccoli's cousin, the romanesco. The first time you see one, you tend to think "pointy broccoli." That's because it looks like:
plants_7_bg_082104.jpg
Image courtesy of PD Photo.org under a Creative Commons Public Domain license. which, as you can clearly see, is a pointy broccoli, or something that looks suspiciously like a pointy broccoli. *- The "Magic Eye" or random dot 3D autostereograms were also very popular at that time.** **- Ooh, and fiber optic artwork. People loved that stuff.

High Voltage Cookin'

Make Magazine's blog tells us all about Raphael and Max who have set up a Jacob's Ladder*, staple of Mad Scientists everywhere, and they discover which foods cook… well, not better, but at least more easily with some high-voltage electricity. I say not better because there's a comment about it smelling like burnt hair, and you really don't have a lot of control over electricity, so repeatability is going to be tricky. On the other hand, it's unbelievably cool and dangerous. If someone tries to be all macho with their flambé, you can show them this trick and make them feel weak and timid. Seriously, high-voltage electrical projects are dangerous, so if you try this, learn about the appropriate precautions and take them. You'll likely hurt yourself or others, but nothing's really safe in life, is it? *- Not the movie