Posts made in August, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond!

Posted by on Aug 23, 2012 in A Piece of Cake- Blog | 0 comments

To Infinity and Beyond: Armenians in the Mars Rover Curiosity Project The Armenian Weekly Sept. 1, 2012 Space has long been a source of mystery for humankind—a mystery we sought to decipher. Thanks to the scientific curiosity of Ptolemy, Galileo Galilee, and Isaac Newton, man discovered numerous planets, landed on the Moon, and even captured ancient images of space with the Hubble telescope that shine light on the Big Bang. Scientists know that our planet has the perfect components for life, but as Earth begins to feel the effects of global warming and human overpopulation, it is only natural that scientists have started looking to space for answers, particularly from our neighbor, Mars. (L-R) Toorian, Gharakhanian, Sarkissian, Ohanian, Hartounian, Khanoyan, Gorjian, Zadourian, Aintablian, Demirjian, and Karapetian. On Aug. 5, at 10:31 p.m. PDT, the Mars Rover Curiosity successfully descended by parachute and landed upright on Martian soil. Curiosity is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term robotic exploration of the red planet so close to our own home! It was designed to assess Mars’s habitability, and to see if the planet has ever had the proper environment to support small life-forms called microbes. The rover carries the largest, most advanced suite of instruments ever sent to Mars, and will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. Any planet’s geology record is essentially stored in rocks and soil, particularly in the formation, chemical composition, and structure. Curiosity has an on-board laboratory and will study rocks and soil to detect any chemical building blocks of life in an attempt to piece together Mars’s past. One of the most impressive features is Curiosity’s power source. The rover carries a radioisotope system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium’s radioactive decay. Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles. An ion is created when an atom gains or loses a charged particle, such as an electron or a proton. This power source is strong enough to give Curiosity a life-span of one Martian year, or 687 Earth days, and also gives Curiosity more operational flexibility and greater mobility than any previous Mars mission. According to JPL, Curiosity represents a huge step in Mars surface science and exploration because it demonstrates the ability to land a very large and heavy rover on the surface of Mars, while also demonstrating the ability to land more precisely in the calculated landing circle. This is quite a large feat. Not only am I proud as a scientist, but I’m also proud to know that there were at least 16 Armenians who collaborated in this project’s success. Arbi Karapetian, a group supervisor at JPL, joined the project during the design and implementation phase. He was a test conductor during assembly, testing, and launch. When asked how he felt about the project’s success, Karapetian said, “As an engineer you’re aware of statistical analysis and reliability. Every engineer understands that you do the best you can, but there’s always room for failure. This project was exponentially more complicated than any previous project because of the advances in engineering. The complexity was so high that you could no longer have one engineer; the work had to be spread amongst many engineers, which allowed more room for error.” Karapetian is proud of the team’s accomplishment, and its success was the greatest reward for the long, arduous hours they put into the project. “If you love doing what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. There are very long hours which are taxing on everything you do. If this is really your passion, then all of that lines itself up, and it’s not hard to get motivated to do what it takes.” The following Armenians made significant contributions to the success of the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) Project: Avo Demirjian, Vache Vorperian, Alfred Khashaki, Felix Sarkissian, and Hrair Aintablian in the field of electronics; Garen Khanoyan and Richard Ohanian on the landing radar system; Serjik Zadourian and Vazrik Kharakhanian in assembly, test, and launch;...

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Artificial Butter Linked To Alzheimer’s

Posted by on Aug 2, 2012 in A Piece of Cake- Blog | 2 comments

Disclaimer: Before you read this post, I want to ask you not to panic as you read the information. The people who should worry most are factory workers, cooks, bakers, and anyone exposed to the vapors frequently over a long period of time. With that said, I hope this article helps you make wiser decisions as you purchase ingredients and snacks! How many times have you purchased microwavable popcorn, margarine, and butter flavored candy? How many times have you purchased a cake from a bakery, unaware that many bakers follow the Wilton buttercream recipe? Did you know that bakers use “no color butter flavor” to obtain a snow white buttercream to decorate cakes? I have many issues with that recipe, like the use of shortening, but the focus on today’s article is the artificial butter flavor. A recent article in the Science Blog discussed the link between artificial butter and Alzheimer’s disease. The article mentions that the key ingredient in artificial butter is Diacetyl (DA), which is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Where do you find DA? In its natural state you will find it in beer, some wines (specifically Chardonnay), some oils, and of course butter! The FDA currently has DA listed as “Generally Recognized Safe For Consumption.” You may be wondering why I’m discussing DA if it’s found naturally in real butter? The key word in that sentence is naturally. Generally, a naturally occuring chemical is relatively safer than its synthetic version. Hundres of brands of cooking oils, butter substitutes and sprays use diacetyl to enhance the buttery flavor. From Science blog: Robert Vince and colleagues Swati More and Ashish Vartak explain that DA has  been the focus of much research recently because it is linked to respiratory and  other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories.Vince’s team realized that DA has an architecture similar to a substance that  makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain — clumping being a  hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. So they tested whether DA also could clump  those proteins. DA did increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping. At real-world occupational  exposure levels, DA also enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells  growing in the laboratory.  “In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to DA, this study raises  the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by DA,” say the researchers. In 2007, a study was commissioned by the Seattle P-I newspaper to compare different products and the concentration of diacetyl in each. The results were measured in parts-per-million (ppm), a standard unit of measurement to describe small values. (one part per million is 1 mg of substance in 1 liter of water) The results were as follows: Two real butters were analyzed and diacetyl was found in a range of 7 ppm to almost 16 ppm. In all the margarine and shortening products, levels of 7 ppm to almost 180 ppm were present. A butter-flavored cooking spray released more than 164 ppm of diacetyl. Butter-flavored cooking oils used by professional cooks ranged from 23 ppm to 234 ppm. Two brands of oil for popping corn came in at 1,062 ppm and 1,125 ppm. The study noted that the sweet butter had a higher level of diacetyl than its unsalted version. Mark Wustenberg from Tillamook Creamery explained that “diacetyl is added to all but salted butter throughout the industry.” I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go through my kitchen and throw out anything and everything that has DA added as flavoring! It’s a good thing I already use pure butter in my baking! I think as the food industry becomes more convoluted, the more we are going to embrace the old-school way of living- natural, fresh, organic, and pure!...

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