Chemistry of Love

By: Carlos Bryan M. Tecson

You may have encountered the term “chemistry” when talking about love. When someone says a couple has this sort of thing called “chemistry”, it means that they are perfect for each other. In love, yes there is chemistry; however, I’m referring to the actual chemistry.

Chemistry has been always involved in the bodily process of a human being, digestion, sleep, movement, almost everything involves chemistry. Attraction and love are fueled by actual chemistry.  Chemicals responsible for a human’s behavior in love are called neurochemicals; neurochemicals are produced largely in the brain and participates in neural activity. The brain passes them to other parts of your body, so one may say it all starts in the head.

The “first stage” of love is caused by combination of three neurochemicals: phenylethylamine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Later stages of relationships are caused by another two neurochemicals: oxytocin and serotonin. We will try to focus on the first three neurochemicals and I’ll try to discuss the other two later.

Have you ever experienced being so happy to the point it makes you feel kind of not hungry? Well, this neurochemical right here is the reason why. High amounts of norepinephrine will make you experience increased joy and may reduce the appetite. Norepinephrine, also known as Noradrenaline, causes stimulation for production of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone, commonly known for making your heart beat faster and palms sweaty. Norepinephrine is released from a specific type of neurons called noradrenergic neurons. These neurons form a system that is called norepinephrine system.  When activated, norepinephrine will bind to the target cells and activate its adrenergic receptors. The main target of the norepinephrine system is to excite receptors in the areas of the spinal cord, thalamus, phypothalamus, etc.

Dopamine is a neurochemical that is released by the brain when we feel good. It is also said that it makes people more sociable and excited. Dopamine can affect the emotional responses, movement, ability to express pleasure, and also pain; since dopamine can affect the brain processes that control these responses. Dopamine is very similar to norepinephrine, structure-wise. It is also coordinated with norepinephrine. How? Remember that norepinephrine makes your body produce adrenaline, for this to happen, there should be a high amount of dopamine first. Dopamine receptors are linked with the pleasure system of the brain, so activating it with dopamine can make us feel better.

Ever heard that eating chocolate will make you feel better? Well, that is actually true. Chocolate contains this chemical called Phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is very important in the chemistry of love. It acts as a releasing agent of norepinephrine and dopamine. Being attracted to another person makes you produce more PEA. Large amounts of PEA increases both physical and emotional energy, and releases more dopamine. The thing is, PEA’s role is slightly exaggerated, and by that I mean, it kind of affects the chemistry of love slightly. PEAS in chocolates are rapidly metabolized by different enzymes in the digestive system. So when eating chocolate, you feel good because of the taste, not because of the PEA. PEA is not directly involved in chemistry of love but helps in it. PEA increases the levels of dopamine and modulates the ignition of the norepinephrine system.

So there you go; the three neurochemicals in the brain that makes you love and feel loved. Be sure to consume enough proteins to make your dopamine level increase, I will try to discuss the latter two neurochemicals next time, so until then, bye!

References:
http://asdn.net/asdn/chemistry/chemistry_of_love.php

The Gooey Red Liquid That Still Baffles Scientists Today

By Pancho J. Villamoran

So you and your friends, after a long day go to a restaurant to socialize, destress and chill. They ordered a bucket of fries. The fries – delicious. But what could make it more delicious? Add ketchup, of course. It comes in a bottle. Now, how do you pour a fair amount of ketchup to the amount of fries you have?

It’s not like a water as it flows – like a drain. It doesn’t respond to force linearly like oil and many alcohols like if you push twice as hard on a container filled with oil, it they move twice as fast. These kinds of fluids are called Newtonian fluids. Yes, from the man who made apples famous: Sir Isaac Newton. Ketchup is from the merry band of rule breakers, such as mayonnaise, toothpaste, peanut butter, blood, and paint, Non-Newtonian Fluids, whose apparent thicknesses changes depending on how hard you push, how long, or how fast. The resistance to flow arises because of the friction that is created when layers and particles bump into each other, thus making them “slide” over each other. If there was no difference between the speeds of each layer, there would be no resistance then.

Ketchup is non-Newtonian because they harder you push, the thinner it gets. It’s not like quicksand the non-Newtonian liquid Oobleck, made of water and corn starch, because rather than getting thinner, applying greater forces makes it thicker and more in  solid-state.

Below its normal state and pushing force, ketchup acts as a solid because it is basically made of crushed tomatoes, formerly solid. Once applying force to it and going over the breaking point, it goes a thousand times thinner than it is before. This would shower your fries in a pool of ketchup.

But if you apply a force significantly below the threshold, it all depends on time. The container, moving side to side, may cause the ketchup particles to crowd to the middle, and the consistency of the ketchup’s fluid, usually made up of water, vinegar, corn syrup, and some other spices, may act as a lubricant in order for it to flow. Or another theory states that the particles may clump with each other to make small groups that would slide past each other. Yes it will flow, but scientists are still unsure how to explain how. People propose the best way to pour out ketchup from its bottle is to give the bottle a few hard shakes still with its cap on, “waking up” the particles, and pour to our heart’s content.

Scientists are still actively researching about the physical properties of ketchup because on a Physics perspective, ketchup is one of the more complex liquids out there. Its viscosity is unique compared to other common liquids. Ketchup remains one of the greatest and tastiest condiments known to man, and an interesting physics topic for researchers and scientists over the world.

References:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/04/29/306911004/whats-the-secret-to-pouring-ketchup-know-your-physics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Newtonian_fluid

http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/liquids/faq/non-newtonian.shtml

What Makes You Sleep?

By Carlos Tecson

Sleep is one of the important processes our body needs to attain maximum functionality. Sleep is a natural recurring state of mind where the body inhibits sensory activity, voluntary movements, and consciousness. It may seem that we are inactive during sleeping, but actually, it’s the time where the mind is fully active. You may have heard of the term “body clock” before, our body has an internal “body clock” that tells your body to wake up or tells your body that you are ready to sleep.

The body clock has a 24-hour repeating rhythm which interaction of two processes control this rhythm. The first process is the drive to sleep that builds up every hour you’re awake and the second is process is involves your internal body clock which is cued by the environment.

The first process involves a compound called adenosine, this compound is said to be a factor linked in building up the drive for sleep. While the body is awake, the level of adenosine increases, and an increase of this compound signals a shift towards sleep. While sleeping, the body breaks down adenosine.

The second process involves environmental cues like light, darkness and such. These cues help in determining to feel awake or feel drowsy. There is a special part of the brain that can tell if it’s day time, through the help of light signals received by the eyes. When it gets dark, the body releases a hormone called melatonin; this hormone signals the body that it’s time for sleep, thus making you drowsy. Amount of melatonin increases as the evening wears on, that is why darkness is important in preparing the body to sleep. As the sun rises, there is another compound that the body releases signaling it’s time to wake up, this compound is called cortisol.

The rhythm of the body varies with age. Infants may take a lot of time to sleep. Young children tend to sleep early in the evening and may take naps during lunchtimes. Teens usually sleep later in the evening, because the melatonin is released and peaks later in the 24-hour cycle; making teens prefer later bedtimes.

Sleep is very important to our body, it helps in the growth and development of our body. So, now that you know how the chemistry of sleep works, be sure to get a lot of sleep, it really helps.

How Fireworks Brighten Up Our Sky

By Justine Dator

Every February to March, the Philippines hosts the Philippines International Pyromusical Competition.Different countries exhibit spectacular displays of light that dances to music from different genres and generations. The skyline of Manila is lit by fireworks that explode into different colors and patterns. But, did you ever wonder what exactly these fireworks are made of? What chemical interactions are needed in order to achieve the different colors of fireworks?

The different colors of fireworks are produced by heating different metal salts in different combinations in order to produce the desired colors. Each element absorbs the energy as it is being heated, and this energy rearranges the electrons of the atom from their low-energy state (ground state) to their high-energy state (excited state). The energy in excess emits in the form of light, and the color of the light is determined by the amount of energy emitted. The table below summarizes which colors are made from which salts.

COLOR

COMPOUND

Red

Strontium salts & Lithium salts

Orange

Calcium salts

Yellow

Sodium salts

Green

Barium compounds (+chlorine producer)

Blue

Copper compounds (+chlorine producer)
Gold

Iron compounds

Silver

Burning aluminum, magnesium, or titanium

 

Purple-colored fireworks can be made by combining Strontium (red) and Copper (blue) compounds.

Fireworks are made by creating lumps of clay called ‘stars’, which are a combination of key materials in making fireworks. It has oxidizing agents, reducing agents, the coloring agents (metal salts), and binders. The role of the oxidizing agents is to produce the oxygen needed for the mixture to burn. Some agents include nitrates, chlorates, and perchlorates. Reducing agents burn the oxygen produced by the oxidizing agents to produce hot gasses. The binders essentially hold together the firework mixture. Lastly, a fuel is required to light the firework up into the air. The most commonly used fuel is black powder. When burned in open air, the heat and gas emitted from the ignition dissipate in the air.

When fireworks are lit, a boom can be heard from ground level. Since the ignition caused a rapid release of energy, the air around it expanded faster than the speed of sound, which produces a sonic boom.

A great deal of effort and precision is involved in the creation of fireworks. Every component must be handled delicately and exact quantities must be measured to ensure a stable and safe reaction. Now you know what makes fireworks, fireworks!

 

References:

[1] http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/local/projects/gondhia/composition.html

[2] http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/fireworks/fireworks.htm

Chemistry: The Study of Everything

by: Olyn Desabelle

A single definition cannot concisely and completely contain the core concepts and complexities of chemistry. It is not simply the science that specifically studies stuff that somehow react through sorcery. It is an art – erudition through education, experience, and examination.

What make us up – the atoms, cells, tissues, and organs that make us who we are, are byproducts of chemistry. The basic things we do – eating, moving, and even sleeping are governed by chemistry. When we eat, the enzymes in our body digest the food through various reactions. When we move, there are proteins that are technically responsible for our actions. Even when we sleep, our body clock runs not on battery but on chemistry.

We are mere specks of dust as compared to the jewels of the heavens – the stars, planets, and other bodies in space – that, like us, are under chemistry. Stars, too, undergo several reactions that make them shine, and some planets are made of gases which are different from one another because of their chemical properties and composition.

As chemistry is an art, it may be tangible or abstract, but it is about beauty – not just white-coated scientists mixing weird liquids in strange containers in a laboratory. Chemistry lives in us. Chemistry is all around us. The art that is chemistry is of different hues, strokes, textures, and forms – it can be embodied in different branches and subtopics that all boil down to the study of everything.