How Stuff Works: Bread!

By: Justine Nicole Dator

Bread is one of the most basic food that man consumes. Bread has also been one of the first pastries, ranging from ring donuts to loaves. Exactly what causes the creation of this versatile and well-loved food? How does it rise from a piece of dough? These will all be answered in this article.

We can divide the bread making process into four: mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, leaving the bread to ferment, and baking the bread. In the first step, the basic ingredients used for making bread are flour, water, salt, and yeast. Flour contains a lot of protein, which is essential in bread-making. The protein in flour is inactive at first, but once it’s mixed with water, they activate and begin to line up, forming bonds between their chains, creating a huge gluten network within the dough.

The second step, kneading the dough, strengthens the bonds, because the proteins uncoil and interact with each other more strongly. The purpose of salt is to strengthen the gluten, and make the dough more elastic. The third step involves the yeast is what helps the bread to rise. The enzymes in yeast break down starch (found in flour) into sugar. The sugars metabolize and release carbon dioxide and ethanol, which help the bread to rise.

The final step in making bread is the baking of the bread. Have you noticed how bread begins to go stale after a while? This is because the starch in the bread is beginning to crystallize. Keeping bread in the fridge can actually accelerate the crystallization process of bread.

You can also include other ingredients when baking bread. Adding baking soda can help with the rising of the bread, because when added to water, it produces carbon dioxide. Baking powder is actually baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with cream of tartar, which is an acid ingredient that helps activate the sodium bicarbonate. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) helps strengthen the gluten network of the bread. Adding more fats weakens the gluten network, softening the bread, and stabilizing the gas bubbles, which increases the loaf volume.

Other ingredients in bread affect the bread in different ways. What has been discussed in this article so far is just the basics of bread making. Next time you’re going to bake bread, now you’ll know what ingredients are the priority, depending on what kind of bread you want to make.



Baking Bread: The Chemistry of Bread-Making (picture)


Featured Scientist: Gilbert Lewis

Featured Scientist: Gilbert Lewis

By Pancho J. Villamoran


“Perhaps our genius for unity will some time produce a science so broad as to include the behavior of a group of electrons and the behavior of a university faculty, but such a possibility seems now so remote that I for one would hesitate to guess whether this wonderful science would be more like mechanics or like a psychology”, as said by the man himself – Gilbert Lewis.

Gilbert Newton Lewis was an American physical chemist and chemical thermodynamicist born at Weymouth, Massachusetts, on October 23, 1875 and died on March 23, 1946 due to alleged an alleged heart attack, but then was revealed to be suicide through an intake of liquid hydrogen cyanide. His concepts of acids and bases and electron pairs have led to the modern theories of chemical bonding we are studying today.

Lewis was home schooled as a child, and attended school at the University of Nebraska as he moved there with his family at the age of 9, then obtaining a scholarship at Harvard University. Lewis received his bachelor’s degree in 1896, and his doctorate in 1899, becoming an instructor of Chemistry at Harvard in 1900, spending a year in Leipzig, Germany, becoming an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1907, and then fully becoming a professor there in 1911. He married Mary H. Sheldon in 1912, having three children, and acquired a chairmanship at a small chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley in 1912, where he remained until his death.

Lewis proposed that non-ionic molecular compounds were the result of sharing of electrons among atoms, and that with the formation of a molecular compound mirrors the formation of a chemical bond, thus leading to his assumption that two atoms share a pair of electrons. With the scarce knowledge of chemical bonds thus concretes the basis for the electronic theory he names this bond – the covalent bond. This scientific breakthrough at the time was published in his research paper “The Atom and the Molecule” in 1916.

In 1916, he classified with generalization that bases act as electron-pair donors and acids acts as electron-pair acceptors, explaining most reactions rather difficult to classify and learn. He adds to this that it ANY compound can be considered an acids when it can accept a pair of electrons to form a new compound, not only it being a proton-donating compound. Three years before writing one of his works The Anatomy of Science, he first published his classification in the Valence and the Structure of Atoms and Molecules in 1923.

His fame rose to peak when Lewis decided to create a chemistry department in Berkeley, one of the most prestigious and powerful facilities back then, and also lecturing students, who some of which became Nobel Prize winners, on thermodynamics at his prime. Although Lewis received many high honors from the scientific community, he did not win a Nobel Prize award himself, contrary to what other scientists thought. And without his contributions to science, we would not be where we at in chemistry, moreover, science at the present.



Featured Element: Gold!

By: Carlos Bryan M. Tecson

One of the most famous elements in the whole world, gold has been used in many important things, such as in industry, medicine, and many other applications. Gold has been noticed for its shining beauty, usually used in jewelry, coins and some artworks that started over a thousand years ago. Gold is one of the pure metals used by humans. Because of its uses in the economic industry, gold has been an important factor when it comes to politics; it has caused wars between many civilizations and nations.

Gold is a transition metal, it has low reactivity, meaning it can be found naturally in its pure form, which is believed that it’s one of the first elemental known to man. Gold also is one of the two metals having a golden color (the other being Caesium). Wondering how gold has its color? Let’s talk about its electrons. Color of metals can be explained by the transitions of electrons between the atom’s higher energy atomic orbitals; this is a result of absorption of wavelengths of light. The atom’s electrons move at a speed caused by the high number of protons in the nucleus. The speed of those electrons is a significant proportion of the speed of the light. With the help of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we can say that the mass of the electrons at rest is less than that of the electrons moving, resulting to a contraction of the atomic orbitals’ sizes.  For gold, the contraction means that the difference in energy of the its two highest energy atomic orbitals is equivalent to that of blue light, causing the electrons absorb blue and violet light and reflects red and orange light, appearing as gold.

There are many more properties gold possess, it is ductile and malleable, it can’t combine with oxygen or dissolve in most acids, it does easily react with halogens. These properties can explain important uses of gold. For example, gold coins don’t have rust, neither does jewelry made from gold. With these properties and some technical terms that I’ve talked about, I hoped that you learned something from this week’s featured element, I hope you know how chemistry works in gold.


Recent News in the Scientific Community!

By: Pancho J. Villamoran


A new kind of fuel cell would take the world by storm as this new fuel cell research done by Jon Chouler, George Padgett, Petra Cameron, Kathrin Preuss, Maria Titirici, Ioannis Ieropoulos, and Mirella Di Lorenzo, generates electricity generally cheaper, smaller, and more powerful compared to previous microbial fuel cells as it’s source comes from, you guessed it… urine.


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Source: ScienceDaily



Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg and Dr. Charlotte Stagg from the University of Oxford have found that applying transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the brain could actually help people who have gone through stroke to recover from it through rehabilitation training.


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Source: ScienceDaily



The researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) have successfully found a way of producing cartilage tissue by using 3-D bioprinting with the ink containing human tissue cells. The elderly with arthritis and athletes with cartilage injuries could say no more to prolonged cartilage loss and bone pain.


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Source: ScienceDaily



Blind people and people with cataracts, rejoice! These imperfections can now finally be cured with the research deemed ‘remarkable’ by surgeons worldwide. Using one’s own stem cells, a new pair of lens can replace one’s old damaged or lens with ‘living lens’ or cornea tissue, restoring eyesight in just three months tops.


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Source: The Telegraph

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Source: ScienceNews



The fat we all want to remove can finally serve a different purpose: to repair and reinforce damaged body parts. Bioengineer Rocky Tuan of the University of Pittsburgh turned the yellow liposuctioned fat into a tissue that resembles shock-absorbing cartilage. This research could cure osteoporosis and maybe even create materials like tissue that are close to ligaments and tendons.


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Source: ScienceNews

Featured Scientist: Rosalind Franklin

By: David Nathaniel N. Niro

“Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment. That is why, science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated,” hence imparted by Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin, born on July 25, 1920 in United Kingdom, was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who paved way to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, and viruses, unbeknown to man at first.

Coming from a wealthy Jewish family, Franklin valued education and public service. She enrolled in Cambridge University where she studied physics and chemistry. Then, she went to work for the British Coal Utilization Research Association for her Ph.D. thesis, which later allowed her to travel the world as a guest speaker.

At age 26, she moved to Paris to master her skills in X-ray crystallography, her life’s work. Upon the mastery of crystallography, she began working with Maurice Wilkins, a friend of Francis Crick and James Watson. However, different as their personalities were, a divide has been formed. Franklin kept her work from her colleagues in relative isolation.

However, unknown to Franklin, Watson and Crick saw some of her unpublished data, including “photo 51”. Watson and Crick used this X-ray diffraction picture of the DNA molecule, an obvious helical model, together with their prior data to create “their” DNA model. Franklin’s contribution was not acknowledged until her death, but later after that Crick admitted the critical contribution of Franklin.

Franklin is an adventurous person whose mind enjoyed spirited scientific and political discussions and whose body loved to work hard and play hard. Indeed, Franklin is in the shadows of science history, for while her work on DNA was crucial to the discovery of its structure, her contribution to that landmark discovery was not shined upon the eyes of man.


Featured Element: Ethanol

By: Maria Janine L. Juachon

Sometimes, having more of something isn’t always the best choice.

Ethanol, also commonly known as ethyl alcohol, is a compound with a structural formula of CH3CH2OH, often written as C2H5OH, C2H6O. Commonly abbreviated as EtOH, it is an essential part of our daily lives seeing as it is used in antiseptics, in post-mercury thermometers, and in alcoholic beverages. In addition to this, it is also commonly used in microbiology laboratories as a prerequisite before any experiments can be conducted; however, it is to be noted that specifically 70% ethanol is the best concentration to be used – not 50% and not 100%. This article will attempt to explain the reason for the said case.

As stated, ethanol is used to kill microorganisms. It works by denaturing their proteins and dissolving their lipids of their cellular membrane. The water in the ethanol solution is the portion that actually does the denaturing. Using higher concentration makes the ethanol less effective because there cells cannot be denatured by the water; meanwhile, lower concentrations do not allow the ethanol to be as effective because it cannot break down the all lipids or allow the water to get into the cells.

To explain further, using higher concentration, say 100%, of alcohol will only most likely lead to coagulation of protein. If pure alcohol is poured over the bacterial cell, the alcohol will go through the cell wall of the bacteria in all directions, coagulating the protein just inside the cell wall; this coagulated protein would then stop the alcohol from penetrating farther from the cell, and no more coagulation would take place. This would result to the cell would getting sealed and become merely inactive and not dead. (Under favourable conditions the cell may revert to its active state).

Seventy percent is considered the optimum concentration because it was found that it coagulates protein at a relatively slower rate. This allows penetration all the way through the cell before coagulation can block it. Then the entire cell is coagulated and the organism dies.


References: (Picture)

Recent News in the Scientific Community!

By: Charles Jerome R. Bartolo


The production of most materials wastes potentially useful resources. A method to produce materials atom per atom is only used for laser materials, used in telecommunications, because of its rather high production costs and size limitations. Researchers led by Chad Mirkin at the Northwestern Univerisity in Evanston, Illinois have devised a way to manipulate gold nanoparticles into different crystalline structure to possibly highly particular and complex shapes and sizes, only by utilizing DNA.

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Source: Science Magazine



Cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells have been modified to produce a higher voltage output than its previous model, increasing its voltage near that of the GaAs solar cells, the current highest-voltage record holder.

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Source: Nature Magazine



Transition states are momentary chemical species produced by your reactants before they turn into products. Scientists are unable to determine the energy of these short-lived species due to their instability and short life span. However, a team of scientists led by Joshua Baraban at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Source: Scientific American