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18 Sep 19:24

Raspberries, Weight Loss, & The Galaxy – The Chemistry of Raspberries

by Compound Interest

The Chemistry of Raspberries

Raspberries, like all fruits, contain a complex mix of organic compounds. Unlike many fruits, however, raspberries have the less common distinction of lending their name to the compound that is a major contributor to their aroma – and one of the compounds that contributes to their flavour has also been detected in the centre of our galaxy. So, does the centre of the galaxy taste faintly of raspberries?

Before we examine that, let’s start by looking at the aroma of raspberries. A number of families of chemical compounds contribute toward the smell of raspberries, primarily terpenoids, aldehydes & ketones. However, it’s a compound known as ‘raspberry ketone’ (which has the chemical name 4-(4-hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one)) that is considered the ‘impact molecule’ for the aroma. Its pleasant aroma has seen it used in perfumery, cosmetics, and as a food additive – however, these uses come at a price. Only around 1-4mg of raspberry ketone can be extracted from a kilogram of raspberries, and as a consequence the cost of the naturally occurring compound is significant. Synthetic forms of the compound are, however, less costly.

In recent years, there’s been an increasing interest in raspberry ketone as an anti-obesity supplement. A study in 2005 found that mice given the compound showed increased breakdown of fat; the conclusions drawn from the study were that raspberry ketone could help prevent and improve obesity and fatty liver. However, it’s important to note that there have been no reliable, controlled tests in humans of this supposed anti-obesity action, so we have no idea if the same effects would be seen. The dosages of the compound used in rodent studies were also higher than would be obtained from the use of raspberry ketone supplements in humans.

One of the compounds that contributes towards the flavour of raspberries has also made it into the news in recent years – but for a very different reason. In 2009, astronomers searching the large dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy to try and detect complex molecules in space succeeded in identifying a number of compounds, including the compound ethyl formate. Ethyl formate smells of rum, and is one of a number of chemical contributors to the flavour of raspberries; this discovery spawned a number of news articles proclaiming that ‘space tastes of raspberries’.

The reality is probably a little more complex, and a little less raspberry flavoured. Whilst ethyl formate is indeed a contributor to raspberry flavour, a number of other complex molecules have also been detected in space, and the team examining the dust cloud at the centre of the galaxy identified at least 50 other molecular entities as well as ethyl formate. Ethyl formate is probably much less abundant compared to some of these; for example, the same dust cloud that ethyl formate was detected in contains a significant amount of methanol.

So, does the galaxy taste of raspberries and smell of rum? Whilst the ethyl formate is out there, it’s a little bit of a simplified view. Sadly, considering that the Sagittarius B2 dust cloud in which it was detected is around 25,000 light years from Earth, so we’re unlikely to be able to put the raspberry-flavoured theory to the test any time soon!



The graphic in this article is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. See the site’s content usage guidelines.

References & Further Reading


19 Sep 00:00

Caskie Stinnett

"A diplomat... is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip."
18 Sep 21:00

A Building Set With Fake Explosives Lets Kids Demolish Their Creations

by Andrew Liszewski

A Building Set With Fake Explosives Lets Kids Demolish Their Creations

Even if they've spent hours perfecting a towering creation, demolition is always the end game for kids building with blocks or other construction toys. It can come from a barrage of Nerf darts, an attack by action figures, or with this building set, a bunch of simulated explosives that kids can trigger with a remote.


18 Sep 22:51

Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector

by samzenpus
astroengine writes Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is "consistent with a dark matter particle" known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way's halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, "we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter," AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars." But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction.

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19 Sep 04:24

Study: Chimpanzees Have Evolved To Kill Each Other

by samzenpus
sciencehabit writes A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well.

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18 Sep 11:25

X-rays of the weird things that vets find inside pets

by Omar Kardoudi on Sploid, shared by Jesus Diaz to Gizmodo

X-rays of the weird things that vets find inside pets

I just knew about They Ate WHAT? A competition where vets send X-rays of animals with weird things stuck within their bodies. These are some of the winners—some images look kind of harsh but don't worry, all the animals were treated appropriately and they are fine and hungry again.


17 Sep 22:43

Millions in historic Scottish vote

Voting on whether Scotland should stay in the UK or become an independent nation enters its final stages, with polls to close at 22:00 BST (21:00 GMT).
17 Sep 21:00

One Way to Not Forget Your Password

17 Sep 04:00

My Phone is Dying

When it explodes, it will cast off its outer layers, leaving behind nothing but a slowly fading PalmPilot, calculator, or two-way pager.
17 Sep 15:30

20 DIY Pantry Staples That Are Even Better Than Store-Bought — Recipes from The Kitchn

by Kelli Dunn

Think about some of the staples you keep in your pantry or fridge and use on a daily basis — peanut butter, marinara sauce, tomato paste, mayonnaise, granola, chicken (or vegetable) stock, spice blends. The list could go on and on. Have you tried to make these things yourself?

If not, you should! You might not always save time making these everyday items, but they'll taste fresher, you'll have fun making them, and it might even save you a little money. Here are 20 pantry staples that are easy to make at home, and in some cases even less expensive than the store-bought versions!


16 Sep 17:48

Developing the First Law of Robotics

by Soulskill
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

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16 Sep 14:30

Husbands Have Needed Looking After for a Long Time

16 Sep 00:00

10 Unbelievable Stories of Booing

Here are some extreme examples of when cheers turn into jeers.
15 Sep 19:55

Artificial Spleen Removes Ebola, HIV Viruses and Toxins From Blood Using Magnets

by samzenpus
concertina226 writes Harvard scientists have invented a new artificial spleen that is able to clear toxins, fungi and deadly pathogens such as Ebola from human blood, which could potentially save millions of lives. When antibiotics are used to kill them, dying viruses release toxins in the blood that begin to multiply quickly, causing sepsis, a life-threatening condition whereby the immune system overreacts, causing blood clotting, organ damage and inflammation. To overcome this, researchers have invented a "biospleen", a device similar to a dialysis machine that makes use of magnetic nanobeads measuring 128 nanometres in diameter (one-five hundredths the width of a single human hair) coated with mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a type of genetically engineered human blood protein.

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16 Sep 02:05

Schizophrenia Is Not a Single Disease

by Soulskill
An anonymous reader writes: New research from Washington University has found that the condition known as schizophrenia is not just a single disease, but instead a collection of eight different disorders. For years, researchers struggled to understand the genetic basis of schizophrenia. This new method was able to isolate and identify the different conditions (each with its own symptoms) currently classified under the same heading (abstract, full text). "In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients' symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia." According to one of the study's authors, "By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems."

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15 Sep 19:30

We're Done With Doge Now, Everyone Go Home

We're Done With Doge Now, Everyone Go Home

Submitted by: (via jamiew)

15 Sep 14:04

MIT's Robot Cheetah Now Runs Free Without Cables Or a Leash

by Andrew Liszewski

MIT's Robot Cheetah Now Runs Free Without Cables Or a Leash

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they've got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they're forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.


14 Sep 18:15

Brains may 'resist Alzheimer's'

A small study suggests some people's brains may have the ability to resist early Alzheimer's damage.
14 Sep 14:00

A Smartphone Sidewalk Pops Up on a Busy Street in China

by Darren Orf

A Smartphone Sidewalk Pops Up on a Busy Street in China

Back in mid-July, a two-way walking lane appeared in Washington, D.C. One side was a dedicated path for smartphone users and the other for people not hunched over their devices.


12 Sep 20:30

Better Order Two, Then

Better Order Two, Then

Submitted by: (via darthbaloo)

Tagged: beer , menu , after 12 , potato , Ireland , g rated
09 Sep 23:23


12 Sep 00:00

10 Famous People Who Make Horrible Art

These people may be well-known for one thing or the other, but that does NOT make them an artist. Take a look and you'll see what we mean.
12 Sep 00:00

David Coblitz

"A committee can make a decision that is dumber than any of its members."
11 Sep 10:49

How to delete your free U2 album

Apple gave all iTunes users a free copy of U2's new album with the iPhone 6 launch. Don't want it? Find out how to bin it here.
11 Sep 18:08

'Giant swimming dinosaur' unearthed

A giant fossil, unearthed in the Sahara desert, has given scientists an unprecedented look at Spinosaurus - the largest-known carnivorous dinosaur.
11 Sep 15:38

Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

by Soulskill
An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.

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11 Sep 00:00

Blaise Pascal

"I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room."
10 Sep 02:21

Sleeping pills 'linked to dementia'

Long-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer's, research suggests.
10 Sep 23:49

'Signs of recovery' in ozone layer

The ozone layer around the earth is showing its first sign of thickening after years of steady depletion, a UN team says.
10 Sep 13:00

14 Underground Structures That Expose the World Beneath Our Feet

by Jordan Kushins

14 Underground Structures That Expose the World Beneath Our Feet

From filthy punk clubs to pristine public transport, there's a heck of a lot going on under our cities. Underground: The Spectacle of the Invisible at Zurich's Museum of Design goes deep into the different types of urban infrastructure that have been built up down below, and the different reasons that being subterranean just makes more sense.