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Food Week Collection at #SciAmBlogs – #SciAmFood

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Wow, if I may say so myself, this was a wonderful week of food blogging! We launched a new group blog dedicated to food, and each of the seven bloggers posted this week. We had several guest bloggers. And of course, a number of our network bloggers chimed in. Bookmark this collection so you can enjoy the weekend reading all this wonderful stuff – hopefully, while eating some delicious food with it, as many of these posts will make you hungry!

Introducing: The Food Matters Crew by Layla Eplett, Pamela Ronald, Kathleen Raven, Kevin Bonham, Patrick Mustain and See Arr Oh:

Do you ever wonder about the science behind your food? We do, too. Our group of writers serves up juicy topics like genetic engineering, gut bacteria and the chemical reactions that occur during cooking. Together, we’ll peer inside factory farms, dark jungles, cafeterias, laboratories and those trendy molecular gastronomy spots. Grab a bite, and sit down at the table to learn why Food Matters….


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? by Kathleen Raven:

It’s dinnertime somewhere. A kid pushes a small pile of sautéed broccoli to the plate’s edge and sighs wistfully. I wish the surprise dinner guest would hurry up, s/he thinks. Suddenly a man dressed in cream-colored bed sheets appears in the doorway. This must be the person! Quickly, the kid slips down from the chair and quietly makes for the opposite exit. But before s/he can squirm away, Socrates has already asked the first question….


Pitch/Fork: The Relationship Between Sound And Taste by Layla Eplett:

Sometimes a toffee sounds really good–not just the suggestion of it, but the actual toffee itself. That’s according to a study that found altering the pitch and type of instruments used in an accompanying soundtrack can modify the way food tastes….


Astronaut nutrition: staying healthy for a year in space by Julianne Wyrick:

When NASA astronaut Scott Kelly leaves the earth for his International Space Station mission in 2015, he won’t walk the aisles of a grocery store for a year. To ensure he and other long-term astronauts stay healthy, NASA must make certain they have the proper food in tow….


Buddhist Economics and A GMO rethink by Pamela Ronald:

Discussions about plant genetic engineering often reflect two starkly opposing narratives. On the one side are the angry mobs who invade research farms to destroy fragile green rice seedlings deemed “GMOs”. On the other, are the scientists who call for calm and respect for publicly funded research. Too often, it seems, there is little mutual understanding. But times may be changing….


Breaking Food Down by See Arr Oh:

So where does food begin? As with most big questions, it depends who you ask. Let’s start down the reductive reasoning road: a young child might say food starts when a parent sets a plate in front of them. A chef might use her well-honed knives and skills to carefully craft food from hand-selected farm-fresh ingredients. The farmer, in turn, knows food consists of the animals and crops he raises….


It Is Not True That Kids Won’t Eat Healthy Food: Why The New USDA School Food Guidelines Are Very Necessary by Patrick Mustain:

Children in the U.S. are eating poorly and not getting enough physical activity, and this is contributing to higher rates of childhood obesity and related health issues. To help stem this problem, in 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The legislation gave a green light to the USDA to update, for the fist time in 30 years, the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The new standards require that every lunch include a fruit and a vegetable; emphasize whole grains (with a move to all whole grains by next year); feature an age-appropriate calorie limit; and offer low-fat or fat-free milk….


What’s eating us? by Kevin Bonham:

As #SciAmFood week draws to a close, we’ve heard a lot about the food we consume, from not getting enough to astronaut nutrition (and getting too much) to tricking your brain about what it’s getting. But what about the things in our food that consume us?…


Time to stop fighting GMO labeling? by Tabitha M. Powledge:

Why do people react so strongly against the idea of genetic modification? Especially genetic modification that crosses species barriers? In a recent New Yorker, Maria Konnikova returned to an explanation for these gut reactions that has been around at least since the early efforts at genetic engineering in the 1970s: The idea that fear and distrust of GMOs is based on ancient intuitive (but sometimes illogical) distinctions between the natural (good) and the unnatural (bad.) …


Riots, Rage, and Resistance: A Brief History of How Antibiotics Arrived on the Farm by Maureen Ogle:

In 1950, American farmers rejoiced at news from a New York laboratory: A team of scientists had discovered that adding antibiotics to livestock feed accelerated animals’ growth and cost less than conventional feed supplements. The news blew “the lid clear off the realm of animal nutrition,” crowed the editors of one farm magazine. Farmers and scientists alike “gasp[ed] with amazement, almost afraid to believe what they had found.” “Never again,” vowed another writer, would farmers suffer the “severe protein shortages” of the past….


Solutions for micronutrient deficiency by Anastasia Bodnar:

The recent destruction of Golden Rice trials in the Philippines has me thinking again about how crop genetics, including biotechnology, can help in reducing malnutrition. Greenpeace and others would have us believe that home gardening and supplements are the solution, but unfortunately it’s just not that simple. On the other side, I’ve seen quite a few short posts dismissing the potential of gardens and supplements but haven’t seen anyone go into the details. Let’s examine them thoroughly….


Labels and Other “Krafty” Stuff by Cami Ryan:

Genetic engineering of crops and genetically modified (GM) food are hotly debated topics. Since California’s Prop 37 for mandatory labeling of GMOs was defeated in November 2012, more than two dozen states have introduced bills into their legislature that would enact labeling. Although the push for labeling appears to be a recent phenomenon, the campaign draws on a long history of well-coordinated and well-funded movement against so-called genetically modified food. This has made food and modern agriculture highly contentious issues in the media. Fuelling the controversy is the rapid circulation of often inflammatory (mis)information on the Internet via social media platforms….


Salt: Defender of the Carotenoids by Emily Buehler:

If flour is the star of bread making, salt is the director, invisible in the dough but controlling its action and timing. Salt adds flavor. It slows fermentation. It tightens gluten and makes the dough less gloppy. And one of its lesser known jobs is protecting the flour’s carotenoids…


Food For Rethinking Markets by Jag Bhalla:

No perfect rationality is needed to see that markets often don’t work as advertised. But without perfect rationality, and other utopian conditions, the math of market theory doesn’t work. Businesses often ignore such unrealistic theorizing. So should we. “Free markets” are supposedly “efficient.” But by what stretch of reason, or misuse of words, can the following facts be considered efficient: “as much as 40% of food produced in America is thrown away,” while “18 million households” are “food insecure”? This is food for rethinking markets….


Tricking taste buds but not the brain: artificial sweeteners change brain’s pleasure response to sweet by Caitlin Kirkwood:

Do NOT EAT the chemicals. It is the #1 laboratory safety rule young scientists learn to never break and for good reason; it keeps lab citizens alive and unscathed. However, if it hadn’t been for the careless, rule-breaking habits of a few rowdy scientists ingesting their experiments, many artificial sweeteners may never have been discovered….


Yeast: Making Food Great for 5,000 Years. But What Exactly Is it? by Jennifer Frazer:

In the early days of ancient Egypt, around 3100 B.C., there lived a ruler named Scorpion, who may or may not have looked like The Rock. When Scorpion died, pyramids had not yet been invented, so he was buried in a broad, low tomb that today we call a mastaba (the Arabic word for “bench”)….


Hidden Dangers Lurking in Your Food by Judy Stone:

Food week on SciAm blogs would not be complete without scary stories. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 hamburger outbreak that sickened 623 people and killed 4 children. There still are major outbreaks, including Listeria from cantaloupe (2011) and, most recently, the parasite Cyclospora from pre-packaged salad….


When Food Goes Bad: Binge Eating and Reward by Scicurious:

For my food week post, I’m going at it a little differently. We spend a lot of time talking about food, thinking about whether it’s good for us, bad for us, which aspects of it are good or bad for us. We talk about why we crave some foods vs others, and we talk about why some foods taste disgusting. We talk about whether you’d want to replace your entire diet with a chalky fluid substance. Foodies spend a lot of time taking pictures of it, diet mags spend a lot of time talking about how to eat less of it. Food is surrounded by a culture that permeates almost everything we put in our mouths. …


Animal or Vegetable? Legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary by Becky Crew:

The Vegetable Lamb, or Lamb-Tree, was a popular myth of the Middle Ages that described a live lamb growing from a very special plant. It was believed to come from a vast region of Europe and Central Asia known then as Tartary, which gave the Vegetable Lamb one of its many alternate names, Borametz, which was the Tartar word for “lamb”….


“Forcing” my kids to be vegetarian. by Janet D. Stemwedel:

I’m a vegetarian, which is probably not a total surprise. I study and teach ethics. I’m uneasy with the idea of animals being killed to fulfill a need of mine I know can be fulfilled other ways. In the interests of sharing a world with more than 7 billion other people, and doing so without being a jerk, I’d rather reduce my toll on our shared resources. And, I never liked the taste of meat. …


Modern Art Upsetting Your Stomach? Take a Dose of David by Glendon Mellow:

It is widely believed that Michaelangelo’s favorite medium to work with was Carrara marble. The single gigantic piece of quarried marble had been more or less ruined a generation earlier by the efforts of the sculptor Agostino who had carved deeply into the block. It languished for 25 years exposed to the elements in a cathedral yard, the surface becoming rough with erosion….


Your Kitchen Is a Chem Lab and This Is Your Textbook by Kalliopi Monoyios:

Maybe you cook, maybe not, but I bet you eat from time to time. If you’re reading articles on Scientific American, I also bet you are at least partially interested in science, and whether you eat gazpacho or gulash, KFC or cronuts, you have to concede this point: cooking is essentially applied chemistry. The beauty of it, though, is that the chemistry education part kind of sneaks up on you unless you make a point of seeking it out. …


But the Cheetos bag said they were healthy! Evaluating diet and food information sources by Bonnie Swoger:

On the Cheetos package are the words “0 grams trans fat.” They must be healthy, right? Grocery store packaging is one of the main ways that consumers get information about food and diet. We also hear about recent nutritional nutrition on the nightly news, we look up specific information on the internet, and we see the latest diet books on the shelf at our local bookstore. Some information sources provide basic facts about food items, while other sources aim to influence our philosophical and moral attitudes towards food and food production….


Appreciating what is on my plate by DNLee:

Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers grew up during the Great Depression. That lean, harsh economic time made an indelible imprints on them – their spirits, their habits, and outlook on life. Those marks were especially present in each of their relationships to food, so much so, that 40-50 years later that I too was imprinted….


Fork & Knife Politics: 5 Names in the Food Justice Movement you should know by DNLee:

The September 2013 Issue of Scientific American Magazine is a special issue devoted to the topic of food and the entire Scientific American Blog Network is celebrating Food Week September 2-6, 2013. As I was writing my post Appreciating what is on my plate (September 4, 2013) I was thinking of how how others are rally leading the charge and the conversation about the intersection of Social Justice, Politics, Economic Enfranchisement, and Food….


#DispatchesDNLee: Culinary Tour of my Tanzanian Meals by DNLee:

You have to eat. No matter what else happens in life, where we go or why we go, we can’t escape the necessity of eating, fueling up. One of the most popular questions I get about my visits to Tanzania is: “How’s the food?” It was different. Not bad at all….


Scientific American comes out in favor of GMOs by Ashutosh Jogalekar:

This is a welcome note to end the week on. In the September 6 issue of Scientific American, the magazine’s editors pen a piece explicitly supporting GMOs and opposing GMO labeling. I applaud the editors for taking an official position on a topic that still sparks intense debate. Both the wording and content of the editorial reflect an adherence to what is called “good scientific practice”; trusting the scientific evidence as far as it takes us, leaving room for uncertainty and making a judgement call based on imperfect but still sound evidence….


The Top n Math Videos Involving Food by Evelyn Lamb:

It’s food week here on the Scientific American blog network. Food is a really important part of our health, and there’s a lot to learn about the science of food: taste, health, agriculture, how we eat. You could be reading enlightening, important articles about GMO labeling and antibiotic use in farming, or the first posts from the newly-launched blog Food Matters. But you could also be over here on my blog finding cool math videos about food. From fractal vegetables to Escher-printed cookies to Pi (or Tau) Day pies, there’s a lot to choose from! For some positive integer n, here are my top n foodalicious math videos….


How You Think About Food Will Ruin Your Beach Body by Kyle Hill:

It’s summer time; do you know what that means? Time to accentuate the abs and cut the top off the muffin. If you decide to shape up, you won’t be alone. According to a number of estimates, Americans now spend 19 billion dollars a year on gym memberships. That’s a lot of yoga pants….


They eat horses, don’t they? by Bora Zivkovic:

….The question “shall we eat horse meat?” is coupled with the related question “shall we slaughter horses?”. In both countries, most of the horse slaughter (and consumption) is outsourced to other countries (Italy in the case of the Balkans, Mexico in the case of USA). Yet the attitudes are different. There, if there were more horses and there was more appetite for meat, there would be horse slaughter in place with almost nobody’s objection. Without too much emotional opposition to eating horses, economic forces would be allowed to dictate what happens on the ground…..


Food Week on #SciAmBlogs network! by Bora Zivkovic:

You may have noticed that the September 2013 Issue of Scientific American Magazine is a special issue devoted to the topic of food, plus all the web-only exclusives. You may also remember that we had a food day on the blogs here two years ago – Passions of Food—Special Day at #SciAmBlogs. Obviously, food is a big, complex and exciting topic that many people are passionate about. Thus, this whole week will be the Food Week on the blogs. Our network bloggers, as well as several guest bloggers, will publish food related posts all week long, and at the end of the week we will compile them all in one space….


Welcome Food Matters – a big new group blog at #SciAmBlogs by Bora Zivkovic:

Food is an exciting topic. And food is also a topic that we are all emotional and passionate about. There are many wonderful food writers out there, but some were already tied with other media organizations, while others – in their zeal and excitement – may not always abide by the best practices in fact-checking and accuracy. I wanted to hire the best of the best that I could possibly get, people who have different backgrounds and different interests, cover different aspects of food, nutrition and agriculture, but all write with the highest standards of accuracy and all write beautifully and engagingly….


Finally, there has been quite a bit of reaction out there in the media, old and new, welcoming Food Matters as an important new place for discussing the science behind all the aspects of food:

Scientific American’s new Food Matters blog is all about the science of food, including GMOs by Tabitha M. Powledge at Genetic Literacy Project.

Welcome Food Matters at Scientific American Blogs- Chemistry Represent! by Carmen Drahl at C&EN.

Exploring the New Food Focus at Scientific American by Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth blog at New York Times.

Scientific American Launches Food Blog by Hugh Merwin at Grub Street blog at New York Magazine.

Scientific American eats by Alexis Sobel Fitts at CJR Observatory.

New food and farm science blog to bookmark by David Sommerstein at The Dirt.

Scientific American magazine launches food blog by Steve Barnes at Table Hopping.

Scientific American Launches New Food Science Blog at The Inquisitive Eater.

15,000-Pound Fruit Salads and More News by Jessica Chou at The Daily Meal.

3 Picks: Worthless Ag Cliché, Food Blogging, CEO Farmers by K. McDonald at Big Picture Agriculture.

A Tasty New Development by See Arr Oh at Just Like Cooking

We, Beasties Sporulates by Kevin Bonham at We Beasties.

New #SciAmFood Blog is Here! by Kevin Bonham at Red Wine and Lariam.

Going To Pot: The Marijuana Sequel by Tabitha M. Powledge at PLOS Blogs.

And watch the recording of the Google Hangout introducing the new blog:


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  1. 1. Bora Zivkovic 4:42 pm 09/9/2013

    And here is another one, by Paul Raeburn at KSJ Tracker:

    Link to this
  2. 2. Bora Zivkovic 7:52 pm 09/9/2013

    And here’s io9:

    Link to this

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