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How did a tree bark from Sri Lanka become one of the essential flavours of the festive season?
A compound so explosively unstable that nobody has been able to measure how sensitive it is without it, well, exploding
How one of mankind’s oldest pigments helped shepherds secure their sheep and inspired one of the most popular songs of the twentieth century
A sweet compound that provides ample energy for extreme endurance events
Liquid salts, ionic melts, fused salts, or ionic glasses – call them what you like, these much-hyped solvents show great promise
An antimicrobial compound that kills bacteria and viruses quickly – found in some of the most colourful antiseptic solutions
Does asparagus give you foul-smelling urine? Helen Arney investigates asparagusic acid, and the lavatorial genetic lottery that controls whether or not you can smell its distinctive aroma
A sweet treat with a deadly trick for Halloween – glycyrrhizic acid is found in black liquorice and sweeter than sucrose, but can cause heart problems and even prove fatal if consumed in excess
Also known as ‘milk of amnesia’, propofol helps to prevent perception of pain in surgery – just don’t forget its dangerous side
The hepatitis C drug that made waves when first launched – quicker to work and with fewer side effects than existing drugs, but it came with a hefty price tag
The first TB drug approved in 40 years gave hope to sufferers of drug resistant tuberculosis and ushered in a new class of antibiotics
This summer’s extreme weather prompts Katrina Krämer to investigate the history of sunblock and the ingredient blamed by some for bleaching coral reefs
From Lavoisier’s experiments with plaster of paris to the the ‘Sistine Chapel of crystals’ in Mexico, Mike Freemantle explores the history of gypsum
Originally developed to treat flu and marketed in Japan as Avigan, promising Covid-19 trial results have seen countries stockpiling this medication by the millions
Tannic acid in green acorns can kill wild animals and livestock, but you can prevent poisoning with pannage pigs
Common in the US but banned in the EU, this animal feed additive makes for muscular pigs and beefy international trade disputes.
Brian Clegg discovers what a six-membered silicon ring can tell us about alien life
Frances Addison on the aromatic compound found in both buttered popcorn and the bearcat’s scent glands, and responsible for the distinctive smell of both
News that this cheap, ubiquitous steroid drug may reduce deaths in Covid-19 cases has been greeted with cautious optimism
Mike Freemantle on the art, history and science of this delicate, translucent ceramic material
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