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4 thoughts on “About

  1. Elizabeth Ott
    Chapter One: Peppers, Nutmeg, and Cloves
    During the Age of Discovery, Europeans competed to find new markets and lands to branch out one’s country and its policies at home. One finds great explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan (circumnavigated the globe), Pedro Cabral (found water route to India), and Christopher Columbus (found the Americas), as examples of those who have opened up the world economy and the need for new markets and continuous exploration. However, the most important aspect of these findings is the markets and trade opened up with these foreign places. One of these many life-changing products was spices.
    Throughout time, spices have been incredibly valuable to Europeans. Originally used for medicinal purposes, spices were soon in widespread use for seasoning rancid meat, as well as reducing the saltiness of food. The demand for spices shot up and the market was incredible. The most successful merchants for this trade were the merchants from Venice. Merchants in Venice, Italy increased the business during the medieval Crusades in the Middle East, where there were plenty of new spices and products to bring back to Europe. Venice just so happened to be in the middle of the return home, resulting in an explosion of trade. The Age of Exploration also provided a flood of new types of plants and animals, including spices such as peppers. Territories were staked and trade routes established between the new worlds and the old. The discoveries did not end there. Belgium searched to establish a colony during the Age of Imperialism in the late 1800s; the small European country soon came across the Banda Islands or the Spice Islands. This was the only place nutmeg and cloves could be found and still is to this day. The Dutch immediately set out establishing a monopoly, which was successful at first, but died as other things became more valuable. From then on, spices have been a declining asset in which European nations fought for rights of ownership.
    Imagine biting into a fresh, green jalapeño. One would experience a burning sensation on the tongue and the interior of the mouth, causing one to instantly look for a cool drink. The molecule responsible for the hot jalapeño is piperine; this molecule is composed of C17H19O3N. The more popular chile peppers are part of the Capsicum genus. This group is known for intense heat classified by capsaicin, shown in the chemical formula of C18H27O3N. The last molecule that causes plants to be hot is referred to as zingerone. This molecule, C11H14O, is smaller than the other two but contains an aromatic ring. Despite these compounds, size, color, and region also affect the pepper’s hotness; however, it is not reliable. Piperine, capsaicin, and zingerone all contributed in the boom of trade and desire to venture out into unknown waters.
    Pepper, nutmeg, and cloves are not as priceless now as they were in the 1500s. Back then, one pound of pepper could buy the freedom of a bound serf to the noble’s land. Of course, that was hard to come by. The spices then were major tools in trade and were necessary to keep up with the ever-changing economy. Time passed and new ideas, thoughts, and technologies came about. Soon the once profitable market of spices was declining rapidly with new interests. Today, spices are still common and are taken advantage; however, major money and trade is not coming out of this market. The spice trade has faded over time, as the popular demands of spices were met and other problems arose. By checking the price of nutmeg and cloves, one can tell that this business has died down to where people are comfortable with the spice they have. Peppers, nutmegs, and cloves are still as important to us as they were centuries ago, but are conveniently priced and acquired.
    I agree with the author’s argument on the worldwide importance of the molecules in pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. Without these plants and their unusual properties and molecules, many cultures and trade would disappear. Many people of a lineage that traces to the Spanish, Indians, and Italians still use the spices discovered and controlled in previous centuries. A humongous market soon came out of the finding of spices and their many uses. Spices will always be a major part in the world, whether it is economic or cultural.
    Overall, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves were important in shaping the world we live in. Without the need for spices, countries would have one less reason to explore and humans would have to find another way to preserve and flavor meat. Even though the trade for spices has noticeably dropped, the value of these molecules is vital in our everyday lives.

  2. Silk production started in China with the cultivation of a small gray silkworm called Bombyx mori. This silkworm produces approximately five hundred eggs in a one to two day period, and then they die. More than a thousand silkworms are produced from one gram of the silkworm’s eggs. Each of these silkworms produces approximately two hundred grams of raw silk. Since silk was very valuable and expensive, it was mostly worn by rich people. Even though silk remained very expensive, common people managed to buy them. Silk were then expanded to other place by trading through the Silk Road. The secret of silk was kept by the Chinese people, and anyone who revealed it would be put to death.

    Since silk was expensive and many wanted it, some tried to replicate it. There are two ways to replicate: synthetically and artificially. Synthetic is when a compound is man-made by chemical reactions. Artificial is the properties of a compound. Chardonnet was among many who tried to replicate silk. He spent a lot of time studying silkworm and how it spins the silk fiber. Chardonnet produced artificial silk that was made synthetically. The silk he produced was known as Chardonnet silk. Chardonnet thought he succeeded until the flammability of the material proved him wrong. Corothers, another man who tried to replicate silk, produced nylon. Nylon has the closest properties to silk and its polymer units are held together through amide linkages. The cost of nylon is a lot cheaper than silk, which allows more common people to purchase it.

    Silk plays an important role in people’s lives even today. The discovery of silk led to nylon, dye, etc. Silk has brought people great wealth. It also created many new industries and new jobs, stimulating art and fashion. Nylon is used in different products to make a living. These products include nets for fishing, strings for tennis rackets, coatings for electrical wires, etc. Nylon is also used to make mosquito netting, which protects many people from malaria, a deadly disease.

    The authors did an outstanding job writing this chapter. However, there are several things I must argue. According to the Chinese legend, the history of silk did start with Hsi-Ling-Shih. However, she was not a princess. His-Ling-Shih was the goddess of silk. The authors did not go deep enough into detail of how valuable silk is. Silk was considered as valuable as gold, and that case is still the same today. Since servants of the royalties were given leftover food and very little money, those in royalty position would give them silk as a reward of their hard work.

  3. Joseph Lister created one of the first antiseptics, phenol. Phenol was extracted from the ever present coal tar found in the gas lamps of Lister’s time; therefore, he had a very prevalent supply. Derived from carbolic acid, phenol comes in the form of white crystals after being taken from said acid. Phenol’s molecular formation consists of a benzene ring along with an OH group. It is a fairly simple aromatic molecule. Phenol is somewhat soluble in water, yet very soluble in oil which was the key in making this unbelievable antiseptic.

    Phenol’s most notable début in history is within the medical field. It played a major role in surgery. Once Lister started using phenol during surgery his patients survived more often and did not contract surgery related diseases, such as gangrene. With phenol’s property to dissolve in oil, Lister was able to combine oil and the phenol crystals to make the antiseptic. He applied this to a linen cloth to wrap around the wound. This provides an barrier between the wound and the outside world, or other harmful germs. By doing this, the injury could heal because of phenol’s germ fighting characteristics. Germs stood no chance to further harm the patient. In later years though, scientists discovered that phenol itself was actually toxic. Nonetheless, it seemed to be a life saver of that day. Any side-effects were over looked when the wonders phenol could accomplish were realized. Phenol also can be found in billiard balls, in artificial flavoring for vanilla, and in marijuana. It is a major contributor in today’s industrial world and is found in a molecule believed to provide protection against different types of cancers.

    Originally, I had only believed phenol was famous for its usefulness in the medical field. Upon reading this chapter I realized phenol is used in so much more. It contributed to the economy, gave to the less fortunate a way to provide entertainment (billiard balls), and made available what would have normally been a fantasy (vanilla). My opinion of this seemly simplistic molecule has changed greatly seeing not only how beneficial it has been medically, but in our daily living as well. I believe the authors put forth great evidence supporting the significance phenol has in our world. They showed aspects of every part of our life allowing everyone to understand how much of an impact this one molecule has had in history.

  4. Devon Smith

    Chapter 6 Silk and Nylon
    Throughout history silk and nylon have been used for their properties. Silk has been used throughout history to show luxury and wealth, but this molecule did a lot more than just that. Silk was the molecule that united the east and west with trade.
    Silk had its beginnings in Chine. Princess His-ling-shih discovered it in 2640 B.C. She supposedly discovered this when an insect cocoon fell into her tea and she found a thread of silk inside the egg. Whether this story is true or not, Chine started to harvest this silk from silk worms also known as Bombyx mori. These little gray worms feed on the leaves of the mulberry tree, which is also know as Morus alba. The silkworm moth lays about five hundred eggs over a five-day period and then the worm dies. One gram of these eggs produces one thousand silk worms, which eat thirty-six kilograms of mulberry leaves, and produces two hundred grams of raw silk. In one of these cocoons that gives the silk a silk string can be unwound that is anywhere from four hundred to three thousand yards.
    One of the greatest roads in history can be associated with this molecule. The Silk Road, which started in China and in its prime reached as far as Byzantium (present day Turkey), Antioch and Tyre. Because this was such a big industry in China the exportation of silk worms was a criminal offense that was punishable by death. Even though this was illegal five hundred fifty two monks monks of the Nestorian church smuggled out silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds in hollowed out canes, and successfully made the journey from China to Constantinople.
    Since silk’s appearance in Ancient time scientist in more modern times have tried to make synthetic silk. There was a problem with this though due to its molecular shape and nature making synthetic silk was impossible it was just too hard to replicate silk, but artificial silk was not that way. The first artificial silk was discovered in the 1870’s by the French count Hilare de Chardonnet. While performing his favorite hobby photography he spilled a solution of collodion, a material that contained nitro cellulose used to coast photographs. He then saw a mass formed and he was able to pull a tread from the mass that resembled silks properties.
    This artificial silk was come to be know as Chardonnet silk and was spun into clothing in 1891. Unfortunately the silk was made of nitro cellulose the same molecule use to make gun cotton, which was a highly flammable. At a dance with a woman wearing this dress, she was dancing with her partner and a cigarette was flicked on her dress. The dress was gone and the woman went with it too. In 1901 Charles Cross discovered a safer artificial silk and Edward Bevan called viscose. After creating this silk it was marketed and clothing was made out of it. This form of artificial silk was a huge success.
    Even though an alternative to regular silk was discovered people wanted an artificial silk that did not have cellulose in it. In 1938 one molecule was achieved and named nylon. This product has many uses in every day life. It was first marketed for its use in toothbrush bristles. After that in 1939 nylon stockings were sold for the first time. This molecule was ideal for stockings because it had the desirable properties, but did not sag or wrinkle. These stocking were so desirable that the year after the came onto the market sixty four million pairs were sold. The products that used nylon varied from electrical appliances to badminton rackets, and proved to be a very useful wartime molecule. It was used to make one of the most important items in World War II. It had been a safer replacement of the silk parachutes. It was such an important molecule it became known as the first engineering plastic. This molecules usefulness lies in its chemicals composition. It has similar properties of silk, but the other parts give its desired properties that are not in silk making it the perfect hybrid.

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