Sunday, June 24, 2018

Science in Fiction (#41): Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein


Welcome to this month's Science in Fiction feature! Science in Fiction is a meme I created to showcase the wonderful aspects of science in Young Adult fiction novels. For more information and previous feature, check out the "Science in Fiction" tag!

This month, I'm featuring Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein!


I haven't read Chemistry Lessons, but I've seen it around. It is a new release from HMH Teen, and it deals with a high school student who is an intern at MIT and will be going to college soon. Maya's mother was a scientist; by chance, Maya discovers that her mother was researching pheromones, and how to increase human attraction. 

Today I'm going to talk about pheromones! What a fun topic, right?

Dictionary.com defines pheromones as "any chemical substance released by an animal that serves to influence the physiology or behavior of other members of the same species." There have been little evidence to support the existence of pheromones in humans (boooo!), but pheromones are quite common in animals and plants. Pheromones can be used for things like pest control. 

In an article published by Phys.org on June 7th, 2018, it was detailed how sex pheromones would be used as a form of pest control. Scientists have isolated a specific type of sex pheromone that will attract pesticides, thus protecting the plants. This will hopefully prevent crop loss, something that the world has been experiencing more and more of, especially with rising immunity to pest control.

Another use of pheromones that will be implemented in the future is to control the lamprey population in the Great Lakes. Lamprey are an invasive species in the Great Lakes, and the population is out of control. They are super ugly and dangerous. Scientists have been researching sex pheromones that would lure the lamprey into traps. 

Lamprey are native to the Atlantic Ocean and are highly invasive in the Great Lakes. They have suction cup-like mouth that latches onto their prey. They have no natural predators and so their population is free to grow at will. Pheromones is definitely one way to reduce the population. Check out more on MPR News.

Image result for lamprey great lakes
 Lamprey. Source: Wikipedia

In Australia, researchers are using pheromones to lure and trap a specific swarm of bees that are thought to carry varroa mite, a virus deadly to bees. The bees that are caught by the pheromone traps are studied to learn more about the virus.


Bottom line: it would be cool if humans have pheromones, but it's really cool how pheromones are used in a science-y way. Whether it's to control a population of invasive species, or to increase crop yield, the use of pheromones can be beneficial to humans and natural ecosystems. Do you agree?

5 comments:

  1. These posts are my favorite of yours. I am an environmental engineer also and love science and math. I have a cupboard moth trap that uses pheromones to attract them. I think the eels are super ugly too and would never want to find one while swimming or boating. Every hear Gus from Psyche scream like a little girl? That would so be me if I saw one of these! It's awesome scientists are working on using pheromones to catch these guys.

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  2. Wow! That is amazing work they are able to do with pheromones. Love your fun chemistry lesson and hope when you get the chance the book is good, too.

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  3. I've seen Chemistry Lessons around as well, but haven't gotten to it. I had no idea that pheromones could be used to widely! Let's hope they work against the lampreys at the Great Lakes. You're right, they are super ugly, haha! :D

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  4. I didn't know anything about how they're able to use pheromones to control a population of invasive species and all that. Sounds super fascinating. Also, Lampreys freak me out. lol

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  5. Pheromones are super cool! I didn't realize that they could be used to protect plant populations -- I was only aware of their uses on fauna. And now that I have a new puppy (eeeee yay!) I'm also aware of the use of pheromones in training animals...but I haven't quite mastered that one yet. 😉

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