First Take: Spicing Up the Sound Print
ImageYou may have a palate so sensitive you can pick up hints of clove and chamomile in a glass of pinot noir. But that’s nothing compared to Rick Keil and Jaqui Neibauer, who were able to detect a spike in the vanilla and cinnamon content of Seattle’s sewage during the holidays. Not by tasting it, mind you! Keil and Neibauer are chemical oceanographers at the UW, and they got their results the conventional way: with a gas chromatograph and a quadrapole mass spectrometer. According to their findings, levels of cinnamon, vanilla and artificial vanilla in Puget Sound-bound sewage all peaked in the days immediately after Thanksgiving. The point of their study, Keil says, was not to tell us what we already know about ourselves—that we bake a lot of desserts at Thanksgiving—but “to evaluate whether daily ‘normal’ human activities within the metropolitan area are communicated to the environment, and if so, how fast?” The scientists are now trying to determine just how much Seattle loves its double tall mochas—they’re checking chocolate and caffeine levels in the city’s sewage.