Monday, August 18, 2014

Eating really cheap: a 50 cent meal, and why I think Soylent will never be a food for the poor (although it may help them indirectly)

Two of my major interests in life are eating delicious food and spending as little money as possible. So when I read about the Soylent project, which aims to produce an ultra-cheap food powder that meets all of a person's nutrition needs I was very much interested (about the ultra-cheap part and the nutritional needs meeting part, not so much about the tasteless powder part). My philosophy about food is much different than that of Soylent creator Rob Rhinehart, who states on his blog "In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming." Personally, I see the time I spend cooking as an adventure: an opportunity to learn and experiment. I rarely cook from recipes (although I do keep a notebook), and pretty much never eat the same thing twice. I see cooking as a kind of huge multivariable optimization problem with a complicated (and changing) objective function and no global optimum, but lots of local optima all over the place. I want to make food that is delicious, nutritious, cheap, and not monotonous, and I have fun trying to do that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chemspider python scripting

In the past, I've shown how to script Chemdraw and ChemAxon for the purposes of converting chemical information among different file formats. In this post I'll show how to achieve (vaguely) similar results using the ChemSpider web API. ChemSpider is nice because (unlike SciFinder) it is free, they don't mind if you reuse their data, and they don't mind if you access their website with scripts. Using ChemSpider has the advantage that it is a huge database and provides cross-references to other databases, it has images, mol files, and lots of other data about each compound.