A diagram of the chemical structure of a newly discovered material that expands under pressure. The material could be used to design things like artificial muscles and highly sensitive touchscreen monitors. (Source: University of Oxford)
Ann, I agree with what you're saying about SE Asian cooking. It's pretty easy to duplicate the basic ingredients. I find the trick is with the spices (much like Indian cooking). I think the trick is learning the blend of spices that make up the overall flavor. I ran into this while trying to learn how to make Pad Thai recently. The recipes I found were surprisingly useless. Don't know why. So I got there through many home experiments.
I do something similar, but usually without writing notes. I file it sort of visually/taste-wise. It's hard to describe, but it seems to work for reverse engineering a dish I've eaten. Also, I read a lot of similar recipes which shows me the common ingredients and their proportions. After all, it's just a form of applied chemistry. I also find this method works very well with SE Asian cooking, which combines many ingredients at the last minute, many of them fresh. So they're actually quite simple if you have the key ingredients.
One thing that's fun is to try to replicate a restaurant dish. My mom taught me to jot down notes while you're at the restaurant and you're eating a dish you want to replicate. I've done that with Thai and Indian dishes. Even when I miss, it sometimes comes out just fine.
Rob, I've gone in the opposite direction. I usually end up "fixing" a recipe before I make it the first time, unless it includes very different ingredients/combos of same, or different methods that I'm unfamiliar with. And sometimes, I start making up recipes without looking at any first. That's really fun.
I agree, Rob. So often we're reporting on that happen not because an engineer or materials scientist said "How do I make X happen?", but instead, "what would happen if I did Y?". That also happens a lot in creative cooking which is, after all, another form of chemistry. If there are any cooks reading this, I'm sure they'll understand what I mean.
Yes, gold makes the material expensive, but if you noted in the story, it's actually the cheapest ingredient, according to the researcher (if he spoke correctly...maybe he meant most expensive?). I think the researchers have to find a replacement not just for the gold but for other ingredients for this to be viable in the commercial sector.
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