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Miracle Fruit and Miraculin

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Every few years, the media picks up the story of Miracle Fruit, an African berry that plays tricks with the human tongue: it changes how you perceive sour flavors, making even the sourest foods (like lemons and beer) seem super-sweet.

The newest fervor over Miracle Fruit comes from a May New York Times piece, though coverage of the fruit goes back a ways. (I think the first time I heard about the fruit was circa 1997, and it seems to pop up as new news every now and again.) Anyway, the Times article describes the fruit and the phenomenon of "flavor tripping parties," in which participants pay an entry fee to taste some Miracle Fruit, then indulge in all sorts of sour-turned-sweet flavors:

Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.

"You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute," he said. "Then you're ready to go." He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón.

Miracle Fruit's sweet-making properties are thanks to an active ingredient (identified way back in 1968) that goes by the bizarrely optimistic name Miraculin. The FDA has refused to approve the substance as a sweetening agent in the US, and instead has classified it a "food additive." Many Miraculin proponents strongly disagree with this decision, speculating that the FDA is in the pocket of Big Sugar (or Big Corn Syrup, perhaps).

If you're looking for your own flavor trip, you can buy fruit from Miracle Fruit Man (aka Curtis Mozie), or from the Flavor Trip guy himself. Further information is also available via Miracle Fruit's Wikipedia page. As a Portland resident, I look forward to tracking down this fellow and getting the hookup:

Lance J. Mayhew developed a series of drink recipes with miracle fruit foams and extracts for a recent issue of the cocktail magazine Imbibe and may create others for Beaker & Flask, a restaurant opening later this year in Portland, Ore.

So have any Mental Floss readers partaken of the Miracle Fruit? If so, would you recommend it?

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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]


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