Anti Gravity: Number One; December 2004; Scientific American Magazine; by Steve Mirsky; 1 Page(s)
When my plane landed at the Akron- Canton airport in Ohio this past October, I was thinking about urine. True, I drank two cups of coffee before the hour-long flight from New York City. But I was thinking about urine because during the trip I read an Associated Press article about industry attempts to create synthetic urine. The idea of artificially making something that exists naturally in an endless stream might appear to be as silly as, oh, I don't know, cloning sheep. But there is actually a role for synthetic urine as a standard for calibrating equipment used in urine tests. Yes, there's a market for faux pee. Little did I know that the next day I would meet a woman who made her mark with the real thing.
I was in Akron to attend the Collegiate Inventors Competition awards ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Numerous members of that institution also showed up. And that's how I met chemist Helen Free, a hall of famer, former president of the American Chemical Society and a monarch of micturition: Free is affectionately known as the Pee Queen. Helen and her late husband, colleague and fellow hall of famer Alfred Free invented the strips of paper that can simply be dipped in a urine sample and then matched against a color code to indicate the levels of various substances. (Coincidentally, a few miles from the Inventors Hall of Fame is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, another institution whose members are intimately acquainted with urine testing.)