Jul 13, 2008

Hey! There Are Cockroaches in my Chocolate Ice Cream! (Part 4/4)

At the end of the presentation, Dr. Schwarcz demonstrates a reaction where he reacts calcium carbide with water to produce flammable gas- acetylene. When a burning splinter was introduced through a tiny opening, an explosion in the flask took place. However, when the same experiment was repeated, by introducing a burning splinter in a tiny opening in the flask, the flask acted as a lamp due to absence of oxygen. The moral of the whole exhibition was that the same thing used for explosion could also be used as a lamp. It completely depends on the way one uses the knowledge one possesses.

The End :)

Hey! There Are Cockroaches in my Chocolate Ice Cream! (Part 3/4)

Later on in the presentation, Dr. Schwarcz introduced his firm and its objectives, which are to demystify science. He articulates that the firm has many goals that need to be achieved. Some of them include; keeping people up-to-date with scientific progression, fostering critical thinking, separating sense from nonsense and keeping people out of clutches of impostors. He speaks about the importance of communicating science, adding that there is a huge amount of confusing information roaming around the world. There are many information sources, confusing people on a daily basis.

Dr. Schwarz also added a lot of fun and hilarity to his presentation. The following was one way of showing that humour and at the same time scaring the audience. A person learns that eating fish is good for health as it contains omega 3 fatty acids, which is very good for the human body. The next day the person learns that farmed salmon is contaminated with PCBs. So he leaves the fish and goes to eat French fries. Yet again he learns that French fries contain high amounts of Tran’s fat, which is harmful. Switching his diet to meat, only finding that meat contains Dioxins. Eating buns is not safe either as baking those releases acryl amide, which is an animal carcinogen. Corn contains Lutein, which cannot be consumed either. Then that person learns that corn is genetically modified which makes him panic-stricken. However, there is no evidence that genetically modified substances have harmful effect; that is a concern due to illiteracy. Then the person opts for spinach. He finds out that latest studies show spinach containing E-coli 0157. Even drinking is not safe as just two glasses a day can increase the risk of breast cancer. Then, if a person wants to give up alcohol and drink water, tap water contains chlorine, forming trihalomethanes, which are carcinogens. He then goes to buy a filter, which contains polycarbonates, which lead to bisphenol A. If he gets bottled water, he may intake traces of antimony, behaving like arsenic. Then that person learns that toxins are not just in food items. Deodorants are responsible for breast cancer among females, hair dyes give rise to lymphoma and balloons contain nitrosamines. In conclusion to the whole dilemma, Dr. Schwarcz states that, “If you are hungry, thirsty, smelly, unkempt and bored, you will have a longer life”. : P

Dr. Schwarcz admits that all the above statements are true, but the dosage is not enough to cause the harmful effects. For example, apples contain Acetone and Formaldehyde. However, the traces are very small among the other contents. Carcinogens are everywhere; coffee contains six major carcinogens. Nevertheless, the amount is very low and inadequate to be harmful. Furfural contained in buns, is so little that a person need to eat 6000 buns a day to get enough harmful content. This does not mean low quantities are not harmful. Pituitary gland produces one microgram of hormone per day, which is adequate for the body. Another example is of a toddler who swallowed some beads of a toy and fell sick. The toy contained gamma hydroxy butane in small quantities, which was sufficient for its harmful effect. Even small amounts can be very harmful; but life is full of risks, there by, eliminating one cause with the other.