Wednesday 23 December 2020

The Science of Everyday Life



This was an interesting one. Written by a guy who broke the world record for the number a steps a slinky went down, was part of the team that broke the world record for the largest boomerang return and almost got the record for the longest-surviving soap bubble.  

Have you ever wondered why ice floats and water is such a freaky liquid? Or why chilis and mustard are both hot but in different ways? Or why microwaves don't cook from the inside out?

In this fascinating scientific tour of household objects, The One Show presenter and all-round science bloke Marty Jopson has the answer to all of these and many more baffling questions about the chemistry and physics of the everyday stuff we use every day. 

I was actually very relieved that I knew some of these, such as the difference between a cake and a biscuit, why chilis burn and the latest thinking on why our fingers wrinkle in the bath. I did used to watch QI a lot.  

And, yes, I did know the cake v. biscuit argument from the great Jaffa Cake Debacle of 1991.

A Jaffa Cake is a 64mm (2.5") disk of Genoese sponge topped by a smaller disk of orange-flavoured jelly that is then slathered in dark chocolate. Taken together, you have a deliciously morish morsel of loveliness, to the point that a packet of Jaffa Cakes is a binary object, by which I mean it has only two states: unopened or empty. There have been rumours of half packets, but the evidence is debatable.

I also knew that the 'taste map' of the tongue had been debunked, though the discussion on how many flavours we can taste and also how many senses we have was seriously interesting. What constitutes a sense and how they overlap really gave pause for thought.

Also didn't know that energy-saving light bulbs contain mercury, and waiting for the gas to heat up is why they take longer to reach their full brightness, or that drinking tea helps to maintain healthy teeth because it contains fluoride, like toothpaste.

Interesting stuff, and a wide array of subjects from fridge freezers to compost heaps.

So much information that I'm not sure I've retained most of it, but certainly a few extra nuggets of knowledge.

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