Learn Something, Stupid! Part III: How This Stuff Works

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And now, for the third part in our ongoing series titled, “Learn Something, Stupid!”

There is indeed one thing I can honestly say about myself that not a whole lot of other people know: I look pretty good in pantyhose. Wait, that’s not what I meant. What I meant was, I really like to figure out how stuff works and why things do what they do. I remember growing up and being fascinated by those never-ending tissue boxes. Ya just keep yanking and they just keep comin’! It’s like some kind of miracle or something! So I took one apart and… was instantly disappointed. There was nothing but folded tissue. Okay, so that was an exceptionally lame idea. These six things aren’t. Moving on.

6

Febreze

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We all know what Febreze is, and what it does, but what few of us understand is how it does it. I thought I’d really test out Febreze’s capabilities… ya know, for research. So I smoked a whole shitload of pot in my kitchen. My wife was all, “Man, that’s reeking up the whole house!” So, in my slightly foggy state, I Frebrezed the hell out of the place. And it worked! We didn’t smell anything! So what the fuck is going on here? How did a few coughs from a room deodorizer knock out the potency of marijuana? Let’s find out! According to Wikipedia,

“The product’s active ingredient is hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin or HPßCD, a naturally occurring molecule with a “doughnut-like” molecular shape. The manufacturer claims that these molecules bind hydrocarbons within the donut shape, thus retaining malodorous molecules so that they are no longer detected as a scent.”

So, at it’s most basic, it tells odors and nasty scents in the area, “There is no spoon,” and POOF! Stink gone. That is cool. Hm… so what’s this cyclodextrin all about. What’s it’s story. Well, again according to Wikipedia (those guys are smart),

“Cyclodextrins are composed of 5 or more α-D-glucopyranoside units linked 1->4, as in amylose (a fragment of starch). The 5-membered macrocycle is not natural. Recently, the largest well-characterized cyclodextrin contains 32 1,4-anhydroglucopyranoside units, while as a poorly characterized mixture, even at least 150-membered cyclic oligosaccharides are also known.”

I have zero idea as to what any of that gibber-shit means, but my guess is it’s why it do that voodoo it do so well. Oh, and it’s also the, “chief active compound found in Procter and Gamble’s deodorizing product “Febreze” under the brand name “Clenzaire”. So, basically, it’s a damn fine air freshener. Good for them.

5

Smokeless Cigarettes

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Ever since just about every state in the union has outlawed smoking within the confines of four contiguous walls in every shape and form, the prospect of a non-second-hand-smoke alternative has been kicked around and the most recent incarnations include the ‘Smokeless Cigarette’. But how could a tube that’s not actively belching smog into every nook and cranny of the immediate location be even remotely the same thing as an actual coffin nail?

Well, let’s take a second and see how these little buggers work. Basically, an ‘Electronic Cigarette’ is pretty much what it sounds like: a battery-powered device that provides the user vapor that may or may not contain Nicotine or some type of flavorant. It offers the feel and apparent joy of smoking without the actual act of combustion and, thereby, no smoke. Nifty! Even so, there’s just got to be some kind of detriment to your health in here somewhere, right? I mean these things can’t be perfect! Well, according to the same Wikipedia article,

The health effects of using electronic cigarettes are currently unknown. Several studies regarding the long-term health effects of inhaling nicotine vapor are currently in progress.

Hmm… fishy. Well, I suppose if these ‘nebulizers’ are the next logical step in the progression (they aren’t) of smoking in public, then more power (get it?) to ‘em. Still, these things really lack the coolness factor one associates with actual smokes. I mean, you wouldn’t catch Jame Dean rolling a pack of these up in his sleeves or sucking on a metallic tip. And besides, he didn’t die from cancer.

4

Baking Soda

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Everyone has a box of this stuff floating around their cabinets and fridges, but did you ever wonder how it works? I mean do the folks at Arm & Hammer know something we don’t about the innocuous box of soda and its mysterious ability to slurp foul odors directly out of the air itself? Well why don’t we find out.

Baking Soda (actually known as Sodium Bicarbonate) is a relatively alkaline and is most often seen as a white powder (hence it’s baking prowess) and is often found in mineral springs right next to those weird, blind salamanders. Wikipedia tells us that a similar compound is found in our bile in a dissolved form where it is used to counteract our own stomach acid. Awesome. Speaking of stomachs, Baking Soda is also used in baking things used to put in stomachs. Yeah, bad segue.

Anyway, since it is an alkaline (base) it reacts with acidic things to produce carbon dioxide gas and thereby lift for breads and the like. Yeah, but what about this ‘freshness’ thing we hear so much about? Oddly, all the big Wiki article has to say on this is,

“Since it acts as a neutralizing agent it can be used to absorb odors which are caused due to strong acids. It is a tried-and-true method of used booksellers. The baking soda will absorb the musty smell, leaving the books less odorous.”

I don’t see what absorbing musty odors has to do with sucking up fishy smells and the malodorous filth emanating from that six-month old Tupperware container, but there ya go. Sodium Bicarb has a host of other jobs it can do, too, including a poultice, saponificator, fungicide, and exfoliant. Look those up for fun!

3

Gluten-Free Beer

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Any regular reader of this site and my regular beer review columns knows right away that my favorite beverage on earth is coffee… I mean beer. There’s just something about its magical palate and subtle nuances that brings me back again and again… Not the point. The point is this: many people (such as those with Celiac Disease) have suddenly become allergic to gluten. So, before we go on. let’s figure out what gluten actually is,

“a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.”

Aha, now we’re getting somewhere. Though you might be thinking that this description has little to do with the aforementioned beer, take a look at those few things listed that gluten comes from. Barley and rye, as well as wheat to some extent, are all ingredients in many, many beers. And as any good beer imbiber knows, beer is synonymous with ‘liquid bread’, and so we see,

“If such (dough) is leavened with yeast, sugar fermentation produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which, trapped by the gluten network, cause the dough to swell.”

Sound familiar? Most of that description can be used to understand beer making only with amounts of sugar causing the yeast to excrete alcohol. So, how do they brew a delicious beer without the harmful (to some) biproducts of gluten? Well I’ll tell you… and so will Wikipedia,

“Gluten-free beer is beer made from ingredients without glycoproteins (gluten)” including “beers brewed mainly from cereals such as rice, sorghum, buckwheat and corn.”

This usage in the ingredient list plus a few tweaks here and there, produce what some consider to be beer equal to the standard batches. Some varieties for those who desire their nectar and want to sup as well, here are a few of the easier-to-find styles: Redbridge, Estrella Damm, and Carlsberg Saxon.

2

Soda Pop

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One of America’s favorite beverages is definitely pop. Or Soda. Or Cola, or however you choose to call it. From 20 ouncers to 2 Liters, we’re in love with Coke, Pepsi, 7-up, Dr. Pepper, and Mountain Dew. But how does it work? How is pop even made in the first place? Well as you can imagine, the history of the Soft Drink is long and storied, so I’ll spare you the blast from the past, but you can read it yourself here.

There was a time when Soda Pops were all natural and actually used as beneficial cure-alls prescribed by doctors. Of course, this was back before everything became mass-produced and full of shelf-life stabilizing shit that now makes everything taste like malted battery acid. Sadly, the over consumption of pop is literally turning everyone into crippled, slouching, mummies… and I have proof. Well, internet proof, but close enough. According to unhinderedliving.com,

“For every can of carbonated soda ingested, the amount of oxygen in the blood is decreased by 25%. It has been said that the fastest growing group of people with osteoporosis in this country is teenagers….because of the huge number of sodas they consume. Sugar in particular is destructive because its ingestion lowers immune function by reducing the ability of white blood cells to ingest and destroy bacteria. Sucralose, also marketed as Splenda, breaks down into small amounts of 1,6 -dichlorofructose, a chemical similar to chlorinated pesticides.”

So basically, don’t drink soda in any of its current incarnations, diet or otherwise. I think we all knew that. But this still doesn’t tell us how soft drinks are actually made. No, but this book certainly could and it’s a fair bit longer than the space I have here. I think we all know it’s made from souls of unborn children.

1

Gelatin

gelatin sheet large e1294342942422So, ya like those lipsmackin’ ribs and that succulent Crown Roast? Sure ya do, ya slovenly mother fucker. But did you know that the same unctuous goodness that makes those meaty treats so… yummy is also what makes Jell-O so… gelatinous? Yep. Hungry now, aren’t ya? Let’s go back to Wikipedia for a little knowledge, what do ya say?

“Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle (when dry), nearly tasteless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin and bones.”

Wow. So, dried and mixed with a little fake fruitiness and bam, Jell-O for everyone. Nice. Oh, here’s more,

“Gelatin is a protein produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, pigs, and horses.”

If you’ve ever made a chicken or beef stock and the next day found a solidified puck of goo on top, that mess is gelatin. Awesome. Ya know, rather than me write more on the subject, let’s watch food guru, master chef, and personal hero Alton Brown do what he do, okay?

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