Tag: bad science

Missouri is stupid

Nothing coming in the way of department reviews (you pussies), but this was pretty fucking hilarious:

The law was intended to reduce the floating debris from abandoned foam coolers in the state’s waterways. But lawmakers, apparently a little rusty with chemistry, barred the wrong plastic.

The white foam coolers commonly called “Styrofoam” are made from expanded polystyrene. But the law bars polypropylene. That’s a plastic found in things like dishwasher-safe plastic containers but not usually used to ferry drinks down a river.


Also, where do stupid people come from?  Other stupid people, of course.

The recent and laughable account by Xinbo Wang, Bo Zhang and David Zhigang Wang in JACS that sodium hydride is an oxidant has been challenged by an online cabal of chemists over at TotallySynthetic.  It was further questioned at CBC and has been the scorn of folk in the office.

I almost feel compelled to do the reaction, but from the comments section it seems pretty clear:  in the absence of oxygen, sodium hydride does not an oxidant make.

It’s a pretty tough reality and a stinging rebuke that people can essentially do basement chemistry and have your shit debunked before it even makes it into print.  This is the nature of the blogosphere, the inernets and the future.

Of course, there was no scandal here… it was a bit sensational.  Peer review triumphed again, even if it happened only after the publication (or has it not been published yet?  See… this online shit is confuckingfusing).

UPDATEMissed it.  Do this in a glove box and it doesn’t work.  Open it up to air and you get 80% yield.  All apologies to those involved..

As a function of my new post-doc, I found myself in the need of a refillable fountain pen, which could contain organic solvents. It also needed to be refillable by a plunger or cantilever and, once I was done with the science, I wouldn’t mind converting it to a nice pen for my own use.  (You may be wondering, wtf kind of chemistry are you doing where you’d be using a fucking FOUNTAIN PEN?  To wit:  I am doing awesome chemistry.)

In any regard, I have (as most scientist do) an inexplicable compulsion (it has nothing to do with masturbation, just FYI… I know that’s a common one.)  My compulsion happens to be the exclusive use gel pens. I thus figured, if I’m going to get a refillable fountain pen, I might as well inquire into the availability of that gel ink they use in gel pens. (It’s not really available…)


Of course, at the time, I didn’t know what made them so gel-like and why I loved them so… but regardless, now I appreciate that I can feel much safer knowing that the federal government can’t track my ink. (DOI:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00144.x)

As every Republican can tell you The Federal Government has been evil for at least the last 3 months – ever since Glenn Beck started warning you that “they” are coming for your guns and your personal rights and your Fieros and whatever redneck accoutrement that you find so appealing yet have parked out on your lawn.  What you may not know is that the feds have been keeping a meticulous database of inks since the 1920′s and at ANY TIME they could take your ink and compare it to their stock samples of ink by… wait for it… TLC! (oh noes! blow up teh fedural buldins!)

Srsly.  Co-spotted and everything.  The fucking FBI will compare ink composition by how far the little constituent dyes run up a TLC plate:

TLC is one of the most widely used and generally accepted scientific methodologies used to compare and help characterize ink formulations. TLC has been discussed extensively by Witte (21), Brunelle and Pro (22), Brunelle and Reed (23), Brunelle and Crawford (24), Kelly and Cantu (25), and Aginsky (26). TLC analysis begins by removing an ink sample from a document, and subsequently extracting the ink in an appropriate solvent. The extract is then applied to a specially coated TLC plate (e.g., glass or plastic surface coated with silica), and placed in a solvent-equilibrated glass chamber containing a solvent or mixture of solvents. The sample components then migrate up the plate via capillary action. Typically, the colorants (e.g., dye components) that are present in the ink sample will separate into colored bands or spots. As described in the aforementioned study conducted by Roux et al. (20), ‘‘thin layer chromatography had the highest discriminating power for the individual techniques at 0.98 for blue and 0.99 for black.’’

I know, I know… we sent fucking human beings to the moon 40 years ago and we still don’t have one of those fantastic neon lit LC/GC/MS/Magic box from CSI that spits out the type of ink and where it was purchased.  But fear not, they can (and will) track your shit down with the almighty TLC plate…  unless… you use gel pens.  Turns out gel inks are poorly soluble in the highly polar solvents they use for TLC (EtOAc:EtOH:water in a ratio of 70:35:30… not a typo… [these people fucking solve crimes]). While most pens contain inks that are water soluble or organic soluble – gel inks contain both, plus some insoluble pigment shit.

The Gelly Roll, a name which could only be dreamed up by the psychotic lotus eating scientists of Japan at Sakura Color Products Corporation was the first gel pen invented in the mid 80′s and contains water and oil based inks dissolved in an aqueous mixture thickened by xanthan gum and pigments suspended therein.  Fountain pens and rollerball pens use water based inks while ballpoint pens use organic derived dyes.  Thus, the inherent insoluble nature, as well as the broad range of polarities in the gel pen resulted in EPIC FAILS:

The colorants in 15 of the writing inks did not extract into solvents and/or migrate on the TLC, which indicates that they are pigment based. These inks were not feasible for comparison with the library of standards based on their lack of a colorant profile on a TLC plate; however, this would not preclude additional comparative testing using alternate methods such as Fourier transform-infrared spectrometry (FT-IR), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), and/or scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (EDXA). It is noted that 14 of the 15 inks that were not extractable were gel inks [...]

I am pleased to know that the feds will be unable to know where I purchased my ink.  That’s one more “freedom” I can keep. (I purchased them at Sam’s Club. Great fucking deal. I got, like, 50 of them for $40.)


To distract you from my own stupidity, I bring you the stupdity of others:  Salt – it’s great for you, unless it’s refined poision.  Ψ*Ψ posted on The Facebook a link to some shit about the magic of salt and how people are so confused.  Take a read.  These sorts of slick web 2.0 pages certainly seem to add credibility to the issue and from the beginning, you sense that not everything is well with this person’s grasp of  reality but it’s all immediately plausible until you get to:

A major confusion is that only refined commercial and household salt is known as salt to most of medical science and consumers. It is the most prevalent, by far. Refined salt, stripped of its natural mineral structure, is virtually all sodium. As a matter of fact, it is 97% to 99% sodium! That`s why it is called Sodium Chloride

Hmmm…  That’s a level of fucking crazy only possible on the internet.  But wait!  You may be asking yourself  “Yourself, if I keep reading will I discover a malignment of science so bad it will make my heart hurt?”  Fear not, intrepid reader, they shove the proverbial coat hanger into the equally proverbial womb of science with this one:

Dr. Brownstein strongly advocates the use of unrefined, organic salt with iodine supplements, preferably a combination of potassium iodide and iodine. He maintains that these two dietary items contribute largely toward optimum endocrine health[...]

Fuck yeah.  Organic salt.  Take that Mrs. Dash, you crust old bitch.  But, if there’s one thing the Internet has taught me, it’s that if you take a bad idea, someone will always take it further.  Behold, some “facts” on salt:

  • Salt is vital to the extraction of excess acidity from the cells in the body, particularly the brain cells.
  • Salt is a strong natural antihistamine.
  • Salt is vital for maintaining sexuality and libido
  • Salt is vital for reducing a double chin. When the body is short of salt, it means the body really is short of water. The salivary glands sense the salt shortage and are obliged to produce more saliva to lubricate the act of chewing and swallowing and also to supply the stomach with water that it needs for breaking down foods. Circulation to the salivary glands increases and the blood vessels become “leaky” in order to supply the glands with water to manufacture saliva. The “leakiness” spills beyond the area of the glands themselves, causing increased bulk under the skin of the chin, the cheeks and into the neck.

I like that last one.  Double chins are the result of leaky blood vessels caused by dehydrated saliva glands – clealry the cure for dehydration is salt.  There’s just so much stupid in that statement it makes my head hurt.

Not to outdo themselves, they go on to show the following fun facts:

Saturated solutions of sodium chloride are living entieies called Sole (pronounced So-lay).

The best (and possibly only) way to produce Sole is from Himalayan salt and Fiji water.

How does this happen?  The explanation is, tragically, so self-parodying I cannot add any more wit to the thing:

When water and Original Himalayan Crystal Salt connect, the negative poles of the water molecules surround the positive ions in the salt and the negative ions in the salt are surrounded by the positive polarized particles of the water molecules. This changes the geometric structure of the water and the salt, and creates something entirely new, a third dimension. The water no longer is water and the salt no longer salt. The elements have liberated themselves from their restrictions, given up their polarities by the resonant effects, and reached a higher form of energy. Only through this process of attaining higher levels of consciousness, can we relinquish our polarities and return into the oneness of all elements. This is exactly what transpires when water and salt meet. The willingness of the water to give up its own identity, in return, liberates the salt from its manifested identity—to overcome the powers of the gridwork and to separate sodium from chloride. Both elements are ionized, which releases their stored energy and information.

I mean, I’m a pretty funny guy and a chemist and I’m essentially speachless.  I cannot parody this; the only thing it transcends is the ability of others to mock it.